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DR. WHO & THE DALEKS  [50th Anniversary] [Blu-ray]
on 2 June 2013
DR. WHO & THE DALEKS  [50th Anniversary] [Blu-ray] The First Ever Doctor Who Feature Film! Now On The Big Screen In COLOUR!
Directed by Gordon Flemyng and now fully restored, ‘Dr. Who & The Daleks’  was the first big screen film adaptation of British TV's most iconic sci-fi hero, and was the first time Doctor Who was ever seen in colour!
British film legend Peter Cushing plays everyone's favourite Timelord, and having invented the TARDIS, a strange machine capable of travelling into other dimensions, the Doctor and his three young accomplices set forth on a quest through time and space. Their journey takes them into the dark, undiscovered depths of the universe and to the planet of Skaro. A primitive world devastated by nuclear war and populated by two warring species, a peaceful tribe known as Thals and a life form heavily mutated by radiation, encased in protective machines. A merciless force of destruction known as The Daleks!
FILM FACT: It is based on the second serial of the British science fiction Doctor Who television programme, The Daleks, produced by the BBC. Filmed in Technicolor, it is the first Doctor Who story to be made in colour and in a widescreen format. The television series continued to be made in black-and-white until 1969 and not in widescreen until the revival of the series in 2005.
Cast: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey, Barrie Ingham, Geoffrey Toone, Michael Coles, John Bown, Yvonne Antrobus, Mark Petersen, Ken Garady, Nicholas Head, Michael Lennox, Jack Waters, Virginia Tyler, Jane Lumb, Bruce Wells, Martin Grace, Sharon Young, Gary Wyler (Dalek Operator), Bruno Castagnoli, Michael Dillon (Dalek Operator), Brian Hands (Dalek Operator), Robert Jewell (Dalek Operator), Kevin Manser (Dalek Operator), Eric McKay (Dalek Operator), Len Saunders (Dalek Operator), Gerald Taylor (Dalek Operator), David Graham (Dalek Voices), Peter Hawkins (Dalek Voices) and Michelle Scott (uncredited)
Director: Gordon Flemyng
Producers: Joe Vegoda, Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky
Screenplay: Milton Subotsky, Sydney Newman (original concept) and David Whitaker (uncredited)
Composer: Malcolm Lockyer and Barry Gray (electronic music)
Cinematography: John Wilcox
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [Techniscope]
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 83 minutes
Number of discs: 1
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: ‘Dr. Who & The Daleks’  was the first Doctor Who film and the first colour appearance of the Doctor, has finally been released on Blu-ray by StudioCanal to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this beloved sci-fi programme, which premiered on BBC Television in 1963. The release also coincides with the hundred year anniversary of famed actor Peter Cushing's birth, who stars here as the first non-canon Doctor. What does non-canon mean, in terms of the famous adventurer? Since the show first began with William Hartnell starring as the intelligent, if somewhat abrasive humanoid alien known as the Doctor, to date there have been eleven different actors appearing as the Doctor due to his ability to regenerate in different forms.
Peter Cushing is not considered part of that pantheon because his character, despite being known as Doctor Who, bears few things in common with the Doctor of the television show, such as his love of science, travel, and adventure. Specifically, Cushing's Doctor is a human, not an alien, whose surname just happens to be Who. Despite also featuring the Doctor's most infamous nemeses, ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ is not an official Doctor Who film, but rather an attempt by British studio Amicus to continue competing with Hammer Studios. The two studios often ran neck to neck with horror films and adventure movies, and this film was Amicus's attempt to compete with Hammer's more family-friendly pirate and dinosaur-themed adventure films. Other than an intelligent, science-oriented character named Doctor Who, the villainous Daleks, and the Doctor's T.A.R.D.I.S. time vessel, ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ bears almost no relationship to the Doctor Who Television Series.
