Invaders From Mars


Rating 3½

Directed by William Cameron Menzies

Written by Richard Blake from a story by John Tucker Battle

Starring Jimmy Hunt, Leif Erickson, Helena Carter and Arthur Franz

I first saw this film many long years ago. Watching it again now has brought home exactly why the memory of it has always remained lodged in my head.

It’s difficult to know where to start. This really is a film that has to be watched in order to be believed. It is almost pointless trying to explain it.

In keeping with other 1950s American sci-fi films, it derives inspiration from the paranoia that was percolating in response to proliferation of atomic weapons and the perceived threat emanating from the Soviet Bloc. Martians from the “Red Planet” were a thinly veiled metaphor for Communism and “Reds Under the Bed”.

Shot in colour, ‘Invaders From Mars’ tells its story of alien invasion and abduction from the perspective of a child. The acting might be obstinately and laughably wooden, but the surreal sets, camera angles and sound effects create a strange and queasy aura of increasing unease. The very poor quality of print used for the DVD I watched just adds to the strangeness of it all.

The film was directed by William Cameron Menzies, who also directed the celebrated 1936 British sci-fi film ‘Things To Come’.

Tobe Hooper (of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ fame) directed a remake of ‘Invaders From Mars’ in 1986. I think I need to check that one out sometime soon.



jimslost said...

I first saw this excellent film when I was about ten. What frightened me most then was the fact that everyone Jimmy Hunt was supposed to trust and turn to for help (except the doctor played by the beautiful Helena Carter) had been subverted by the invaders, placing him in even more danger. Later, when auditing my brother's film course at USC I heard a professor suggest that this subversion was intended to represent the way some Hollywood writers saw the government's response to the "Red Threat" of the early 1950s. Apparently many people in the movie business felt that our own government, like the parents and policemen Jimmy Hunt encountered, were as great a threat to America's freedom as those they were charged with protecting us from. The professor continued by saying that the same theme was at play in that other great 1950s "invasion" movie, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I don't know how valid this theory is, but it might explain why the remakes of both films made three decades later never had the impact of the originals.

alienlanes said...

Thanks for your message, jimslost. I had not come across this particular theory/interpretation before, but it makes a lot of sense, given the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joseph McCarthy – and the impact this had on many people working in the film industry in Hollywood.