Although part of the horror collection Night of Horror Do Not Watch Alone, there is very little horror in this 1967 British feature, which is better categorized as science fiction. But no matter, as there are some subtle horror elements that warrant a short review.
Directed by Freddie Francis (Academy Awards for the pictures Sons and Lovers and Glory), They Came from Beyond Space was inspired by Joseph Millard’s book The Gods Hate Kansas. The screenplay by Milton Subotsky follows the novel relatively well, with many of its elements kept intact.
The story is straightforward. The movie opens when several meteors fall in a field in a small British community. Several scientists, led by Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The Medusa Touch) are sent to investigate, but they are taken over by the mental “souls” of the aliens embedded in the meteors. Frustrated because he could not go, Dr. Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton of You Only Live Twice and Trog) begins to worry when the team does not return. Instead, he learns that his team is now building barricades around the area and acquiring materials and technology for some unknown reason.
The reason Temple could not join the expedition is that he has a metal plate in his head. It is this very characteristic that prevents the aliens from assimilating him into the collective, and thus he is driven away every time he attempts to make physical contact with his team. Desperate, Temple enlists the help of friend and technical colleague Farge (Zia Mohyeddin), who melts down his silver trophies to design a helmet that will also protect him from mental attack.
The two men then make their way through the barricades, where they find that the alien beings are constructing rockets, which they are sending to the moon. The aliens have also created what is called the “crimson plague,” which seemingly kills humans but in actuality places them in suspended animation so that they can be sent to the moon as workers.
The final reel of the movie has Temple, Farge, and a now restored Lee Mason confronting the Master of the Moon (played by Michael Gough). It turns out that the aliens are a benign but almost-dead race desperate to return to their home planet to die. The three humans agree to help them in any way they can.
Using sets and props from the more exciting and engaging Daleks—Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., They Came from Beyond Space is a talky but relatively entertaining movie. As stated before, there is little horror here (although the crimson plague is a definite horror element), but the science fiction elements are good. As with most old-school British cinema, good ideas translate to lackluster props and special effects, so it helps to have some imagination while watching this flick.
What really makes the film hard to watch are some of the performances, the stench of bad cheese sprinkled through the script, and the lackluster ending. All these elements fall onto the scriptwriter and director, both of whom were willing to settle on such horrid sequences that have viewers cringing rather than cheering for the movie. Still, the overall ideas presented in the film are in keeping with stronger entries, such as the Quatermass series of films and others. For that alone, They Came from Beyond Space is worth at least one viewing.