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  Invasion Spearhead From Space
Year: 1966
Director: Alan Bridges
Stars: Edward Judd, Yôko Tani, Valerie Gearon, Lyndon Brook, Ric Young, Tsai Chin, Barrie Ingham, Anthony Sharp, Glyn Houston, Ann Castle, John Tate, Jean Lodge, Ann Martin, Tony Wall, Peter Thomas, Cali Raia, Mark Kingston, Emrys Leyshon, Norman Mitchell
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: An object aflame streaks out of the night sky to land in the English countryside, setting off a chain of events that will threaten many in the vicinity of its impact. The Army are conducting business around the area and their radar operator in his truck spots a strange object - another one - flying above until there is an abrupt power cut. Once the electricity is returned, there is no sign of the object, but nearby a car is driven down a country lane by an older man, Lawrence Blackburn (Anthony Sharp) with his mistress in the passenger seat, and their power cut out for a short while as well. Just as they are pondering this anomaly, a figure looms out of the darkness up ahead and Blackburn accidentally hits it...

If Invasion is recalled today it will likely be for its Doctor Who connection, as the writer who conjured up the original story showed the worth of economy and recycling by using it to kick off Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor in the early nineteen-seventies. Therefore you have to assume there was a section of the audience tuning on that Saturday teatime to think, here, this is all rather familiar, and that was down to each of these beginning with the premise of an alien landing on Earth and taken to a cottage hospital, whereupon both the military and space visitors take an interest. However the screenwriter Robert Holmes, regarded as one of the television series' best scribes, used the episode to head off in a different direction.

Therefore the earlier Invasion could be seen as the opposite of what happened to the Time Lord, since the end points for both contradict one another narratively, but that was not to say this deserved to be left as a footnote to a cultural phenomenon, as it stood up as a neat and atmospheric yarn on a budget, taking place almost entirely at night for extra ambience. Edward Judd as one of the hospital's doctors, Mike Vernon, took the lead, a dependable figure in this sort of effort and endearing himself to many who grew up watching such material, a square-jawed British hero who also happened to enjoy some of his biggest exposure in the "Think once, think twice... think BIKE!" road safety campaign of the seventies, one of those odd little career quirks for which a performer can stay in the mind.

Back at the plot, the invaders in this case numbered a couple of ladies in jumpsuits with an Oriental look to their features, just as the injured alien does. He was played by Ric Young, a stalwart of movies for decades, though he spent most of this movie lying in bed recuperating until he springs into action in the last fifteen minutes of a fairly short movie. His space sisters were led by French-Asian actress Yôko Tani, who by now was settling into a run of lower profile genre work in film at least, not unlike her co-star Tsai Chin who played Nurse Lim. She was a regular in this variety of entertainment, then most recognisable as Fu Manchu's daughter, though her work spanned that right up to appearing as Ming-Na Wen's mother on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Here you think she has been cast so we in the audience don't mistake every Asian performer as an actual alien, but that is seeing Invasion through a twenty-first century prism since the actual reason is so Tani can take her place and nobody will notice, which is perhaps less progressive. In the meantime in further complications an invisible force field is erected around the hospital, which may have some reminded of Stephen King's fine novel and subsequent farce of a television series Under the Dome - there's even a bit where a vehicle is smashed up by driving obliviously into the unseen barrier. When you reach the denouement, you could observe the whole film had been built around the stock footage of rockets in flight that take up a major part of it, but that would be to do this a disservice as its moody, low key suspense was well sustained by director Alan Bridges whose work in television spoke to a talent with economy as evinced by thrifty yet effective methods, and having the cast sell the drama with skill. A good show all round, ideal for late night viewing. Music by Bernard Ebbinghouse.

[Network's DVD looks great (though the soundtrack could be better), with a spoilerific trailer and image gallery as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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