Friday 31 August 2012

Life's Not So Easy In The Year 2150 AD...

As 1965 came to a close, Aaru's Milton Subotsky exercised his option to make a second Dalek movie, after the great success of Dr. Who and the Daleks. Once again, he would write the screenplay. As the first film was an adaptation of the first Dalek TV serial, so this would be a big screen version of the second - Terry Nation's The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
Filming began at Shepperton Studios in January 1966, with a view to a summer '66 opening. The director would be Gordon Flemyng once more, and also returning from the first film would be Peter Cushing, as Dr. Who, and Roberta Tovey as Susan. Jennie Linden's Barbara would be replaced by Jill Curzon's Louise - Dr. Who's niece. The Ian Chesterton role would be replaced entirely with a new character - PC Tom Campbell, played by another comic actor, Bernard Cribbins.

Principal guest actors were Andrew Keir (the TV Tyler now renamed Wyler); Ray Brooks (David - losing his surname to Cribbins' character), and in his first Doctor Who-related role Philip Madoc (TV's Ashton character now named Brockley).
The Daleks would undergo a colour scheme change - with the majority now silver with blue hemispheres, as their original television counterparts. There would be three much more colourful versions - a red saucer commander, a black mining complex controller, and a gold one which seemed to be in overall charge.
Whilst the Robomen of the TV series had been dressed in normal, ragged clothing, the film ones would have a sleek uniform look - black PVC coveralls and with more compact helmets (with built in shades).

Plot-wise, as with the first film, the biggest differences are with the initial set up, and the introduction of Bernard Cribbins' character. A jewellery shop is robbed and PC Campbell fails to catch the thieves. Knocked on the head, he stumbles towards a nearby Police Call Box. Entering, he finds it is the brightly lit TARDIS (slightly redesigned from the first film). As Dr.Who, Susan and Louise stare at him in surprise, he collapses.
Once they get to London, in the year 2150AD, the story settles down to an abridged version of the TV tale.
Biggest differences are the removal of the Jenny character and the Slyther. Naturally there is no romantic sub-plot with David and Susan.
It is Wyler, teaming up with Susan, who borrows a vehicle and drives through a cordon of Daleks, and it is they who are betrayed by the old woman (Eileen Way) and her daughter.
Cribbins fulfils the Roy Castle comedy function - especially in a scene where he is impersonating a Roboman (trying to copy their synchronised movements). There is also some slapstick with a food machine on the Dalek saucer.
The ending is a vast improvement on the lacklustre anti-climax of the TV version. Here, the bomb releases powerful magnetic forces. Daleks are sucked into the mine shaft, and the fleeing saucer is pulled down out of control to crash into the mine complex.
The film ends with Dr. Who taking Tom back to the scene of the opening robbery - a few minutes before - so that he can apprehend the villains. The fact that there ought to be two of him co-existing at the same time is simply glossed over.

Performances match the slightly more violent and adult storyline - everyone playing their parts with conviction. The special effects highlight the extra budget allocated  to this production. The stand-out element is the Dalek spaceship. It, and the film Robomen, made it onto the cover of the original Target novelisation of the TV story. The model will be used again in another Sci-Fi film (Invasion of the Body Stealers aka The Body Stealers, Tigon 1969. It's rubbish...).

Production on the film was delayed due to a number of accidents and illnesses (adding 11 days to the shooting schedule). Cushing fell ill, and so his role had to be diminished somewhat. Andrew Keir damaged his hand in the scene where he has to smash a hole in the shattered van windscreen. Stuntman Eddie Powell, playing an escaping prisoner outside the saucer, broke his ankle as he fell from a ledge - you'll see it happen in the finished film.
Whilst the BBC is never allowed to promote commercial products, the film had no such restrictions. The breakfast cereal "Sugar Puffs" paid for the privilege of some on screen advertising - posters appear, unsubtly, in the background of two or three scenes.

Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD was released in July 1966. Despite the bigger budget and heavy promotion, the box office proved disappointing. The "Dalekmania" of the previous year was already on the wane, and the opening clashed with hot weather and a certain little football competition...
The option was there for Subotsky to make a third film, but he chose not to take it up. A third film would probably have been an adaptation of The Chase.
Cushing would almost return to the role of Dr. Who in a planned syndicated radio series. A pilot was recorded, but the series never made it to air.
Bernard Cribbins would, of course, step through the TARDIS doors again, when he joined the programme as Donna Noble's granddad - Wilf Mott.

1 comment: