Friday, June 1, 2018

Daleks, Daloids and Phaleks (Part I of II)


In December 1966, Dell Movie Classics published a comic strip adaptation of DR WHO AND THE DALEKS with art by Dick Giordano and Sal Trapani. This was the first appearance of any printed story related to Doctor Who in the American market. 

MADE during the rise and fall of Dalekmania, these two cinema adventures - starring Peter Cushing as a non-canon Doctor Who - are concise versions of THE DALEKS and THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH. Faithful to the BBC programmes, the lead character however is portrayed as a bespectacled Grandfather figure, a dotty human inventer rather than William Hartnell's crotchety alien. And although they are credited on-screen as AARU films because of finance from Regal International's Joe Vegoda, both films are widely accepted as Amicus releases.

Originally to be directed by Freddie Francis, DR WHO AND THE DALEKS was a financial rather than critical success. Hastily scripted by Milton Subotsky, who described the production as "a science fiction comedy," its greatest asset is its vivid 2.35:1 colour photography. This gives the previously monochrome Daleks a hierarchy of red, blue and gold, and real scope by making the most of Shepperton's expansive sound stages. DALEKS - INVASION EARTH 2150 AD is much more sombre, though both entries have a cast that dwells on relations (granddaughter Susan (Roberta Tovey) appears in the two movies, while her older sister Barbara (Jennie Linden) is in the first film, and Doctor Who's niece Louise (Jill Curzon) the second). This matinee-mentality is completed by comic relief: accident-prone Ian (Roy Castle) is Barbara's new boyfriend, and constable Tom Campbell (Bernard Cribbins) inadvertently joins the crew for the later tale.

Despite rescheduling due to Peter Cushing's virulent bout of flu, DALEKS - INVASION EARTH 2150 AD is the more rounded of the two films.

With Vegoda buoyant on the initial box office success, Subotsky was less excited about a sequel, correctly perceiving that Dalekmania was already waning. Darker and more violent in tone, DALEKS - INVASION EARTH 2150 AD had the adverse effect on its audience to the day-glo yarn set on Skaro. Despite improved critical reaction and its bigger budget (thanks in part to Sugar Puffs, where product placement can be seen throughout the feature), costs were not recouped and plans for a third picture shelved. A far superior piece, the gritty INVASION strips away the juvenile escapism to reveal characters in real peril, a world away from the Thals' golden hair and heavy eye shadow from the first movie.

Kevin Davies' hour-long DALEKMANIA documentary - which has accompanied home disc releases on numerous occasions - is a charming look at this motion picture birth and death. The framing device of a ticket taker - played by Davros himself, Michael Wisher - welcoming two excited children perfectly sets the scene for a series of interviews where the players recount fond memories of their time within the most neglected part of WHO history. Amongst the participants we have Thal Barrie Ingham - delighting that his portrayal has appeared in a comic strip - and stuntman Eddie Powell, recalling his on-set accident while being exterminated. Most touching though are Roberta Tovey's recollections of working with director Gordon Flemyng and particularly Cushing, where it is alleged the actor only agreed to make the second film if Tovey also returned.