Film

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

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.


Devil Girl From Mars

Director: David MacDonald
Cast: Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Patricia Laffen, Peter Reynolds, Adrienne Corri, John Laurie.
US release date: 1955-04-27

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)

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
9
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image