The Film was Co-written by Amicus founder Milton Subotsky and Doctor Who scribe and Dalek creator Terry Nation, Doctor Who and the Daleks was an attempt to cash in on Dalekmania, the Dalek craze that swept Britain during the early 1960s following Doctor Who's establishment. A scientist named Doctor Who [Peter Cushing] invents a police box-shaped time machine known as the T.A.R.D.I.S. He shows the machine to his two granddaughters, Susan [Roberta Tovey] and Barbara [Jennie Linden], as well as to Barbara's clumsy boyfriend Ian [Roy Castle]. Ian trips and accidentally activates the machine, sending them light years away to a strange, hostile planet occupied by Daleks, militant robots determined to take over the world. Furthermore, the Daleks have enslaved a peaceful, humanoid race, the Thals. Doctor Who and his family work with the Thals to escape from the diabolical snare of the Daleks and potential radiation poisoning.
Audiences will find plenty to love here, as the film is fun, colourful, over the top, and packed with amazing, era-appropriate scenery. Amicus certainly spared no expense on the set, which was shot in Technicolor and looks simply incredible. From the Dalek city to the petrified jungle, the film seems to have had some influence on later sci-fi films. This is definitely a film for children and adults of all ages.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Released in a 1080p resolution and 2.35:1 aspect ratio, ‘Dr. Who & The Daleks’ has been digitally re-mastered and presented in HD and on Blu-ray for the first time. The Technicolor looks wonderful and the otherworldly, fantasy elements of the set look fantastic here. The film was shot in Techniscope, a two-perforation, as opposed to the normal four, 35mm process in Techniscope was popular in the 1960s and early 1970s, often for lower- or medium-budget films, as it provided a widescreen image without the use of expensive-to-rent anamorphic lenses and as it exposed an area half the height of a normal 35mm frame one reel of film got twice as much use. Techniscope fell into disuse in the 1970s except for some special-effects work, though the name is sometimes used more recently as a synonym for two-perf Super 35. Films shot in the latter process include Shame and Silver Linings Playbook. One downside of the process, or a feature if you prefer, was increased grain, `Dr. Who & The Daleks' isn't hugely grainy, but the grain on this Blu-ray transfer does look film like. The colours do look true, with solid blacks and close shots are very detailed. Some of the longer shots look a little less detailed, though that may well be as per original.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – `Dr. Who & The Daleks' was made and released in mono, as was the case with almost every film of 1965 other than 70mm presentations. Thankfully, STUDIOCANAL have not remixed the soundtrack into fake 5.1 and have left it as the English 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio language track. It sounds fine, with dialogue, music and sound effects clear and well balanced, as befits a professional job of work by Amicus's sound department. Also thankfully, STUDIOCANAL have provided optional hard-of-hearing subtitles, which has not normally been their policy on English-language releases. This is presented in decent sounds and only has a slight hiss. Though some of the dialogue is a little low, everything sounds clear and the almost constant Dalek-related special effects sound great, are indeed beautifully mixed.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Roberta Tovey and Jenny Linden: Some of the extras are transported over from the film's DVD release from 2002. This includes a commentary, billed as featuring Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey but in fact is moderated by Jonathan Southcote, author of The Cult Films of Peter Cushing. This is a pleasant chat, with both women clearly having clearly happy memories of the filming and of working with Peter Cushing in particular. They both remember Roy Castle taking opportunities to practise his trumpet playing and tap-dancing in his dressing room at every opportunity, distracting young Roberta Tovey and her chaperone, from her schoolwork. Gordon Flemyng struck a deal with Roberta Tovey that he would give her a shilling every time she did a shot in one take. He didn't repeat this deal for the sequel, presumably as he realised how much he would be out of pocket! This commentary is heavier on anecdote than anything else, so it may be light on the hard information some Doctor Who aficionados might wish for.
