The Night Caller (1965)
The Night Caller starts in typical 60s cold war style, with a blonde at the radar screen noting that an object has appeared 100 miles up, heading straight for London. However, as the object should become visible to the naked eye, in London, all is quiet (three cheers for Big Ben and the Houses Of Parliament, once again making their presence felt).
The next day the army is despatched to the parkland where the object should have ended up, but only find a glowing football and very little damage. What's more, "it's cold freezing cold" (the ball, that is, not the weather). Top secret double A cleared Professor Morley (Maurice Denham) also notes that it must have been "guided down with fantastic accuracy inhuman accuracy!"
The football is taken back to his lab where the old Prof, along with his American helper Dr Jack Costern (John "Enter The Dragon" Saxon) and Anne (Patricia "Virgin Witch and did you know I used to be married to Michael Caine? Not a lot of people do" Haines), the blonde from the opening scenes, start their investigations, in between Jack trying it on with Anne (and failing).
Anne is then left alone in the lab, when she notices a glow coming from the room where the football is stored. She finds herself going blurry-eyed and sweaty, and is drawn towards the object by a strange force. She's then attacked by a less-than-terrifying rubbery claw and only just manages to raise the alarm.
Next morning some pooh is found on the floor (Anne must have been more scared than she let on), and a footprint can be seen on the ground outside the lab's window.
With the army dismissing Anne's ravings as "a practical joke", work continues on identifying what the football is, and in a huge leap to get the plot moving, it's quickly deduced that it's an "energy valve" which "receives matter" from another planet.
"We've had a visitor from space, Anne," speculates the Prof, leading Jack to add: "What did it come for, and when will it return?"
There then follows a hugely unscientific further "test", which involves Professor Morley being left alone in the room with the football. As it starts to glow again he's at first delighted and then petrified, coming to a rather ignominious end as he loses his glasses and scrabbles around for them on the floor, "Thelma-out-of-Scooby-Doo"-style and getting killed by an unseen foe.
The foe then nicks the ball and makes his getaway in a handy Jag.
Back in London the billboards are all screaming "Space Creature? New Development", but The Yard (as in New Scotland) are treating the whole thing with "incredulity".
Yet another massive story jump informs us that the creature, who they have dubbed "Smith", appears to be responsible for the disappearance of several girls in the city.
The latest girl to vanish is called Jean. A quick chat with her parents reveals that she was visited by a strange man before she disappeared ("Ooh, he gave me the creeps, standing there in the shadow did have a nice voice, though " explains the mum). He left a weird 3D photo of the girl, and shortly afterwards, she vanished. The parents also reveal that she was always reading a magazine called Bikini Girl, because she wanted to be a model (but she found the articles interesting too, one assumes).
The police pay a call to a dirty book emporium, which has apparently been passing letters answering an ad in the back of Bikini Girl on to a Mr Medra, the slimey shop owner (Aubrey "unable to do anything but slimey" Morris) explaining "Some people aren't normal, are they? I tell you something, he even gave me the creeps!"
Unknown to everyone else, Anne has applied to Medra's talent agency herself in a bid to get closer to the alien (who they've deduced comes from Jupiter's third moon, Ganymede). There's a wonderful bit of film noir style as the police stake out the shop with Anne inside, but things don't quite go to plan. Yes, Anne gets to meet the alien, who gives her a lengthy spiel about how tough it is to be an alien invader - cum - talent scout in 60s London ("The problem of life is that there is always an enemy who will kill or be killed I fear what I can't control, and I can't control a mind of equal intelligence to my own "), and then he kills her. Bit of a shock, this, as not only does it come right out of the blue, but up until this point Anne has proved herself to be the heroine of the film. What's more, it's actually quite a graphic death (for the time).
As the scientists try and track down Medra using Jodrell Bank, the police are using more basic methods (they've found another girl who applied to Medra's agency and just follow her). The ending sees everyone arrive at the same place at the same time, to hear Medra explain what he's been up to, the scamp.
The question with The Night Caller is, is it really science fiction per se, or is it basically a typical 60s sleazy call girl murdering psycho story in the vein of Cover Girl Killer and Night After Night After Night, with some vague sci fi trappings shoehorned in? In fact, that question doesn't really need asking. If Medra hadn't come from Ganymede, he could have been any other sad old perv. In fact, judging by the state of the effects at the end of the film, there's a fair chance that he just was a sad old perv, and used a couple of arc lamps and a bit of dry ice to fool Scotland Yard into letting him go.
The film is also rather more entertaining than it ought to be, considering that very little happens and the budget is quite obviously tiny, even by British B-movie standards. The idea of an alien invader taking out an ad in the back of a rhythm magazine to lure young maidens back to Ganymede is barking mad (if he can travel through space, surely he could just zap into a few bedrooms and save a lot of time and fuss?), and there's a few nice touches - Anne's murder is quite shocking, and the 3D photo effect actually succeeded in sending a chill down my spine the first time I saw it - which, after all, is the point.
"Let's hope they find a cure and tell us "
Last updated: February 25, 2010
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