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Invaders From Mars
Force Entertainment/Force Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 75 mins . PG . PAL


Now this is more like it. Invaders from Mars -and not dreck like Project Moonbase- is the reason why people get so wrapped up in the nostalgia of old sc-fi films. This sits comfortably alongside classics such as War of the Worlds, Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing and many others. With excellent pacing which never lets up, a good story with reasonably good acting (not ham-free, maybe just ham-lite most of the time) and a nifty little ending (one of three different endings, apparently), Invaders from Mars is a cracker of a film.

Wasting hardly a moment before getting right into the drama, it tells the story of young tacker David McLean who witnesses a UFO landing in a sandy area near his home late one night. Telling his father, he’s met with disbelief, but the father checks it out anyway. When he returns many hours later, he’s acting strange. David knows something bad has happened and tries to tell others. Unfortunately, whatever’s out there is taking over the townsfolk faster than David can warn them. Finally managing to convince some adults somethings going on, the army is called in to battle the alien menace and try save civilisation from invasion and enslavement.

But that's not what the film is really about! No sir, this is about the Russians! See, every film made during this period is about the Russians and the paranoia the U.S. felt from the threat of those pesky Communist bastards trying to destroy the righteous American way of life. When we see the the green velour wearing aliens, what the producers were really showing us was the Russian Army. And when we see the Alien leader (a head with tentacles in a fishbowl) that's really Josef Stalin or Nikita Kruschev. And the UFO is a metaphor for ICBM missiles. Or maybe for the KGB, I'm not sure. And the fact that it lands and burrows underground to suck people under is another way of saying there were "Reds hiding under the beds" and the good citizens should be wary of their neighbours because you never knew who might turn out to be a Commie convert. Americans are weird, you see.


The fullframe source print was clearly not in the best of shape (but then none of the films in this retro series are) with many marks and average colour which tended to be a bit unstable. Shadow detail is pretty much non existent for the most part, with the many night scenes and darker stock footage of tanks rolling by looking very dark and hazy. This is more obvious in the second half which is set primarily at night and underground. The compression sometimes has a bit of trouble keeping the detail (not that there is much detail) looking solid, with a bit of wavering in the picture. I can also recommend turning the colour down on your set so that the picture looks black and white, if you want that authentic "old time" experience. Thi picture looks just as good this way, and some might say even suits the film more.

Audio, as the rest of the Retro Sci-Fi collection is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and is merely functional and acceptable at best. Suffering from all the usual failings of older films that need some cleaning up, there's sibilance, hiss, some distortion and a flat sound. The score kicks in pretty hard and clear, effectively keeping this moving well. All the speech is clear though, so I didn't have a problem understanding anything.

The only extra features on the dvd are one trailer for the film, and eight and a half minutes of trailers for other old sci-fi films, some of which are also in the Retro Sci -Fi DVD Collection. These are shown on a drive-in themed screen to keep it all in the mood. Although this seems like a good idea, and they should get points for trying something different, I personally would have liked to see them individually accessible and played fullscreen. Still, they are what they are, and that’ll have to do. Life shall go on.

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  •   And I quote...
    "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!"
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-525
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB930
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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