Mack Williams: They came from the 1960s

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 31, 2016

I recently happened upon a movie I had missed during its 1967 “heyday” of release. It’s a sci-fi thriller, although much less thrilling (thankfully so) than the “Alien” movies, which literally made me “jump” (not for joy).

The movie in question (some of it indeed “questionable”) was the British film (Brits can be “schlockey” too) “They Came From Beyond Space” (1967).

Even from the intro, it was evident the movie reflected the times in which it was made (dated), having “pungently” absorbed the ‘”flavor” of the late 1960s in much the same manner as furniture or clothing absorb cigarette smoke.

The beginning credits’ background went from galaxies to what looked like different-color globules of dye floating in liquid matrix. I suddenly said to myself: “A white T-shirt dipped in there would come out “tie-dyed.” Just then, the old phrase “Consider the source” (as well as “consider the times” came to mind).

The title, “They Came From Beyond Space,” made me wonder if “they came from solid?”

If one hadn’t already seen in the credits that a man named James Stevens composed the music, he might have assumed the music (especially during the “action scenes”) had been borrowed from Henry Mancini’s soundtracks for the “Pink Panther” movies, beginning with “The Pink Panther” (1963) and “A Shot in the Dark” (1964). Perhaps Stevens was “influenced” by Mancini (just as some of John Williams’ music sounds as if he grew up listening to a lot of Gustav Mahler).

One actor resembled Peter Sellers, but as that man only portrayed one of the film’s characters (not half of them), he wasn’t Sellers.

The movie began with invisible aliens landing in meteorites and taking over peoples’ minds.

One main protagonist was a lady who came under the mind control of the aliens (not like “Pokémon Go” — iPads are needed for that manner of brain-sucking “mind control.” Some are excited about “Pokémon Go,” while I look forward to “Pokémon Went”).

This lady had one of those “bee-hive” hairdos just like the girls back at East Rowan (my years there, 1965-69). They went out of style (the hairdo, not the girls); but unfortunately, now with the many cases of “hive abandonment,” it seems like bees are going out of style too.

The male protagonist (Dr. Temple) was in love with the “beehive-hairdo” female protagonist (Lee Mason); but after her mind was taken over, she behaved in a very aloof manner towards him. (Some of those “beehive-hairdo girls” at East behaved a little “aloofly” towards me too, but probably not due to their minds being taken over by extragalactic aliens.)

In action scenes involving vehicles, everyone was driving 1960s cars, except Dr. Temple, who seemed to be wheeling around in something resembling the old Grand Prix car from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968), making me hum the theme song every time he went “motoring.” Since “They Came From Beyond Space” pre-dates “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” maybe this car was its inspiration (but I seriously doubt it).

Dr. Temple was immune to alien mental takeover because of a silver plate in his head (according to the story). Just why he had the plate, and why it was silver, was left to the imagination. When left to my imagination, I thought of WBTV’s old Jim Crockett “Championship Wrestling” show and the wrestler “Brute Bernard” (my father and I watched him in the early 1960s). According to the announcer, “the Brute” had a plate in his head which “acted up” now and then (but it was really Brute Bernard who did the “acting”; and that’s just what it was, acting).

Dr. Temple and a “sidekick” fashioned special viewers (resembling driving goggles from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” with which to determine whose minds had been “subsumed” by the aliens. For protection from their own “subsumation,” they made special, silver head-gear (resembling the inverted metal salad strainer hanging in my late wife’s mother’s kitchen).

I recognized one of the “brainwashed” characters as the actor Bernard Kay, who, in “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) played one of the Bolshevik leaders (some “brainwashing” going on there too). If you ask: “Are you sure?” I will answer: “I saw Doctor Zhivago at least 10 times, so believe me, I know!”

In the end, everyone got their minds back and no one was killed, much like on the “A-Team,” except for Murdoch (the mind part).

As the ending credits rolled, I felt my mind being released again (re-released?) from the control of the 1960s and returning to the present day.

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