Invasion, a 1966 British sci-fi flick, is a cracking little movie on its own merits. Spooky, atmospheric and well-performed, it has a lot going for it, not least stylish direction by the recently-deceased Alan Bridges, who carved out a distinguished career for himself in TV, film and theatre.
However, Invasion will also appeal to the considerable ranks of Doctor Who aficionados, because it is a template for the much-loved debut story of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), Spearhead From Space. A glance at the credits explains why: the script is based on a story by Robert Holmes, who recycled his idea beat by beat three years later for the popular TV show.
An alien spacecraft mysteriously crash lands upon earth. Dazed, the alien occupant (Ric Young) staggers free. Remarkably human-looking, save for the rubber suit (predictable costume design and a laughably bad alien spaceship are black marks against this otherwise imaginative film), the alien is involved in a road traffic accident and is rushed to the local country hospital. There, doctors are baffled by an x-ray and blood sample. But it seems the visitor to earth is not alone, and more of his own people have arrived who will stop and nothing to find him.
The humans’ problems are only just beginning. With a force field around the hospital that allows nobody out, the dashing Dr Mike Vernon (Edward Judd) has to find a way of warning the outside world as the temperature slowly rises, threatening the lives of patients and staff within.
In only 78 minutes, Invasion covers a lot of ground, and the story rips along. The black and white film stock benefits the creepy atmosphere that director Alan Bridges establishes and maintains throughout. Sure, Invasion isn’t a groundbreaking film, and it doesn’t offer searing insights into the human condition; but for an entertaining yarn well-told with a number of great set-pieces, Invasion more than satisfies.
Edward Judd is suitably heroic in the lead role of Dr Mike Vernon, ably turning up the tension as the hospital descends into peril. He’s wonderfully flirty with Valerie Gearon’s Dr Claire Harland, though of course in a family-friendly film in 1966 the two leads do no more than glower and undress one another with their eyes. The distinctive-looking Yôko Tani plays Nurse Lim – who may not be all she claims to be, whilst Glyn Houston (Keep It In The Family) lends able support as a dependable policeman doing his best in extraordinary circumstances.
Invasion is a lot of fun, and a fine example of British science-fiction movie-making from the 1960s. The breadth of talent across the board lifts the production, with only poor design working against it. If you normally enjoy nostalgia-soaked archive British sci-fi, Invasion won’t disappoint.
Extras comprise an original theatrical trailer and an image gallery. It is released as part of Network’s The British Film collection.