Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by David MacDonald.

Starring Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Peter Reynolds, John Laurie, Adrienne Corri, Joseph Tomelty, Sophie Stewart. UK 1954 Certificate: PG 77 mins.

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Studio Canal


Appropriately enough, the first words spoken in this long-underrated Cold War-era British sci-fi picture are c/o the dulcet tones of the BBC Home Service, confirming a domestic meteor crash. It unfolds at the Bonnie Charlie Inn, a quaint public house in the Scottish Highlands overseen by endearingly dotty, Scotch-quaffing John Laurie (who claims to have seen “Nessie”) and his feisty, fussy wife (Sophie Stewart). Among their guests are London model Hazel Court (a few years away from Hammer horror stardom), sceptical astrophysicist Joseph Tomelty and heavy-drinking, flirtatious columnist Hugh McDermott.  The great Glaswegian actress Adrienne Corri has a prominent early role as a cute barmaid involved with freshly escaped, accused wife-killer Peter Reynolds.


Like the Wimbledon rocket crash that kicked off the BBC’s THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (broadcast the summer before this film’s release), this presents an extraordinary event in authentically mundane British surroundings. A UFO lands outside the Bonnie Charlie, with the striking Nyah (Patricia Laffan) and her robot Charni emerging to vaporise a disposable supporting character, leaving just his smoking spectacles on the ground. She is on Earth in search of “new blood” (i.e. our strongest men) for her home planet, where the last war was between the sexes, with women emerging as Mars’ new rulers.


Taut and witty, DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS echoes key elements from U.S. sci-fi pictures of the period (notably THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL), including a precocious child in peril, the threat of human enslavement and various reminders of how puny and self-destructive we humans are. Its defiantly British approach extends to Stewart’s landlady calming everybody with cups of tea and a tense climax involving a pack of cards. Shot at Shepperton on a tiny budget over three weeks, it’s a model of economic storytelling and overcomes its FX limitations with committed, appealing performances. The PVC-clad Laffan, prolific on stage and then fresh from QUO VADIS, is one of the most convincingly alien and memorable invaders of 1950s genre flicks.


Studio Canal’s beautiful HD restoration of this 70 year old B-movie gem is hugely impressive. The commentary by Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, and Newman’s own 18-minute on-camera appreciation, provide plenty of good-humoured observations and insights. Newman is particularly fun as he enthuses about the “Dominatrix from Mars” giving Earth folk the side-eye, a robot resembling a “1950s refrigerator on legs” and a scene of British Man’s ultimate nightmare: the destruction of his shed. He clearly holds the movie in great affection, while noting how it’s a shame the title gives the game away for contemporary audiences mistaking it for a drama about a bunch of Brits arguing in a pub.


Steven West.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans