The one problem with being a film collector is that you soon reach a point where you think you’ve seen everything you could possibly want to see. However, as any true film collector will also tell you, that is nearly impossible. There’s always a rare gem or a horrifically bad flick just waiting to be unearthed. And sometimes you find something in between. Such is the case with The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963).
With such a title, a viewer might expect to find something along the lines of War of the Worlds or The Day the Earth Stood Still. What you actually get is more in tune with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That’s not necessarily a bad place to start but the comparisons start flowing early on and, ultimately, hurt the film once you realize The Day Mars Invaded Earth isn’t quite in the same league.
Kent Taylor stars as Dr. David Fielding, a scientist in charge of a space probe mission to Mars. We see early on that he loves and misses his family but his work always comes first. While alone in his office, a strange glow appears around his head and then vanishes. He remembers nothing except that his is tired. He agrees to go visit his wife Claire (Marie Windsor) and children Judi and Rocky. They are staying in a house next to a big mansion (the legendary Greystone Mansion). It is here that David discovers what is really happening.
Odd occurrences begin to mount up. David sees his wife, who doesn’t respond to him, only to confront her later where she couldn’t possibly be that quickly. Yes, the Martians have landed and they are assuming human form. However, it isn’t so much an invasion as it is to ensure that humans stay away from their home on Mars, essentially sabotaging all future exploration efforts. The scientist in David resists even as he confronts a version of himself who explains the futility of resistance. He soon sees his duplicate family and knows they must be stopped. With the help of friend Dr. Web Spencer (Williams Mims) is there still time to thwart their plan?
I personally loved the overall concept behind the film. It was an interesting story that really doesn’t have anything to do with bug-eyed aliens (which is always fun too) but more with a race simply wanting to be left alone. It has a good script that moves fairly quickly along due to the 70-minute running time and the filming location enhances the movie. There are few special effects but the burned remains are kind of cool. Unfortunately, where the film suffers is the cast. Kent Taylor had 150 credits to his name, most notable for his lead role in 58 episodes of the Boston Blackie TV series in 1951-1953. However, he was not the most charismatic man. A better actor would have made it a better film. The same can be said for the rest of the cast. They seem to do the job but they lack the acting chops to help elevate this film beyond average and forgettable. This fact alone explains why the film has been generally forgotten.
Director Maury Dexter is also known for his work on House of the Damned (1963), best remembered for a young Richard Kiel. His career ended in 1983 after a long stint with the TV series Little House on the Prairie. Writer Harry Spalding has a few more sci-fi and horror credits to his name, including House of the Damned (1963), Witchcraft (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) and The Watcher in the Woods (1980). Essentially, average director and writer producing average work. Again, not necessarily gems but not bad films either.
The Day Mars Invaded Earth is certainly worth checking out. You could do a whole lot worse but the fun factor is admittedly a little on the low side. While there is a version of the film available for free on YouTube, it is virtually unwatchable because of the poor quality due to the shaky image that will leave you sea sick. Therefore, I suggest you check out the brand new DVD-R release from the 20th Century Fox Archives collection. A little pricy but if the image is the same one I saw on FXM (Fox Movie Channel), which it probably is, then I can certainly recommend it.