2 Reviews (1 New)
A Dark and Scary Place
A remote Scottish inn is rudely awakened by the arrival of an escaped prisoner, who killed his wife. Doris at the inn is his ex-lover and protects him by announcing the man as a stranger. Other guests include Miss Preswick, a model hiding from a stalking ex-partner, and a journalist who, with a professor, is on the trail of a meteor which is supposed to have landed nearby. The latter two attempt to leave for a telephone in the next village (the inn's one is currently out of order), but the car refuses to start.
There is a strange loud noise and they all go outside to see what appears to be a flying saucer land (the simple model looks smooth in the first shot and positively shaky in the next; a little bit of editing wouldn't have gone amiss here). The flying saucer is red hot and no one can approach it. Bizarrely, they all go back inside, as if the excitement is over. The on-the-run villain, is recognised by the reporter. He runs away, but Doris hides the man in a storeroom.
A woman dressed in black PVC emerges from the spaceship and kills the inn's handyman with a ray gun. Doris appears to be in a catatonic state of shock. The woman from the craft appears in the doorway of the inn and announces herself as Nyah, from Mars. She removes Doris from her hypnotism, and explains all too freely that this is her first visit to Earth. She was on a course for London, but a collision with a meteorite sent her off-course and to an unscheduled landing in the Highlands of Scotland.
There was a devastating war on Mars between the sexes, culminating in the development of the Perpetual Motion Chain Reaction Beam (eh?). Women became the rulers of Mars, but the men fell into decline - and now Nyah has come to take back some strong men to perpetuate the species. She threatens to prevent objection by freezing movement over a large area, in the same way she had frozen Doris.
Nyah returns to her ship, raising an invisible wall behind her. She then returns, taking the handful of people from the inn to just outside her spacecraft to perform a demonstration of power. It is a robot - and a pretty naff and clunky-looking one at that. It zaps a tree, making it disintegrate, and does the same with a truck. Our villain has climbed out of the storeroom window and is watching from the barn. He just manages to run before the robot disintegrates the barn, too.
Nyah hypnotises him, and uses the opportunity to kidnap a young boy from the inn. The professor is invited to the ship to see wonders and powers beyond the imagination. But all she does is explain how her spaceship works. "We've done enough talking," says the reporter at the inn. Never a truer word spoken! He offers to exchange himself for the little boy. Nyah returns to the ship with the journalist , but when he attempts to control the robot, she threatens to kill them all. She decides to take a guide who can help her when the ship has repaired itself and travels to London. They draw lots to decide who is going. It falls to the reporter, but the prisoner goes instead. The ship takes off but explodes at high altitude. The professor had described the power source and the prisoner had sacrificed his life to save everyone else's, by causing the propulsion system to explode.
This is the one with the dominatrix; it's not just the attire, it's the whole demeanor. Had she placed a foot on a male character's chest, it would have sealed the deal. She portrays a very domineering Martian with very little to back it up. Her ray gun essentially does away with the need for a robot that pretty much achieves the same effect. But who doesn't like a silly robot in these films?
Devil Girl From Mars is a London Films (International) release from British Lion Films. It's clear that there is very little budget at play, as the story is very talky, and everything takes place in the inn (mostly in one room), and a few steps outside - like an Agatha Christie novel wherein the killer is among the potential victims. Rather than creating atmosphere through claustrophobia, however, this simply dulls-down the proceedings to the point of repetition . Nyah arrives at the inn, goes back to her ship, returns to the inn, goes back to her ship, returns to the inn, and goes back to her ship. Did I mention that she returns to the inn? And she does this many more times than I can do it justice here. Presumably, it keeps her fit, though. Each time, she appears dramatically framed in the open French windows, with the weird logic that if it looks good the first time, it will look even better after a dozen times. All that the guests at the inn had to do was lock the French windows and Nyah would have been stymied!
However, you can't apply logic to most 1950s Monster B-Movies. If Nyah had remained in her spacecraft until it had repaired itself, she could have carried on to London and bored them all to death. Instead, rather than taking the two young men at the inn and returning home, she chooses to tell them everything - thereby giving them information enough to defeat her.
