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Don’t Open That Door! #42: 'Devil Girl From Mars' (1954)

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Thursday, May 16, 2013
Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: a one-woman invasion force strikes Scotland in Devil Girl From Mars.
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Devil Girl From Mars

Director: David MacDonald
Cast: Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Patricia Laffen, Peter Reynolds, Adrienne Corri, John Laurie.

(US theatrical: 27 Apr 1955)

Alternative titles: Nymphos From Space; Women Are From Mars, Men Are Stuck Here on Earth Wondering What the Hell Is Going On 


POSITIVES:


Starts with a bang (unexplained for the rest of the movie).


Multiple plotlines involving alien nymphos, ex-cons, wee bonny lads, forbidden love, sophisticated models, drunken Scotsmen, killer robots and MUCH MUCH MORE.


Devil girl looks like illicit offspring of Darth Vader and Mr. Spock. And she does that raised-eyebrow thing that kills me.
  
NEGATIVES:


Cloying violin soundtrack during “relationship” scenes.


Robot is the un-scariest machine in the history of film.


SYNOPSIS: When a Martian spaceship lands in a remote Scottish village, it plays havoc with the crowd that’s assembled at the local inn. Aside from the colorfully sloshed Mr. Jamieson and his playfully nagging wife, there is also barmaid Doris, who has a past full of secrets; a fugitive ex-con named Robert—or Albert—with a past full of secrets; Eileen, a beautiful London model with a past full of secrets; a reporter named Michael; and a Ministry-appointed expert on meteors. This unlikely crew soon discovers the reason for the spaceship’s dramatic appearance: Mars needs studs! And the sooner the better.




As explained by the black-robed, Satanic female from the red planet, Martian civilization fell prey, some time back, to a deadly war between the sexes—with the result that the females won, and the males were reduced to emasculated late-night-radio show callers. Now the female Martians are seeking new blood (or maybe other bodily fluids) to replenish the species. Naturally, those hot-blooded Martianelles turned their attention to Testosterone Nexus Central of the Universe, known to us Earthlings as “Scotland”, a place where the men are so macho they can wear skirts and no one will make fun of them. (Well okay, some of us still make fun of them. Just not to their faces, man. Didn’t you see Braveheart?)  And if anyone gets the bright idea to resist this Mephistophelean XX- chromosome-carrying extraterrestrial, there’s a killer robot lurking in the shrubbery, armed with a disintegrator ray. This is not quite the blood-chilling figure that it could be, given the fact that it moves about as fast as a tortoise with tendonitis and the ray gun only seems to work on things that move even slower. Like that weird guy David, for example.


Roughly one hour later, two of our heroes have fallen in love, two more have been reunited in wordless but deeply-felt passion; a couple of the boys have taken a few shots at each other, and everybody has ingested mass quantities of beverages. As the cheery Mrs. Jamieson puts it, “Come on Jamie, while we’re still alive, we might as well have a cup of tea.” Maybe it’s this last bit that brings out the martyr in everyone, as the men feverishly draw lots for the privilege of blowing themselves to pieces in a final, desperate attempt to destroy the diabolical space hussy from the fourth planet. After all, that way they won’t have to drink any more of that godawful tea. Is the attempt successful? Well, those are Earth men, still living in your neighborhood. Aren’t they?



Best line in the movie: “Here I am with a flying saucer in my lap—not to mention an escaped convict—and I can’t get this phone to work!”


What gets reduced to very small pieces: Two aircraft of wildly differing types, but only one has any purpose in the movie. Then there’s a tree, a truck, and a barn. Also, a creepy guy and a couple of other bipeds, but I won’t say which ones.


What gets saved: Human males!!! Excited, ladies?


The Devil Girl made me do it: Highly regarded science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler was inspired to start writing after seeing Devil Girl from Mars when she was ten years old. Her career spanned from 1979’s Kindred to 2005’s Fledgling, a unique take on the vampire story. Her 1984 novel Clay’s Ark is a personal favorite.


Somehow their careers survived: Hugh McDermott (Michael) had appeared in The Seventh Veil (1947), while Hazel Court (Eileen) was to feature in a string of horror flicks, including Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Raven (1963) and Masque of the Red Death (1965). Patricia Laffan (Nyah, the Devil Girl) was among of the cast of thousands in 1951 Roman epic Quo Vadis; Peter Reynolds (Robert/Albert) would appear alongside Jane Mansfield in 1959’s It Takes a Thief. Adrienne Corri (Doris)‘s carreer included a roles in Dr Zhivago (1965) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). John Laurie (Mr. Jamieson) worked with Laurence Olivier in Henry V (1944) and Hamlet (1948). In 1966 he would appear in The Reptile, also by Shakespeare. Just kidding.




BOTTOM LINE: Surprisingly fun, hokey Brit thriller. Try it—you’ll be glad.


NEXT WEEK: THEM! (1954)


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