‘Some extra-terrestrials aren’t friendly.’
Xtro is a 1982 British science fiction horror film released in 1983, directed by Harry Bromley Davenport from a screenplay co-written with Iain Cassie and Robert Smith, based on a story by Michel Parry. It was executive produced by New Line’s Bob Shaye.
Sam, a devoted father and husband, disappears suddenly, apparently abducted by aliens, only to return to the family fold three years later as not quite the man he was. His family have moved on, his wife, Rachel, is now living with a man called Joe who is deeply suspicious as to the circumstances of his return, whilst she isn’t sure where her affections should lie.
Their son, Tony, is caught in the middle and soon bears witness to the fact that his father has suffered significantly since his hiatus and their lives are turned upside down by alien births and malevolent mayhem.
Xtro is one of the weirdest films that you’ll ever see. Generally hyped – presumably only by people who have never actually seen it – as either another Alien copy or a cheap cash-in on E.T. (perhaps there’s some validity to the latter connection), Xtro is actually like some sort of fever dream that is frequently incoherent, is full of plot strands that don’t really go anywhere and so haphazard that it has two different endings (one for the theatrical release, the other for home video), neither of which really make any sense. Despite – or more likely because – of this, the film is undeniably entertaining.
It starts out as a straightforward tale of a contortionist creature that arrives on Earth, kills a bloke with a mullet and then impregnates a glamour model, who then gives birth to a fully grown man who had previously been abducted by aliens. OK, so it doesn’t stay straightforward for very long. The abductee returns to his family, but he’s clearly less than human, possessing weird psychic powers that he passes on to his extraordinarily annoying son via a bit of neck sucking. Soon, there’s a psychotic clown, a life-size action man and lethal spinning toys killing off anyone who crosses the kid, while the alien creature uses their bodies to grow eggs in the bathroom.
With some numbingly poor acting (Bernice Stegers has the emotional connection of a log, while Simon Nash proves that Italian horror directors didn’t have a monopoly on dreadful children in the 1980s), special effects that run from the impressive to the laughable (the final scene, with supposed clone children wearing shoddy, ill-fitting masks is extraordinary), a music score that is ‘eccentric’ and a narrative that jumps from idea to idea without ever trying to connect them, Xtro ought to be awful. Plenty of people would say that it is, of course.
Yet, this is a film that never pauses for a second, and is so full of excess, bizarre humour and gleeful bad taste that you can’t help but admire it. Some of the alien effects are brilliantly weird, the icky moments are still shocking and Maryam D’Abo’s frequent, gratuitous nude scenes are amongst the most memorable of the decade. Xtro is, in other words, trash cinema par excellence and essential viewing, even if – by conventional standards – it is a complete mess.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
Xtro was released on Blu-ray in the UK on June 18, 2018, via Second Sight Films.
Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk
- Limited Edition packaging
- New restoration featuring option of alternate endings plus the original UK video version edit
- New director restoration
- ‘Xploring Xtro’ – a new 57 minute documentary featuring interviews with Harry Bromley-Davenport, Mark Forstater, Bernice Stegers, Susie Silvey, ‘Tik’ – Tim Dry, ‘Tok’ – Sean Crawford, Robert Pereno, Alan Jones and Craig Lapper
- ‘The World of Xtro’ – a new featurette with Dennis Atherton, Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater
- ‘Beyond Xtro’ – a new featurette with Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater looking ahead to new reboot ‘Xtro – The Big One’, including exclusive test footage
- ‘Xtro Xposed’
- ‘Loving The Alien: A Tribute to Philip Sayer’ featuring exclusive Brian May music tribute
- A softcover booklet with new writing by Kevin Lyons plus behind-the-scenes stills and promo material
- Original soundtrack CD
- Rigid slipcase featuring original UK video and UK theatrical artwork
- English subtitles for the hearing impaired
Production and release:
Made under the somewhat odd working title of ‘Judas Goat’, Xtro is often thrown into the mix when discussing the ‘infamous’ films on the BBFC’s banned list of 72 titles; it wasn’t, though some scenes are as strong as material that was.
Made in the wake of both Alien and E.T. the timing was deliberate but the brutality, down-beat tone and the addition of an au-pair, played by Bond girl (The Living Daylights‘ Maryam D’Abo) sets it aside as something rather more unsettling. The lack of a substantial budget works in the film’s favour, the down-to-earth delivery of the actors and in particular, the minimalist synthesiser soundtrack, composed and played by Davenport himself, building an eerie mood.
The alien itself is decidedly creepy, in no small part due to the fact that the rubber costume was fitted on an actor crawling around on his back – a thankless task, no doubt. The role was played by Tim Dry who, along with Sean Crawford, who also appears in the film, found fame in Britain in the 80s as robotic mime supremos Tik and Tok.
The rest of the cast perform surprisingly well and many faces are recognisable from British television throughout the ’70s and ’80s and up to the present day. Of note, for fans of TV trivia, is an appearance by Anna Wing who was a mainstay in British soap opera Eastenders for many years.
It was released on DVD three times in the United States by Image Entertainment. The first DVD of the film was released in 2005 as a double feature with sequel Xtro II: The Second Encounter. The second DVD was released in 2006 as a standalone release. The third DVD was released in 2007 and was a triple feature alongside Xtro II: The Second Encounter and Skeeter.
Buy triple feature DVD from Amazon.com
In Britain, the entire Xtro trilogy was released in box-set, remastered anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 for Xtro II and an interview with director Harry Bromley Davenport covering the production of all three films. The re-issue also featured a previously unseen alternate ending for the original film.
Director Harry Bromley Davenport made two sequels to the film, Xtro II: The Second Encounter and Xtro 3: Watch the Skies. Neither films had anything to do with the original film.
Buy limited edition release: Amazon.co.uk
In March 2010, Davenport announced that Xtro 4 was in the works. Speaking to Fangoria, he stated: “I am going to be starting Xtro 4 this summer; you are the first to receive this shattering news. A script by Daryl Haney is in the works, and my sales guys are salivating. It’s going to be a very odd movie indeed. Sort of back to the roots of the first one, but much stranger and, hopefully, more uncomfortable.” As yet, there has been no further announcements regarding Xtro 4.
Cast and characters:
Philip Sayer … Sam Phillips
Bernice Stegers … Rachel Phillips
Danny Brainin … Joe Daniels
Maryam d’Abo … Analise Mercier
Simon Nash … Tony Phillips
Peter Mandell … Clown
David Cardy … Michael
Anna Wing … Mrs Goodman
Robert Fyfe … Doctor
Katherine Best … Jane
Robert Pereno … Ben
Sean Crawford [as Tok] … Commando
Tim Dry [as Tik]… Monster
Susie Silvey … Woman in Cottage
Arthur Whybrow … Mr Knight
Anna Mottram … Teacher
Robert Austin … Van Driver
Vanya Seager … Paula Phillips