Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Day Mars Invaded Earth

FXM Retro has had the film The Day Mars Invaded Earth in their rotation for some time now. For some reason I thought I had done a full-length post on the film, but apparently not. At any rate, it's coming up again several times in the next week, starting at 12:30 PM tomorrow (May 4), and is well worth a watch.

Kent Taylor plays Dr. David Fielding, a scientist working with NASA, or the NASA-equivalent, on their latest big mission: a probe to Mars. And as the movie opens up, it's the day when the probe is supposed to land on the red planet and start sending information back to Earth. But something odd happens, as we see some sort of explosion which suggests the mision has in fact failed. Back on earth, Dr. Fielding is talking on the phone and to one of his colleagues in his office when suddenly, the image the movie viewer gets becomes hazy. It's a sign that something is going on, and that nobody is noticing whatever that something is.

Dr. David, for his part, attributes it to stres, as he just feels as though he's zoned out for a bit. He's got a lot on his mind. Not only this technically demanding space mission, but also his family back home. The Fieldings had been living in California, and of course NASA is based in Florida. That's put some strain on the marriage betwewen the good doctor and his wife Claire (Marie Windsor). She's been living with the two kids making a little extra money by being the caretakers at a lovely estate in the Los Angeles area. It's when Dr. David gets back to that estate that the creepy fun really begins.

Being an estate, there are a lot of grounds, outbuildings, and places where it would be easy for people who aren't very familiar with the estate to get lost. So David has a scene where he sees his wife and calls out to her, only for her not to respond. And then he gets back to the caretakers' house and finds Claire there, having arrived much too quickly. It's as though David has seen a ghost. Claire has a similar experience with David, but perhaps the most disconcerting is one that daughter Judi has. She actually sees her doppelgänger, right in the bedroom with her! Oh, and it doesn't help that her boyfriend has just been killed in a suspicious car accident too. Apparently he knows too much about what's going on at the estate, and he has to be eliminated for it.

But what, exactly, is going on? I don't want to give that away, although unfortunately the one-sentence synopsis in the box guide does give it away, which I think is to the detriment of a first-time viewer. That having been said, the title of the movie does give a hint. The Day Mars Invaded Earth is one of those movies that fits well into the tradition of a Cat People, although it came 20 years later. It looks like it's done on a terribly low budget, except that this is something that works to the film's benefit, as not being able to spring for any sort of effects makes the viewers try to fill in the blanks themselves. That results in something super-creepy, as the slow action builds a sense of beign disconcerted. And the ending is one I found as good as anything you'd see in a film of this genre.

The Day Mars Invaded Earth will never be mistaken for any of the prestige movies of the 1960s. But it's quite effective and entertaining in its own right. I'm not certain if it's available on DVD, but if you've got FXM, you've got several opportunities to catch it this week.

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