Review: The Terrornauts / Director: Montgomery Tully / Screenplay: John Brunner, Murray Leinster / Starring: Simon Oates, Zena Marshall, Charles Hawtrey, Patricia Hayes, Stanley Meadows, Max Adrian / Release Date: March 17th
You probably know Amicus as the people who gave us those portmanteau horrors of the '60s/’70s or the Peter Cushing Doctor Who movies. However, Who wasn’t their only excursion into sci-fi. The Terrornauts (1967) is a bona fide piece of cult British sci-fi with a screenplay by John Brunner and fondly remembered by people with fuzzy recollections. Network specialise in turning up these oddities and they haven’t let us down with this one.
It starts off as a promising if low-budget story of scientists working on Project Star Talk, a sort of low-rent British SETI. The jargon’s good (although we’re not vouching for its authenticity) and they’ve even got Zena Marshall as their secretary - so after ten minutes you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re watching a glammed-up version of a Quatermass story. And then Charles Hawtrey walks in. No, really; he walks right in and starts auditing their accounts. While you’re still reeling from that shocker he’s followed by Patricia Hayes with a tea urn smoking a fag. So the building then being picked up by a spaceship that transports them all to an alien base at the edge of the solar system is something of an anti-climax. Blimey, who’s going to review this one? Oh, right.
The Terrornauts is very nearly a complete disaster. Hawtrey and Hayes are there purely for laughs but it would help if they’d been given some funny lines (although Hayes does get a zinger right at the end). And while it is terribly unsporting to mention special effects in low-budget '60s Brit-flicks, it would help if they were capable of assisting the story. We honestly thought that was a sort of small hovering robot thing until it appeared over the radio telescope like something out of Michael Bentine’s Potty Time. Hard to believe 2001: A Space Odyssey was being filmed down the road at the time. But for all that, there’s some interesting bits in here: the ancient dead alien at the base (very Who); a scientist’s childhood memories of dreams in an alien landscape; the bathing caps with bits stuck to them to read the base’s memory cubes. OK, not the bathing caps then (although admirable straight faces all round). And certainly not the Least Exciting Space Battle in the History of Cinema at the climax.
But we can’t really think of anything similar, so if you’re the curious sort you might want to give this a try; but only if you’re very, very curious. Or maybe you think Patricia Hayes stepping off a teleportation pad and saying “I feel like I’ve been squirted through space like a BBC broadcast” is worth the price of admission. Oh, now you’re tempted.
Extras: Original theatrical version / Trailer / Gallery