Sunday, July 10, 2016

Devil Girl From Mars (1954) – Available on YouTube
Director: David MacDonald
Writers: John Mather, James Eastwood

This three reeler with 10 actors a matchbox budget and ironic title is a fun watch. The film was produced by the American born Danzinger brothers, Edward and Harry, who worked at a sound studio in New York after the war and then moved to Britain in 1952 and began making television shows and short independent features in whatever studio they could rent (Harry was a prosecuting attorney in the Nuremberg trials! Guess he had his fill of that.) Shorts were wrapped in a matter of days and this movie took three weeks. Retakes were forbidden unless the film was damaged but considering the sparse budget it has a peculiar charm and comes off pretty well. The centerpiece is the Devil Girl, Nyah, played with overbearing camp by Patricia Laffan (Quo Vadis) replete in black patent leather boots, mini-dress, black tights, a floor length cape, Vulcan eyebrows, an Olympic ski slope of a nose and a widow peeked skull cap.

Nyah is my Name Sperm is my Game

There is a brief romantic subplot involving Hugh McDermott  (The Seventh Veil, First Men in The Moon) a garrulous journalist (“Newspapers are published every day, you gotta fill ‘um with something!”) who always needs a drink (I’d like a very large whiskey and a very small soda”), and B movie maven Hazel Court (The Raven, Mask of the Red Death, The Curse of Frankenstein), a London fashion model on the rebound. They try to get things going but they can’t! Why? Because there’s a Devil Girl! And she is from Mars! Why Mars you may ask?  And why is she called a girl? Shouldn’t a hot, leather clad, imperious alien female be a woman from Venus?  In 1953 Abbott and Costello were headed for Mars but ended up on Venus with a bevy of beauties including Anita Ekberg the men having been banished (to where I forget I was just staring at Anita.) Here we are a year later and Nyah tells us of Mars' long and brutal war between the sexes in which the women prevailed. Despite Mars' superior technology, they are faced with a declining birth rate so Nyah is sent to harvest the best male specimens for, uh, “new blood”.   

The Story: Nyah’s space ship – headed for London - has lost a cowling or something and is forced to land near a country inn in the Scottish Highlands. At the inn we have Michael Carter and Ellen Prestwick, the would be lovers, Astrophysicist Professor Arnold Hennessey (Joseph Tomelty), bar maid Doris (Adrienne Corri, who was the gang rape victim in A Clockwork Orange), Robert Justin alias Albert Simpson (Peter Reynolds) a – falsely? - convicted murderer and Doris’s lover, the proprietors Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson (John Laurie and Sophie Stewart), their young nephew Tommy (Anthony Richmond) who is visiting from London, and a crippled laborer David (James Edmond.)  Michael and Professor Arnold have arrived to investigate a reported meteor crash and, finding themselves lost in the Scottish Highlands in the depths of winter, pull into the inn for directions and a much needed drink.  Michael, Arnold and Ellen sit down with the proprietors for some hearty scotch broth at which time Albert, who is working at the inn under false pretense, emerges from the kitchen and Michael – being a journalist and, apparently, the only one who reads the papers - fingers him as an escaped convict. But then, just as the confrontation begins, our rudderless space ship whooshes overhead with a rumble and a flash of bright light.  The dinner guests rush outside – except for Albert who takes the opportunity to scram – and witness the landing. Michael grabs the phone and yells “hello, hello, hello, hello…it’s like something from another planet…here I am with a flying saucer in my lap…hello, hello” but the phone doesn’t work (so stop yelling!).  Michael and the professor are hell bent on getting to the nearest phone seven miles away. Ellen begs Michael to stay to which he replies “You’ll be alright we won’t be long” (yeah…just snuggle up to the convicted murderer and cripple and ignore that silly thing in the front yard!)  Ellen confronts Albert who explains the murder thing was all an accident and she’s cool with it.  Doris then hides Albert in the attic and finally we cut to the spaceship. With timpani booming and horns blaring the front door slides open and out walks the imperious leather clad Nyah.  David the cripple briskly limps outside to see what’s happening comes face to face with the Nyah tries to turn and run bumps into a force field and falls down.  Nyah rewards his clumsiness by vaporizing him with a ray gun.  Guess no handicapped men are getting a free ride to Mars this week. Michael and the professor can't get the car to start and return to the inn to find Doris in a trance. Michael starts whispering and when he takes his eyes off Doris there she is the devil girl filling the doorway! After a pleasant enough exchange (“Who are you?” Where are you from?”) she informs the professor “You men on earth are much as we had expected.” She asks the professor if he is a scientist (guess he looks like one to any normal Martian.) He says yes and she says “You are a very poor physical specimen.” Nyah advises she speaks all earth languages as she has been listening to the radio. Nyah frees Doris from her trance. Ellen walks in to see what’s going on. Nyah explains her origin:

The Professor: Are you alone in the ship?

