No one would have believed in the middle years of the twentieth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's -- and yet as randy as his own. Across the gulf of space, intellects vast and unsympathetic and hot-to-trot regarded humans with lustful eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
Of course, since aliens (at least, those of the non-chest-busting variety) are always stuck-up brainiacs, they have to pretend it has nothing to do with primitive emotions like horniness: It's all just a matter of needing new breeding stock. But we all know what they're really after.
A few brave filmmakers tried to warn us of this impending peril. Interestingly, the majority of these pictures from the 50s and 60s involve the attempted kidnapping of Earth females by aliens putatively of the male gender. (See: The Mysterians, Mars Needs Women, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster)
It's also a curious fact that the theme of fictional abductions for anal probing first appears during the Reagan era. Draw what conclusions you will from that. But it was up to those uber-butch Brits of the fifties to commit to celluloid what is beyond doubt the most terrifying vision of them all: the Devil Girl -- from Mars!
This grim forecast of things to come -- a Spartan Production, so you know it's got to be manly, or cheap, or maybe both -- opens with stock footage of a DC3 cruising above the clouds. Cue eerie music, and the airplane blows up! (Some aliens have to make such an entrance.)
Establishing shot of a lonely inn -- the "Bonnie Charlie" -- on a stormy night in the Scottish highlands. Inside, eight-year-old Tommy, his aunt, Mrs. Jamison, and Doris (Adrienne Corri ... rowr) are listening to the BBC. The radio reports that a meteor fell in the vicinity, and famous professor Arnold Hennessey is heading there to investigate.
Cut to a car stopped on a dark and deserted highland road, where newspaperman Mike Carter rags on the famous professor for being able to chart the most distant stars, yet he can't read a map of Scotland. They realize they haven't the faintest idea where they are. The BBC's Convenient Plot Point service clues them into the news that convicted murderer Robert Justin is on the loose.
Cut to Robert, who hides behind a boulder as Mike's car passes him by. The fugitive sees the inn in the distance, and strikes off toward it. Next there's a short scene in the inn's kitchen, where we're introduced to the innkeeper, Mr. Jamison, who according to his missus is overly fond of the "Scottish national beverage". (I think that's a Haggis Shooter.) Doris exits to straighten up the bar; she hears someone knocking softly at the door.
It's Robert, of course. Turns out Doris is in love with the guy, who's in the slammer for having killed his cheating wife -- by accident, he claims. Doris took a job at the inn just to be close to him. He begs for a little food, and shelter for the night. She hesitates, but when Mrs. Jamison enters from the kitchen, she goes all in and tells her boss the stranger is a hiker who's gone astray on the moors. He introduces himself as "Albert Simpson", and asks for a room. Doris tells another obvious lie about Albert having just told her he'd lost his wallet in a stream; he offers to work for his food and board. Mrs. Jamison -- who's a gruff but kindly soul -- agrees, but warns him before she exits that she'll count the spoons.
Doris tries to make some awkward conversation with Robert/Albert. He tells her he couldn't stand being locked up anymore and had to break out to be with her. Doris asks how he liked prison, did he read a lot -- he did like reading so. Just when it looks as though he's about to commit a second murder, David, a short, balding, bespectacled man with a gimpy leg and a crippled arm, appears, carrying an armload of firewood.
Barely sotto voce, Doris confides the guy really creeps her out. David shuffles out of the room. Some people can be so cruel.
She then enumerates the rest of the inn's inhabitants, which includes a single guest, the mysterious Ellen Prestwick, who doesn't seem at all the type who would be staying at an isolated inn like this in the middle of the winter.
Cut to Ellen (Hazel Court -- I repeat: rowr) seated in front of her mirror, gazing pensively at her reflection. After a moment, she heads downstairs, and runs into Mr. Jamison. He compliments her on her beautifully tailored outfit, so she does a playful imitation of a fashion-show spiel for him. Okay.
They part company, laughing. Ellen enters the bar, where she meets "Albert". She thinks the fugitive reminds her of someone. He hastily finds something to do in the kitchen.
Mike and the Professor arrive at the “Bonnie Charlie”. Mrs. Jamison takes pity on the pair and agrees to give them a room for the night. In the bar, Mike clumsily flirts with Ellen. Judging by her outfit, he believes she's that mid-20th-Century epitome of feminine grace and charm, a stewardess. Professor Hennessey introduces himself.
Standing by the window, Ellen thinks she sees a flash up in the sky.
Mrs. Jamison brings in a tureen brim-full of steaming "Scottish broth" -- made from real Scotsmen, no doubt -- and everyone sits down to their tucker. Mrs. Jamison calls for Albert to bring the bread in. Uh-oh: Mike immediately recognizes the fugitive. He's on the verge of revealing Albert's true identity when he's interrupted by a sudden, blinding flash of light outside, accompanied by an ear-splitting hum. Upstairs, in an obvious homage to the previous year's Invaders from Mars, Tommy wakes up and rushes to the bedroom window.
The adults run outside, and are astonished to see a flying saucer -- with a couple of extremely 1950s fins stuck on the back. It's coming in for a landing.
Once they're fully engorged -- I mean, deployed -- the saucer sets down. It's glowing white-hot, and is obviously aroused, so the men don't dare approach it. They regroup at the bar.
Mike tries unsuccessfully to phone the authorities, then remembers to spill the beans about Robert/Albert, who's wisely made himself scarce. Mike and the Prof decide they'll try to drive to the nearest village. Ellen steps outside for a breath of fresh air, while in the background the car's engine can be heard cranking away. It refuses to start.
She discovers Robert hiding in the bushes. They have a nice chat. She quickly decides he can't really be a murderer, because he's even more frightened than she is. (I think she's missing a couple of links in that chain of deductions, but whatever.) Ellen promises not to rat him out and returns inside.
Robert sneaks back into the inn to say goodbye to Doris, but she shows him the attic and persuades him to hide out there, until they can both run away.
She leaves Robert to settle into his posh digs. He looks out through the window at the saucer and sees a hatch open: Out strides -- the Devil Girl! She's wearing a very fetching ensemble: black leather full-sleeved mini-tunic, black leather gloves, black silk stockings and black leather boots, complemented by a glossy black leather helmet and matching full-length black leather cape.
Kinky ... Clearly, she's meticulously researched the predilections of the British male of that era.
The Devil Girl is portrayed by Patricia Laffan (all the way to the bank, I imagine). Classic film buffs may recognize her as having played slinky bad girl Empress Poppaea to Peter Ustinov's Nero, in the Technicolor biblical epic Quo Vadis.
While Robert stares in mute horror, hapless Davy the Geek stumbles onto the scene and runs smack into an invisible force field. The Devil Girl then disintegrates him, a disdainful sneer upon her haughty Martian lips. There's nothing left of the poor little guy but his specs. (Which just goes to prove space babes don't make passes at gimps who wear glasses.)
Meanwhile, Mike and the Prof give up trying to get the car to start, and return to the bar. They find Doris in a trance. Although it's quite possible she may have been rendered catatonic with boredom.
This doorway couldn't have been better designed for making a dramatic entrance, as it's raised a couple of steps above the level of the the bar room floor, sort of like a truncated version of a Greek stage. The Devil Girl -- who has a real flair for this sort of thing -- will prove to be very fond of making surprise appearances through this portal.
Getting down to business, the Devil Girl introduces herself as “Nyah”. (Given her incessant put-downs and taunts, I suspect her full Martian appellation is Nyah-Nyah-Nyah-Boo-Boo.) After giving the Prof the once-over, she dismisses him as "a poor physical specimen", then graciously releases Doris from her trance.
Mike is astounded to find the Devil Girl speaks English; she replies that she speaks all languages, which the Martians have as usual learned by listening to our blabbermouth Earth radio.
The Devil Girl declares she originally meant to land in London, but her spaceship was damaged entering Earth's atmosphere. She's just killing time while it repairs itself. (It's made of something called "organic metal", smelted from carefully selected, natural heirloom ores.)