Special Feature: Dalekmania  [58:00] This is a documentary that dates back to 1995 and the film's VHS release. It's presented in the aspect ratio 4:3, upscaled to 1080p, though film clips and some dramatized material at the beginning and end are letterboxed. (Who fans will note that the commissionaire in the opening scene is played by Michael Wisher, a regular Dalek voice on television and the first and definitive incarnation of the Daleks' creator Davros.) Roberta Tovey features here too, so inevitably this duplicates information from the commentary, though we do find out exactly how many shillings "One-Take Tovey" earned. However, we do get to hear from people who were alive then but aren't now, notably Terry Nation, who died in 1997 and has been inevitably sparsely represented on the range of Dr. Who DVDs of the television series. Stunt coordinator Eddie Powell, who died in 2000, also appears and he towers over the adult Roberta Tovey in one shot, so you can see why he was used as Christopher Lee's stunt double. Peter Cushing and Roy Castle had both passed away the previous year, and the documentary is dedicated to their memories. Sadly Gordon Flemyng who died in 1995 and is sadly missed. Given that it is now eighteen years old, it's unavoidably a little dated and one contributor is looking forward to seeing the Doctor Who films in colour and widescreen on video and younger viewers ask your parents what that was. It could also have been more detailed: Raymond Cusick, recently departed as I write this, certainly deserved some attention for coming up with the design of the Daleks. Meanwhile, you do get to find out how much Dalek memorabilia went for back in the day. We also see some very faded-to-pink and battered clips from the Italian and French dubbed versions of the film, so thank the Blu-ray gods that you aren't watching something with that lack of picture quality.
Special Feature: Restoring Dr. Who & The Daleks [1080p] [9:00] A look at how the film was digitally restored for this set. Film and television historian Marcus Hearn returns to provide some background to the shooting of the film in Techniscope and Technicolor and Milton Subotksy's adaptation of the original Terry Nation story. Jo Botting, BFI curator, explains the development and drawbacks of Techniscope as a widescreen format. We then pop over to Deluxe and gets an insight into how the restoration was achieved from a 35mm anamorphic interpositive dating back to 1969. Steve Bearman, Tom Barrett and Ian Pickford of “Deluxe” facility also discuss the grading of the film, the clean-up and stabilising of the image and the restoration of the optical soundtrack.
Special Feature: Interview with Gareth Owen [8:00] Gareth Owen, author of The Shepperton Story, tells us much about the making of the film but it's a shame he has to trot out the 'wobby scenery, wobbly acting' redundant fallacy about the television series. Apart from that, some interesting stories about Vegoda, Amicus, the formation of Aaru, the impact of 'Dalekmania' and how the Daleks were built for the film, which he attributes entirely to effects men Bert Luxford when the company “Shawcraft” built the eight 'hero' Daleks and Bert Luxford likely oversaw the making of the 'dummy' versions at Shepperton.
Special Feature: Stills Gallery [1080p] [3:00] Here you have a collection of promotional and production stills from ‘Dr. Who & The Daleks.’
Theatrical Trailer [4:00] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘Dr. Who & The Daleks.’ Enter the world of the Daleks, because now they're “closer than ever before” and “so close you can feel their fire.”
Finally, whilst the series relied on monochromatic obscurity for its uncanny terrors, the movie takes the Daleks into the world of spectacle and colour. From the glitzy title sequence to the colour coded Daleks; from its use of lava lamps to the perhaps ill-judged use of purple eyeshadow on the otherwise butch Thals, the film throws colour and 1960s glamour at the audience. This means the crisp digital restoration and the release on Blu-ray version considerably enhances the film. The film is well acted though the dialogue is stilted so the real two stars of the film are the Daleks themselves, and the impressive, almost Ken Adam-esque set design. I originally had the Two Doctor Who films of the The Dalek Collection, which was a Two Region 2 DVDs and was at the time the best way to view these films on ones Homes Cinema set up, but of course with this Blu-ray release, it is now in the ultimate collection version and if you're a true Doctor Who fan, then this will be your ultimate viewing enjoyment and give you endless hours of sci-fi enjoyment. If you are a fan of British adventure films and also love Peter Cushing, then it comes highly recommended for the sheer fun factor. ‘Dr. Who & The Daleks’ was followed by a less successful sequel ‘Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.' [which I also enjoyed] which also starred Peter Cushing and has also been released on Blu-ray simultaneously by STUDIOCANAL. Be forewarned that these are both Region B/2 disc releases and American fans can only watch them with a Multi-region Blu-ray player. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom