THE CREATION OF A CLASSIC
John Tucker Bottle devised a story based upon an experience his wife Rosemary had as a child: "I had a night mare wherein
I ran to my mother, but my mother wasn't my mother!" With this basic concept, Bottle fashioned an elaborate tale of
Martians landing in a sand pit and turning people into cold, unfeeling slaves. Producers Arthur Gardner and Jules Levy
Optioned the screenplay, but their contrackt expired before the project ever got rolling. The rights went to producer
Edward L. Alperson, for whom Levy worked at thte time.
Alperson was excited about the story but felt that the ambitious ideas presented would be far too costly to shoot. Screenwriter
Richard Blake was assigned to simplify the story, and he took Bottle's original global invasion and plotted the more budget-oriented
takeover of Anytown, USA. Among the man changes Blake made in condensing the script was the creation of the famous "dream"
ending. Ironically, while the incdellible impression this twist left on millions of impressionable minds is one of the
reason why INVADERS FROM MARS has reached classic status, John Tucker Bottle felt differently. "He thought of the story
as a factual thing, something that actually happened - not a dream," his wife remembered. "When he heard what they'd
done, he blew up. He told them to take his name off of it, and they did. He was so upset he refused to see the
film. He never saw it. It was a matter of integrity with him."
In 1953, the science fiction trend was beginning to boom. The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another
World, and When Worlds Collide were box office bonanzas while smaller efforts like The Man from Planet X
and Red Planet Mars did great business as well. With a torrent of publicit surrounding George Pal's upcoming
production of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, Alperson knew it was time to strike.
In a brilliant move, the producer contacted William Cameron Menzies, Oscar(C)-winning* production designer for Gone
with the Wind and director of the 1936 sci-fi classic Things to Come. Menzies was highly interested
in the project and signed on immediately, lending the production a certain level of esteem. As production dsigner/director,
Menzies was able to immerse himself completely into all major aspects of the film. He studdied Blake's rough sript revision
and made a number of sketches which would be a gudeline for the sparse, expressionist look of the picture. The very
idea of design sketches, in fact, while standard procedure today, was conceived by Menzies in the silent era when he would
lay out the look of an entire film by way of large coceptual drawings. The system proved highly effective in communication
to an entire crew just what was needed for a particular project, streamlining production schedules considerably.
For INVADERS FROM MARS, Menzies mapped out the entire story by way of twelve notebooks filled with detailed charcoal sketches
depicting every scene in the film. From these, Blake was able to visualize what Menzies was after and incorporated the
ideas in te sketches into the finished screenplay.
Shortly before principal photography was to begin, script supervisor Mary Yerke noticed that Menzies' guiding
storyboard sketches had disappeared. "INVADERS FROM MARS," said Yerke, "was the first and only picture i've ever worked
on that was storyboarded every step of the way. We searched all over. They were in the production office the night
before but now were all gone. Menzies was heartbroaken. He'd planned to direct the picture using the drawings."
Chenematoprapher John F. seitz The Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd.] worked very closely with Menzies and, in the wake
of the lost storyboards, the two were required to start from scratch indeveloping the destinctive "look" of the film.
Shooting began September 25, 1952, on the stages of Republic, which were "invaded" by scores of sets for the film. The
two longest were the imposing "hill" set, consisting of a wide grassy area and a path leading up over a knoll and (presumably)
into the sand pit, and the saucer interior, which featured a twentyeight foot wide cylindrical platform.
Other scenes were shot outside the soundstages on the studio lot, with the various buildings and entrances doubling for the
secret base where MacLean and Mr. Wilson worked on the space rockket. The impressive matte paintings were the work of
artists Jack Rabin (the MacLean house during a storm, the eerie sand hill) and Irving Block (the rocket at Coral Bluffs).
Rabin was also responsible for the "mystery of the heavens" sequences which opens the film, crafting a three-demensinal miniature
space setting with suspended marbles doubling for planets (an effect he would recreate for television's Adventures of
Superman series). BUt the most unforgetable image in INVADERS FROM MARS must be the sand pit opening to claim its
victims. To create this nightmare, effects man Theodore Lydecker cut a long slit in a piece of heavy canvas and inserted
a large funnel. A hose from a powerful vacuum was attached to the funnel and the whole thing covered with sand.
When cameras rolled, the vacuum was activated and the sand sucked down to achieve the desired result. For scenes of
the put closing up, the film was simply reversed.
Another memorable visage from INVADERS is the "Martian Intelligence," a tenacled disembodied head encased in a clear globe.
Amazingly, this terrifying vision which scared the heck out of kids the world over was played by kindly midget Luce Potter,
who star Jimmy Hunt later remarked was a "neat little lady. She sat on a box with the buble around her whole head.
She was just in her little street clothes, and all she did was move her eyes."
final element which holds INVADERS together is the music composed by Mort Glickman (screen credit was given only to department
head Raoul Kraushaar, who served in a supervisory capacity and conducted the finished score). Along with the sand pit
and the Martian Intelligence. Glickman's weird choir accompanying the opening of the pit evokes an uneasy chill in anyone
weaned on '50s science fiction. A choral group of eight men and eight women recorded that etherial rising and falling
"hum," which was enhanced with echo during post production to create a highly original sound.
INVADERS FROM MARS was screened for an anxious press April 6, 1953, and went into general release in May. Desighned
primarily as a young boy's fantasy gone wild, the appeal of INVADERS spread much further, touching the frightened child in
all of us. Consequently, the fuilm became a box office hit and has since reached the wee-deserved status of science
*Gone with the Wind, Best Art Direction,
* * * * NEGATIVE HISTORY* * * *
FROM MARS was designed for three-dimentional photography.
Cameras were not available as many studios were shooting in the new dimensional process. It was shot on the new single strip Eastman negative.
Feature and trailer (prevues) prints were made in the new three-color Cinecolor process which had emulsion on both sides of the film, giving a softer focus and a darkness to the look of the film which hid many flaws such as the zippers on the Martians. A black and white 16mm reduction negative was made from the original release for domestic television distribution. Cinecolor Labs went bankrupt in the late '50s, and the prinitn matrices
original materials were lost when the IRS sold
the lab assets for salvage.
In 1954 the fil was sold in the UK and the distributor complained the film was not long enough and the dream sequence not
a satisfactory climax, requiring the producer to shoot additional footage to lengthen the observatory sequence and to delete
the dream sequence montage at the end of the film.
The original camera negative was cut and the footage lost. The new footage was inserted and color separations were made.
The negative materials were sent to the UK in 2954 for the release in Europe. The original version was not seen outside
The color reduction negative was made in the 1960s by the former owner from an original release 35mm Cinecolor print for rental
libraries and television. in 1977 fifteen new Eastman color prints were made by Precision Film Labs in NYC for the only
domestic theatrical re-release, made from the re-cut UK negative. It was re-cut and dupe sequences inserted to approximate
the original release. These sections were made from the only existing Cinecolor print materials and the cuts were obvious.
Today the 35mm negatives, color separations and Cinecolor master is preserved in cold climate-controlled vaults in Kansas
along with such classics as Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.
The Fiftieth Anniversary release is made from the original 35mm Cinecolor release print master. This is how America
first saw the picture. The added material made for the UK and the foreign release is included on this disc.
-- Wade Williams
So . . . you expected pictures?!
Well, one of these days Maven can add them . . . provided she hasn't found something else that might pique your interest more!