Nyah:  Johnny is with me. 

Michael: Johnny?

Nyah: Johnny is a mechanical man. A robot with many of the characteristics of a human but improved by an electronic brain. The metal from which the spaceship is constructed can reproduce itself. (The Monolith Monsters didn’t do it until 1957.)

Professor: The metal reproduces itself?  Do you realize what your saying? They’ve turned the inorganic into the organic! 

Michael: Just why are you going to London?

Nyah: Many of your earth years ago, our women were similar to yours today. Our emancipation took several hundred years. And ended in a bitter devastating war between the sexes…the last war we ever had.

Professor: So you’ve had wars too?

Nyah: All inhabited planets have had wars. Some have ended by wiping themselves out.

Michael: How?

Nyah: For every new weapon invented a defense was perfected until the ultimate weapon was developed: A perpetual motion chain reactor beam.

Professor: Incredible! What form did it take?

Nyah: As fast as metal was created, it was changed by its molecular structure into the next dimension and so destroyed itself.

Professor: So there is a fourth dimension (not as pithy as the Solarinite in Plan 9 but there it is.)

Nyah: After the war of the sexes women became the rulers of Mars. But now the male has fallen into a decline. The birth rate is dropping tremendously. For despite our advanced science we have still found no way of creating life! (She says as she violates Ellen’s personal space.)

Ellen Frightened: So you’ve come here for new blood?

Nyah confidently:  In a way. And also to test a newly invented organic metal of which my ship is built (the stuff that doesn’t destroy itself I guess.) On Mars some think I will not return that the metal is too unstable. But when I get back they will build more spaceships. Meanwhile I will select some of your strongest men to return with me to Mars (not just to build spaceships I'm guessing.)

Michael Fuming: And if they don’t want to go with you?

Nyah Defiant: There is no if!

Michael: Your philosophy may not be appreciated. How do you suppose to subdue London or anywhere else for that matter once you take your pick of the men?

Nyah: A simple matter. The nuclear ship contains a paralyzer ray mechanism (damn!) capable of freezing all life over a wide area.

Doris: Like you froze me just now.

Nyah: Yes.

I know it’s not that great but it verges on B Movie mesmerizing. And repopulating Mars?
Aren’t all red-blooded males up to the task? As Strangelove said “There would be much time and little to do.”
After this exposition there’s a panic from the innkeepers husband Mr. Jamison as they can’t find David the unworthy cripple. Nyah cops to having eliminated poor David as nonessential. Michael takes and swing at Nyah to which she whips out her ray gun and warns the angry guests not to follow her back to the ship as the house is surrounded by a force field. Her departure means the movie is less interesting.
Despite protestations the professor insists he must follow her which gives us time for Michael and Ellen’s scene. Up in her room Michael “lets his hair down” and explains his acquired taste for alcohol as a product of all the wars he’s witnessed. Ellen’s hair stays up but she admits to being unhappy with life. The scene should have ended with a kiss being interrupted by the unceremonious return of the professor. With all this talk about new blood and repopulation why no kissing?
Downstairs the professor does stumble into the inn with a bloody forehead (damn those invisible shields.) Mr. Jamison produces an old revolver. Michael takes it. Then, Nyah swings open the French doors and, there she is the devil girl filling the doorway again.

Damn You Nyah!

“You are all very quiet no doubt resigned to the inevitable. That is wise. ” Michael tells her to put um up. Nyah pays no heed.  He fires the revolver to no effect and Nyah simply grabs it and tosses it to the floor. “You poor demented humans to think you could destroy me with old an fashioned toy.  I can control power beyond your wildest dreams. Come! Come and you shall see!” Nyah is very proud of her culture and all it has accomplished so, with a sweep of her hand, it’s off to the ship. “Now earthmen look, watch the power of another world” as she points a rather unwieldy looking control at the spaceship to summon Johnny. Well Johnny is no Gort.  He is rather boxy looking, much like the Jetson’s maid, with arms a bit too thin. Nevertheless this contraption - built for the film - was fully automated and with some clever perspective work appears to be eight feet tall. He proceeds to "Gort" a tree and then Gorts an old truck. The puny earthlings  - feeling punier every earth minute - skidaddle. The professor lingers a bit, and……will he be incinerated….no.

