Tuesday, November 30, 2010

They Came From Beyond Space and should have stayed there

There are worse films than They Came From Beyond Space. But stupider?

The aliens in this 1967 British film crow about being the "highest life order in the cosmos."


Then why do their plans keep getting mucked up by astrophysicist Dr. Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton) and his buddy, Farge (Zia Mohyeddin)? Farge may be one filmdom's few heroes who save the day wearing a cardigan and a tie.

Warning signs appear early in They Came From Beyond Space. The musical score, composed by James Stevens, is atrocious, not to mention irritating. The first special effect about five minutes in is laughable. They don't get better.

Meteors land in a farmer's field. Temple is forbidden to check out the scene because of a recent automobile collision that left him badly injured. Not that you can tell by how he beats up aliens later on in the film.

The alien race takes over the minds of really smart, well smart by Earth's standards, scientists including Temple's squeeze Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne). Temple can't be touched because doctors put a silver plate in his head after a serious automobile collision. We never see the aliens try and figure out how they can get to Temple before he ruins their mission to Earth.

The plot is hard to describe because it's hard to understand. The aliens made the mistake of evolving too far. Living without bodies isn't working for them. What happened to their superior intellect?

They unleash a supposed plague that wipes out at least 10 people. A large budget does not appear to be part of They Came From Beyond Space's production. These folks are brought to the moon. They are slaves. Doing what? Not sure.

Aliens sometimes use ray guns that quite effectively stop Temple. Their superior intellect results in their handing machine guns to their security guards which never hit Temple. The ray gun always hits Temple. Do the math, people.

Poor special effects can be forgiven if there's an interesting story. Sometimes laughable dialogue can be excused if there's a sign of intelligent filmmaking happening. When Temple goes to the crash site and sees Lee, now under the control of the alien race, he tells her, "I wanted to find out what was happening. I also happen to be in love with you." Yikes. Their chemistry is non-existent.

The menu for the St. Clair Vision copy I watched lists They Came From Beyond Space as a sci-fi classic. That's just wrong. It's terrible. This was one of three (!) films Freddie Francis directed in 1967. Torture Garden and The Deadly Bees were the others. Fourteen years later, he was the director of photography for the critically acclaimed The French Lieutenant's Woman with Meryl Streep. How's that for range? He died in 2007 at age 89.

Hutton, who also appeared in Trog, The Slime People and The Man Without a Body, made his last film in 1975. He died in 1994.

Jayne's career ran from 1949 to 1985. Her other credits included The Black Widow and A Woman of Mystery. She died in 2006. She was 74.

Hutton's buddy, Zia Mohyeddin, also appeared in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. This is a big step down for him.

Not bad enough to qualify as entertaining schlock, They Came From Beyond Space is just a waste of time. Viewer beware.

Rating 3/10

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