Running Time: 85 minutes
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Synopsis: A group of scientists investigating an irregular meteor shower in a rural area become possessed by an alien force with mysterious motives. Only Dr Curtis Temple (Hutton) is immune to possession due to a metal plate implanted in his head, so he is naturally selected to investigate.
This quaint British science fiction story, not to be confused with THEY CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), was originally unveiled in 1967, and is one of several classics being re-released as part of Amicus Productions’ fiftieth birthday celebration. It features some of the most endearing, though stilted, performances you are likely to see in a feature film. It also boasts two of Britain’s most cherished actors: Bernard Kay, who regularly appeared in DOCTOR WHO under various guises and Michael Gough, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Alfred in Tim Burton’s BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS, plays the terrifically bizarre Master of the Moon.
Temple is the astronomer recruited by Internal Security’s Richard Arden (Kay) to investigate an incident, which has seen an unusual set of nine meteorites land in perfect formation in a small Cornish village. Luckily, a predilection for fast cars and reckless driving means Temple recently caved his head in, and therefore has a silver plate blocking the inevitable ensuing brainwashing attempts, which rapidly commandeer the rest of Arden’s team. If you’re wondering who is brainwashing them, well, that’s the best part… it’s the meteorites. Yes, that’s right, lumps of cheap inanimate rock are the chief representatives for the primary antagonists. If there is a more ingenious way of saving money on a production, it has yet to make itself known.
If you watch this gem with no sense of irony, then you will be disappointed, as the special effects are laughable by today’s standards, as is the choreography for the fight scenes, which consist mainly of unarmed heroes leaping wildly with immense trajectory at armed henchmen, whilst inexplicably avoiding being shot. An emphatic Henry Mancini-esque score, and the use of archaic argot (such as the word ‘jalopy’) provokes even more floods of lovely nostalgia, and, if that wasn’t enough, we have Temple.
Temple is an intellectual middle-aged astronomer, who is, for no apparent reason, a dab hand with a sniper rifle, and adept at pulling off professional wrestling manoeuvres – at least one powerslam and a snapmare were noted – with nary a grimace. It’s enough to send your sense-making capabilities into meltdown, and is nothing short of sensational.
THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE embodies many cliched conventions, perhaps the most amusing being the claustrophobic close-up on Temple’s eyes as he makes a dramatic discovery. However, all great cultural items are a product of their time and must be analysed as such. So, if you’re a postmodernist intrigued by the evolution of film and, in particular, the science fiction genre, then this nugget of gold should bring you unbridled joy, but if you want to be blown away by earth-shattering action, and mind-blowing CGI, you may be disappointed.