Nice Composition

Meanwhile Albert, whose been hiding in the attic, and the boy Tommy in his upstairs room have been watching from afar and stroll up to the ship full of questions. Nyah is having none of it and puts Albert into a trance and sends him back to the attic.  The little boy is now hers! Think of all that sperm! She’s actually very nice to Tommy as she gently takes his hand and promises “Come, I will show you wonders that you’ve never seen before.”
Cut to the inn and the earthlings are venting their anger. The professor wants to get inside the ship but, no surprise Nyah swings open the doors and, there she is the devil girl filling the doorway again “No doubt you are having a counsel of war. It amuses me to see your puny efforts.” She is so fucking condescending. The professor plays to her vanity  - not a bad idea at this point - and tricks Nyah into inviting him onto the ship. Once aboard there’s a lot of jibber jabber about metal and heat and nuclear fission on a static negative condensity  in a perpetual motion loop  “enough power to obliterate this spec of matter you call earth.”  Damn you Nyah!
Back at the inn Michael has rigged an exposed electric wire across the doorway. Nyah throws open the doors and, you guessed it, there she is the devil girl filling the doorway again! Nothing happens but she warns them if they don’t stop their shenanigans she will kill the boy! Arrrrg says Michael. Then Nyah goes all blurry to the fourth dimension just to fuck with them. Ellen really can’t stand it anymore. Mr Jamison never thought he’d see the day. Mrs. Jamison seeks counsel in the lord. “We’ve done enough talking” says Michael as he walks through the valley of death to the ship. Nyah comes to greet. They discuss the kid. Nyah points out the obvious “He is a young creature his mind is free of your stupid emotions and fears.” Michael offers himself in exchange.
Cut back to the inn and Tommy walks through the door this time. Good job Michael! Tommy had a nice time in the ship and can’t wait to tell the kids at school.
Cut to Albert who is back in the attic still in a trance. Doris says somebody better check on him he’s talking all funny. Michael steps up again. He and Albert have a fight. Albert is knocked out. Michael ties him to a chair. The professor has a plan “Perhaps one determined blow delivered [to the ships power source] might release this power in the form of a terrific explosion. “ It’s elegant if nothing else. Of course Michael wants this suicide mission. But then, you know the devil girl fills the…oh fuck it. Michael has made his pack and returns to the ship with Nyah but not before Ellen confesses she is in love with him.
Back at the ship Michael grabs the robot control device but that doesn’t work and so Nyah escorts him – all hang dog – back to the inn. She informs the professor, Michael, Ellen, the Jamison’s, Doris and the unconscious Albert, that she will have the ship repaired soon and will kill everyone upon departure. The professor suggests she will need a guide in London. Really?  She decides it’s a good idea and will be back in a bit to choose one of them. They have been unreliable demented, puny and stupid so she needs to ruminate on her choice.
During the Martian rumination the professor writes stuff down.  Michael asks if Ellen meant what she said downstairs.  They kiss!!! Yessssss!
Albert wakes up. He’s a little out of it but listens to the others bitch about who is going to go – as if it were up to them! They draw cards. Michael wins. Fuck! The professor tells him what to do. Well not really he just tells him to go to the center of the ship where the power crucible is and the rest is up to him.  Next everyone but Albert and Doris head for the basement to take cover. Michael helps out and says he’ll be back for Albert. Alone together Doris unties Albert. Albert’s been reading about the stars. He confesses what a fool he’s been all his life. Maybe he was guilty. Doris tells him to go hide and heads for the basement. Que Nyah in the doorway.  Nyah looks Albert over and the two have an understanding. He is going of his own free will. Michael comes back to attend to Albert but its too late. He took your place. Fuck you Michael!

The ship takes off and blows up.

Albert is dead.

The phone rings and everyone has a drink.

The End.

Don’t worry in 1967 Mars Needs Women.

1 comment: