Studio Canal just released the first two Doctor Who films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and its sequel, Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., on Blu-ray to celebrate actor Peter Cushing’s centennial and the fifty-year anniversary of the beloved BBC show Doctor Who. Though only loosely based on the plot of the television show, these two films were the first time audiences had a chance to see the Doctor – and the wildly popular Daleks – on film and in color. Produced by Amicus Studios, Hammer’s biggest rivals, these films were an attempt to beat Hammer in the family-friendly adventure/fantasy market. Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. more or less continues where Doctor Who and the Daleks left off, with the Doctor and his companions fighting off Daleks and their quest for planetary domination.
Much of the cast and crew returned from Dr. Who and the Daleks, including star Peter Cushing and director Gordon Flemyng. Die hard Doctor Who fans should be forewarned that this is not a faithful adaptation of the TV show, namely the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In the two Amicus films, Dr. Who is not a humanoid alien, rather he is simply an intelligent, kindly old grandfather who has managed to build a police box-shaped time machine and has the surname of Who.
This time, Dr. Who (Cushing) takes his time machine, the T.A.R.D.I.S., to Earth’s future in 2150. Along with him travels his niece (Jill Curzon) and his granddaughter (Roberta Tovey, reprising her role from the first film). Joined by Tom, a local police constable from the present, they discover that Daleks have traveled to Earth and decimated much of the planet. The remaining humans have either been turned into slaves or workers, though there is a small underground resistance. The Doctor and Tom are kidnapped by the Daleks, while his niece and granddaughter team up with the leader of the resistance (Hammer regular Andrew Keir) to rescue them, stage an attack on the Dalek stronghold, and prevent the Daleks from unleashing a devastating bomb.
This film feels less childlike and fantastical than its predecessor due to the futuristic Earth setting and more obvious sci-fi influences, namely War of the Worlds. There are also allusions to WWII with the destroyed, bombed-out look of London, again making the film more topically interesting for adult Doctor Who fans. This also heightens the drama and suspense, somewhat improving the plot over Dr. Who and the Daleks. The acting is about on par with the first film, simply moving the same characters (or at least character types) to a more dramatic setting.
The London-based set does the characters a lot of favors and overall this feels like a much more dramatic film for Peter Cushing’s Doctor. Cushing is still likely to surprise and possibly disappoint fans of early Doctor Who, but he gives it his all, even though he was ill during filming, which caused a delay in production, along with numerous accidents on set. Roberta Tovey returns as his granddaughter from the first film and is equally charming. Jill Curzon and Bernard Cribbins replace Jennie Linden and Roy Castle, and though Cribbins as the comic relief is an improvement over Castle, Curzon has little to offer here.
The special effects are about what you would expect from a Doctor Who film — entertaining and somewhat impressive at times, but there are also plenty of moments where you can see things like the strings holding up the Dalek saucer. As with Dr. Who and the Daleks, there is some unintended humor, but this is better balanced in Daleks Invasion by suspenseful scenes of chaos in London and the Daleks causing much more destruction than in the first film. Though Daleks Invasion Earth had a larger budget than Dr. Who and the Daleks, it was not nearly as successful as its predecessor, resulting in the cancellation of a planned third film. There is also a somewhat humorous level of product placement from cereal company Sugar Puffs, which you should keep an eye out for if you watch the film.
Daleks Invasion Earth was filmed in widescreen Technicolor and is presented here, digitally remastered, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, in 1080p resolution, in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is definitely the finest looking edition of the film available and, though not quite as robust as Dr. Who and the Daleks, the remastering makes the Technicolor pop, enhancing one of the film’s strongest elements. This definitely has more age damage and moments of graininess than the first film, but I think that gives it a nostalgic sort of charm.
Studio Canal gives us an LPCM 2.0 mono track that comes with optional subtitles for the hearing impaired. The audio track sounds clear and there is a decent mix between dialogue, the numerous sound effects, and the score. There is a slight hiss, due to the age of the print.
Though there aren’t as many special features as on the Dr. Who and the Daleks Blu-ray, there are still a few goodies included with this release. There’s a seven minute featurette, Restoring Daleks Invasion Earth, and short interviews with co-star Bernard Cribbins and author Gareth Owen. Also included are a stills gallery and a trailer for the film. Much of the information in these extras is somewhat of a rehashing from the extras on the first film, but will still be of interest for Doctor Who and Peter Cushing completists.
The Bottom Line
Overall this is a fun, sci-fi-themed film loosely based on the early Doctor Who series. Though Cushing’s human Doctor lacks the menace and cold intelligence of the first official Doctor, William Hartnell, Cushing fans and Dalek fanatics will want to seek out both of these Doctor Who films for their undeniable entertainment value despite (or because of) moments of silliness. Studio Canal has done a fine job releasing them both on Blu-ray and the combined special features are very enjoyable. U.S. audiences should be forewarned that this Blu-ray release is region B and will only play on region B or multi-region players.
~ By Samm Deighan