When asked why she came to Earth, the Devil Girl explains that there was a devastating war between the sexes on Mars. The Prof says he's terribly disappointed to learn that other inhabited planets have wars. The Devil Girl dazzles them with a mess of pseudo-scientific gobbledegook about an ultimate weapon called the Perpetual Chain Reaction ray, which sends stuff into the 4th Dimension. (The Martians are also working on an even more fiendishly destructive ray that transports you to the 5th Dimension, which is exactly like the 4th Dimension, except you're subjected to never-ending, soul-numbingly upbeat orchestrations of "Up, Up and Away" and "Age of Aquarius". The horror ...)
Oh, and she's got a hulking robot pal, named Chani. Who, as always seems to be the case in this sort of affair, looks nothing at all like that cool robot in the poster.
Anyway, on Mars, the women ended up on top in the war of the sexes. Although this made for a nice change, it had the unexpected side-effect of turning their men into wimps, and now the birth rate's completely shot to hell. (For all their vaunted technological prowess, the formula for Viagra still eludes them.)
Ellen guesses the shocking truth: "So you've come to Earth for some new blood."
"In a way," replies the Devil Girl. Oh ... I get it. Good one, D.G.!
The Devil Girl informs them her flight is a test of the organic metal; the other Martians were Nelly Naysayers and predicted it was too unstable to survive the voyage. When she gets back, though, she promises they'll build a fleet of spaceships and return to conquer the Earth. Eyeing Mike speculatively, she says she intends to take some studly samples back with her.
Mike -- outraged at the prospect of servicing an endless succession of insatiable leather-clad Martian cuties -- demands to know how she plans to get away with it. Foolish Earthling: the Devil Girl has a paralysis ray, which she just demonstrated on Doris. Ellen is aghast at the Devil Girl's plan, but Hennessey is intrigued, what with all the neat-o science stuff the Martian chicks will likely give them in exchange for a thorough rogering.
Mike tries to slug the Devil Girl, but he's held back by the women and Mr. Jamison (who secretly wonders if the guy's gay, or been sick or something). She warns them that the place is surrounded by an invisible wall, and exits, vanishing mysteriously as soon as she steps outside.
The Jamisons repair to the kitchen to brew up that anodyne for every calamity: a nice cuppa. The Prof wanders outside, intent on checking out this invisible wall thing. Ellen returns to her room. Mike joins her there for a quick brandy and a heart-to-heart: Ellen's trying to get over an affair with a married man. Mike reveals he's a former war correspondent. Now that we've finally got everyone's tedious back story, they return to the bar.
The Prof staggers in, after running into the force field and bloodying his nose and forehead. (Notice that it never occurred to our brilliant scientist to employ something less vulnerable than his face to locate the thing.) Mr. Jamison digs out his pistol, but Mike persuades him to give it to him because "he's used to that kind of thing".
Mike threatens her with the gun. When she calls his bluff, he shoots her -- oops: Nyah's invulnerable. "I can control power beyond your wildest dreams!" she gloats, and commands them all to follow her outside.
Meanwhile, Robert, who's still watching from the attic window, spies Tommy climbing out of his upstairs bedroom onto the roof. The kid wants to see the "aeroplane". Robert tries to talk the lovable tyke out of it, but Tommy insists. They climb down and hide next to an outbuilding, while the Devil Girl leads the others toward her spaceship.
The Devil Girl halts, produces a device which looks like a potato masher grenade with some kebab skewers stuck into it, and tells them to "Watch, and witness the power of another world!" She points the contraption at the saucer. The hatch slides open and a ramp extends from the ship. Truly, they must have uses for garage door openers of which we have scarcely dreamed! (h/t Joel and the 'Bots)
Chani the Robot -- who resembles nothing so much as a gigantic, ambulatory, old-style electric shaver -- lumbers down the ramp. And look at those pitifully inadequate claws they gave him for hands!
He terrifies the primitive Earthlings by zapping a tree, a derelict truck and for good measure, the outbuilding close to where Robert and Tommy are still hiding. They hit the dirt, while the others beat feet for the inn. Chani the robot returns to the spaceship for a well-earned lube job.
