Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#1,199. Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

Directed By: David MacDonald

Starring: Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court

Tag line: "Invasion from Outer Space!...Sights too weird to imagine! Destruction too monstrous to escape!"

Trivia: Patricia Laffan thought her costume was hot and hard to wear

I admit that, while watching the 1954 British science fiction film Devil Girl from Mars, I chuckled a little when the opening credits mentioned it was based on a stage play. I thought to myself “What kind of sci-fi movie is based on a play?” Well, it wasn’t long before I had my answer: the dialogue-heavy kind!

On her way to London, a female Martian named Nyah (Patricia Laffan), accompanied by a humongous robot she calls “Chani”, makes a brief stop in Northern Scotland, dropping in on the folks at the Bonnie Charlie Inn to let them know she’s looking for a few good men. It seems that an honest-to-goodness battle of the sexes took place on Mars years earlier, and as a result, its male population is at an all-time low. So, to ensure her home world will continue to flourish, Nyah needs some strapping Earth men who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice: accompany her back to Mars to help repopulate her entire planet.

The film gets off to an unspectacular start, opening up with escaped convict Robert Justin (Peter Reynolds), imprisoned for murdering his wife, who’s come to the Bonnie Charlie to reconnect with Doris (Adrienne Corri), a former flame with whom he’s still madly in love. This isn’t the only romantic entanglement in the movie: Ellen Prestwick (Hazel Court) is staying at the Inn to hide from her married lover, Michael Carter (Hugh McDermott), who happens to show up in the company of Professor Arnold Hennessey (Joseph Tomelty), an astrologer trying to track down a meteor he’s convinced landed somewhere in the area. A number of scenes are dedicated to these side stories, none of which are particularly interesting. The arrival of Nyah, the alien woman in skin-tight vinyl, and her robot accomplice manage to perk things up a bit, but for a gal bent on world domination, Nyah sure spends a lot of time yapping (after providing some background on the war that devastated her planet, she drones on about how she’s also testing the strength of her spaceship, which is constructed from a sort of organic metal that many on Mars considered too unstable to make the journey to earth and back again).

Devil Girl from Mars is not without its charms: Nyah’s bright black get-up, complete with a glossy helmet, is certainly an attention-grabber, and her robot sidekick is so phenomenally goofy that I couldn’t help but admire it (the thing looks as if it was thrown together from objects the crew found lying around on the set). But as far as entertainment value goes, Devil Girl from Mars relies a little too heavily on the spoken word to generate any real excitement.

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