Invaders from Mars


Director: William Cameron Menzies


Director: Tobe Hooper

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Childhood paranoia, what a film. I saw the original 1953 Invaders from Mars on an old Zenith television set as a child. I can't remember now if I watched it the first time alone or not, but I think I did. Gads did it get me worried that just maybe the reason all the adults were so menacing & appalling was because aliens from outer space had taken over their bodies.

Invaders from MarsAlready at a tender age I knew that Santa Clause & God were hooey, & I had my doubts about flying saucers, but there was no doubt in my mind but that something was desparately wrong with grown-ups, & this science fiction film just might explain it.

The director William Cameron Menzies had a bigger career as an art designer & production designer starting in the silent era, & was responsible for much of the "look" of such visually stunning films as Gone with the Wind (1939) & the lavish Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler The Iron Mask (1929).

This experience assuredly went a long way into permitting such interesting set design work as is manifested in his directorial efforts Invaders from Mars & the surreal horror film The Maze both from 1953, & H. G. Wells' Things to Come (1936) which is thoroughly an art director's film.

I don't believe Menzies has ever been permitted the position he really deserves as one of the greatest science fiction directors, as even if only for this one film, he goes alongside the best SF films of the 1950s, i.e., Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) & Fred Wilcox's Forbidden Planet (1956).

The story of a child saving the world is Bradburyesque in its balance of conviction, suspense, & celebration of a Rockwellian middle America. One wonders if it was an early influence on Bradbury himself. It would seem certainly to have left an impression on director Tobe Hooper, whose remake is true to the spirit of the original.

Tobe Hooper's 1986 remake is also a very fine film, diminished only by the fact of the wondrous original's existance, & the inevitable unoriginality of mere remakes.

But Tobe deserves alot of credit for sustaining the period sci-fi attitude & honoring the spirit of the original. He does add a few comedy touches not encountered in the poker-faced original, & since the abject seriousness of the original was one of its great charms, I'll always prefer it.

At least one of Menzies' best sets is recreated beautifully, plus the actor who played the world-saving boy David in the original version makes a charming appearance in Tobe's remake as the police officer who may be David all grown up.

There's the partial implication that this isn't really the same story but that the events of 1953 are happening again to another kid, George. That was a cute little touch, even if this version does seem also to be set in the '50s.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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