ICFIFC: Space Vixens From Beyond The Stratosphere

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ICFIFC: Space Vixens From Beyond The Stratosphere

Devil Girl from Mars is a 1954, independently produced, British black-and-white science fiction feature released by British Lion Films and directed by David MacDonald.  It was adapted from a stage play and in the interim has become a cult favorite due to the home video revolution.

Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Directed: David MacDonald
  • Produced:
    • Edward J. Danziger 
    • Harry Lee Danziger
  • Written:
    • John C. Mather (Play) 
    • James Eastwood (Play) 
    • James Eastwood (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Peter Reynolds, Adrienne Corri, Joseph Tomelty, John Laurie, Sophie Stewart, Anthony Richmond, James Edmund, Stewart Hibberd
  • Music: Edwin Astley
  • Cinematography: Jack E. Cox
  • Editing:
    • Brough Taylor 
    • Peter Taylor
  • Studio: Danziger Productions Ltd.
  • Distributed:
    • British Lion Film Corporation  
    • Spartan Films  
    • Englewood Entertainment  
    • Navarre Entertainment  
    • Westlake Entertainment Group  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • ACME-TV  
    • Gaiam Americas  
    • Wade Williams Productions  
    • The Nostalgia Merchant  
    • Rhino Home Video  
    • Something Weird Video
  • Rated: Approved
  • Release Date:
    • May 1954 (UK) 
    • 27 April 1955 (USA)
  • Running Time: 77 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language: English

Nyah, a female alien commander from Mars, dressed in shiny black vinyl, heads for London in her flying saucer.  She is part of the advanced alien team that is looking for Earthmen to replace the dying male population on her world.  Because of damage to her saucer, caused by entering Earth's atmosphere and a near collision with an airplane, she is forced to land her ship in the remote Scottish moors.  She is armed with a raygun that can paralyze or kill, and she also has a tall, menacing robot named Chani.

On Nyah's world, the emancipation of the women eventually led to open warfare between the sexes.  The females won, usurping the political power of the men.  This eventually lead to the sexual impotence of the planet's entire male population; a rapid decline in the birthrate soon followed.  The aliens possess an organic, self-regenerating technology, which was used to construct Nyah's spacecraft.  Against this technology, human weaponry proves ineffectual, as demonstrated when Nyah comes away unscathed by gunshots from a pistol.  The alien technology is unreliable, however, and Nyah's people have not been able to use it to artificially produce new offspring.

The film is set mostly in the lounge bar of a Scottish country inn, "The Bonnie Charlie," somewhere in Inverness-shire.  Nyah occasionally enters, makes threats, then leaves so the residents can contemplate her words.  It becomes clear that the local Scotsmen aren't the least bit interested in going with her to Mars, and the local women aren't about to give them up without a fight.

Intermixed with the Nyah storyline are a pair of romantic Earth-centric sub-plots that unfold during the film.  In the first a fashion model, Miss Prestwick, fled to this remote country inn in order to escape a married reporter, Michael Carter, with whom she had an affair.  Michael doggedly follows her, hoping to rekindle their romance.  Meanwhile, a convict, Robert Justin, alias Albert Simpson, who accidentally killed his wife, has managed to escape from a prison in Stirlingshire and has come to the inn, hoping to connect with the barmaid, Doris whom he truly loves.

Nyah finally responds with a little show of force.  First, she entices Professor Hennessy aboard her spaceship to view the technological marvels of Martian civilization, and with her raygun, she then incinerates the Jamiesons’ hunchback handyman.  She then adopts the two-pronged strategy of also kidnapping their little grandson, Tommy, and then turning her robot loose to vaporize much of the manor’s grounds.

Realizing that the only road to victory over Nyah means employing guile and treachery, Hennessy suggests that one of the men at the inn volunteer to go to Mars in exchange for the safe return of Tommy.  This selfless volunteer, after a bit of coaching from Hennessy, will then fatally sabotage the Devil Girl’s spacecraft after takeoff.  Hennessy at first volunteers, but Carter convinces him that he is much too old to appeal to Nyah and has no chance of being accepted.  Carter means to go instead, but at the last minute, Justin outmaneuvers him, thereby atoning for the inadvertent slaying of his wife.

