A group of British scientists are working on psychic research as a method for space travel. The head of the project, Dr Mark Davidson, finds that his new Swiss wife, Julie, has come under the paranoid gaze of the Secret Service. And with good reason as Julie is an alien, part of a task force of extraterrestrials sent to Earth to marry leading scientists and arrange for their deaths should their research pose a threat to their imminent invasion.
John Neville ... Dr. Mark Davidson
Gabriella Licudi ... Julie Davidson
Philip Stone ... Prof. John Lancaster
Patrick Newell ... Maj. Clarke
Jean Marsh ... Miss Ballard
Warren Mitchell ... Prof. Geoffrey D. Munro
Even though I'm a fan of obscure movies, it's amazing to me that I even heard of this movie, much less find a copy, but I consider it worth the effort. The stark minimalism technique makes this like a slightly extended episode of an anthology series like "The Twilight Zone" (and the running time is still quite short at 75 minutes). The one word I think that best describes this movie is "competent." In other words, the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing; they had to, I suppose, working with what seems an almost non-existent budget. They knew how to elicit an emotional reaction of claustrophobia from the audience - something few filmmakers can do exceptionally well in the sci-fi genre - Ridley Scott's "Alien" is one other film that comes to mind. Every bizarre angular shot composition, every set piece, every facial close-up, every soundtrack cue, is blended seamlessly to make the viewer sweat.
For science fiction, this movie is very unique - even for a typically-cerebral British sci-fi production. There are no slimy aliens to look at, no space craft, and no robots. Instead, like the storyline itself, all the suspense comes from the viewer's own imagination. If you can find it, I highly recommend seeing this at night. The only other movie I can think of which demonstrates such continuous suspense with scant resources is Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 film noir "Detour." I almost think they should show this as a primer to film students on how to make a film successfully with little or no money.
To call this modest British film low budget is the worst kind of misrepresentation: the budget on creativity and skill at work here surpasses that found in most multi-million dollar productions.
Filmed in stark black-and-white with virtually no visual effects, "Unearthly Stranger" relies on sheer dramatic power to tell its story of an alien plan to sabotage Earth's developing ability for space travel. The film is written and directed with care and performed with a conviction that brings across the suspense and humanity of this story in a way rarely seen in the genre.
Many of the filmmakers would soon be working on TV's "The Avengers", including producer Albert Fennell and director John Krish. Fans of that series will also recognize many familiar faces among the cast. The strongest performances come from John Neville, distinguished stage actor and teacher, and the almost-unknown and very beautiful Gabriella Licudi who, in the title role, brings the concept of interplanetary communications to an entirely new level.
The odd man out in this production is certainly scenarist Rex Carlton. On the basis of this film, it is almost inconceivable that he is the same man responsible for the lurid "Brain That Wouldn't Die" and "Blood of Dracula's Castle", among others. One is tempted to give credit to Jeffrey Stone, who penned the original screen story. But this is a claim that's impossible to support, because Stone was involved as a writer on no other films. So, one can only say that none of Carlton's other screen work would ever approach the level of this, his most subtle and affecting accomplishment.
It is well worth tracking down for any fan of fine science fiction or, indeed, any fan of quality filmmaking.
One of the most entertaining films to come out of British studios in the Sixties which sadly has never been given the plaudits it richly deserved. Both Neville and Stone (who played an excellent part in "The Shining"), demonstrated total commitment and kept the pace and excitement of the plot going right to the end. And we shouldn't neglect to mention Patrick Newell, who played the 'sweet-toothed' security bod, with precision-like reality. I too was surprised by the similarity to the plot of William Sloane's "TO WALK THE NIGHT", an eerie and thought-provoking story I first read in 1959 and have read a dozen times since. The similarity is just too close to be coincidence and it is nothing short of criminal not to have Sloane's name on the credits. The film was excellent; the novel is superb, both deserve a place in any SF collection.