Although placed straight, there are a couple of genuinely funny lines: "Come on. While we're still alive we might as well have a cup of tea." And particularly, "Mrs Jamieson, may I introduce our latest guest, Miss Nyah. She comes from Mars." "Och! That'll mean another bed."
(original review Ty Power 2020)
Two policemen in a patrol car find a catatonic little girl walking through the desert. Down the road is a wrecked trailer. The general store is in a similar state. Here they find a dead body and spilt containers of sugar. They split up, and the cop who is left behind is killed by something outside. As an F.B.I. guy turns up to lend a hand, the medical examiner reports that the body was pumped full of formic acid.
Peterson the cop and Graham the F.B.I. man meet Dr Medford at an airfield. Medford is an expert on agriculture. He introduces his beautiful daughter and assistant, Patricia (Pat). One of the atomic explosions nine years before was in the area, and Medford has a theory. He manages to bring the little girl out of her catatonic state by waving a glass of formic acid under her nose. The girl screams "Them!" and attempts to hide.
A visit to the desert reveals several prints. A giant ant appears near Pat and her screams bring the others. They shoot the antennae, which disables its senses, and then manage to kill it. "And there shall be destruction and darkness come up on creation, and the beasts shall reign over the earth."
They fly in helicopters over the area and discover the nest. However, Medford stops them from destroying it. They must wait until the hottest part of the next day, when all the ants should be inside to keep cool. They can then flood the nest or 'fire' it to drive them further down inside, and then drop cyanide to kill them. Descending into the nest they find lots of dead giant ants, and a live one which attacks them from another chamber. In the queen's chamber they find two empty eggs. These would have been winged ants... new queens which can hatch thousands of eggs. The priority is to find the queens before they can establish their colonies and lay their eggs. If they don't, mankind will be displaced as the dominant species within a year.
The S.S. Viking sends an S.O.S. that it is being attacked by flying ants, and is purposefully sunk to prevent any eggs hatching. In Los Angeles, a 40 ton sugar load goes missing. At the same time, a man is found with his arm severed and other hideous fatal injuries. His two children are missing. A drunken witness says he saw giant ants near the river, and a search is intensified in sewer drainage system.
Cue convoys of troop-carrying trucks and army jeeps (many of them the same ones!) enforcing a curfew on the streets and guarding storm drains, attentive for activity. The search is on for the two missing children. A jeep driver crawls through the tunnel after hearing noises. Ants are attempting to get to the two boys, and the ceiling is falling in. He flames two ants and attempts to escape with the boys. He pushes them into a crawl tunnel, but is caught and killed himself by a new arrival. The army turns up and kills a number of ants. The objective from Professor Medford is to find the egg chamber and discover if any new queens have hatched. The nest is quickly found with two new queens. They are torched with flame throwers before they can escape and lay new eggs.
Them! is commonly remembered as 'the one with the giant ants' - but it deserves a lot more recognition. It's played straight and with conviction, the only real humour being when the drunk is questioned about seeing a giant ant. Of course, the ants themselves are realised in the best way they can be considering the restriction of the budget. The antennae are floppy and the eyes bulbous. One victim is obliged to literally throw himself into the mandibles of an attacking ant, just to make it look more convincing. Yes, it has its restrictions, but Them! is a well-made movie, which was successful and impactful enough to spawn a multitude of other giant creature features from a host of production companies.
Again, the mutations are the result of atomic testing in the Nevada Desert. Professor Medford speculates on what other monstrosities might have been created by subsequent testing. There are some nice quotes in this film. When a discussion between scientists and the military gets bogged-down in technicalities, we get: "Why don't we all talk English, then we'd have a basis for an understanding." Perhaps the best quote is: "We haven't seen the end of Them. We've only had a close view of the beginning of what could be the end of us."
The DVD extras include some test footage of the ants. Great stuff! The picture is nicely cleaned-up, too. One of the crisper-looking films from the period.
(original review Ty Power 2020)
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