Dr. Who and the Daleks our celebration of the centenary of Peter Cushing's birth and the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who continues with the second of the 1960s Dalek films being re-released and restored in high definition by StudioCanal, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
Roberta Tovey, who played Susan, remembers having conversations with producer Milton Subotsky about Aaru greenlighting a second Doctor Who film as they were completing the filming of Dr. Who and the Daleks in April 1965. Peter Cushing had also indicated he was willing to return to play Dr. Who but, with his usual charm, suggested this would only be possible if Tovey was invited too.
After the box office success of the first film, producer Joe Vegoda was keen to capitalise on 'Dalekmania' and, despite Subotsky briefly contemplating a cinema version of Terry Nation's The Keys of Marinus serial as a sequel, Aaru swiftly announced their second to feature the Daleks, The Daleks Invade Earth, in December of the same year.
Based on the Terry Nation six-part serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Subotsky again worked with the series' story-editor David Whitaker to shape the material into a feature length script. Whitaker, who this time would receive an on-screen credit, provided notes and suggestions to a script Subtosky had planned using a series of wall charts.
... the English Ladies Clay Pigeon Shooting Champion of 1961
The British film industry was on the verge of collapse and Vegoda needed to go elsewhere to finance The Daleks Invade Earth. Ever the entrepreneur, Vegoda negotiated one of the first product placement deals for a British film and persuaded Quaker Oats to invest in the production in exchange for some prominent advertising within the film for their cereal Sugar Puffs and a number of tie-in promotions to the tune of £50,000. This boosted the budget to £286,000.
An attempt to re-engage the cast members of Dr. Who and the Daleks was thwarted after Roy Castle, who had undertaken a cabaret tour, and Jennie Linden both became unavailable. Subotsky substituted the characters of Ian and Barbara with two new roles, a policeman Tom Campbell (borrowing only a name from Nation's character David Campbell in the original which was then repurposed for the film as Ray Brooks' David) and Louise, as a niece and another member of Dr. Who's extended family.
Louise was played by Jill Curzon, the English Ladies Clay Pigeon Shooting Champion of 1961, who was recognisable from her regular role as Norma in the sit-com Hugh and I (BBC, 1962-7) and had also been seen in Disney's Dr Syn, Alias The Scarecrow (1962), 80,000 Suspects (1963) and The Intelligence Men (1965). Providing much of the film's comedy relief, Tom was played by comedy actor Bernard Cribbins, a familiar face to cinema audiences at the time with his roles in Two Way Stretch (1960), The Wrong Arm of the Law (1962), The Mouse on the Moon (1963) Crooks in Cloisters (1964) and Carry On Spying (1964).
Now entitled Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., the first scenes completed were the interiors of TARDIS, now much simplified by art director George Provis and set decorator Maurice Pelling, and the opening bank raid which was staged on streets within the Shepperton backlot. As these were filmed, Provis completed construction of the Dalek saucer sections and interiors on Stage H, including a 150 foot landing base and accompanying ramp.
The rebel attack on the Daleks, their Robomen and the saucer was staged and shot using two of the remaining Dalek props from the first film but also incorporating newly built Daleks courtesy of Shawcraft. There were eight 'hero' machines and these and several 'dummy' versions were upgraded to incorporate changes made to Dalek design in the television series, featuring the iconic slats and mesh collars of their small screen counterparts. All were given black bases and the solid fibreglass fenders used in Dr. Who and the Daleks were replaced with rubber skirting to aid ease of travel on uneven surfaces.
Colour schemes included silver and blue drones with blue headlamps, and leaders in red and silver with red headlamps, black, gold and silver with red headlamps and a gold and black variant with yellow lights. To ease direction, Flemyng often referred to Daleks as 'Bill' or 'Bob' and to cut costs Dalek operators were only offered the same rate as extras on the film, a situation the skilled operators did not agree with, and further dissension occurred when Robert Jewell, an operator who had worked well with director Flemyng on Dr. Who and the Daleks was then hired to train extras to operate the props.
Cushing's ill health also forced Flemyng to reschedule and complete scenes which either did not require his presence, such as Susan and Wyler's betrayal by the two women in the cottage and Tom's comedy encounter with a food machine on the Dalek saucer, or could be patched with inserts once the actor had returned to the set. However, production was halted for two days and Subotsky made an insurance claim for £30,000 as a result.
