The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1962)

Rating:

USA. 1962.

Crew

Director/Producer – Maury Dexter, Screenplay – Harry Spalding, Photography (b&w) – John Nickolaus Jr, Music – Richard La Salle. Production Company – Associated Producers Inc

Cast

Kent Taylor (Dr David Fielding), Marie Windsor (Claire Fielding), William Mims (Dr Webb), Betty Beall (Judy Fielding), Gregory Shank (Rocky Fielding), Lowell Brown (Frank Hazard)


Plot

Dr David Fielding heads a successful attempt to land a robot probe on Mars, although though the probe only lasts a matter of minutes before it is destroyed. He retreats from the media spotlight to spend time with his wife and two children at a large family mansion in Los Angeles that they have been asked to tend. However, while they are there, each of them is haunted by mysterious doppelgangers.


The Day Mars Invaded Earth was one of the last bursts from the great alien invader genre of the 1950s. Amidst the alien invader genre, there had been a small subgenre of alien takeover films – It Came from Outer Space (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Quatermass 2/The Enemy from Space (1957) and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) – that concerned themselves with aliens taking over the minds and/or duplicating the bodies of ordinary humans. These body snatchers films were akin to the film noir thrillers of the 1940s. Film noir thrillers took standard crime and action dramas of the preceding decade and placed them in a shadowy world, blurring the moral edges and creating a climate of uncertainty and distrust. Alien takeover films were in effect alien invader noir, inhabiting paranoid shadow worlds of uncertainty. The Day Mars Invaded Earth was one of the last gasps of the cycle apart from a few British entries and the tv series The Invaders (1967), and is also the least known. In fact, it closely resembles the mood and could easily have been an episode of that classic tv series of alien invader noir The Outer Limits (1963-5).

The Day Mars Invaded Earth tends toward the dull but has moments of unusual atmosphere. There is a great shot in the first scene where the hero leaves his office after a long dialogue only for the camera to pan back and reveal a doppelganger sitting at his desk after he has gone. The middle of the film develops an eerie atmosphere with faces blurring out; the unsettling quietude of the estate gardens in their geometrically laid-out perfection and the wife being pursued through them by an eerie noise; the scenes with the doppelgangers trying to kill their owners. The end revelation of what is going on, which prefigures Solaris (1972), is slightly underdeveloped, although there is an effective twist ending.


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