Anchor Bay // 1966 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // January 18th, 2002
Dr. Who returns in an out-of-this-world battle for the future!
The first Dr. Who movie, Dr. Who and the Daleks, was wildly successful in its native Britain, becoming one of the top ten films at the British box office in 1965. With the success of the first film work on a sequel was begun almost immediately, and appeared in theaters a year later. Returning from the first film are Peter Cushing as The Doctor, and Roberta Tovey as his granddaughter Susan. Newcomers to the cast include Jill Curzon (Smokescreen, 80,000 Suspects) as The Doctor's niece Louise, and Bernard Cribbins (Casino Royale, Ghost of a Chance) as Tom Campbell, a London police officer who comes along for the ride.
As the action begins, we see a lonely London cop walking his beat. From out of nowhere a man jumps him and knocks him to the ground. There is an explosion, and a gang of thieves run out of the shadows and rob a jewelry store. The policeman regains his feet and staggers to the nearest police call box to request assistance. The only problem is that this is no ordinary police box -- it is the TARDIS, and is just leaving as poor Tom staggers in. Dr. Who, inventor of this time machine, welcomes Tom along and introduces him to his traveling companions, Susan and Louise. Their destination is London in the year 2150 A. D.
When they arrive in London, all is not as they expected. For one thing, everyone is dressed exactly as they might have been in the 20th century, most likely during The Blitz. More to the point, the city is in ruins, and the few remaining human occupants live as stragglers and resistance fighters amongst the debris. The visitors from the 1960s soon discover the source of the trouble: the Daleks have invaded Earth, destroyed London, and enslaved the population. They have ordered most of the humans to work in a great mine in the English countryside, but some of them they have converted into a fearsome fighting force of automatons known as Robomen. They also have a menacing flying saucer which serves as their command post and looks pretty darn cool, except for the clearly visible wires from which it is suspended.
The Doctor and his companions are captured by the Daleks, and then escape with the help of the resistance. It turns out that the Daleks are trying to dig a mine to the center of the Earth, where they will place a nuclear bomb. This bomb will somehow eject the Earth's molten metal core into space, which in turn will somehow allow the Daleks to pilot the now-dead planet through space to the vicinity of their own planet, where they will use it for...well, I'm not sure what, exactly. (This whole part of the plot defies understanding.) They need the humans to dig the mine shaft due to some sort of problem with the Earth's magnetic field and how it interferes with Daleks and their technology. And, somehow, if Dr. Who and his friends can redirect the bomb down the wrong shaft, it will release a burst of energy from the Earth's magnetic field that will destroy the Daleks. Don't ask me how it all works.
On this disc, Anchor Bay has matched the excellent efforts we saw on their DVD of Dr. Who and the Daleks. Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is presented in anamorphic widescreen in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. They have once again done an outstanding job with this transfer, especially given the age of the movie. The image overall is very sharp and clear, with a minimum of background artifacting and surprisingly little film grain evident. Colors are crisp and faithfully rendered, including the tricky reds and blacks, and the deep blue of the TARDIS police box. The few drawbacks to the transfer are that it seems slightly dark for most of the running time, and colors tend to be a bit oversaturated and garish in places. Still, these drawbacks are minimal and for the most part Anchor Bay has done an excellent job.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Sound quality is good but not great. There is no noticeable distortion or hiss, but dialogue does come through as a bit muffled and hard to understand from time to time, as though the audio is skewed a bit to the low register and has sacrificed high-end clarity.
Anchor Bay provides some interesting content on this disc; the problem is that a lot of it is repeated from the Dr. Who and the Daleks disc. There is a theatrical trailer. There is a huge collection of posters and production stills, totaling around 60 in all. However, borrowed from the previous DVD is the "photo essay" on the history of Dr. Who and the biography of Peter Cushing. Both of these items were interesting the first time around on the first DVD in this collection, but less interesting this time. Unlike the DVD of the first movie, there is no commentary track on this disc.
Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is something of an improvement over the first film, but not by much. The plot, while equally clichéd, is a bit more interesting than the plot of the first movie, at least until we get to the bit about drilling a hole in the planet to suck out the core and pilot it elsewhere. The premise is a bit more interesting at any rate, the idea of traveling to the future and finding the unexpected and having to fight back. The problem is, The Doctor's intervention doesn't do much to solve the real problem. Sure, he helps to defeat the Daleks. So what? This is a guy with a time machine; why is he worried about fixing the barn door after the horse is gone? As a larger issue, the departures that the first film made from the established Dr. Who mythos are retained in this one, and that greatly detracts from any potential enjoyment of this picture. The plot is further damaged by the introduction of a human who is collaborating with the Daleks and eventually sells out The Doctor and his friends. It is never explained what exactly the Daleks could promise a human in order to get him to turn traitor, especially when their plans for the Earth and humanity are so easily discovered.
The characterizations seemed a bit better in this outing, with Cushing's Doctor less doddering and a bit more focused. In this movie The Doctor is quite clever and resourceful, even if his ultimate plan to foil the Daleks makes even less sense than their scheme to hijack the Earth. Motivations are clearer as well; we can see why The Doctor would fight to free the Earth people from the Daleks. This stands in marked contrast to the first film, where he decided to join a generations-old planetary civil war out of mere curiosity.
Still, the Daleks are as clunky as ever, the dialogue is as bad as might be expected, and the action scenes must be seen to be believed. I found it interesting that the mighty Daleks, impervious to human weapons including bombs, could be easily destroyed by shoving them down a ramp too fast and making them fall over, at which point they obligingly explode. All of the methods used to defeat the Daleks in the first film are brought to bear here as well, clever tricks such as simply pointing a Dalek at another Dalek, or anything else a human would like to see destroyed. Even worse than these wimpy Daleks are their pawns, the Robomen. Dressed in shiny black outfits that look like garbage bags, and wearing cheesy 1960s motorcycle helmets with visors over Buddy Holly-style sunglasses, the Robomen are impossible to take seriously. There is an excruciatingly long "comedy" scene where Officer Tom, disguised as a Roboman, tries to blend in by mimicking their movements at feeding time. The manner in which the Doctor eventually defeats the Robomen is an insult to the audience, disguised as a clever ploy.
Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. starts out stronger than Dr. Who and the Daleks, and shows a lot of promise. The early scenes in ruined London are impressive and eerie, and the scene of a Dalek emerging out of the water to threaten our heroes is the one time in either film that the Daleks manage to look menacing. However, the movie soon deteriorates into a mishmash of Robomen, standard chases and escapes, and the extreme silliness about sucking out the Earth's molten core. This movie fared poorly at the British box office, and sank the hopes of the producers to create a movie-per-year series. For that we should all be grateful.
Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., along with those who made it, is guilty. Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey are acquitted on the strength of their acting performances. Anchor Bay is cleared of all charges except for "neglect of English subtitles."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical Trailer
* Photo Essay: A History of Dr. Who
* Poster and Still Gallery
* Peter Cushing Bio