Night Caller From Outer Space – 1965 / Director: John Gilling

With The Girl Who Knew Too Much already under his belt, the decision to participate in this faithful adaption of Frank Crisp‘s source novel, was a wise one  for flourishing genre star John Saxon. By 1965, the actor would no doubt have felt excited about the direction in which his career was apparently heading. Along with Bava’s head spinning, genre forming classic, there is a real sense that something significant, and very good at the very least, is happening here in John Gilling‘s exceptionally well crafted British Sci Fi thriller.

A small, spherical object gently guides itself to Earth from Jupiter’s satellite moon Ganymede, landing just outside of London. The military and a trio of scientists who had first noticed it’s arrival are called in to investigate. Having retrieved the strange object and detained it for inspection at a nearby research facility, the scientists quickly discover that it is in fact a receiver from which an alien humanoid form named Medra has emerged, leaving a trail of destruction and death upon his eventual escape. Several weeks later, as a growing number of young women begin to disappear within the seedy streets of Soho after answering an advertisement for models placed within “Bikini Girl” magazine, it is left to Saxon, his colleagues and the help of Scotland Yard, to track Medra down and uncover his diabolical plan…

Rich, mono-chromed photography, playful use of the “dutch tilt” and subtle framing within the frame are among the visual coda employed to signify that  Night Caller from Outer Space (also known as The Night Caller) is much more than just a generic Science Fiction pot-boiler. Gilling and his cinematographer, Zulu‘s Stephen Dade, are clearly having fun with their film. But it is the performances, from everyone involved, that really make it meaningful. From Saxon’s commendable effort as the film’s “hero”, John Carson‘s likeable Army officer and Maurice Denham‘s turn as the enthusiastic scientist on the verge of a great discovery, the acting is authentic, top notch stuff. Most impressive though, are the small supporting roles of Aubrey Morris as a greasy Soho Bookshop owner and the apparently improvised exchange between a youngish Warren Mitchell and Marianne Stone as the parents of a missing girl. These are scenes that go beyond the cliches of the genre and make the viewing of this film truly worthwhile – in and of themselves.

Not content with well handled Science Fiction, Gilling elects to add a capable crime detective angle in for good measure too. Because, once the hunt for the deformed, intergalactic, nubile-woman-loving kidnapper, Medra (Robert Crewdson) is on, Alfred Burke‘s character, a determined Scotland Yard bobby, emerges as an unlikely rival to Saxon’s role of hero, to intensify the case and to broaden the narrative.

Night Caller from Outer Space never fails to engage. Sure, this has plenty to do with the fanciful camera work and excellent acting on offer, but Jim O’Connolly‘s smart screenplay deserves a mention for being so willing to break from convention. Several of the protagonists are dead by the end of the film and Night Caller‘s… ostensible “damsel”, Patricia Haines and her failed attempt to “honey trap” the Galilean Medra, is met with wry ridicule when he casts doubt over her claims to ever being a model…

Gilling’s film, directly preceding  career defining efforts with The Reptile and The Plague of The Zombies, ably points towards a talent for bringing the Fantastic to life in shocking, almost vérité, fashion. Saxon’s involvement is merely an added bonus. Imagine being 30 years old and already having this AND Bava’s movie on your filmography? What could possibly go wrong?