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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150

Following up on the success of the first Dr. Who feature film. AARU productions put out a second. Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 (DIE) was, like the first movie, a big screen remake of six episodes from the small screen's second season. Peter Cushing again plays the Doctor, but this time with a bit more zeal. Roberta Tovey plays young Susan again. The rest of the cast are new. In several ways, this sequel rises higher than the first film, in having more action and a faster pace.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Policeman Tom Campbell fails to stop some jewel thieves. He rushes to what he thinks is a police box, and stumbles into the Tardis. Dr. Who was just about to depart, so he must come along. Inside are the Doctor, Susan and the Doctor's niece, Louise. The arrive in London, at the year 2150. London is in ruins. A scruffy man named Wyler helps Louise and Susan hide, but Tom and the Doctor are taken prisoners by the Daleks and their human mind-controlled minions, the "robomen." The prisoners are put aboard a "flying saucer" ship to be transported to a Dalek mine operation. Susan and Louise have fallen in among humans living underground and plotting rebellion. They stage an attack on the saucer, freeing the Doctor, though the attack is crushed. The Doctor and a rebel named David head to the country to find the mine. The Doctor is certain that the mine is the key to the invasion. Susan and Wyler head for the country too. Louise and Tom ride in the saucer. Wyler and Susan are betrayed into the Daleks' hands. Tom and Louise are helped hide by a miner. A profiteer takes the Doctor and David to the mine. The minor says that the Daleks are trying to break open the earth so its metallic core is expelled. They then plan to make the earth into a space ship. The Doctor hatches a plan to divert their seismic bomb down an alternate shaft to a magnetic anomaly. Tom succeeds in getting to the shaft, but the Doctor captured when the profiteer sells him out. Using loose boards, Tom fashions diverter in the vertical shaft. The Doctor is brought to the Dalek leader. The Doctor uses the Dalek PA system to order the robomen to attack the Daleks. The do, but eventually, the robomen are all killed. This gave Tom time to finish the diverter. The bomb is dropped down the shaft, but bounces off the boards, down the diagonal shaft. It blows up sooner than expected and releases great magnetic waves. These suck the Daleks down the shaft. Many things explode. The remaining Daleks take off in their saucer ship, but it too is drawn to the mine shaft. It crashes and explodes. Anything else Dalek explodes and burns too. Dr. Who declares that the earth is safe from further Dalek invasion since we know their weakness -- magnetism. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
DIE has more action and a busier plot than the first movie. It was amusing to see that 200 years in the future, Londoners would still be driving around 50s-vintage vehicles. The saucer in DIE was pretty cool, and well done. (much better than the Ed Wood-ian wobbly hubcap of the TV series)

Cold War Angle
Beneath the surface-level replay of War of the Worlds and dabbling in Nazi archetypes, is still the notion that a hostile power (in this case, the Daleks) recklessly plan to use a nuclear bomb to make the Earth more to their liking.

Dalek SS -- Where the first movie tapped into exiting "Nazi" ehtos, DIE takes it up a notch. The robomen are helmeted, and dressed in black (The Daleks' SS troops). They round up prisoners, whip the stragglers and obey orders from their superiors without question. DIE's robomen are more military than the TV series portrayed them. On TV, they came across more like zombies -- stiff, awkward and slow. They were also dress in plain clothes. Only the silver headgear with metal mutton-chops set them apart. In DIE, we have the classic nazi visuals of guard towers with search lights and forced labor camps.

A Nod to Wells -- The trope of an invasion of England, and a battlefield in London, owe much to H.G. Wells. His novel War of the Worlds (1898) was not the first to depict England invaded, but it is the most famous. There is something deeply visceral to the British, about seeing their great city in ruins. It's a trope they return to many times.

Deviations -- While the screenplay of DIE follows that of the television series, in large part, there are numerous deviations. Most notable, is the replacement of Barbara and Ian (as seen on TV) with the Doctor's niece Louise and the chance policeman, Tom. Necessarily missing from the TV version was the budding love story between Susan (a young woman of 23) and the rebel David. DIE still used Roberta Tovey (aged 11), so the romance threads had to go. Another notable change was the omission of the Daleks' beast, the Slyther. A notable addition in DIE was that of magnetism being the Achilles Heel of the Daleks. On the TV show, they're simply blown up in the end. In the movie, massive magnetism sucks them (and their space ship) into the earth.

Who Was Boring First? -- Someone is boring deep into the earth so they can explode a nuclear bomb to exploit a crack in the earth? Haven't we just seen this? Crack in the World used this exact same premise. CitW was in production in late 1964, released in theaters in May '65. DIE was released in August '66. The television episodes upon which its screenplay was based, aired in November and December of '64. Their teleplays obviously predate that.

Comic Quirks -- In the first movie, Ian is played as a comic-relief bumbler. Actor Bernard Cribbins plays the role of the "other" man in Tardis (constable Tom Campbell) as the serious hero most of the time.. Yet, director Gordon Femyng still inserted a comic scene which seems oddly out of place. The scene is aboard the Dalek saucer, when Tom "hides" by tagging along with a squad of robomen. They all act in unison -- rather like a drill team. Tom is always comically out of sync. Later, there is a retread of the classic unstoppable food conveyor gag, made famous by Lucille Ball.

Bottom line? Dr. Who aficionados consider the two feature films to be non-canonical, since they deviate (somewhat) from the TV series. As stand-alone films, they hold up well enough, even if some of the quirkiness of the series leaks through.

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