Devil Girl From Mars (1954) (SF film review).

‘Devil Girl From Mars’ is an interesting film. First released in 1954, this black-and-white science fiction film has been restored and reissued. I must say StudioCanal has done a remarkable job on the restoration. The film was provided to me on a pre-production disc, and I watched it on a large Sony TV. Yes, I know it’s in black and white, but the quality of the picture was amazing.

There’s an interesting cast for this film, and one face every one of a certain age will instantly recognise. But more of that later. The stars are Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Peter Reynolds, and Adrienne Corri, while David MacDonald is the director.

Patricia Laffan stars as Nyah, the Devil Girl from Mars. Commander Nyah is on a mission to save her people. They are dying out, or at least the male population is, so more males are required. Where better to get some new breeding stock? Earth, of course!

Unfortunately, Commander Nyah is not the luckiest of people. First, her craft sustains damage when entering Earth’s atmosphere, and then she gets hit by an airliner. While her intended destination was London, she was forced to land in a remote part of Scotland. She does find an inn, but she completely fails to get any male volunteers for a trip back to Mars.

While The Devil Girl from Mars might be the main plotline, there’s quite a lot going on in this film. The British government has sent the acclaimed astrophysicist Professor Arnold Hennessey (actor Joseph Tomelty) to investigate the crash. Reporter Michael Carter (actor Hugh McDermott), eager to cover the story, accompanies him. When they get to Bonnie Charlie Inn, he doesn’t waste any time courting the fashion model Ellen Prestwick (actress Hazel Court), who is taking time out to get over an affair with a married man.

But wait! There’s more! The escaped convict Robert Justin (actor Peter Reynolds), who’s now using the alias Albert Simpson, who was convicted for accidentally killing his wife, makes his way to the inn to reunite with barmaid Doris (Adrienne Corri) and continue their affair. The inn is run by Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson (actors John Laurie and Sophie Stewart), who seem to be largely oblivious to most of what’s going on around them. Well, until Nyah vaporises someone and the giant robot called Chani joins in, vaporising a lot of the countryside. That does get their attention.

There’s also Tommy (actor Anthony Richmond), Jamison’s young nephew. The little rascal is just waiting to get into trouble, which he does. As I said earlier, there’s a lot going on here.

What makes this film remarkable is that it was made on a very tight budget, over three weeks, and there were no retakes. The filming took place at Shepperton Studios in London, a vast distance from the Scottish Moors.

When you investigate the details of who was involved in the film, there’s enough material for an article of its own. The film was produced by the American Danziger brothers, who produced a lot of British films and TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s. The sound editor was a certain Mr. Gerry Anderson (credited as Gerald Anderson), who would later go on to create UK television series such as ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’.

As noted above, Mr. Jamieson was played by none other than John Laurie, a man who would go on to world-wide fame as Private James Frazer in ‘Dad’s Army’. My one regret with this film is that, while there were many occasions where Jamieson could have said it, he never once said, ‘We’re doomed!’

While the special effects are in no way comparable to what we are now used to, Chani the robot will make you laugh, and it remains a very enjoyable film. I watched it with a mixed audience of young and old, and everyone enjoyed it.

Andy Whitaker

February 2024

As Andy has been caught by a house-moving frenzy and has not been abducted to Mars, I’m taking over. I’ll make some points as a supplement before going over to the audio commentary.

‘Devil Girl From Mars’ was adapted from a play by James C. Mather and James Eastwood, the latter doing the adaptation. There’s really no way of knowing what was kept in, taken out, or added; it was just seen as something that could make some money from a homegrown British SF audience in 1954. Back in the day, audiences weren’t too sophisticated, and there really weren’t that many SF films around.

From a script perspective, various elements were introduced early for viewers to become acquainted with. There is no sense of impending doom, just curiosity. After all, how many meteorites do you hear crashing to Earth? By changing the music cues, you can tell when something is menacing. The ‘Martian’ Nyah (actress Patricia Laffan) was planning to go to London first before crashing, so the Bonnie Charlie Inn has a lot of guests, not all paying.

They never point out what part of the spaceship crashed to Earth separately or what the robot did to repair it.

The audio commentary is by Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, both of whom are fans of the film. I have vague memories of seeing this film on TV a couple decades ago. Edwin Ashley’s music for the ‘The Vice’ TV series was reused here. Actor John Laurie also did a lot of Shakespeare in the theatre. They got it a little wrong about the flying saucer—not light but emitting heat as it cooled down. The flying saucer with real people is a bottom half with a matte shot for the top when on the ground. Both mention parallels with similar choices to ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’, shown the year previous. Another thing I disagree with them about is that Nyah opening the double glass doors makes more of a presence than just coming through one door, which the humans did. They couldn’t electrify the handles otherwise. There were no retakes in this film because, as trained theatre actors, they had the habit of getting it right the first time and getting over any mistakes. A handy ability on a budget.

There’s a 17½ minute interview with reviewer Kim Newman about the film and how it was made as a quickie to use studio space. He also compares it to other British SF films from that decade. He is wrong about one thing: Nyah didn’t come to kidnap Scotsmen because she was going to London.

The ‘Stills Gallery’ runs for just over a minute, principally with photos that were probably used outside cinemas.

If you forgive the look of the robot, for a cheapie SF film from the 1950s, it holds up reasonably well, and actress Patricia Laffan might well be the first mini-skirted person in a British SF film.

A slight consequence of the audio commentary is noting SF films from that period that I’ve yet to watch, so expect something to be reviewed by them in the near future.

GF Willmetts

April 2024

(pub: StudioCanal, 2024. 1 blu-ray disk 77 minute film with extras. Price: £15.00 (UK). ASIN: B0CPMDN3CZ)

cast: Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Peter Reynolds, John Laurie and Adrienne Corri

check out website: www.studiocanal.co.uk/title/devil-girl-from-mars-1954/


I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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