APES ON FILM: Restored Martians Invade!

Posted on: Feb 15th, 2023 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.




4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Helena Carter , Arthur Franz , Jimmy Hunt , Leif Erickson , Morris Ankrum
Director: William Cameron Menzies
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Ignite Films
Region: A
BRD Release Date: December 16, 2022 – Also available on 4K UHD
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 78 minutes


In 1953, the “Red Scare” was in full swing and Hollywood got busy processing the zeitgeist through filters of monster attacks, giant bug infestations, and alien invasions on film. Anti-communist sentiment was seeping into every aspect of life, and the cold war mentality became de rigeur for Americans of all ages. One thing we could all depend on was that the government, police, military, and especially our parents had our best interests in mind and stood ready to protect us from all comers, right? Right?

Not in INVADERS FROM MARS. Director William Cameron Menzies’ take on mid-century anti-commie allegory scared the bejesus out of every kid that sat through a film house matinee on a Saturday, saw it on television years later, and even – I have to admit – watched a high definition restored Blu-ray of it as an adult.

Little David (Jimmy Hunt) MacLean wakes up during a storm at night to see an eerie green flying saucer land behind a hill in a field beyond his backyard. Father Leif Erickson goes to investigate and disappears. When he returns, it’s clear he has been… turned. He swats David for back-talking, stares sternly into the middle distance just beyond the camera, and can hardly wait to take his wife out to the field so that she can be turned as well. As David tries to warn his neighbors, the buried saucer, and its alien crew, suck more and more of them under the sand, including the Chief of Police and other authority figures.

Menzie’s dreamy production design (which the film comes by honestly) is a wonder unto itself. Supersaturated colors cast the impressionist sets into a chiaroscuro landscape right out of a Gustave Doré etching. Infinity ceilings and impossibly long hallways accentuate the clutching panic that grows for David as everyone he turns to for help has already become “the enemy.” Eventually, he is believed by social worker Carter and astronomer Franz who rally the troops to assault the alien invaders.

It’s not hard to see the kind of impact this film had on young viewers, many of whom grew into young adults in the mid-1960s and changed the world by questioning authority and speaking truth to power here in America. It may as well have been the seed planted for many members of the counterculture, and if so, Menzies’ powers of suggestion were greater than he ever knew. An illustrator and designer who worked on many classic films with his name above the credits, INVADERS FROM MARS is his master work as a director.

Ignite Films pulled out all the stops for their presentation of the film on Blu-ray (and 4K UHD), starting with a truly impressive restoration from the surviving original film elements and even a few scenes from dupe prints for a new 4K scan. The picture has never looked so good, with saturation and film grain balanced well, and black levels well stabilized. The Master Audio mono sound mix is robust and translates both music, dialog, and sound effects nicely. Supplemental materials are abundant with featurettes on the restoration, interviews with Hunt and others, a round table style discussion with film directors John Landis, Joe Dante, editor Mark Goldblatt , special visual effects artist and two time Oscar Winner Robert Skotak (foremost expert on the film), and enthusiast and film preservationist Scott MacQueen, and much more including a twenty page booklet written by MacQueen. My copy even came with a pin-back button of the head (literally) Martian!

This package elevates Ignite Films to a new level in the pantheon of media distributors. Here’s hoping its success spurs them on to other such projects. INVADERS FROM MARS is my choice for restoration of the year for 2022.



Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.


Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2024 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress