Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966)
Following hot on the heels of the financial success of its predecessor, Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. landed in 1966. Directing responsibilities once more fell to Gordon Flemyng, who was reunited with Peter Cushing reprising the role of the Doctor and Roberta Tovey as his younger granddaughter Susan. Neither Roy Castle nor Jennie Linden were available so Bernard Cribbins (Tom Campbell) and Jill Curzon (Louise) were brought in as replacements.
The film opens as bobby on the beat Tom patrols a night-time London street and encounters a jewellery shop robbery in progress. Attacked from behind by one of the crooks he stumbles injured toward a police box further down the street. This surprisingly gritty opening scene is somewhat unexpected in a ‘U’ certificate sci-fi film. Director Flemyng underscores the sequence with the deceptively soothing strains of Bach’s Toccata and fugue in d minor and it provides a pleasingly dramatic jolt to the pre-credit proceedings. Arriving back in London in the year 2150 A.D., the Doctor and his three companions step out of T.A.R.D.I.S. into a ruined and rubble strewn landscape which looks more like blitz ravaged London of 1940-41 than of anything remotely futuristic. Amongst the dust and debris there are prominent advertising hoardings for ‘Sugar Puffs’ (an early example of British product placement on screen) and as the characters repeatedly pass by them the camera lingers just for a second or two longer than absolutely necessary.
The Daleks have invaded Earth and appear to have pretty much laid London to waste. But a plucky band of resistance fighters, boasting amongst their ranks Ray (Mr. Benn and Some People) Brooks, are hiding out in Embankment Underground station and are plotting to overthrow the metallic exterminators.
This second big-screen outing for the “motorised dustbins” is far more fun (in a guilty pleasure way) than its largely by-the-numbers predecessor. The sight of a Dalek emerging from the Thames like some kind of robotic shark is almost worth the price of admission alone. Then there is the striking image of a firing squad of Daleks surrounding a wood cabin and unleashing their fire extinguisher weapons to explosive effect. If that wasn’t enough they are also busily transforming the male populace into an army of Robomen. The Daleks robotise slaves using what appears to be 1960’s hairdresser pods and deck them out in shiny black gimp-like PVC bin-liners and pre-Judge Dredd helmets with a transistor radio stuck on the side. Disguised as a Roboman, Bernard Cribbins infiltrates their flying saucer HQ, and discovers they are being fed on a diet of dolly mixtures.
The aforementioned flying saucer (resplendent with clearly visible supporting wires in flight) boasts an impressively steep entrance ramp and much fun is to be had watching the Daleks attempting to negotiate the incline. During an all-out assault on the craft one of the metallic salt and pepper shakers is pushed down the ramp and you cannot but help fear for the operator inside as it gathers momentum. The deliriously daft plot culminates in a race against the clock in a mine in Bedfordshire (now that’s a phrase one rarely gets to use). At least this time the dastardly Daleks’ dialogue is delivered without the enforced staccato which plagued the first film.
As for the humans, Bernard Cribbins (who was to return to the TV series in 2007) gets some impressively heroic moments (or rather his stunt-double does) before being given the chance by the Doctor to re-write a little piece of personal history. Peter Cushing takes more of a backseat role this time around, but still puts in a typically proficient and dependable performance. Young Roberta Tovey once more acquits herself well, but having now encountered the Daleks on both her outings with grandfather she could easily be forgiven for declining any future trips in his time-travelling police box.
Far more entertaining and outlandish than its predecessor, this second and sadly final outing for both Cushing’s Doctor and the Daleks on the big screen provides a positive cornucopia of retro delight. The film transfer is as pristine as possible given the source material and as one would expect shows up the limitations of the on-screen effects employed. The soundtrack once again retains its mono origins, but would you really want to watch a flying saucer on wires roar across the screen in 7.1 surround? First published on Fleapits & Picture Palaces.