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Dalek Invasion Of The Cinema: 1960s A.D,
This review is from: Dr Who: The Dalek Collection (Dr Who And The Daleks & Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150AD + Dalekmania documentary) [DVD]  (DVD)
Doctor Who has weathered differing levels of popularity over the decades and cemented itself as a British institution. When the series first aired in the 'sixties, it was well received but surprisingly, the biggest stars weren't The Doctor and his TARDIS assistants - instead the runaway stars were the pepperpot-esque baddies who appeared in the second story of the first series. The Dalekmania which followed meant that a big screen outing for the Daleks seemed financially viable and fans could finally see the nations favourite aliens in full colour.
Instead of a new story, the first Dalek film was a remake of the first Dalek TV serial. The same treatment was given to the second film, this time it was a remake of the classic "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" story which featured in the second series. It's clear that the production values are much better for the big-screen, the wobbly sets are gone, coloured lights flash on consoles and the visual effects don't look home made. It is well known among Doctor Who fans that the film is not part of established Doctor Who canon, this is independent to the TV series and Peter Cushing plays "Dr. Who"; a role based on the BBC character rather than The Doctor himself.
The first film wastes no time and only six minutes in, we are introduced to the main characters as they travel in the TARDIS to a strange land populated by Thals, their bright eye makeup making the most of Technicolour! It's also not long before the Daleks make an appearance, though it's not quite as scary as the cliff-hanger from the TV series where they first made an appearance. They do look impressive however with their bright colours and flashing lights, the shrill voice ensures that they remain the stars of the film and Dalek fans can delight that although they are a little bit different, they are still essentially the same metal monsters we all love. It's a faithful retelling of the TV serial which enabled audiences to see the Daleks on the big screen, and the second film is a more ambitious affair which sees the Daleks land on Earth.
The colours in the second film seem even more vivid and the sets are large, beyond anything the telly series could deliver. The Dalek's 'dual disk' flying saucer is very impressive (especially when compared to the 'model on a string' effort from the original TV story) and this has the feel of a rather epic Science-Fiction film, again with good doses of comedy thrown in. I personally enjoy Peter Cushing's portrayal as the doctor in the Dalek movies, he captures a childlike wonder, finding everything fascinating and his enthusiasm gives the grandfather figure great energy. His passion for adventure perhaps best displayed during the opening to the first film when we see his grandchildren reading science books while he is reading a comic. Wonderful, eccentric and warm (if a little war hungry!), it's easy to see how younger audiences may have found him a more accessible character than William Hartnell's doctor, who was often perceived as a tad grumpy.
It's a quality film and as I watched it again recently I marvelled at the visuals (even though some are now a bit dated) but felt that something was missing. There's an element of suspense which is absent from both of these films, it's something which the TV series was able to build over a prolonged period of time. A perfect example of this is the recreation of one of the most iconic scenes in Doctor Who history - the lone Dalek emerging from the Thames. In the original TV episode it was a scene with great gravitas - you can imagine jaws dropping when it first aired and even now it remains a captivating moment. In the film however it doesn't have the same level of intensity, the Daleks are less menacing and it only served to remind me how incredible the original telling of these stories were. Perhaps remaking two legendary stories wasn't the best idea, the benchmark was high, completely new stories may have allowed these to escape the shadows of the TV series. They lack some of the subtle yet magical things which are incredibly significant in giving the TV series a unique style. The TARDIS noise, the theme tune, the reliance on story - all these things are as big a part of Doctor Who as The Doctor himself and although the films do work without them, it's obvious that they aren't 'real' Doctor Who and they lack some of the magic the BBC had created.
This DVD package contains not only the two films but also the documentary 'Dalekmania' which explores how the Daleks have established themselves as cult characters in popular British culture. The DVD comes in a cardboard sleeve and contains several collectors cards (my edition has seven, one of which is signed by one of the actresses playing a Thal), there's also a small movie poster for Dalek Invasion Earth 2150AD.
In a nutshell: These two films recreate the first two Dalek serials of the TV series, they look good (mostly) and are well acted with considerably upgraded visual effects. They don't retell the story any better than the TV series however and the original black and white episodes are still the best way to enjoy these two Dalek plots. Even so, these films are still better than many other Science-Fiction features and the DVD release is excellent.
Location: Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK.
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