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Invasion (1966)

Courtesy of Canal+ Image UK Ltd

Main image of Invasion (1966)
35mm, black and white, 82 mins
DirectorAlan Bridges
Production CompanyMerton Park
ProducerJack Greenwood
ScreenplayRoger Marshall
Original storyRobert Holmes
CinematographyJames Wilson
EditorDerek Holding
MusicBernard Ebbinghouse

Cast: Edward Judd (Dr Mike Vernon); Valerie Gearon (Dr Claire Harland); Lyndon Brook (Brian Carter); Barrie Ingham (Major Muncaster); Eric Young (Lystrian Man); Yoko Tani (Sita, leader of the Lystrians); Tsai Chin (Nurse Lim)

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The unexpected arrival of an alien space traveller creates problems at a rural hospital.

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One of the last double features to be made at Merton Park Studios, Invasion is one of a number of low-budget science fiction dramas that use the theme of alien invasion as a vehicle for exploring British social attitudes. Alan Bridges' background in television plays and Edgar Wallace B-films allowed him to create a wholly believable cottage hospital based on what was virtually a single set, while the screenplay by Robert Holmes and Roger Marshall manages to evoke some usually plausible alien 'invaders'. The exotic 'oriental' appearance of the invaders belies the actual mundanity of their mission - they are simply intergalactic policewomen pursuing an escaped prisoner who has taken refuge in a small town.

After their quarry is run over by a businessman's VDP Princess R (this is definitely a rural community in the G&T belt), he is taken to a NHS hospital staffed by chain-smoking and overworked house doctors. Naturally the authorities are, as is par for the course for this genre, powerless against Yoko Tani's chief invader, but unlike in many contemporary American productions, her character expresses her regrets that she can offers no dramatic revelations of great scientific advances to the world. The device of casting of oriental actresses as the aliens lends the narrative a sense of post-colonial malaise, as encapsulated in the scene in which Tani begs Edward Judd's white liberal middle-class hero not to involve himself in a tragic situation that he cannot understand and warns that any attempts at overt heroism are doomed. The result of one such venture is Lyndon Brooke's arrogant house surgeon crashing his Morris Oxford Traveller into a force field, an impressive coup de cinema that is virtually the sole dramatic event, occurring against a recognisable and prosaic background of costermongers en route to Covent Garden, bored soldiery, and Glyn Houston's wonderfully cynical police sergeant.

More importantly, Invasion offers no easy plot resolutions. The film opens with a little girl, brought in by ambulance, who is found dead on arrival and who we subsequently learn is a casualty of a motorway pile-up caused by the aliens blacking out the area. If 1950s British science fiction cinema was dominated by warlike alien threats to the nation, the following decade brought a far more low-key approach. In Invasion, the aliens may be able to travel through space but, as Valerie Gearon's acerbic female lead remarks, "They still have prisons".

Andrew Roberts

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Video Clips
1. Arrival (3:32)
2. Force field (3:33)
3. The prisoner escapes (2:49)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Unearthly Stranger (1963)
B Pictures
Science Fiction