B&W, 1965, 85 mins.

Directed by John Gilling

Starring John Saxon, Alfred Burke, Patricia Haines, Maurice Denham, Ballard Berkeley / Produced by Ronald Liles & John J. Phillips / Written by Jim O'Connolly / Music by Johnny Gregory / Cinematography by Stephen Dade

Format: DVD - Image (MSRP $19.99)

One of the stronger British sci-fi films during the avalanche of sinister alien movies begun in the mid-'50s, this film was originally shown in U.S. drive-ins under the much less subtle title, Blood Beast from Outer Space. Interestingly, while the new Image DVD sports the film's original British title, the print simply identifies itself in the credits as The Night Caller, the original shooting title. Judging from the pristine and often breathtaking quality on display here, it appears the film was mastered directly from the internegative. Quite frankly this is one of the finest looking B&W titles on DVD so far -- particularly astonishing considering this film has been only available in ragged PD and cut TV prints for many years. Also, bonus points for the extremely amusing and well-done menu screen.

A trio of scientists are astonished when something that appears to be a meteorite enters the Earth's atmosphere and changes its course directly before landing. After investigating the site, Dr. Jack Costain (John Saxon) takes the remnants, a strange globe-like object, back to the lab for tests. The lone female scientist, Ann Barlow (Patricia Haines), is later terrorized while alone in the lab by something with a strange claw-like hand, but the creature vanishes before anyone else can arrive. Soon girls all over London are missing, with only one thing in common: they answered an ad in Bikini Girl magazine! It seems an alien is lurking in disguise somewhere in London and auditioning young nymphets for jobs as models (he comes by to visit at night, hence the title), at which point he abducts them for insidious uses back at home on Ganymede, the third moon of Jupiter. Naturally, Ann decides to go undercover to get to the bottom of this alien plot, but things don't turn out quite as smoothly as expected.

Strongly reminiscent of the Hammer Quatermass films, Night Caller obviously isn't quite up to that level but offers plenty of fun nonetheless. Saxon does an efficient job as always, but the real star of the film is director John Gilling, making a rare sci-fi monster outing in between such Gothic gems as Flesh and the Fiends, Plague of the Zombies, and The Reptile. While the film begins like a standard, flatly shot scientist procedural, the photography becomes increasingly surreal and noirish as the film progresses, leading to a grim and stylishly bizarre final twenty minutes that crackles with some unexpected and shocking plot twists. The bizarre finale would never have been acceptable to a U.S. studio, but then again, predictable happy endings were never absolutely mandated in Britain. Best of all, though, is the theme song, a real howler of a lounge piece that tries to shoehorn the style of "Goldfinger" into an evocative ditty about an alien. Overall, tons of fun for '60s drive-in fans.

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