Devil Girl From Mars (1954) – Film Review
Director: David MacDonald
Starring: Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Peter Reynolds
By Sarah Morgan
What is 70 years old and looks annoyingly good in a black latex outfit, complete with cape?
Both my parents reach that age this year, and although they’re looking fine on it, I can’t imagine either of them being quite so impressive as the Devil Girl from Mars in her swanky get-up.
Not that I want to imagine my parents in what is only one step away from some kind of bondage gear. Let’s get that straight immediately…
According to Kim Newman in one of the special features included on the disc, British sci-fi films and TV shows were few and far between at the time, although that was beginning to change thanks to the overwhelming popularity of Nigel Kneale’s groundbreaking and influential BBC TV series The Quatermass Experiment, which aired in 1953.
Newman also points out that apart from the titular alien visitor, much of Devil Girl from Mars could have been plucked from the pages of a mystery thriller of the time – a group of mismatched individuals are holed up in a remote house, where something puts them in grave danger. Perhaps writers James Eastwood and John C Mather’s original screenplay was a pseudo-Agatha Christie effort, with the sci-fi elements shoehorned in as the genre’s popularity rose?
I have absolutely no evidence to support that theory, but it’s an intriguing idea. Whatever the case, producers the Danzinger brothers were good at capitalising on trends. As film historians Steve Chibnall and Brian McFarlane once said of them, “The Danzingers were not in the business for art; they were in business for business.” So if they spotted a commercial opportunity, they would undoubtedly jump on it.
It’s the statuesque Patricia Laffan who plays the devil girl, striking a number of eye-catching poses and giving the aforementioned individuals the side eye while sneering at their puny human ways. Among them are an escaped convict, his lover, a little boy, the owners of the property (which is a rather large hotel and bar in rural Scotland) a news reporter and a scientist.
The last two have journeyed north following reports of a meteor in the area. They’re rather surprised to find it’s actually a flying saucer containing the Martian visitor. She claims her planet needs Earthmen to help the resident females repopulate the place. Unfortunately, she’s decided to go about it by issuing rather unattractive threats. I can’t help but feel that had she turned on the charm a little, there’d have been a huge queue of blokes only too willing to oblige.
But that would have been a very different movie – more of a Carry On Mars than Devil Girl.
Over the years the film has been derided by some as camp nonsense, but I absolutely loved it. It’s not brilliantly directed or inventive, but there’s something about it I can’t quite explain that makes it hugely watchable.
The cast is impressive – alongside Laffan is a mix of solid character actors and scream queens, with Adrienne Corri and Hazel Court lining up with the likes of John Laurie, Joseph Tomelty and the now largely forgotten yet instantly recognisable Peter Reynolds. All give the script a dignity it perhaps did not deserve, but full marks to them for not phoning it in – on the pittance the Danzingers probably paid, you could have forgiven them for doing so.
So, to sum up, if you’re a fan of British B-pictures, this is an absolute must, an unforgettable treat. Make sure you watch Newman’s previously mentioned chat, as well as the audio commentary he does with fellow enthusiast Barry Forshaw – both are essential companions to the film.
- Interview with novelist and critic Kim Newman
- Audio Commentary with Kim Newman and writer & journalist Barry Forshaw
- Stills gallery Devil Girl From Mars is released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital - available here