DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS (director: Gordon Flemyng; screenwriter: Milton Subotsky; cinematographer: John Wilcox; editor: Oswald Hafenrichter; music:  Malcolm Lockyer; cast: Peterr Cushing (Dr. Who), Roy Castle (Ian), Jennie Linden (Barbara), Roberta Tovey (Susan), Barrie Ingham (Alydon), Geoffrey Toone (Temmosus), Mark Petersen ( Elyon), Michael Coles (Ganatus), John Brown (Antodus); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Milton Subotsky/Max Rosenberg; Lionsgate; 1965-UK)

"A film not only for children but for adults who are undemanding."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first of two big-screen offerings of the popular BBC sci-fi series. It was the first time it was filmed in color. Director Gordon Flemyng ("The Split"/"Daleks-Invasion Earth 2150 A. D."/"Great Catherine") keeps things grounded as a family adventure film revolving around a time machine. It's a film not only for children but for adults who are undemanding. It's based on a limp screenplay by Milton Subotsky, that took many liberties with the BBC show. The TV show ran until 1989, ending a 26 year run.

The older Barbara (Jennie Linden) and the youngster Susan (Roberta Tovey), and their beloved absent-minded eccentric inventor grandfather, Dr. Who (Peterr Cushing), are visited by Barbara's klutzy boyfriend Ian (Roy Castle), who accidentally steps on T.A.R.D.I.S. (an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), Dr.Who's time machine, a machine that looks like a British police box, and it starts. The foursome land in a petrified forest in outer space and are taken as prisoners to the war-ravaged planet Skaro by the evil mutant Daleks, who rule the planet. The Daleks must wrap themselves around metal cones to stave off the radiation released from countless nuclear wars. They go after the pacifist Thals, who don't wear any protection because they invented a drug that keeps them immune from the radiation. Dr. Who offers his services to the good guy outsider Thals tribe, and prepares for a trip back to Earth, as the Daleks prepare to nuke the Thals unless they give them the secrets of how to manufacture the drug.

It was filmed at Shepperton Studios, where imaginative sets  kept things at least visually watchable, if nothing else.

REVIEWED ON 6/4/2015       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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The first big-screen spinoff from the TV series, plodding through a shopworn plot in which the good Doctor helps an outcast tribe (a singularly camp crew they are too) against their Dalek oppressors. The settings are moderately imaginative in a tacky sort of way; even tackier comedy on the side from Castle; OK for undemanding kids.

It is somehow fitting that a British TV show using time travel as a vehicle for disseminating lessons about science and history wound up running not the proposed one year but for twenty-six. Produced by the British Broadcasting Company, Doctor Who premiered in November 1963 and starred veteran actor William Hartnell as an alien Time Lord padding around the galaxy righting interstellar wrongs in a time travel/space folding craft known as a T.A.R.D.I.S. (an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), which appears from without to be a standard British police box but is paradoxically bigger on the inside. Pitched at children but with a blending of drama and humor that proved a lure for adults as well, Doctor Who was structured as a series of self-contained adventures comprised of several episodes each. After the completion of the four-part premiere story, "An Unearthly Child," which transported the Doctor and viewers to the dawn of time and attended man's discovery of fire, the BBC was caught without a follow-up script. Although a production edict had vetoed the use of "bug-eyed monsters" on the series, the available Terry Nation teleplay "The Daleks" was rushed into production and depicted what would be the Doctor's first dust-up with the eponymous and thoroughly evil race of mutants whose hideously deformed corporealities are encased in metallic sheaths bearing more than a passing resemblance to salt and pepper shakers.

With their robotic gyrations, Snap-On ordnances, and shrill metallic battle cry of "Ex-ter-min-ate!," the deucedly inhuman Daleks proved to be the perfect foils for the prickly but never less than humane Time Lord, and remain half a century after the fact as crucial to the Doctor Who mythos as Professor Moriarty was to Sherlock Holmes and The Joker to Batman. The popularity of the seven-part "The Daleks" led to the villains being given their own comic strip; the Daleks were well on their way to becoming a national institution when they, and the Doctor, were cast in their first feature film, Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965). Produced by American expatriates Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, whose Amicus Productions had traded youth-oriented pictures for anthology horror films, Dr. Who and the Daleks took considerable liberties with the BBC series with a mind toward more global appeal for the franchise. Rather than have William Hartnell reprise his role from the small screen, Rosenberg and Subotsky cast Peter Cushing, whose international popularity was on the rise thanks to star roles in a run of Gothic horror films from Hammer Film Productions. Lost in the translation from the small screen to the big was the character's alien origins, with the Doctor rebranded as a human inventor whose surname (unlike that of his TV counterpart) really is Who.

