Dr Who Dalek Films on Blu-ray

Thursday, 30 May 2013 18:05
Posted in Blu-Ray
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Dr Who Dalek Films - out now on Blu-rayIn the mid-1960s when Dalekmania was all the rage, Amicus producers Milton Subotsky and Joe Vegoda spotted a potentially lucrative opportunity to bring the Daleks to the big screen via their Aaru sister company, specially created so as to not cause confusion with the style of productions that Amicus had become famous for. Shot in colourful, widescreen Techniscope, the movies stood apart from the squarer, black and white Doctor Who TV series. Now, released in re-mastered high definition, the movies look better than ever!

Two TV stories were adapted: “The Daleks” and “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”. In a break from the TV series, the first movie’s cast includes Amicus regular Peter Cushing as ‘Dr Who’ (to appeal to the global box office), with Record Breakers’ Roy Castle as a bumbling Ian Chesterton, Jennie Linden (“Women in Love”) as Barbara, and young Roberta Tovey as Susan. Castle and Linden were replaced in the second film by Bernard Cribbins (“The Railway Children”) as copper Tom and Jill Curzon as Louise.

This incarnation of Doctor Who proves to be like experiencing the series in an alternate dimension. It looks fantastic, especially “Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD” (as it was renamed) with all its external location shoots. Vibrant and crammed with several times the number of Daleks seen on the TV, the movies depict the true scope of the stories, when the TV series at the time relied more on capturing its audience’s imagination to make up for its budgetary shortcomings.

Cushing is a far softer, less irritable Doctor that William Hartnell’s TV incarnation, but he is also less mysterious. He is portrayed as an inventor rather than an alien, and although the TARDIS looks similar on the outside, on the inside it lacks a central console, and is a mad arrangement of hanging wires and circuitry. Of course, it is still much larger on the inside.

Tovey is brilliant as Susan, younger than her TV character but still sharp and confident. Ian in the first film and Tom in the second provide some comic relief that was largely absent from the TV versions of these stories. Both Castle and Cribbins carry it off with aplomb. Ian has a habit of tripping over and breaking scenery, whilst Tom’s best scene is when he impersonates a Roboman (a robotised human slave to the Daleks) with hilarious consequences, especially when he falls asleep on the job!

The Daleks themselves are a colourful bunch, though less garish than the behemoths from “Victory of the Daleks”. They exterminate their foes by shooting some kind of gas vapour (as the initial idea of flamethrowers was considered a bit ‘OTT’ and censor-baiting), and they certainly present more of a palpable threat on this scale.

Critically panned but commercially quite successful, certainly in the case of the debut movie, the films do have a lot of charm, though I appreciate that die-hard (or more pedantic) Who fans might have some reservations about them, not least the change of cast. Taken in isolation they stand up pretty well in my view, with “Invasion” the strongest of the pair in terms of pacing, looks, story and effects.

Special features bundled with the films include:

“Dr. Who and the Daleks”

  • Dalekmania documentary
  • Audio commentary with Roberta Tovey and Jenny Linden
  • Restoring “Doctor Who and the Daleks” (new)
  • Interview with author Gareth Owen (new)
  • Stills gallery
  • Trailer

 

“Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD”

  • Restoring “Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD” (new)
  • Interview with Bernard Cribbins (new)
  • Interview with Gareth Owen (new)
  • Stills gallery
  • Trailer

 

A team-up between distributors StudioCanal and the Doctor Who Appreciation Society saw the newly restored High Definition versions of both movies making their debut on the big screen at the Riverside Cinema in London on Sunday 26 May 2013, the day before the release of these new home market versions. On hand was actor Ray Brooks, who played freedom fighter David in the second movie.  Brooks took part in a hilarious Q&A, where apart from talking Daleks, he also waxed lyrical about Mr Benn, which he voiced, and gave a damning indictment of his two years on the soap Eastenders (2005-2007). His autobiography, “Learning My Lines”, is well worth seeking out.

Also on-hand was friend of Cult TV, Kevin Davies. Kevin was the director of the “Dalekmania” feature documentary, included as an extra with the first film. Kevin treated the audience to out-takes from various rare sources including the “Dalekmania” production rushes, and allowing the audience to hear Daleks in various foreign languages from trailers long thought vanished. His Q&A was brief but engaging.

The new restoration featurettes are nicely done and explain in layman’s terms what had to be done in terms of picture and sound correction and refinement to deliver such a pristine end product. The remastered Blu-ray versions of the films really do show off the Techniscope and Technicolor film stock in the best possible light.

“Doctor Who: The Dalek Films” (1965-66) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of StudioCanal. The two main features have a combined running time of 160 minutes approx., carry a ‘U’ certificate and retail for £22.99 on Blu-ray only, and the two movies also retail separately for £15.99 on DVD and £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

ADDITIONAL REPORTING: Alex J Geairns

Last modified on Thursday, 30 May 2013 18:10

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