Network Distribution, out now
Who would ever have thought that getting a casserole out of the oven would be the clue to an alien presence among us?
Unearthly Stranger is one of those movies which is known to a few but which deserves a wider audience – which it will hopefully get from this crisp transfer by Network. Directed by John Krish, it was hailed at the time as the best British SF film since Village of the Damned, and while it’s certainly not at that sort of level, it’s a very effective slice of Cold War era paranoia. It almost begins where Invasion of the Body Snatchers ends – except it’s future X-Files nemesis John Neville who’s running through the streets of London to a laboratory, where he starts to record an account of events to tell the world what he knows – but as he points out, “Even if I had known what I know now, could I, or anyone, have held back… the terror?”
There’s a very Avengers-ish feel to the movie – perhaps not too surprising given that Krish went on to direct some of the more outlandish episodes of that show, including Escape in Time – with a strong cast including Philip Stone, Jean Marsh and The Avengers’ Mother, Patrick Newell. Gabriella Licudi is given more to do than in most of her appearances; as well as the aforementioned unusual casserole collection (she doesn’t need oven gloves), she spooks a group of children without really doing anything… and she hardly blinks.
Sure, there are plotholes and characters obstinately refusing to accept what’s in front of them (and displaying an interesting outlook on the Swiss!), but Krish keeps things moving efficiently – just don’t think too much (in fact, at all) about the science involved!
Verdict: One of those films where you don’t want to know too much going in to preserve the surprises, Unearthly Stranger is well worth getting to know. 7/10