With the BBC gearing up to celebrate the 50th anniversary (opens in new tab) of Doctor Who (opens in new tab) in November and this year marking the centenary of the birth of actor Peter Cushing (opens in new tab), its the perfect time to re-release the two 1960s Dalek films (opens in new tab) in which Cushing played the iconic Time Lord on the big screen – in colour and in Techniscope (opens in new tab). Both films have been restored for their Blu-ray HD debut and they have never looked better.
THE HISTORY When Dalekmania (opens in new tab) hit the UK in 1964, a big-screen colour adaptation was quickly put into production by producer Joe Vegoda (opens in new tab) (who secured the rights from Dalek creator Terry Nation (opens in new tab) for just £500) and Amicus (opens in new tab) (who brought Peter Cushing (opens in new tab) to play the Doctor and Roy Castle (opens in new tab) as his comic sidekick). When the widescreen spectacle was released on 23 August, Dr Who & the Daleks became one of the top 20 hits of 1965.
With the Vietnam War escalating in 1966, all US film investment was withdrawn which crippled the British film industry. To fund Dalek's Invasion Earth: 2150AD, the film-makers persuaded Quaker Oats to put up the money in exchange for product placement and a number of tie-ins. The new Techniscope sci-fi was developed with Cushing and the same crew, while Bernard Cribbins (opens in new tab) took over Castle's duties as the comic stooge. The results however (the film was released in 5 August 1966), was a mixed bag with critics calling it ‘a bit tatty’ – ‘like leftovers from an old film about the London Blitz’. With audiences also less enthusiastic, Dalekmania was officially over.
THE LOWDOWN Seeing the Daleks in colour and on the big screen for the first time in the 1960s must have been one of those priceless childhood memories. Sadly, I’m from a generation that only ever saw it on the small screen (not on a smartphone, but a 1980s black and white TV set). Now that these bubblegum adventures from British cinema’s golden age have been lovingly restored, I finally have a valid excuse to release my inner child.
StudioCanal (opens in new tab)’s HD re-mastering of Dr Who & the Daleks is stunning, like a fluroescent comic book come to life. The Daleks look better than I remember (and I still prefer them to the current TV series incarnations), while the studio bound sets of the petrified forest and the Dalek city really zing with colour and scope.
Daleks’ Invasion also benefits from a nice clean transfer (though there’s a loss of grain in the effects shots). Like the first film, everything comes up nice and sparkly here, except the scenes of a devastated future London (just check out those Sugar Puffs signs), which only shows up the film’s tight budget. Philip Madoc getting blown up in the garden shed remains one of my most favourite moments.
THE EXTRASDr Who & the Daleks • Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey 2002 commentary. • Dalekmania (opens in new tab): 1995 documentary made to tie in the with original VHS release. • Restoring Dr Who & the Daleks: A look at how the film was digitally restored. • Interview with The Shepperton Story author Gareth Owen on the making of the film. • Stills gallery • The fab 'So close you can feel their fire!' trailer. Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD • Restoring Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D: A look at the Techniscope format. • Interview with Bernard Cribbins (nice memories here) • Gareth Owen looks at the problems that affected the film. • Stills gallery • Theatrical trailer
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