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- Invaders from Mars () directed by Tobe Hooper • Reviews, film + cast • Letterboxd
- Invaders from Mars
- Cannon Fodder: 'Invaders From Mars' And Tobe Hooper's 1980s Woes
Invaders from Mars was directed by William Cameron Menzies. Menzies was a former production designer and art director who started in the silent era and had worked on classic films like The Thief of Bagdad , The Son of the Sheik and Gone with the Wind and then had begun directing with Always Goodbye Moreover, Menzies uses sets to generate an intense sense of spatial dis-ease — when David enters the police station, the station foyer becomes sinisterly alienating with its oversized doors and forebodingly heightened front desk set across a white plain.
Invaders from Mars is made on the cheap but often with remarkably effective economy. Instead of any crashed spaceship, Menzies creates merely a single set of a bare hillock, a few trees and some sand dunes. Nothing is seen of the Martians for over half the film, they only exist as something shifting beneath the sand. The first half of the film generates some excellent mood but the latter half about the military hunting the Martians down in the tunnels becomes less interesting. Like Invasion of Body Snatchers with its tacked-on ending where the psychiatrist appeals to the FBI, the film is unwilling to countenance the belief that the forces of authority and government ultimately would not save humanity in the eventuality of an alien invasion.
Wen we eventually do get down into the tunnels, there is some fun in watching the military taking on the invaders.
Invaders from Mars was intended to be shot in 3D, although this was abandoned for budgetary reasons. Nevertheless, many of the shots have clearly been intended for the 3D medium, which gives the impression that the choice to abandon filming this way was made after the film began shooting.
He creates a number of eerie perspective shots — the way a line of warehouses fades into viewpoint, or a laboratory where the test-tubes in a lab are all lined up the foreground of the shot. Some prints of Invaders from Mars have a different ending. But ''Invaders From Mars'' can still produce moments of pure, knuckle-whitening fear -largely because of the psychological horror as David Gardner's teacher, friends and neighborhood policemen are all sucked into a whirling vortex of sand to be spit up again as strangers.
The director, Tobe Hooper, who honed his scary craft on such films as ''The Texas Chain Saw Massacre'' and ''Poltergeist,'' knows how to construct a horror film so it builds to a screaming pitch. He shoots many of his images from below, to give the view a child might have, and deftly manipulates the audience to feel the growing menace. He is helped by an excellent cast. Timothy Bottoms plays the brief moments in which he is a loving father so tenderly that his transformation into a cold automaton with hooded glazed eyes is doubly chilling.
Invaders from Mars () directed by Tobe Hooper • Reviews, film + cast • Letterboxd
Laraine Newman creates a loving, slightly offbeat mother, and Karen Black is terrific as Linda Magnusson, the school nurse who is the only adult to believe David Gardner's story and so helps to save him and herself. Her warmth stands as a reminder of what is almost lost.
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Hunter Carson, Miss Black's real-life son, gives a remarkably honest performance as David Gardner, completely lacking in childhood affectation. Louise Fletcher, as Mrs.
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McKeltch, is everybody's nightmare teacher, silencing her class by holding her finger in the air and counting threateningly to five. McKeltch may personify evil for another generation of viewers. The special effects in this film have come a long way from the original version, in which the Martians wore furry suits. When we finally see the garish spaceship, the Martian guards and the Supreme Intelligence in the second half of the film, we see complicated wildly imaginative fantasy creations.
But oddly, the film becomes less terrifying. We get lost in the complexities of the inventions and finally they seem overdone and overproduced.
Invaders from Mars
When the horror was hinted at but unseen, the director could build the suspense to a more frightening climax. A scene in which David spies on Mrs.
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McKeltch and sees her swallow a frog whole is as grotesque and spine-tingling as anything conjured up in the Martians' spaceship. Hooper has done more than make a remake of ''Invaders From Mars. Amateur sleuths who have seen the original might enjoy looking at the remake for some in-jokes and sly references to the film and other 50's outer-space fantasies. One interesting touch is the actor Jim Hunt, called out of retirement to play the role of the police chief who walks over the hill to look for David's father.
As he walks into the distance he says, ''I haven't been here for forty years. Thirty-three years ago he walked over that hill as the actor playing the original David Gardner. It contains some scenes that might be frightening to small children. Running time: 93 minutes.
Cannon Fodder: 'Invaders From Mars' And Tobe Hooper's 1980s Woes
This film is rated PG. Linda Magnusson Karen Black, David Gardner Timothy Bottoms, Ellen Gardner Laraine Newman, Mrs. Louise Fletcher, General Wilson Bud Cort, Police Chief Jim Hunt.