Unearthly Stranger (1963)
Well, you wait for ages for some Cold War era Brit Sci-fi flicks and then two of them come along together! Hot on the heels of 1965’s Invasion from our friends at Network comes Unearthly Stranger.
Unearthly Stranger’s paranoia comes in at a more subtle tack to that of Invasion. Scientists at Britain’s Royal Institute of Space Research are close to cracking a formula to project the mind into outer space. When Professor Munro (a-pre Alf Garnett Warren Mitchell) announces that he’s done it to his secretary (a pre-Upstairs Downstairs Jean Marsh) he suffers a fatal brain haemorrhage and his notes are reduced to ashes. Odd that, because exactly the same thing happened to scientists working on the same project in the USA and Russia.
Munro’s replacement is Dr Mark Davidson (John Neville), but Security’s Major Clarke (Patrick Newell) is a bit concerned about Davidson’s new Swiss wife, Julie (Gabriella Lucindi). Davidson only met her a few weeks before they married and her details don’t check out with MI5. More worrying is her habit of sleeping with her eyes open (though I suspect the false eyelashes may have had something to do with that), her ability to anticipate what’s about to happen and handle hot pans straight out of the oven. Oh yes, and she scares the local school kids witless.
Unearthly Stranger explores themes about alien infiltration into human society similar to those looked at in Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) or Gene Fowler Jnr’s I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), but with bugger all budget for effects the film relies on the use of atmospheric black and white cinematography by Reg Wyer, moody music and good old fashioned acting to build its chilling set pieces. Stick with it and you will also find an echo of Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned (1960).
A beautifully shot and imaginative exercise in British Cold War paranoia, I give Unearthly Stranger a 555/666.
Unearthly Stranger was released on Blu Ray (£14.99) and DVD (£9.99) by Network Distributing as part of their The British Film series
- Image gallery
- Theatrical trailer
- Promotional material PDF
For further viewing pleasure:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): Things go rapidly to pot in the California town of Santa Mira when replicas of the townsfolk start hatching out of mysterious plant pods. Remade three times as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) with Donald Sutherland and a neat cameo from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia; Body Snatchers (1993) with Abel Ferrara; The Invasion (2007) with Nicole Kidman, none of them as good as the original in my opinion.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958): Newlywed Marge Farrell is concerned about her new hubby Tom’s personality change. She soon discovers its not married life that’s responsible and Tom isn’t the only one, but no one believes her……at first. Also a cracking poem by John Cooper Clarke on his 1978 album Disguise in Love.
Village of the Damned (1960): After a mysterious cloud descends on the village of Midwich all women of childbearing age become pregnant and give birth on the same day. What’s more the kids are all white blond with arresting eyes and the ability to read and control other people’s minds. John Carpenter helmed a (not so good) US remake in 1995.
Review by Simon Ball
Connect with Simon: @RealShipsCook or here.