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.

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Retro Review: ON THE WATERFRONT Proved Marlon Brando Was Much More Than a Contender, at Plaza Theatre This Week

Posted on: Mar 29th, 2013 By:

ON THE WATERFRONT (1954); Dir: Elia Kazan; Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb; Starts Friday, March 29.; The Plaza Theatre

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), a landmark film of the 1950s featuring one of the maybe two or three most memorable roles of Marlon Brando’s career, begins a revival run today at the Plaza Theatre. It’s a movie that many people have heard of but few have actually seen, and it’s one of those crazy films where the story behind the scenes casts a longer shadow than the one on the screen.

Brando stars as Terry Malloy, a simple guy who keeps to himself, tends a pigeon coop, and finds work by the day on the New Jersey docks. His brother, Charley (Rod Steiger), is connected to the dockworkers’ union run by Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), a crook who years ago put an end to Terry’s rising boxing career by forcing Terry to throw a fight. When Friendly comes under investigation by the authorities, he rallies the union around him and starts snipping the loose ends, but when Terry develops a distaste for Friendly’s murders, he has to make a decision between staying loyal to the union or doing what he knows to be right.

ON THE WATERFRONT is a conservative parable, an anti-union tale that works because of (or in spite of?) the seething anti-Commie anger of legendary director Elia Kazan. During the peak of the Red Scare, Kazan was dragged before Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities and, either from an inflated sense of patriotism or a desire to save his own neck, came clean about his past associations with communist groups and even named names of his co-conspirators (most of whom went to a few parties in their youth and then went to bed. It’s Hollywood, after all. The only ideology is the opening weekend). The film community turned on Kazan for cooperating with the witch hunt, but a defiant Kazan refused to apologize. He truly believed in the danger Communism posed to America, and hated the fact that some around him questioned his patriotism, the guy willing to ferret out the Red Threat. Kazan funneled his anger into the story of Terry Malloy and his crummy life, ruined when Terry bowed to pressure and refused to stick up for his principles, a man crushed by doing the bidding of others rather than himself. Terry is an Ayn Rand cautionary tale.

If ON THE WATERFRONT doesn’t jibe with your brand of politics, it’s tempting to dismiss it as propaganda, but that would mean ignoring a truly great movie and one of the all-time great film performances. Kazan was a master storyteller and he was motivated to bring his very best game. The film sweats anger from its pores as it depicts the trials of Terry, played by Brando as the ultimate sad sack resigned to having missed the only chances that would ever come his way. Brando was only a couple of years removed from his foundation-shattering performance as Stanley in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951), also directed by Kazan, and the actor uses ON THE WATERFRONT as a lab to experiment with his role as an anti-star. The studio system was still strong in 1954, and the currency of the day was bankable movie stars. They didn’t want actors, they wanted known quantities who could repeat a winning performance in picture after picture. To his credit, Brando couldn’t have cared less what the studio wanted, or that he was meant to be a sex symbol. He disappeared into his roles, inhabiting them in a way that sparked a revolution in movie acting, and that’s not hyperbole. Brando changed everything, and he’s so electric and alive in the role of Terry that the weight of his cinematic legacy disappears. He’s perfect.

Equally incredible is the work of Karl Malden as the “dock priest” who fights the tyranny of the union bosses with impassioned speeches and principled beliefs. Malden was a tremendous actor, but he’s never better as he competes with the force of nature he’s acting against. Don’t miss Malden’s fiery speech to the dockworkers whose behavior has strayed so far from the moral high ground.

ON THE WATERFRONT’s most famous line—“I coulda been a contender!”—is a cry from Kazan that everybody has a right to stand up for what they believe in. If Terry had refused the dive, he could have been somebody. In Kazan’s mind, he avoided the easy fall. Naming names to McCarthy was the hard way out, at least as he saw it. ON THE WATERFRONT is Kazan’s angry appeal to see the nobility in sticking to your principles, even at the cost of a friend. The subject is a thorny one, even fifty years and a lifetime of politics away.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

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