Invaders from Mars (1953)

Year: 1953

Production: National Pictures / 20th Century-Fox

Director: William Cameron Menzies

Starring: Jimmy Hunt, Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Leif Erickson

Screenwriter: Richard Blake (and John Tucker Battle, uncredited)

78 minutes; Color


A small, disturbing, curiously memorable film by the director of Things to Come (1936), made for children but capable of terrifying them. Through a little boy's eye we see aliens from a UFO take over the minds of everyone in a town, beginning with the boy's own parents. The army moves in, there is an underground battle and the aliens are defeated. The boy wakes up and realized that it was all a dream ... but then he once again sees the UFO land behind his house. (Extra footage was shot for the European print to substitutes for the all-a-dreaming ending, which it was felt would be unpopular; more recent prints have combined both versions.)

Although Invaders from Mars was cheaply made, Menzies produced - through the use of mildly expressionistic sets (reinforcing the dream idea) and a camera placed to give us a child's-eye view - a powerful sf metaphor for the loneliness and alienation of a child whose world seems subtly wrong. The image of human bodies concealing incomprehensible and menacing alien movies was, in its paranoia, an important one in US sf sinema, especially during the 1950s Communist-spy phobias.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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