Invaders from Mars (1953)

86% – Critics
55% – Audience

Invaders from Mars Storyline

One night, young David McLean sees a spaceship crash into a nearby sandpit. His father goes to investigate, but comes back changed. Where once he was cheerful and affectionate, he’s now sullen and snarlingly rude. Others fall into the sandpit and begin acting like him: cold, ill-tempered and conspiratorial. David knows that aliens are taking over the bodies of humans, but he’ll soon discover there have been far more of these terrible thefts than he could have imagined. The young doom-monger finds some serious help in a lady doctor and a brilliant astronomer. Soon they meet the aliens: green creatures with insect-like eyes. These beings prove to be slaves to their leader: a large, silent head with ceaselessly shifting eyes and two tentacles on either side, each of which branches off into three smaller tentacles. It’s up to the redoubtable earth trio to stop its evil plans.—J. Spurlin

Invaders from Mars Photos

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Invaders from Mars Movie Reviews

Childhood favourite

This one scared the hell out of me when I first saw it as a kid; I remember them showing it in the evening on BBC2 back in the 1980s. Looks like a lot of other reviewers were similarly traumatised. Watching it now, as an adult, it’s easy to laugh at what is a shoddy, low budget production. Scenes are repeated, special effects are wobbly to say the least, the aliens are silly rather than menacing, and the paucity of the production is apparent in every respect.

And yet…there’s something oddly menacing about this film. It’s partly the Cold War paranoia-inspired plot about nice, ordinary people being taken over by a sinister foreign menace. Interestingly, this is the earliest version I’ve seen on that theme, predating INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS by a couple of years. The paranoia is cloying and really raises the hackles, even as an adult, and even allowing for the cheesy over-acting of the child star.

The more overt aspects of the story, which take place towards the climax, are also profound, and in this case the imaginative nature of the production outweighs the budgetary constraints. That alien leader, little more than a head in a goldfish bowl, is oddly disturbing and an image that’s stayed with me for my whole life. It’s easy to forgive the problems in a film like INVADERS FROM MARS when it contains such classic, timeless material and I do think this is one of those ’50s-era B-movie alien invasion classics.

nostalgia trip

I was seven years old when I was taken to see this movie by my sixty-year old Lithuanian grandmother (to whom it must have made no sense at all). The images in the movie – the big green guys, the melting rock that looked like an explosion in a bubble gum factory, the people falling into the sand pit, the dreaded implant approaching the pretty neck of Dr. Blake, the little silver octopus-like guy in the fishbowl – all replayed themselves in my mind over many nights. I saw it again recently on AMC and can see many of the things that are dated, but can also understand why the movie made such an impact at the time. The concept, especially, of one’s parents being taken under the control of evil forces is particularly disturbing to a young child. The music and sound effects, too, are particularly eerie. The almost abstract quality of the set in the police station scene lends it a foreboding quality. I’m ambivalent on how to rate it. It very much shows its age (and they could have shortened the stock army footage of tanks rolling) but has much that gives it a weird sort of drawing power even today. A curiously compelling movie.

The Good & Bad Of ‘Invaders From Mars”

A little boy is the star of this film, and he does a fine job acting. Jimmy Hunt is his name, and he didn’t have a big career acting, “retiring” at the end of the following year (1954). He was a decent child actor, as he shows here. He did come back to be part of the remake in 1986, playing the police chief and uttering one ironic and inside-joke line.

I thought the best part of this 1953 sci-fi classic was the beginning where Hunt really took center stage as the kid who saw a Martian UFO crash-land in a nearby area and then saw what the aliens did to his parents and others. I appreciated the fact the film didn’t overdo the “we-don’t-believe-the-dumb kid-angle. I presumed they were going to go on and on about that, but they didn’t. He got a good ally soon and it wasn’t too long where people woke up to what was happening. This was made in the era, unlike the last few decades, in which Hollywood portrayed the U.S. military as the good guys.

There is no need to go into story details. The fun of the film is the corny lines here and there and, of course, the horrible special-effects, some of which will make you laugh out loud.

This was meant to scare kids 55 years ago but now, as adults, we just look at these films as “campy” or “cheesy” entertainment to give us laughs, and keep us entertained. For the most part, this film delivered in those areas. You can’t take any of it seriously because it’s too hokey for that. I was sorry to see them use stock footage. That really wasn’t needed because the story and acting were acceptable enough, and the dialog dumb enough to be entertaining. Still, don’t expect a “masterpiece,” or something that is so bad, it’s great. It’s kind of somewhere in the middle.

Generally speaking, I enjoyed this film, but after hearing some rave reviews, expected a little more. My major complaint – and it only one – is that it lags halfway through, until the last 20-or-so minutes.