Unearthly Stranger DVD/Blu-ray

Sunday, 09 November 2014 00:00 Written by 

Unearthly Stranger comes to DVD"Unearthly Stranger" is a neat, British, sci-fi chiller, all about a group of scientists involved in cutting-edge research. They are on the verge of discovering a way to harness untapped energy in the brain to project one's mind through time and space, potentially across galaxies. Worryingly, each time the secret formula is discovered, those involved start to die, horribly and inexplicably. Who or what is behind these unseen attacks?

John Neville ("Baron Munchausen", Well-Manicured Man in The X-Files) stars as Dr Mark Davidson, the scientist promoted following his predecessor's recent, tragic death. Davidson savours the opportunity but discovers that he is obstructed by bureaucracy and a nagging paranoia that someone, or some… thing is undermining his progress. Meanwhile, his superiors turn their attention on Mark's new wife, a beautiful woman who exhibits some odd behaviour.

Co-stars include Philip Stone ("The Shining", "Barry Lyndon") as Research Director John Lancaster, Patrick Newell (Mother in The Avengers) as the very chirpy but disruptive Major Clarke, Gabriella Licudi (1967's "Casino Royale") as Mark's glamorous wife, and Jean Marsh (Sara Kingdom in Doctor Who, "Frenzy") as Miss Ballard, the scientists' very efficient secretary.

Like the other recent Network sci-fi release ("Invasion"), this movie is very much a product of the mid-1960s, an era of ongoing distrust and suspicion amongst the world's co-called super powers. There is a race to come up with scientific research that outstrips what the 'other guys' have come up with, to get the upper hand at all costs. When anything goes wrong, it must be the other side that is responsible.

Clarke, Lancaster and Davidson initially suspect the Russians are behind the inexplicable deaths, but as contrary evidence mounts they soon broaden their horizons! The film is a good companion to the likes of the original, 1956 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and 1953's "Invaders from Mars". Gnawing fear is stoked by both the suspicion that aliens may be amongst us, but also that their means of attack is unseen and its range is infinite.

The acting is good across the board, but Newell stands out thanks to his unusually bubbly and at the same time sinister portrayal of Major Clarke. He looks like a happy, rotund beaver but manages to vex those around him with consummate ease.

The film does not feature a lot action and most of it is set in offices and homes, so it is to the credit of all of those involved that considerable atmosphere and tension is established. Eerie music, wonky camera angles and moody lighting bolster the production. Director John Krish went on to direct a few episodes of The Avengers.

Special features include a trailer and an image gallery. The Blu-ray version reviewed is impressively sharp, with minimal noise and plenty of depth to the black and white picture. The sound quality is not up to the same standard but is clear enough, albeit with some occasional imbalance between the loud music and quieter dialogue.

“Unearthly Stranger" (1964) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Network. The main feature has a running time of 75 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £9.99 on DVD and £14.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Sunday, 09 November 2014 17:24

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