During Cushing's absence Keir and Tovey completed the filming of Wyler and Susan's flight from London on the Shepperton street backlot which involved their van ramming a patrol of Daleks. Several lightweight 'dummy' props were created for the sequence and, though originally the van was only supposed to hit the 'dummy' versions, during the take two of the 'hero' props were also badly damaged.
Cushing returned, filmed the attempt by the Daleks to 'robotise' Dr. Who, Tom and Craddock (Kenneth Watson), and then joined the rest of the cast on Stage H's forced perspective set of the Thames riverside, complete with Post Office tower and St. Paul's Cathedral on the horizon, to film the arrival of TARDIS and the crew's subsequent capture by Robomen. This also included a stunt sequence depicting Tom hanging overhead from an open door where Cribbins was doubled by Jackie Cooper hanging off the door from a concealed strap around his wrist.
The mine and the Daleks' bomb room were covered next and, after the magnetic forces of the Earth are unleashed in the film's climax, several 'dummy' Daleks were used to show them being dragged into the bomb shaft, supplemented later with model shots using repainted Louis Marx Dalek toys. The film, now running behind schedule for the projected 11 March completion date, rushed to finish at Shepperton, with Flemyng working on Dortmun's (Godfrey Quigley) suicide run against the Daleks on the backlot, more mine sequences with Cribbins and the encounter with Brockley in the nearby woodlands with Cushing, Brooks and Madoc.
'like leftovers from an old film about the London Blitz'
Flemyng recalled: 'We laid tracks down into the water when the tide was out and positioned a weighted Dalek on them, attached to a line. We then waited for the tide to come in and pulled the Dalek out of the water using the line.' Further location work, for the warehouse scenes where Tom and Dr. Who find a dead Roboman, was undertaken at the Bendy Toys factory in Ashford, Middlesex. This brought principal photography to an end on 22 March 1966.
Post-production continued with visual effects, dubbing and scoring. Ted Samuels and his effects crew built an impressive motorised model of the Dalek saucer, three feet in diameter and with two contra-rotating rings of windows and lights, which was flown on wires across model sets of the London skyline and the mine workings and mounted on a crane for some scenes flying against natural sky. Scoring duties were passed to Bill McGuffie after Subotsky had made it clear he was not that enthusiastic about Malcolm Lockyer's music for Dr. Who and the Daleks. The film was passed with a U certificate by the BBFC on 10 June.
Even during the film's production, publicity and promotion was in full swing. Comedy actor Dora Bryan had opened a Dalek display in Lewis's Liverpool in February and various papers and periodicals interviewed Jill Curzon about her proficiencies with a shotgun and featured her in some cheesecake glamour shots with full-sized Dalek props and Louis Marx toys. Cushing was interviewd by London Evening News on 3 March and put the record straight for certain naysayers about his career: 'A lot of people have accused me of lowering my standards but I've never felt I'm wasting myself... I've kept working. And surely that's the most important thing.'
Behind the scenes reports appeared on Westward Television's The Film Makers in April, in a May edition of Boy's Own Paper and a Dalek photocall took place in New York, outside the Empire State Building, in a bid to generate interest in the film Stateside. A press show was held on 5 July and a Quaker Oats special promotional screening to the grocery trade took place on 11 and 18 July. To tie-in with this three and half million packets of Sugar Puffs displayed pictures from the film and featured a competition to win 500 battery operated Louis Marx toys and three of the full-size Dalek film props, all boosted by a television commercial and a nationwide tour of two dozen 'dummy' Dalek props to cinemas and supermarkets.
Nina Hibbin of The Morning Star agreed and, after slamming the film's depiction of the year 2150 as looking 'like leftovers from an old film about the London Blitz', she turned on the distributors and concluded: 'I know British Lion has got its problems at the moment, but this tatty sort of film-making won't help them.' Takings, which initially matched the box office of the first film, soon tailed off and it seemed that public fatigue had finally put paid to 'Dalekmania'.
Accusing the film of resembling London in the Blitz is actually very accurate and this tone is one carried over from Terry Nation's far grimmer The Dalek Invasion of Earth, itself permeated by the Blitz and the shadow of the Second World War in its depiction of a battered London, the bravery of resistance fighters and a peculiarly British appetite for destruction that sees Battersea Power Station with its chimneys knocked off. In that respect Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is grittier than its sleeker 1960s cinema counterpart, eschewing gloss and character development for a series of pacy action set pieces.
Flemyng takes the widescreen format and strives to fill it with visual interest, despite the lack of budget and extras, and manages to pull off some excellent uses of the forced perspective sets of a destroyed London, the two tiered set of the Dalek saucer including the ramp and its interior corridor and executes a great tracking view of the multi-levels of the Dalek bomb room with criss-crossing Daleks.
