Sunday, 22 October 2017

WHO IS WHO AND WHY : CALLUM MCKELVIE ON PETER CUSHING WHO MOVIES PART TWO


LAST WEEKEND I examined in-depth the first of Peter Cushing’s two ‘Dr Who’ movies, 1965’s Dr Who and the Daleks.  I made the decision to examine links between the film and TV version in an attempt to understand the hate piled towards it, a great deal of which I feel is explicitly aimed at the first film. Indeed, a lot of people’s issues with the Who movies (continuity issues, Cushing’s performance, the child-like atmosphere) are certainly toned down in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. For one, Terry Nation’s original television script on which this story was based, 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth', is a LOT darker than 1963’s 'The Daleks', meaning this film is a little bit more serious than its predecessor.


SET DURING A DALEK OCCUPATION there is heavy use of WW2 imagery, including camps, the black market, a Dalek commandant, Daleks giving Nazi-esque salutes and a rubble strewn blitz inspired London. Of course Subotsky has done his best to make it all ‘kiddie’ friendly but the essence of the piece remains. Perhaps responding to this, Cushing tailors his portrayal of the Doctor, becoming a firmer, stronger figure, the leader type that is visible in the television series but lacking in the first film.


ALSO GONE ARE any explicit references to the building of the Tardis and the nature of the Doctor, all that is actually stated is that his name is still ‘Dr. Who’ and not ‘The Doctor’. Of course these elements from the first film never particularly troubled myself, it was simply the nature of the adaptation. Perhaps though it’s one of the reasons that this sequel receives a slightly warmer reception than its predecessor.






ONCE AGAIN THE NATION SCRIPT receives something of an overhaul, streamlining the narrative of the six-part television serial but (like the first film) keeping the rough story structure. Notable emissions this time round include a sequence in which the Daleks attempt to fire bomb London, a journey through an Alligator infested sewer and most notably the ‘Slyther’. The Slyther appeared in episodes four and five (individually titled The End of Tomorrow and The Walking Alley) and was identified as a ‘pet’ of the Black Dalek leader and a sort of guard dog.



ONE HAS TO WONDER WHY on earth this sequence was exorcised, particularly when we have an overly long and (admittedly painful) scene in which Bernard Cribbins participates in a slap-stick comedy routine with a bunch of Robomen. However several of the changes are welcome. Whilst the TV version is designed for an entirely different medium and not to be watched in one go, it does drag. Several characters (such as Ann Davies’s ‘Jenny’) are exorcised completely and for the better, whilst other characters such as Craddock are given far more dramatic deaths.




BERNARD CRIBBINS policeman, Tom is an entirely new character and the wrap-around element of him failing to prevent a robbery and then being taken back in time by the Doctor in time is a nice opening and closing segment as well as providing an easy way in for viewers unfamiliar with the premise of the television programme. Also noticeably different is the way the Daleks are destroyed by the ‘magnetic core of the earth’ rather than being blown up. One suspects this is to account for the fact that Daleks ALL OVER the earth need to be destroyed and not just those in Bedfordshire.


VISUALLY, like its predecessor, the film is a big step-up from its smaller scale television counter-part but this time, even more so. The Robomen and the Dalek Saucer are wonderful designs, that far surpass the television versions of both which were noticeably cheap looking, even for a sixties BBC budget. Indeed, the movies redesigns even managed to find their way onto the cover of the 1977 television novelisation.




ONCE AGAIN ACTION sequences are increased and expanded, the sequence in which the truck drives through the hordes of Daleks is particularly memorable as is the wonderful final shot of the saucer getting caught by the magnetism and sucked into the ground where it crashes. The visual style of the film is also a little darker than the first, even the Daleks base is an odd faded lime colour when compared to the bright oranges and blue of the first film. 


CUSHING'S DOCTOR TOO is given a more restrained make up job, the hair slicked back instead of wild, and the moustache trimmed and refined…Which brings me of course to Cushing’s performance. I hinted in my last piece that I found his performance in this film to be superior to the one given in the first film, watching them back to back however I noticed not only that but how different the two are. He’s still a warm, grandfatherly figure but here he is slightly more resilient, far more active and seems to have adopted some of the ‘master planner’ aspects of his television counter-part. 



WHEREAS IN THE FIRST FILM Cushing appeared constantly stooped over with a voice that was slightly mumbly and strained, here he speaks in a clipped-upper class accent and walks with his back straight. Sequences such as when he expects Brockley to betray him in order to find his way into the Dalek base, give Cushing an opportunity to demonstrate this by smirking slightly at his own cleverness, before slipping his gloves on, staring at the Daleks gravely and giving Brockley one last look, before being led away.



WHEN BROCKLEY BECAME A CANDIDATE FOR OUR #MONSTERMONDAY THEMED MONDAY AT THE PCAS FACEBOOK FAN PAGE

HOWEVER IT ALL PALES  in comparison to those final sequences within the Dalek base, from entering and going immediately to the microphone (giving the audience some hint of what he’s planning) to his final speech towards the Daleks. His confrontation with them in the final moments of the first film, where he and Susan are caught in a force field as the Daleks prepare to activate their bomb, shows him as somewhat weak- indeed that’s what the story requires, as Ian bursts in with the Thals and saves the day. Here however, it is the Doctor who is in charge and Cushing knows this, strutting determinedly around the set as he explains the Daleks fear of Magnetism. It is without doubt one of his greatest on-screen moments.


THE SUPPORTING CAST here is even better, with Bernard Cribbins giving a slightly more restrained performance than Roy Castle, but still expected to participate in a number of ludicrous slap stick moments. Roberta Tovey returns as Susan and works surprisingly well with the films best supporting actor, Andrew Keir. Keir is ridiculously entertaining as the gruff rebel Wyler and his scenes with Susan as they escape through the forest provide a few nice moments in a mostly action packed film.




 

IN AN INTERESTING side note it appears there was plans for a spin-off radio series to be produced and a pilot entitled ‘Journey into Time’ was recorded, with Cushing in the lead. However very little material remains documenting the show and the pilot itself has never been found.


ALL IN ALL: 'Invasion Earth 2150 A.D' is clearly the superior film. Now that’s not to criticise or lambast Dr. Who and the Daleks, but I feel that due to the continuity issues that are more strongly expressed in the first film, the sequel is often over-shadowed. Now honestly I enjoy both films. There the perfect example of Sunday afternoon entertainment, now issues they may have but very few films don’t. The entertainment factor for the Dalek movies is so high and they look SO good, that to miss out on them is to do yourself a huge disservice. Not only that, but Cushing’s portrayal in the first film is often so criticised that the subtle changes made by him between the two films often go unnoticed. A shame, as Cushing’s Doctor in this film rivals some of the best television incarnations.







PART ONE OF CALLUM MCKELVIE'S TWO PART FEATURE : HERE!





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