The Terrornauts on DVD

Monday, 17 March 2014 09:35 Written by 

The Terrornauts on DVDCult movie producers Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg swiftly followed up their duo of 1960s “Doctor Who” cinematic spectaculars with this whacky SF adventure, based on “The Wailing Asteroid” by Hugo-award winning author Murray Leinster. Joe Burke and Ben Keller, a pair of astronomers searching for signs of intelligent life in outer space, lock onto a mysterious radio signal, little knowing that when they send a reply they will end up in a battle for the future of the galaxy!

Simon Oates (Dr Ridge in Doomwatch) and Stanley Meadows (Inspector Keightley in “The Ipcress File”) star as the aforementioned scientists, aided by the glamorous Zena Marshall (Miss Taro in “Dr No”) as their assistant. This was Zena’s final role, as she retired from the acting profession to concentrate on life with her third husband, the writer and producer Ivan Foxwell.

Also swept along for the interstellar ride are “Carry On” star Charles Hawtrey as Joshua Yellowlees (an attention-seeking auditor), and Patricia Hayes (Min in Till Death Us Do Part) as Mrs Jones, a very opinionated tea lady. Montgomery Tully (Man from Interpol) directs.

Although it was made in 1967, this movie feels like it really belongs in the 1950s. The sets and effects are definitely not as robust as the “Who” movies, though there are some notable similarities, including a wobbly robot that might be a distant relative of the Daleks crossed with Robbie the Robot from “Forbidden Planet”, some control panels that look quite familiar and one or two sound effects that must have been borrowed from the two earlier films!

The first half of the film is a relatively calm, slightly tense segment that reminded me of Jodie Foster's “Contact”, as the scientists desperately seek signs of alien life before their dwindling grant money runs dry. They also have to rally against the sceptical views of boss Dr Henry Shore (Max Adrian, who played Ludicrus Sextus in Up Pompeii!) who holds the fate of their project in his hands.

The second half of the picture is quite honestly bananas, especially in the hour-long re-release. With a few key sections cut out, the pacing would have Lewis Hamilton sweating. Events fly by with no time to take stock, and it feels like they only had enough money for one take.

Providing you do not blink, scenes will remind you of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass tales, the 1960 version of “The Time Machine”, Jon Pertwee's Doctor Who “Death to the Daleks” and possibly most pertinently, the 1955 classic “The Island Earth”.

Fans of lovably daft science fiction and creature features from the 1950s and 1960s will definitely find something to cherish in this movie. Hawtrey and Hayes are on fine comedic form and get all the best lines, there is plenty of imagination on show (even if the meagre budget struggles to do it justice!), and best of all, it features one of the craziest monster designs I have ever witnessed (seek it out in the original cut).

The DVD includes two versions of the film: one is a cleaned-up 58-minute edition, which has been available for broadcasters for some time, and the other is the original theatrical release, running at 74 minutes albeit with a lot of scratches and noise. This longer version was only recently discovered, which was the reason that this DVD release was delayed to accommodate it. I recommend you watch the shorter version first and then skip through the latter to catch the puzzle-room scenes from the longer format as they are highly entertaining!

A trailer and image gallery round off the package.

“The Terrornauts” (1967) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Network Releasing. The main feature has a running time of 58 minutes approx (74 minutes for the original cut), carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £9.99, or get it for less from www.culttvstore.com

 

 

Additional reporting by Alex J Geairns

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