Shot at Amicus' home base of Shepperton Studios in April and May of 1965 under the direction of Gordon Flemyng, Dr. Who and the Daleks marked the character's debut in color and widescreen. (The TV series did not default to color for another four years.) While the average episode budget of the series was in the neighborhood of $3,500, Dr. Who and the Daleks was allotted better than $250,000 with which to knock around, resulting in a production that was, however set-bound, light years ahead of the BBC original in terms of visual splendor. Subotsky's screenplay rejiggers the characterizations of the Doctor's traveling companions as well, rendering his equally-alien granddaughter Susan (Roberta Tovey) human as well and making another granddaughter of Barbara (Jennie Linden), who on TV had been a history teacher privy to Susan's true identity. The action hero of the BBC series, science teacher Ian Chesterton, is reduced in the feature to comic relief, and played to a bumbling turn by song-and-dance man Roy Castle.

Despite scuttling the entire cast of the BBC's Doctor Who and playing hob with a mythos that was quickly becoming chapter-and-verse among science fiction aficionados, Dr. Who and the Daleks was sufficiently profitable for Amicus (operating behind the aegis of a AARU and British Lion) to roll out an immediate sequel. Peter Cushing returned to star in Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966), which ditched the characters of Barbara and Ian entirely (and trucked in a Whovian niece, played by Jill Curzon) for a bracingly violent parable about Nazism and local resistance. Conspicuously absent from the film's title, Dr. Who also had less screen time; felled by illness during production, Cushing had to leave some of the heavy lifting to support players Andrew Keir, Bernard Cribbins, and Ray Brooks (fresh from Richard Lester's The Knack... and How to Get It, 1965). A third Who-venture was proposed but never materialized and the character returned to his former, extraterrestrial (and, as it happened whenever the lead actor had to be recast) regenerative glory. The original Doctor Who series fell victim to low ratings in 1989, ending an impressive 26 year run. An abortive attempt to revive the character for American audiences in 1996 via a one-shot TV movie resulted in a reappraisal of the franchise and a series reboot in 2005.

By Richard Harland Smith
 


While absentminded Dr. Who is demonstrating his latest invention, a time machine, the apparatus is accidentally set in motion, and the doctor, his two granddaughters (Barbara and Susan), and Barbara's boyfriend, Ian, all land in a petrified forest on a huge planet in the future. They are quickly captured by the Daleks, a hostile form of life encased in metal cones which protect them from the radiation caused by a massive neutron war. Also living on the planet are the Thals, friendly creatures who are able to live without the protective cones because they possess a drug which immunizes them against radioactivity. Since the Daleks desperately want the drug, they send Susan to invite the Thals to their stronghold; but when she returns, the Daleks discover that the drug is fatal to them. They decide to explode a giant neutron bomb which will increase radiation and exterminate the Thals. Dr. Who and his friends escape from their captors, warn the Thals, and help launch an attack in which the Daleks are vanquished moments before the bomb is set to explode. With the Thals free to live in peace, Dr. Who and his party return to their time machine.


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Gordon Flemyng Director
Anthony Waye Assistant Director
Peter Cushing Dr. Who
Jennie Linden Barbara
Barrie Ingham Alydon
Geoffrey Toone Temmosus
John Bown Antodus
Michael Coles Ganatus
John Wilcox Director of Photography
Milton Subotsky Screenwriter
Milton Subotsky Producer
Max J. Rosenberg Producer
Joe Vegoda Executive Producer


When his time-traveling Tardis machine accidentally sends him, his two granddaughters, and one of their boyfriends hurtling through space and time to planet Skaro, it's up to Dr. Who to find their way safely home