The next time someone asks why I still prefer physical media over streaming, I’m gonna use the 4K release of Invaders from Mars as an example.
The film's final act largely takes place in underground tunnels dug by malevolent martians, with translucent bubbles covering the walls. It’s revealed in one of the disc’s bonus features that hundreds of inflated condoms were used to create that effect. And all this time I thought it was Tom Savini who pioneered using “poppa stoppers” as movie props.
You just don’t get such amusing trivia tidbits from streaming a movie on Netflix (if they bother even showing an artifact as ancient as Invaders from Mars). This lovingly - and painstakingly - restored version of the minor martian classic comes loaded with bonus material featuring similar stories related to its production, as well as an appreciation for its director, William Cameron Menzies.
Speaking of which, Menzies was mostly known as a production designer, but occasionally sat in the director’s chair and was responsible for the most visually striking sci-fi film of the 1930s, Things to Come. He brings that same flair to Invaders from Mars, albeit on a much smaller budget. Still, there’s a dreamlike quality to the first half of the film that lifts it above the usual budget-conscious quickies being cranked out at the time. The police station sequence even has an aesthetic similar to what Orson Welles achieved with 1962’s The Trial.
|When the machine steals your quarter.|
In fact, the narrative descends into B-movie goofiness once the Martians are revealed and the fight begins. The low budget is reflected by repeated shots of soldiers & green-suited aliens running among the rubbers, as well as comical amounts of stock footage of rolling tanks. But even though Invaders from Mars was never mistaken for a masterpiece, it’s a lot of old-fashioned sci-fi fun that never slows down for a minute and comes to an interesting conclusion (which was somewhat unconventional for the time).
The film looks and sounds outstanding in 4K (it’s also being released on Blu-ray), with additional bonus features covering the restoration process in great detail. Other supplements offer plenty of historical context and a good argument that Invaders from Mars was always a bit more important and influential than most similarly-budgeted sci-fi flicks of the era. If nothing else, it reveals another useful application for a few hundred condoms. You can’t get that from streaming.
“WILLIAM CAMERON MENZIES: ARCHITECT OF DREAMS” - An excellent appreciation of the production designer turned director.
“JIMMY HUNT SAVES THE PLANET” - Little Jimmy Hunt is now in his 80s, and still has plenty of affectionate anecdotes to share.
“TERROR FROM ABOVE” - Several contemporary filmmakers discuss how Invaders from Mars influenced them.
“RESTORING THE INVASION” - Featuring restoration producer Scott MacQueen.
TCM FESTIVAL INTRODUCTION - The film was recently shown at the festival, introduced by indie legend John Sayles.
“A NIGHTMARE OF RESTORATION” (Supplemental Booklet) - A detailed and entertaining essay by restoration producer Scott MacQueen. Booklet also includes interesting photos and restoration/release credits.
EUROPEAN OBSERVATORY SEQUENCE - This superfluous scene was shot and added much later to pad the film’s length for its European release.
EUROPEAN ENDING - The “it was all a dream” conclusion of the original is replaced by a more conventional one.
ORIGINAL & RE-RELEASE TRAILERS