Unearthly Stranger is a 1963 British science fiction horror film directed by John Krish and produced by Albert Fennell (The Legend of Hell House; Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde; Night of the Eagle). It was released in the UK by Anglo Artists and was promoted as The Unearthly Stranger.
Doctor Mark Davidson (John Neville), the narrator, is in fear for his life. His predecessor died under mysterious circumstances just after making a major breakthrough. The cause of death (“an explosion inside his brain”) is being withheld by Secret Service agent Major Clarke (Patrick Newell). The scientists are working on a project involving spaceflight by the power of mental concentration.
Doctor Mark Davidson has a new Swiss wife, Julie (Gabriella Licudi), in whom Major Clarke takes an interest. Julie has a number of unusual characteristics, such as sleeping with her eyes open, never blinking and having no pulse, which makes her husband suspect she is an alien. She also frightens children and can handle very hot objects with her bare hands.
After frightening a whole schoolyard of children, though, it emerges she can cry, though the tears burn her cheeks. Major Clarke does a background check and finds she never existed before her life with the doctor.
As a precaution, Doctor Mark Davidson is relieved of his lab duties. With nothing else to do he works on the problem his predecessor had figured out. He is able to successfully recover the lost formula. For security reasons, Major Clarke confiscates the notes but is struck dead in the same mysterious way…
Unearthly Stranger is helped by solid performances all round – Neville is suitably panicky, switching between states of denial and terror at the thought that his new bride might be less than human, and Lucidi is excellent, her beauty and seeming innocence making her a sympathetic rather than frightening figure, caught up in the horrors of her duties just as much as Davidson is.
The film could, of course, have been a straightforward Cold War thriller using much the same plot, and that helps keep it in the world of realism, even when it occasionally slips into histrionics. Certainly, the fears that pervade this story were not too far removed from those felt by people worldwide at the time, when we were only one button push from global destruction.
David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA
” … Unearthly Stranger is not as cheap and awful as it might sound. In fact, as paranoia-inducing stiffer-upper-lipped British science fiction goes (which isn’t very far) it’s rather splendid, with enough twists and stupidity to entertain anyone who can’t think of anything else to do for the next 90 minutes.” British Horror Films
” …its melodramatic opening reel belies the low-key, poignant drama that follows. John Krish’s background in wartime documentaries is reflected in the deliberately flat lighting and the authentic locations.” Andrew Roberts, BFI Screenonline
“A little Body Snatchers, a little I Married a Monster from Outer Space, even a little noir helps to intensify this taut sci-fi mystery […] Shadows, camera angles, and in-camera effects suggest psychological torment right from the opening.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“Well-acted, well-written (with likable and enjoyable characters), entertaining and even unexpectedly witty at times, this long-forgotten British film deserves better treatment than it has received […] director Krish and cinematographer Reginald Wyler do several stylistic things to spice up the material.” The Bloody Pit of Horror
“Reversing the roles of I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), Krish and screenplay writer Carlton produced an unusually thoughtful British Science Fiction movie.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction
“…the best British S-F film since Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned.” BFI Monthly Film Bulletin, 1963
“For once, the scientific mumbo-jumbo is kept to a minimum […] Sections of dialogue also feel like they might have been rushed in at the last minute, and even seasoned pros like John Neville struggle to bring any life to some of the lines.” John Hamilton, X-Cert: The British Independent Horror Film 1951 – 1970
Cast and characters:
- John Neville … Doctor Mark Davidson
- Philip Stone … Professor John Lancaster
- Gabriella Licudi … Julie Davidson
- Patrick Newell … Major Clarke
- Jean Marsh … Miss Ballard
- Warren Mitchell … Professor Geoffrey D. Munro
Image credits: Gregory’s Shock! Theater
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