The film was shot on a very low budget, with no retakes except in cases where the actual film stock became damaged; it was shot over a period of three weeks, often filming well into the night.  Actress Hazel Court later said, "I remember great fun on the set. It was like a repertory company acting that film".  The robot, named Chani, was constructed by Jack Whitehead and was fully automated, although it suffered breakdowns during the filming.

Martians in bondage gear FTW

The Astounding She-Monster is a 1957 science fiction horror film starring Robert Clarke and directed, written and produced by Ronald V. Ashcroft.  The film focuses on a scientist and a gang who have kidnapped a rich heiress and their encounter with an alien who has crashed to Earth.  In the UK, it was released as Mysterious Invader.  It was released by American International Pictures as a double feature with The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.

The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

  • Original Title: The Naked Invader
  • Genre: Crime – Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Ronald V. Ashcroft
  • Produced: Ronald V. Ashcroft
  • Written:
    • Frank Hall 
    • Ronald V. Ashcroft
  • Starring: Robert Clarke, Kenne Duncan, Marilyn Harvey, Jeanne Tatum, Shirley Kilpatrick, Ewing Miles Brown, Al Avalon, Scott Douglas
  • Music: Gene Kauer
  • Cinematography:
    • William C. Thompson 
    • Brydon Baker
  • Editing: Ronald V. Ashcroft
  • Studio: Hollywood International Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • American International Pictures  
    • Wade Williams Productions  
    • Englewood Entertainment  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • Alpha Video Distributors  
    • Cinema Classics  
    • Fang Video  
    • Mad Monster Video  
    • Scorched Earth Video  
    • Something Weird Video  
    • World Beyond Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 1957 (USA)
  • Running Time: 62 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Ronnie Ashcroft, an editor-turned-producer, made his directorial debut with The Astounding She-Monster, a shoestring-budgeted sci-fi film that was shot in a total of about eight days.  Kenne Duncan, Ewing Miles Brown, and Jeanne Tatum play a group of criminals who have kidnapped an heiress take over a geologist's home in a secluded forest to hide in.  Then a UFO crashes nearby and out emerges an alien resembling a beautiful woman- however, she's highly radioactive and can kill with her bare touch.  She starts stalking and killing the other characters.  In the end, the alien herself is killed, but not before the scientist realizes she was only trying to ask for help, apparently unaware of how dangerous she was to humans.  He fears what the reaction of her race will be towards Earth after the incident.

The film isn't terribly good but it is diverting and moves at a reasonably brisk pace, and it has a certain appeal unique to its low budget.  Shirley Kilpatrick -- who some sources claim later changed her name and became a more substantial actress as Shirley Stoler -- was a well-endowed performer (a real-life stripper, in fact) who split the back of her skin-tight costume on the first day's shooting, which is why her character only backs out of scenes, her front to the camera, for the entire movie.  The budget was so low that a break-away window intended for an important stunt got broken prematurely and couldn't be replaced, and was used in already broken form.  The script was being written as the movie was being shot, according to Robert Clarke in his autobiography, the writer delivering the pages as they worked.  And Ashcroft was so new to directing, and his skills were at such a low level, that he reportedly asked Edward D. Wood Jr., of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame, to serve as a consultant -- and, strangely enough, the plot does have a pacifist angle to its science-fiction element that is also reflected in some of Wood's work.

Shot for a total of $18,000, the movie's distribution rights were purchased by American International Pictures for $50,000.  Robert Clarke, who got a percentage of the profits for his work acting in the movie, was inspired by this experience to produce and direct his own science-fiction thriller, The Hideous Sun Demon, which is actually a much better movie.

Nothing says “alien” like a silver cat suit!


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