Saturday, July 5, 2008

Classic Science Fiction Just Out On DVD: The Invaders and Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun

(Right: Roy Thinnes on the run from The Invaders ; cover art for the just released first season DVD set.)

Actor Roy Thinnes was quite the busy actor when it came to science fiction television and movies in 1967-69. First he starred in the cult classic series The Invaders , which ran on ABC from January '67 to August '68. This series, about an archtect who discovers that the Earth has been invaded by aliens from a dying planet but can't get anybody to believe him, was created by Larry Cohen (writer/director of such quirky cult films as It's Alive ; God Told Me To ; The Stuff ) and produced by Quinn Martin (The Untouchables; The Fugitive ; Cannon and too many other well-known television programs to mention here). It ran for 43 episodes before getting cancelled due to low ratings, but the majority of episodes were taunt, suspenseful thrillers that were masterpieces of paranoia. Thinnes's David Vincent never knew who he could trust and although he'd always managed to thwart the aliens' various plots (kidnapping scientists; assassinating & replacing political leaders; attempted biological warfare), often wound up right back where he started from at story's end. Here's the opening of one particular episode that sets up the show's premise.

(Ad from the 1960's promoting The Invaders .)

Now CBS Paramount has put out the first season episodes (seventeen in all, plus an expanded version of the pilot episode and an interview with the still-active Thinnes) on a five disc DVD set. Though most of the shows hold up dramatically -boy, could Thinnes's Vincent really get into people's faces when he had to- , one or two look like they were taken from dupey elements. The DVD Talk site, while going in more detail about the disc quality, gives an otherwise positive review of the DVD set. Having remembered watching the show as a kid (plus building & owning the cool Aurora model of the aliens' spaceship), I'm glad to report that the series still delivers the goods.

(Cover of the DVD release of 1969's Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun , also starring Roy Thinnes .)

Just after The Invaders ceased production in 1968, Roy Thinnes went on to star in the 1969 British SF film Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun , also just released on DVD (from Universal). Produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson (both created/produced such classic British TV shows as Stingray ; Thunderbirds ; Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons ; Joe 90 ; UFO and -whew!- Space:1999 )from their original story and directed by Robert Parrish , the film was completed in late 1968, but released a year later in October, 1969, just three months after man landed on the Moon. Set in the year 2069 (although "Cape Kennedy" is mentioned as still being in existance), the film revolves around the discovery of another planet located on the other side of the Sun and Earth's attempts to reach it. Thinnes leads a strong cast and the special effects and overall production values (set design, etc.) are terrific, but the story's big reveal (which I won't give away here; see DVD Talk's review for a hint and more background of the film itself) left me wanting a little more meat on my plate. (And hey, Universal: what's with not offering chapter selection options on the DVD menu screen? Bad enough there aren't any extras on the disc like trailers and interviews with the still living Andersons and Thinnes...) -Ed

(Roy Thinnes rescues fellow astronaut Ian Hendry after they crash land from their Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun .)

Update: Here's a good online article on the making of The Invaders by Stephen Bowie.

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