They Came from Beyond Space is a 1967 British science-fiction feature film directed by Freddie Francis (The Skull; Torture Garden, The Vampire Happening), written by Milton Subotsky (At the Earth’s Core, The Monster Club) and based on the novel The Gods Hate Kansas by Joseph Millard.
The Amicus Productions film was made following Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. and used many of the sets and props from that movie as a cost-cutting measure.
Robert Hutton (The Slime People; Invisible Invaders), Jennifer Jayne, Zia Mohyeddin, Bernard Kay (The Shuttered Room, Torture Garden, Witchfinder General), Michael Gough (Horrors of the Black Museum, Konga, Horror Hospital, Sleepy Hollow), Geoffrey Wallace, Maurice Good, Luanshya Greer, John Harvey and Diana King.
Several meteors fall in a field in Cornwall, England. Those who approach them are seemingly taken over, and barricade the area from intruders. A scientist is immune to the takeover due to a metal plate in his head. He enlists the assistance of a friend, who must melt down his silver cricket trophies to make a helmet to protect him. They discover that the takeover is benign, as the aliens just want to repair their rocket and return home…
They Came from Beyond Space is a curious minor effort that, although based on a novel seems to take most of its ideas from Hammer’s Quatermass II.
As in that film (and the TV series it evolved from), we have an alien presence travelling to Earth in meteors and taking over the minds of scientists, quickly cutting off a village and turning it into a heavily guarded military compound where strange experiments are taking place.
Only one (American) scientist – in this case, Doctor Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton) realises what is happening, and sets out to fight back against these alien invaders and their rather vague plans.
If this isn’t a particularly exciting film, it’s certainly not for the want to trying – a bombastic score thunders out continually as Hutton runs around looking intense, which certainly goes some way towards covering up the fact that very little actually happens.
Hutton proves to be immune to alien takeover because he has a silver plate in his head, and so he teams with fellow scientist Farge (Zia Mohyeddin), who melts down his cricket trophies to make what looks like a colander, in a scene sure to reduce modern audiences to hysterics – with this helmet perched on his head, Farge looks more like a paranoid, tinfoil hat-wearing nutter than a serious scientist.
As with many of Milton Subotsky’s screenplays, the dialogue is clunky and unconvincing, and as with many Freddie Francis films where he clearly didn’t give a damn, the direction is perfunctory, with some astonishingly stilted performances (it’s hard to see much difference between Jennifer Jayne as a normal human and a cold, mind-controlled alien).
Yet despite all this, They Came from Beyond Space is never dull. It bounces along quite merrily, seemingly oblivious to its silliness, before reaching a pretty lame climax, and it may well have a degree of camp value these days.
And at least we can finally see the film as it was meant to be seen. Having somehow slipped into the grey area of public domain, for far too long the only versions of this film that could be seen were barely watchable washed-out prints.
The latest DVD release is incredibly vivid – the opening titles are as loud as the soundtrack. If you’ve suffered through an inferior version in the past, this new edition will seem like a revelation. And if you are a fan of obscure British science fiction – a subgenre of films that bear no resemblance to any other country’s sci-fi – then you owe it to yourself to check out this entertainingly disposable effort.
David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA
“In They Came from Beyond Space, Francis achieves a vivid, proto-psychedelic look that meshes very well with the rollicking, jazzy score and the less-straitlaced-than-they-seem characters, simply by continuing to do what he’d been doing since his days as Hammer’s top cameraman.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“With minimal, but effective sets in the tradition of The Avengers or Doctor Who – an alien complex built under a shattered farmhouse – and the traditional British B film qualities of solid acting and competent action, They Came From Beyond Space is an improvement on Millard’s poorly-written fiction…” The Kim Newman Web Site
“Attractively filmed, the film succeeds on its own slightly dotty and unambitious level.” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Handbook (Batsford, 1982)
Cast and characters:
- Robert Hutton … Doctor Curtis Temple
- Jennifer Jayne … Lee Mason
- Zia Mohyeddin … Farge
- Bernard Kay … Richard Arden
- Michael Gough … Master of the Moon
- Maurice Good … Stilwell
- John Harvey … Bill Trethowan
- Hedger Wallace … Alan Mullane (as Geoffrey Wallace)
- Luanshya Greer … Girl Attendant
- Diana King … Mrs Trethowan
- Paul Bacon … Doctor Rogers
- Christopher Banks … Doctor – Street
- Dermot Cathie … Peterson
- Norman Claridge … Doctor Frederick Andrews
- James Donnelly … Guard
- Cookham, Berkshire, England (high street scenes)
- Twickenham Film Studios, St Margarets, Twickenham, Middlesex, England
- 85 minutes
- Audio: Mono
- Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
When the film was originally released theatrically in the UK, the BBFC required cuts to secure an ‘A’ rating. All cuts were waived in 2012 when the film was granted a ‘PG’ certificate for its DVD release.