Devil Girl from Mars (1954) – Friday Night At The Home Drive-In

Poster for Devil Girl from Mars (1954)Devil Girl from Mars (1954) by #DavidMacDonald
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#HughMcDermott #HazelCourt #AdrienneCorri

A leather-clad female alien, with a ray gun and a robot, comes to Earth to collect men for breeding.

“Invasion from Outer Space!…Sights too weird to imagine! Destruction too monstrous to escape!”

“Earth Menaced By Fantastic Powers”

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

Prior to last Friday, I had never seen Devil Girl from Mars (1954), and that is an oversight that I am very pleased to have corrected. It’s not rated very well (4.9 on the IMDb, and 24% on Rotten Tomatoes), so I didn’t expect anything extraordinary. Oh, how wrong I was…

Devil Girl from Mars is a fun, campy movie. That much I was hoping for, based on the various descriptions I’ve read, such as:

“An uptight, leather-clad female alien, armed with a raygun and accompanied by a menacing robot, comes to Earth to collect Earth’s men as breeding stock.” — MUBI

It sounds like a bad movie aficionado’s dream!  What surprised me, however, is how good the movie is. Good? How could something like this be good?

For starters, Devil Girl from Mars was based on a play. A play?! I spent over twenty years going to twenty or thirty plays a year and I never saw anything as cool as this. Who was producing plays like Devil Girl from Mars in the 1950s, and how do I get back there to see them?

The play was written by by John C. Mather and James Eastwood, but other than that, I can’t find out very much about it. Watching the movie, I can imagine how it was staged as a play. Most of the action takes place in a hotel bar. The alien spaceship lands outside, nearby, and was probably simulated by bright lights coming through the window. The titular alien, or Devil Girl, makes a dramatic entrance through the door of the country saloon – which would have worked perfectly on a stage.

But the real reason why I think the play helped to make this movie work is the dialogue. It’s a cut above (or maybe several cuts above) the average low budget, schlocky sci-fi movie of the 1950s. The characters talk to each other – and they actually have something to say. They are articulate. They all have their secrets, and want something. There is a depth to Devil Girl from Mars that is quite unusual in movies of its ilk.

Now, I am probably going on on a limb with a lot of what I’m saying here. If one were to compare Devil Girl from Mars to a movie like, say, All About Eve (1950), the dialogue would be several cuts below. But compared to the work of, say, Edward D. Wood, Jr. – who also started out writing plays, I might add – Devil Girl from Mars is a near masterpiece. And this surprised me, because I recall seeing Devil Girl from Mars in bargain bins alongside movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). I had just assumed it would be equally rough and inept.

So, perhaps expectation had a lot to do with it, but I found Devil Girl from Mars to be utterly charming and enjoyable. I don’t know how I managed to avoid it for all of these years. If I had seen it on Not Quite Classic Theatre back in the ’80s, I’m sure it would have inspired me as much as Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953), which was one of my favourite movies about alien women. And I would not have been alone…

Apparently, the film inspired Octavia E. Butler, who is a Hugo and Nebula award-winning author, to begin writing science fiction. She watched Devil Girl from Mars when she was 12 and declared that she could write something better. Which is often what would happen to me when I watched Not Quite Classic Theatre, as I may have mentioned a while back…

Devil Girl from Mars (1954) is what I might call a rare gem of #NotQuiteClassicCinema; the kind of film I always hoped to find when I would sift through the bargain bins at video stores. Maybe I will be less enthusiastic about it when I see it a second time, but you can rest assured that this is one movie I will definitely be screening again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

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