Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Gods Hate Berkshire… They Came from Beyond Space (1967)

Oh, this is some fast-paced fun from start to finish with Freddie Francis directing this at a canter, with hardly any budget and with a plot that feels loose, and almost improvised! It’s got a great poster with a group of sexy aliens menacing the Earth but it can’t quite live up to the imagination of the graphic design and commercial artist even though all involved give it their best shot.

They Came from Beyond Space is based on The Gods Hate Kansas, a 1941 novel from the American sci-fi writer, Joseph Millard. Made directly after Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966), the film uses some sets and props off that film although none of the pepper pot aliens, favouring a more existential threat posed by a species that takes over human minds with the aid of some psychedelic affects and noisy electronica. It’s effective enough although what the aliens are actually up to isn’t necessarily that clearly logical.
It all begins with the mysterious appearance of several meteorites all descending to Earth, a space research station looking a little like Jodrell Bank (but is actually in New South Wales), tracks the event and sends a team to investigate. The senior scientist, Dr. Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton), cannot accompany his colleagues as he – being a classic car enthusiast – has had a metal plate inserted in his skull following a particularly nasty prang in his nippy-but-risky Bentley.

As he stays behind, his brainy love interest Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne), heads off with Richard Arden (Bernard Kay) and the rest. Arriving at the site they see the meteors buried in a filed, the rocks begin to glow and suddenly a light fills the scientists’ eyes, the screen swirls and they stare intently having been taken other by alien will.

Jennifer Jayne is taken over...
The other-worldly brain-nappers move quickly as alien-Lee extracts a more than generous loan from the Lloyds Bank in Cookham High Street whilst others return to the research station to take a “science-drawing” that has cleverly worked out that the rocks had originated on the Moon. The aliens encounter Temple but, unable to be controlled with his cranial metal protection, he is knocked unconscious and they escape.

Temple and the teamwork out strange movements of goods towards a farm in Berkshire and he sets off to investigate. He meets a striking short-haired platinum blonde at a patrol station (Luanshya Greer) and the two flirt like anything because, er, he’s an alpha male cool dude and she’s a rather forward kind of gas girl.

Baby you can drive my car...  Luanshya Greer
Temple finds that the aliens have already set up a heavily defended base of their own, he tries to force his way through but the odds are too great and Lee emerges to tell him he’s not wanted. He encounters a British Intelligence officer who is tracking all the comings and goings from the base but, after holding up in the finest inn Cookham has to offer, the man dies launching a slightly random sub-plot involving a biochemical attack from the aliens. There’s even a guest appearance from Kenneth Kendall as a TV report, which is a nice touch.

As people die, Temple has another go at the aliens’ base and succeeds in gaining entry to their subterranean sanctuary where he gets locked up by the now evil Richard Arden after discovering a rocket ship under construction. Temple escapes and manages to extract Lee, locking her up in the trunk of his car as she is still under the influence.

Kenneth Kendall reporting
 He takes her to his friend Farge (Zia Mohyeddin) who is something like Brains and something of a specialist in alien mind control… or at least not phased too much by it. Farge and Temple manage to exorcise Lee’s possessor and realise that silver is the solution: it blocks and weakens the aliens. Temple’s skull plate is silver – which explains everything – and Farge sets about creating protective headgear for their return to the aliens’ base.

Ah, but when do we get to meet the real aliens, I hear you ask? Well, there are all kinds of revelations to come before the full story is revealed by Michael Gough – the Master of the Moon and the film freestyles its way towards an interesting denouement which doesn’t follow the usual path of stand-off and destruction…

Zia Mohyeddin with alien-proof helmet
Dusty Verdict: They Came from Beyond Space is rainy-day fun and has some style even with a threadbare plot. The actors do the best they can with Robert Hutton especially impressive proving that at 47 you can still be a leading man. He had form with this kind of film having starred in The Slime People (1963) as well as Invisible Invaders (1959) both of which look classy!

They Came from Beyond Space is available on DVD from Studio Canal and is worth seeking out at a reasonable price.

Michael Gough is the Master of the Moon
Postscript: Why exactly do the Gods hate Kansas? “For a reason no scientist can explain, more stony meteorites strike little Kansas than any other place on Earth. One-third of all known North American aerolite falls, and one-sixth of those reported in the world, have been in Kansas...”

Joseph J. Millard, The Gods Hate Kansas (1941)

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