A science-fiction classic from 1953 debuts on the ultra-high definition disc format to give fans of the genre the first full-color film showcasing extraterrestrials infiltrating Earth in Invaders from Mars: 70th Anniversary Edition (Ignite Films, not rated, 1.37:1 aspect ratio, 78 minutes, $49.99).
Academy Award-winning filmmaker William Cameron Menzies, taking on the role of director and production designer, brought a child’s worst nightmare to life in a story that starred a freckled-faced young boy named David MacLean (Jimmy Hunt).
After watching a spacecraft land in a sandy field in his backyard, David must navigate through a group of mean, brain-altered adults to find someone clear of mind to trust and willing to stop Martians from secretly conquering the world.
Once viewers get to see the Martians’ underground lair, the tone gets awfully creepy and corny with mutants running around in green velour suits (with zippers on the back) sporting blue metallic faces and puffy, slotted eye goggles.
Some even wield large heat ray guns while a quartet of them are often chasing or avoiding U.S. soldiers or carrying captives through bubble-covered tunnels.
Cinephiles may most remember the visually eye-popping SuperCinecolor film format or a very strange, legless, bronze alien leader (the Supreme Intelligence) in a glass globe with tentacles sprouting from his back and sporting a bulbous cranium.
The sucker-punch ending is a head-scratcher and nearly ruins the previous 75 minutes of suspense, so much so that the European ending of the film was changed to make for a more commercial conclusion.
Still, “Invaders from Mars” made a mark for its time by terrifying Americans consumed by paranoid thoughts of being attacked by Russia and nuclear proliferation.
4K in action: The painful and meticulous restoration process required using an incomplete camera negative with four archival prints of the film and was spearheaded by film preservationist Scott MacQueen, former Head of Preservation at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Viewers will find a new appreciation for the candy-coated colors highlighted throughout and the chance to examine the angular and shadowy negative space cinematography of John F. Seitz, who offered a dose of German expressionism visuals one might find in “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”
A few memorable moments sporting the 4K’s clarity and vivid saturations include a glowing green light washing over David’s face as he sleeps, a doctor wearing a bright white dress with a red handkerchief and a scientist mixing chemicals in a nearly endless hallway lined with tabled lab equipment.
Best extras: Ignite Films delivers a very welcomed and well-rounded collection of four informative featurettes all packed on the 4K disc.
First, viewers get a 16-minute look at the director and film from James Curtis, author of “William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Things to Come.” The segment includes a brief appearance by Menzies’ granddaughter, Pamela Lauesen, who offers memories of her grandfather.
Next, a 10-minute, warm-and-fuzzy interview with octogenarian Hunt has the actor reminisce about his film career, but he mostly focuses on making “Invader from Mars,” with plenty of behind-the-scenes tidbits and trivia. For example, condoms were used to help decorate the Martians’ subterranean lair.
Also, a seven-minute look at the restoration with Mr. MacQueen has the archivist dive deep into very specific before-and-after visuals of scanning the negatives while discussing the cleaning, color rebalancing and use of different film sources to complete the new masterpiece.
Best of the bunch is a 22-minute retrospective of the film as explored by directors Joe Dante, John Landis, editor Mark Goldblatt, visual effect artist Robert Skotak and Mr. MacQueen as each act as fans and authorities to discuss its production and legacy.
Also, worth noting, viewers can watch the alternate, European ending of the movie as well as the extended observatory sequence.
Cinema historians also get a 24-page, full-color booklet that not only goes into great detail about the restoration but also technically explains the SuperCinecolor format.