Still groveling in the dirt, Robert and Tommy look up, and see the Devil Girl standing over them. Robert is defiant, vowing that none of her tricks will work on him. She promptly hypnotizes him and sends him back to his attic. Tommy, however, is invited to see the inside of her ship.
"Come, I will show you wonders you have never seen before." Trusting Tommy goes with her.
Cut to the bar again, where the humans are holding a council of war. Mike thinks he's going crazy. He'd give anything now for a flight of heavy bombers, but the Prof points out that the Devil Girl can probably swat them out of the sky. If only he could see the inside of the saucer, insists the Prof, he might be able to do something.
Right on cue, the Devil Girl makes yet another dramatic entrance. She never seems to tire of that gag.
“I know you are plotting against me,” she tells them, her voice dripping with contempt, “but it amuses me to watch your puny efforts.” God, but she's hawt!
The Prof replies that a wise man will seek to know the truth, even if his means are limited.
In a surprise move, Nyah resorts to merciless taunting: "It would take you a thousand years to learn even a fragment of what we have achieved!"
Perhaps it wouldn't take so long, claims the Prof, if I had you for a teacher. (And if he's been a very bad boy, it's only fair that she should give him a good spanking!)
All he's seen so far, he says, is that the Devil Girl can kill, which is also a human accomplishment. But he only trusts the evidence of his senses. She thinks she has a powerful spaceship, he continues, but, the Prof warns her, we too have powerful weapons.
"You say you only trust the evidence of your senses," replies the Devil Girl. (Apparently she believes the spaceship, the robot, the invisible force shield, the paralysis ray and the disintegrator have so far escaped his primitive Earth eyeballs.) "Very well then, you shall see. Perhaps then you will realize your helplessness. Come!" she orders him imperiously.
Though the others try to dissuade him, the Prof follows her to her spaceship.
The Devil Girl takes him on a tour of her vessel. No, my naughty-minded readers, I'm not being euphemistic. I mean they just stand around and jaw at each other in an austere chamber which is so advanced (dare I say, "Spartan"? okay, how about "cheap"?) that there are no visible seats or controls or any other kind of furnishings. It might almost be some sort of highly advanced communal Port-a-Potty.
One could easily read some Freudian implications into the predominance of that circular motif. Or maybe the Devil Girl whiles away the hours on those long interplanetary voyages playing multiple simultaneous whack-a-mole.
Nyah advances the plot by helpfully showing the source of her power to the Professor. See, the Martians have discovered how to make a negative atomic implosion, which is a thousandfold more powerful than our primitive nuclear explosions. Furthermore, since it's always imploding, the force doesn't dissipate, which means it's a perpetual motion machine!
After this lucid exposition, I'm certainly convinced.
The Devil Girl and the Prof return to the inn. The sneaky Earthlings have used the time she chewed up pontificating to rig a booby-trap for the Devil Girl, by wiring the electricity to the door handles. Naturally, it's just as ineffective as shooting at her. It seems to have completely slipped these idiots' minds that she's wearing leather gloves.
"You must cease your stupid tricks," she admonishes them, "Or I will destroy the child!"
She then goes all out-of-focus -- which is the sort of cool trick you can do when you control the 4th Dimension -- and fades away. Now that she's got the dramatic entrance thing down pat, she really ought to work a bit more on those exits.
Mike's had enough: He resolutely marches out to the saucer and offers to exchange himself for the child. Bravely accepting his fate as a Martian boy-toy, he promises to go willingly. Even though every fiber of his incredibly butch self revolts at the prospect.
Tommy is allowed to return to the inn.
As the boy relates his adventure to the relieved adults, Doris slips away to check on Robert. He's back in the attic, sitting quietly in a chair, still under the Devil Girl's hypnotic influence. In a voice utterly devoid of emotion, he informs her they are all slaves of a great and powerful civilization, and must prepare for their new leather-fetish overlords (ladies?) -- stock up on lubricants and ball gags, decide on a safe word, etc.
