Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Doctor Who: Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD

The apostrophe is actually on the opening titles to the film, which I'm relieved about, because it's made what's turned out to be a really good film to have a much less cumbersome title. The apostrophe, however, is not present on the original posters for the film that I've seen on tinternet. This film is based on another William Hartnell adventure, although one I haven't seen, & I'm not even sure if it survives.
This one got a critical & popular thrashing, when it came out in 1966. Apart from one major plot weakness, I personally think it is better than the first daleks film. Its plot is rather elementary: any film that begins in a waste land is going to go one two ways, & each of these two films goes one of the two ways. In the case of the present one, all's well that ends well.
One thing is becoming more apparent for me as I watch this film several times, purely to blog about it: for me film is Doctor Who's milieu. The grander scale & even the music - which is rather groovy in this one, how I wish I'd been alive in the sixties - create a larger palette to paint the picture with. The television Doctor Who's of this period frankly creak like old gates at this length of time - not something that can be said of this film.
There is once again an interesting question of time here. I feel rightly, no attempt has been made to make the England of 2150 look 'futuristic' - which would have been guaranteed to make it look dated. On the other hand, this film is so incredibly dated it isn't true - something the previous film avoided by being set in a completely extraterrestrial context. The colour palette is once again sixties retro (not complaining there). It suffers badly on being cleaned up for DVD, which exposes the ropiness of some of the effects, including visible wires on the airship at one point. The music is a completely bizarre mixture of classics, jazz, & what I can only assume are rejected tunes for Carry On films. It's also dated in its production values - the set is very plainly a set. It can only be a set. There is no realism going on. I'm in two minds about that - I feel possibly I am coming to this with expectations formed by modern CGI. Do we recognise computer generated images for what they are? You bet we do (with perhaps a hinterland where we wouldn't be sure) - just as if we had been watching this film in the sixties we would have recognised it for what it was. I've never thought about how theatrical this is before - we recognise the scenery as the representation of something, with no real expectation that it will be more than that. In fact, I feel probably the scenery of this film is better in some ways than the approach taken in TV shows of the period, where the 'scene' is set with library footage of the place or incident under discussion, which will usually show a marked seam with the filming in a studio. At least here it is all consistently scene-based. The scenes for this one are relatively better (& no doubt more expensive) than the ones for the previous Doctor Who film. One of my favourite bits is one outdoor scene where the daleks destroy what I can only describe as a large garden shed. That is strangely appealing!
I've been avoiding my main criticism of this film. It is great for the first half hour - the scene is set & suspense built in a wonderful way. It loses some of this impetus. I've watched this film three times in quick succession & there is a point just over half an hour in each time where I find myself thinking 'What's going on?'. I'm not sure what happens to make this happen, but hope it is not just me, because I genuinely like this film. It is atmospheric, the plot is somewhat formulaic, but only as much as any epic is. And there's another conclusion I've reached as a result of watching it - in future when people ask who 'my' Doctor Who is, I won't answer Tom Baker any more. I'll say Peter Cushing. I'm not afraid to go out on a limb & express contentious opinions on this blog. So there.
My favourite bit:
The dalek incredibly - and incongruously - arising up out of the water.
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