A lonely guest house nestled at the foot of the mountains in Inverness-shire, the Bonnie Charlie run by Mr and Mrs Jamieson is about to receive an influx of unusual visitors; first the man who gives his name as Albert Simpson, claiming to be on a hiking tour when he unfortunately lost his wallet and offering to work in exchange for bed and board, then Professor Arnold Hennessey and his travelling companion Michael Carter, an astronomer and a Daily Messenger journalist following up on a report of a fallen meteor.
Simpson already known to barmaid Doris, he is actually Robert Justin, escaped from Stirling Prison where he was serving a sentence for the murder of his wife though he claims innocence, but the revelation of his identity by Carter is derailed by another arrival, a flying saucer which lands nearby and disgorges a woman who identifies herself as Nyah, arrived from Mars and bound for London though displaced by the Scottish weather, a ruthless woman with a short skirt, a full length cloak, a penchant for dramatic entrances and devilish plans she is eager to disclose.
Originally released in late 1954, Devil Girl from Mars was shot in only three weeks by director David MacDonald, written by James Eastwood and based on a play co-written with John C Mather, rushed into production when the previous project of producer brothers Edward J Danziger and Henry Lee Danziger completed filming ahead of schedule and they found they had studio space paid for and understandably refused to let it go unused.
The sets, special effects, model work and painted backdrops which represent the Highlands of Scotland better than might be expected for a low-budget quickie, as are the cast which includes First Men in the Moon‘s Hugh McDermott, Things to Come‘s Sophie Stewart, The Gentle Gunman‘s Joseph Tomelty and Moon Zero Two‘s Adrienne Corri, it is in the unnatural dialogue that Devil Girl from Mars falls down, Patricia Laffan’s condescending and boastful Nyah suffering most particularly as the overly chatty would-be dictator seeking men to repopulate her home planet.
Explaining her technology and plans needlessly rather than enacting them, the human drama of broken relationships and thwarted ambitions is more convincing than the extra-terrestrial threat of Nyah and her robot Chani (incongruously named Johnny in the subtitles of StudioCanal’s new restoration) and concerned with their own affairs the residents of the Bonnie Charlie often seem to forget that they are in a science fiction film, possibly because so many of the elements are familiar.
The interior design of Nyah’s ship recalling Klaatu’s vessel from The Day the Earth Stood Still and little Tommy waking to see the descent of the ship from his bedroom window almost identical to the opening of Invaders from Mars, while not as fearsome as its reputation would suggest Devil Girl from Mars is still far from a classic, an alien invasion presented as a chamber drama where a stronger sense of mystery and immediate peril would have lifted the atmosphere and drama substantially.