He tells her to go, there is little time left. (Would that it were so, but there are actually more than twenty minutes remaining to this nonsense. Forget the Devil Girl, it's the filmmakers who can manipulate the 4th Dimension, slowing the normal passage of time to a molasses-in-January -- at the North Pole -- crawl.)
Downstairs, Mike is back. He wants to say goodbye to Ellen, who's upstairs now with Tommy. But before he can do that, Doris joins them, frantic over Robert's inexplicable zombification. She begs the men to help. Note that even though Mike previously clued everyone in to Robert's real identity, they all -- including Mike -- still insist on referring to him as "Albert".
Warning Doris to stay back, Mike goes upstairs, alone. Robert pops out of the attic to give him a big ol' bear hug. Mike's not having any of that, so a knock-down, drag-out fight ensues. They throw punches which clearly don't come within a foot of the intended target, wrestle, and eventually tumble down the stairs together.
Mike gets up, but Robert's down for the count. They drag him into the bar and tie him to a chair.
The Prof now reveals to the others the source of the Devil Girl's power: a glowing globule of energy in her spaceship which -- in what can only be considered a major design flaw -- sits right out there in the open, and has a tendency to explode if someone gives it a good whack.
"One life, in exchange for millions -- yes," muses Mike. Ellen demands to know what he means, but before Mike or the Prof can explain, Nyah makes another grand entrance -- savor it, for this will be the last -- and declares: "It is time, Earthman!"
Ellen bids him a tearful goodbye, and Mike meekly follows the Devil Girl to her ship. But when she produces her super-duper garage door opener, our tricksy (though not very bright) newspaperman attempts a desperate gamble and snatches it away from her. She paralyzes him. Well, so much for that idea.
"That will be the last trick, Earthman," she promises him ominously, and takes him back to the inn. Enough is enough, or maybe it's just that given so many glaring examples of Mike's stupidity, she figures these aren't the genes she's been looking for. The Devil Girl lets the others know that because of Mike's boneheaded stunt, she's changed her mind: She's going to kill them all when she leaves, in a few minutes' time.
The Prof tries to bargain with her, pointing out that she'll need a guide and intermediary when she gets to London. He volunteers to go with her, if she spares the others. The Devil Girl won't relent. She admits the go-between idea has something going for it, though. The Prof begs her to take him. The Devil Girl won't say who, but one of them will be allowed to live, though the others must die.
The Prof convinces the others that he's not really a turncoat, and reiterates that whoever gets on board has to try to destroy the ship. Then he occupies the time remaining to them by writing down everything he knows about the Devil Girl, in the unlikely event that someone will find it in the charred rubble of the inn. And send it to Penthouse magazine.
Ellen and Mike have another tedious romantic dialogue -- which, considering that Mike's little faux pas appears to have doomed them all, is awfully forgiving of her.
Everybody congregates in the bar again. Robert wakes up; Doris is relieved to find he's no longer under the Devil Girl's spell. The Prof needlessly reminds everyone how one of them can sacrifice themselves to thwart the Devil Girl's nefarious scheme. Robert listens attentively.
The Prof, Mr. Jamison and Mike each volunteer in turn. In an obvious attempt to spare Ellen's feelings by making her loath him as a coward, Mike pretends he just wants to save his own hide. He points out that there's really no obligation for him to blow the ship up. But Ellen doesn't believe him.
The men end up drawing cards to decide. Mr. Jamison gets the high card, but Mike still insists on going. The rest will hide in the cellar. Mike ushers the others out, saying he'll come back for Robert, while Doris remains with the fugitive. Time for another tender interlude, after Doris cuts Robert's bonds.
You know what's going to happen next, right?
He whispers "Goodbye, Doris" as she leaves the room. When the Devil Girl reappears, Robert tells her the others are hiding, but he'll go with her willingly. Mike and Doris return to the bar, just in time to see him enter the spaceship. The hatch closes behind him, and the saucer lifts off.
The spaceship dwindles slowly into the night sky ... the tension is unbearable. No, it's the movie that's insufferable. Suddenly, it blows up! (The saucer, not the movie.) Thus, in a tremendous, shattering climax, ends the Devil Girl's lubricious adventures among the puny, primitive Earthlings.
