I have a sort of love/hate relationship with these films. As a tried-and-true fan of the TV series, I always feel a little bit like they're "not the real thing", just "trying to make some cash" - a fairly common attitude for a fan. And that's exactly why they were made...but really, don't they deserve a place in Doctor Who history, too?
The first film is admittedly one I have never been enamoured of. It's very, very sixties - the pink plastic set, the Thals' makeup, the wild Dalek colour schemes, and the corny humour all contribute to a definite feeling of kitsch. I have to be in a very certain frame of mind to enjoy it. The second film is, in my opinion, much more entertaining. There's real tension and horror in the situations presented, and it compacts the story nicely from the TV serial's 150 minutes to the film's 84. Both the Daleks' colour schemes and Cushing's performance are more subdued, and the flying saucer is very cool. I'd much rather watch this than the TV version, 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth'.
Both movies are presented anamorphically in their original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 - a real revelation to me, as I expected the traditional 1.85:1 or even 1.66:1. The transfers are just gorgeous, boasting a remarkably clear picture and strong, vibrant colours, including very true blacks. If you've only seen the films on pan 'n' scan video, you just haven't seen them! There is some grain evident in the picture - more noticeably in "Daleks - Invasion Earth", thanks to the extensive outdoor scenes - and the occasional shimmering suggestion of edge enhancement, but the films really look extraordinary for 35-year-old pictures. I don't know who remastered them, but clearly work has been done. Very nice indeed. Unfortunately, I can't give a completely clean bill of health to the films. Regrettably, Anchor Bay was provided with the wrong edit of "Daleks - Invasion Earth". This causes the film to open with the title sequence, followed by the pre-credits robbery scene. It's terribly obvious, since the scene ends with a musical cue leading into the titles, and you can't even correct it with the memory function on your player (although the titles and robbery are different chapters, each ends with the fade-up from black to the next scene). I fervently hope Anchor Bay takes action to re-release the film in its proper form.
Both discs include a nice smattering of extras, including their original trailers, a "History of Doctor Who" text essay, extensive photo gallieries, and an in-depth biography of star Peter Cushing. "Dr. Who and the Daleks" also includes a commentary with actresses Jennie Linden (Barbara) and Roberta Tovey (Susan), monitored by journalist and Cushing film historian Jonathan Sothcott. The pace of the commentary is leisurely - perhaps too leisurely - and the discussion is often very generalised and anecdotal. It's a fun commentary, yes, but nowhere as good as those on the BBC's "Doctor Who" discs. Take it for what it's worth, enjoy 83 minutes with some very friendly people, and then realise you'll probably never choose the 'Commentary' option again.
The third disc contains the 1995 documentary "Dalekmania". Containing interviews with many of the actors and actresses involved, as well as Dalek creator Terry Nation, stuntman Eddie Powell, and others, the 57-minute film is a wonderful companion to the two Dalek pictures, and very much in the vein of Kevin Davies' other, better-known Doctor Who documentary, "More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS". Pleasantly, he transfer for "Dalekmania" is equal to that of the two films, with a bright, vivid picture marred only by a bit of grain. It's really nice to see it treated as well as the main attractions, as I had imagined a more VHS-quality print.
Overall, this 3-DVD set went far and beyond my expectations. The only thing that could make it better, in my opinion, is if Anchor Bay issued a corrected version of "Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.", and replaced those discs already purchased. I highly recommend the set or the individual discs to any fan of the Dalek movies, as well as "Doctor Who" fans who haven't yet tried the films - this is definitely the way to see them! Maybe DVD release will finally bring Peter Cushing's portrayal of the Doctor, and the Dalek films as a whole, the respect they deserve.