They Came From Beyond Space, 1967. 2/10

One snappy element of this ’60s British sci-fi film is the instantaneous way the alien possession deal works. Robert Hutton’s an American scientist (Dr. Temple) looking into some strange happenings that began with meteorites landing in Cornwall. Unluckily for him, his colleagues Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne) and Richard Arden (Bernard Kay) have been taken over by the alien force.

Temple’s immune, thanks to the unlikely protection of the metal plate in his head. The plot, then, seems to involve Temple investigating the alien compound (where the funny rocks landed). Apparently, the aliens are building a rocket that’s hidden in a pond.

Maybe as some sort of collateral damage, people in a nearby village have suddenly come down with a disfiguring plague. Soon Temple infiltrates the compound, manages to shoot-’em-up some, and get down to a pretty cool-looking underground facility.

He finds some nasty-looking plague victims, but he’s discovered. At least he gets a peek at the rocket. How does he know that the rocket’s been to the moon? The aliens are actually from another galaxy, but they have installations on the moon.

Back on Earth, Temple gets sprung from the compound a little too easily, grabs one of their rayguns, and zips out with Lee. The guards wait until they’re pretty much out of range to fire. With Farge’s (Zia Mohyhedin’s) help, a cunning device is developed to deflect the aliens’ mind control. It’s known to humans as a colander. Oh, not just any metallic veggie holder, but one that’s been hand-dipped in some white stuff.

The end result of this and other iconic thingies (there’s helmet-mounted rayguns, some goggles, and menacing plastic doodads) is that the guys figure out how to reverse or cancel out Lee’s mind control. So, we get back to the rocket, only to have the good guys taken hostage; with Temple as an automatic candidate for experiments.

The ‘conference’ chamber is kind of cool. Engulfed in black, the garishly-colored aliens seem to float. “Slaves do not speak without permission in the presence of the Master of the Moon!” intones said Master (Michael Gough). Then the dreaded “Soon you will be one of us” he reminds Temple. No one is keeping an eye on Farge, however, who topples a handy stack of milk canisters to start a general slave revolt (we now get that the plague victims were reconfigured as slave workers).

Having turned the tables on The Master, Temple offers a peaceful resolution. Something like: Earth will help you willingly, if you release your control of our people. What? By earthly standards, the aliens have committed about a light-year’s worth of crimes, even if they can pretty much make their various victims whole again.

It’s been said that They Came From Beyond Space is more in the Dr. Who episode genre than a genuine feature-length sci-fi movie. I can see that point–but, in any Dr. Who incarnation we get generally good acting and scripts. Plus, that series has a tongue-in-cheek factor built-in–we know that it’s a sort of tribute to early sci-fi.

This movie takes itself completely seriously; for the most part it’s completely absurd. I can’t forgive the colander as a prop. In fact, none of those gizmos that Farge and Temple whip up are as believable as what a 6-to-10 year-old bunch of proto-astronaut/spaceman could come up with by scrounging around the house and garage for twenty minutes or so. Kids probably would disdain the lowly colander and milk canister.

I’ll give credit for some nice-looking sets. Otherwise, They Came From Beyond Space is pretty bad. The alien-mind-control premise has a lot of possibilities: it creates an Us vs. Them mentality, sets up issues of self-doubt and skepticism, as well as larger issues like conformity, mass hysteria, and fear of the unknown. But here we only get a short panicky scene as the plague breaks out, no significant discussion of experts over the aliens’ existence, danger, and purpose, in fact, other than a few detectives, no authorities whatsoever.

I think for a science-fiction movie to maintain interest there should be some mixture of thought and action. We need to be entertained with sensational or frightening elements, which are mulled over by those involved (our surrogates). Eventually, the characters are ready to take on the danger and there’s some climactic battle or event that decides the matter.

Those elements are present here, but only superficially and dimly. For all the talk and driving and hiding in the woods, the most memorable scene is the one at the gas station in which the bored girl tries to interest Temple in coming around for ‘tea.’

Farmermouse can only spare two acorns (make it scones) for this mash-up. 2/10

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