Everyone gets together -- where else? -- in the bar. The telephone rings; the Prof answers. They all -- except for buzz-kill Doris, of course -- have a good laugh when he tells them someone wants to know if there was something wrong with the line. While the Mrs. comforts Doris, Mr. Jamison hauls out the blender and the haggis and declares drinks are on the house.
Wow. After viewing this steamy tale of interplanetary perversion, I need a cigarette, and a good, long shower. Then I'm shooting off a hefty check to the Men's Rights Movement. Only they seem to truly comprehend the magnitude of this looming menace, of which we've just been given the starkest, most graphic warning conceivable. Someone must stop this madness, before it's too late!
We need legions of manly men, unflagging in their determination to stand proud and erect against the creeping emasculation which threatens to engulf our civilization. Men who aren't afraid to join with other men, sweaty, hairy, proudly gaseous fellows like themselves, to resist the siren call of Lady Gaga and body waxing, unisex salons and co-ed restrooms. (Not to mention equal pay, or changing a diaper, or helping with the housework.)
Meanwhile, as always, watch the skies. And if a lustful alien chick drops into your backyard, you'll know what to do. Repeatedly. You can bear it, if you just think of England.
It's nice to learn that the Mother Country - which has given us Gorgo, Quatermass in various forms, Doctor Who, and lots more - is, or was, just as capable of turning out silly crap as we are. And boring silly crap at that.
Not to mention one of lo-budget SF's least impressive mechanical men! Re your comment about the actual robots in these cheapo flics looking nothing like the poster robots, I guess that's one way to tell the sheep from the real alien goats. If you recall the classic poster for "Day the Earth Stood Still", it features an accurate depiction of the robot of robots, Gort. He's carrying a vague approximation of Patricia Neal (hair wrong, face wrong, ripped dress wrong) but at least such an encounter does actually take place... and if anything, movie-Gort is much scarier than poster-Gort.
I first saw DTESS in a bar-cafe near New Brunswick, NJ about 10 years after it was released. I was a college freshman spending a rainy Spring Saturday with my boyfriend. We stopped at this neighborhood eatery for a snack, and the movie was on the little TV over the bar. There were at least a dozen other patrons, and we all sat there riveted for the full 90-minutes-plus-commercials, our beers and sandwiches forgotten.
We need legions of manly men, unflagging in their determination to stand proud and erect against the creeping emasculation which threatens to engulf our civilization.
Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser is on the case!
Gee that flying saucer is too cool. My dad owned a Buick Electra like that, ca. 1959. Fully equipped.
My major complaint with these Devil Women from Outer Space is that they're always so damn hot.I recall (vaguely)My Stepmother is an Alien was another Hawt Babe. How is your average rotund, bespectacled, 60+ Earth female in battered jeans (purely hypothetical person here)supposed to compete for luscious Earthman flesh which has galaxy-wide appeal? Doomed, we are.
Although Robby the Robot undoubtedly had him beat in the personality department, I still think Gort edges Robby out in the Coolest Robot of the 50s competition. Robot costumes don't usually fare well, but Gort remains very intimidating.
That's a great first-viewing story. I first saw TDTESS in the early 60s, on a TV not any bigger than the one in that bar, our old portable B & W. (i.e. "the kids' TV") I was a bit younger than you, but it made a tremendous impression on me, too. So much so that I even started fabricating replicas of Klaatu's saucer from aluminum pie plates.
I'm a big fan of British SF. But yeah, they could produce some utter crap, like The Crawling Eye and The Gamma People, to name just two. But this one has to be by far the silliest. What continues to amaze me is that they wasted so much talent on this pathetic tripe.
Yes, it is terribly unfair. Of course, being a 60-year-old, bespectacled male who also dresses for comfort, I'm hardly likely to meet a space babe's demanding physical requirements, so it's all rather academic.
However, you've inspired me to start work on a film treatment, tentatively titled Cougars from Beyond Space.
Post a Comment