The film opens with a great pre-credit sequence, without dialogue and using an almost silent film like simplicity with a piano backing, as policeman Tom Campbell is attacked by jewel thieves and then stumbles into TARDIS before he is whisked away to 2150 A.D. Before the ship dematerialises there's an opportunity for Bernard Spear to do a comedy double-take as he reaches out for the police box in the aftermath of the robbery.
Thus we end up in a devastated future London, ruled by Daleks, and Subotsky retains the atmospheric setting of the original television serial along with its iconic moments such as the Dalek rising out of the Thames. Flemyng gets maximum value from most the cast, particularly Cribbins, Keir and a sinister Madoc. Cushing is at his best in the opening scenes and seems rather sidelined, perhaps due to the reported illness, in later sections of the film, especially when he disappears for a while after the attack on the saucer and Cribbins gets to indulge in some physical comedy pretending to be one of the Robomen.
The action set pieces dominate with victims of the Daleks falling off buildings, rebels attacking the saucer or Andrew Keir running Daleks over with his van in a profusion of explosions, stunts and kinetic camera work and editing. Underlining this is a jazzy, insistent score from Bill McGuffie which provides a memorable earworm with the theme for the marching Robomen. It may not be as glossy and otherworldly as Dr. Who and the Daleks but this still whips along very effectively and is enormous fun as Daleks get knocked over like skittles, flying saucers blow up vans and Philip Madoc gets exterminated inside a garden shed.
'Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.' profile, Marcus Hearn, Doctor Who Magazine Spring Special, 1995
'Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.' Archive Extra, Andrew Pixley, Doctor Who Magazine 354, 2005
About the transfer
Again the Techniscope format does have its drawbacks with the graininess of the image. This is really evident in loss of quality in the process shots mixing live action and model or glass shots. Apart from that, this is a very clean looking transfer and colour, detail and contrast are very good throughout the 84 minute running time. Detail in faces, clothes and particularly the Robomen black PVC outfits is good. The Daleks, in their new silver liveries, don't quite have as much impact as in their big screen debut and the film, certainly a grittier but less glossy affair, is predisposed to silver, browns, greys and blues in its colour scheme where only the red of Susan's skirt, the lead Dalek's red livery and their big red bomb add some punch to the grade. The mono soundtrack is quite crisp and clear and only briefly suffers from some slight dropout toward the end of the film. Overall, a pleasing viewing experience.
Restoring Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (7:11)
Again we hear from BFI curator Jo Botting talking about the challenge to cinema from television and how scope formats were part of the arsenal used by distributors to get audiences back in cinemas. Marcus Hearn discusses Gordon Flemyng's use of widescreen Techniscope. Techniscope's poorer image quality was also a problem that faced Deluxe when they restored the film from a 35mm interpositive made in 1969 from the Techniscope negative. Grading and repair are discussed by Paul Collard and John Heath while additional manual frame repairs are demonstrated by Lisa Copson and Ian Pickford returns to explain the audio restoration.
Interview with Bernard Cribbins (4:02)
An all too brief chat with 'national treasure' Cribbins about the legacy of the film, working with Cushing ('he always looked to me as though he was chewing a mint... and then he would speak') and getting the giggles with the Daleks. He also touches on his interview with Barry Letts for the role of the Doctor shortly after Jon Pertwee vacated the role on television. The sound mix on this feature does not seem to have a middle channel included and is directed to left and right channels, resulting in a very echoing quality.
Interview with Gareth Owen (4:08)
Author of The Shepperton Story, Owen returns very briefly to offer some basics about the production of the film, the various problems that affected the shoot and the poor press reaction.
A disappointingly small collection of back and white promotional images, behind the scenes stills, model shots, ad campaigns, the campaign book and a Jill Curzon colour promotional image. Not exactly comprehensive and it strangely doesn't include the many posters or lobby cards which were issued.
A trailer in which the voice over fails to mention the word 'Dalek' or the character 'Dr. Who' and leaves you with the impression that the Robomen were in charge and the Daleks were their henchmen. Not a patch on the iconic Dr. Who and the Daleks trailer.
Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
Aaru Productions / British Lion Limited 1966
StudioCanal Blu-ray / Released: 27 May 2013 / Cert: U / Region B / Total Running Time: 84:14 / Colour / Feature Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 / Feature Audio: LPCM Mono 2.0 / English Language / English SDH / Catalogue No: OPTBD2530