Dr. Who and the Daleks

Dr. Who’s time machine (TARDIS, Time and Relative Dimension in Space) looks like a police box because the police have seen it all.

By fortuitous engagement it takes the doctor and his little family to a catastrophe worth looking into.

Subotsky, Flemyng, a great joke to open the proceedings, not too far from Juran’s First Men in the Moon.

“After the final war,” mutations in a world of ash, question of radiation sickness and immunity thereto. The Daleks live in self-propelled metal suits like rather flash dustbins, as has been observed. The Thals are quite like Shakespeare’s fairies, they have a drug that protects them.

City and countryside are a great divide.

Creepy creatures, the Daleks, with comical electronic voices like great bleating Wizards of Oz, treacherous too and murderous. Natch, it’s the Thals’ drug they want, to leave the city and conquer.

Wonderfully filmed in Technicolor and Techniscope (George Pal’s The Time Machine is of course the model).

Variety was not averse but not wowed, either.

Tom Milne (Time Out) says “plodding... shopworn... moderately imaginative... tacky... tackier...”

According to Film4 the Daleks are “classy” and there is a “rather weak script”.

TV Guide describes Dr. Who as “a time lord”.

The neutronic bomb and the deadly swamp.

Mike Hodges has it in mind for Flash Gordon, and, who knows, Ken Russell perhaps remembers the “final battle” scene (“destroy the Thals!”) in Billion Dollar Brain.

A great actor bears this on his shoulders, supported in every department.

“Skipping the gorge” is from North West Frontier (dir. J. Lee Thompson), the mirrors from Solomon and Sheba (dir. King Vidor).

Kubrick has the array of monitors in the city for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The countdown is from Hamilton’s Goldfinger, of course, the Daleks’ camera eye from Haskin’s The War of the Worlds.

A memory of the Roman conquest, goes the punchline.



Invasion Earth

2150 A.D.

Smash-and-grab, time out of mind. The ruins of London, falling down. “It’s all different,” exclaims the abstracted copper. A flying saucer not unlike the Albert Hall.

The Robomen. “Very advanced,” Dr. Who observes, “miniature antennæ!” Wary human survivors, furtive. “Obey motorised dustbins? We’ll see about that!”

Dr. Who is very nearly “robotised”. J. Lee Thompson takes up the note in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, demonstrably from Cartier’s 1984.

Flemyng exerts himself to appreciate the comic possibilities of the Robomen, automatons. How like Juran’s Selenites are the Daleks, in a hard insect way. Resistance is all but futile. Little Russian dolls with a plan to gut the Earth and occupy it elsewhere.

The question, as any fool can see, is what is to be done? The poetry of Earth is never dead, Dr. Who has seen the Daleks destroyed, some other time, some other place, before or since. The invasion is definitively quelled.

Robert Wise doubtless remembers the copper’s climb in The Andromeda Strain.

Variety, “it is all fairly naive stuff decked out with impressive scientific jargon.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “entertaining”. “Limply put together,” said Halliwell’s Film Guide of the first film, “and only for indulgent children,” in that Dalek voice, of the second “a sequel, no better.”


The Split

Flemyng’s great work pivots on its last few frames, a rare effect in films but not unheard-of (Cornfield’s The Night of the Following Day, Malle’s Crackers).

It is something of a departure, as film critics say, and not so.

A caper film, to employ another “term of art”, one admired for its facility by Renata Adler of the New York Times, who, like Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, saw primarily a racial angle.

It’s a question, for Samuel Beckett, of the “rupture”. Thornton Wilder’s view of this has been filmed by Rowland V. Lee and Robert Mulligan.

“Lacking in real flair... a pleasing, if undemanding modern noir thriller” (Time Out Film Guide).

“Busy, brutal”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “totally unsympathetic.”



Great Catherine
“Whom Glory still Adores”

Contemporary views, then Morris et al. As Franklin in London, Capt. Edstaston at St. Petersburg. Reflexive things having to do with Lean’s Doctor Zhivago are overborne by the inculcation of Pichel & Holden’s She and the foreshadowing of Fellini’s Casanova, gentleman among “pigs!” The Empress of all the Russias speaks German familiarly, the captain of dragoons carries a brace of small pistols, his word is “stand off!” A role for O’Toole somewhat after the lines of The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (dir. John Guillermin), if you like, he presents a glacial deadpan to Mostel’s Potemkin, anciently derived in effect from The Lady Eve (dir. Preston Sturges), no doubt. The sublime levée concludes the first skirmish, “sometimes a person has to go a very long distance out of his way to come back a short distance correctly,” the second represents the Battle of Bunker Hill in miniature (cf. Hamilton’s The Devil’s Disciple), “you sank my ship! That’s against the rules.” A certain stylistic flair corresponding to Zeffirelli’s concurrent The Taming of the Shrew will be noted.

Howard Thompson of the New York Times was for a jig or a tale of bawdry, “Mostel is overpowering... the rest of the picture pales and teeters uncertainly.” Variety, “atmosphere it has.” TV Guide, “what a mishmash!” Hal Erickson (Rovi) looks down his nose, “Shavian wit is given short shrift”, shrift look you, “in favor of 2-reeler slapstick.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “chaos”, citing Michael Biullington in the Illiustrated London News, “padded out”.

Ken Russell’s Russian dancers (Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World) appear for the second time that year, after The Party (dir. Blake Edwards), to initiate the final skirmish at the Grand Ball, another Gulliver, “I am—ticklish, Ma’am.”


The Last Grenade

A curious circumstance, prefiguring Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and reflected in “The Year of the Horse” (dir. Don Weis for Hawaii Five-O), an American yo-yo on his lonesome in the Far East making border trouble.

This is very much the raison d’être of Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May (cf. Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite).

Naturally, the British colleague lately victimized goes in after him (cf. Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove).

Flemyng is a poet in England and China of the great city and, by contrast, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

The helicopter gunner of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is in evidence from the outset.

Dankworth on Holst, Hume cinematography, Stanley Baker, Alex Cord as the loon, Attenborough, Blackman, Keir, Glover, Thaw, Johnson, Sim et al.

The Catholic News Service Media Review Office says, “doesn’t make much sense and the movie is a dud.” TV Guide, “flat... predictable... unrealistic”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “few redeeming qualities.”

Harry and Kate at the Emperor’s Paradise. “Here and there, Malaya, Korea... I’m not as good looking as King Kong or as funny as Frankenstein.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

The same conclusion is reached in Donen’s Saturn 3.