Devil Girl From Mars (1954)

Devil Girl

Directed by David MacDonald

Written by James Eastwood

Tagline: "Invasion from outer space!"

Run Time: 77 min

One of the hazards of reviewing a "bad" movie is the all too real danger of winding up liking it; a type of cinematic "Stockholm Syndrome". When I first saw the title of this film, I eagerly rubbed my hands together, looking forward to tearing at it and ripping it to pieces. However, when all is said and done, I must say that this film is so bizarre that it belongs in a different dimension along with other odd films that can’t be placed in the familiar "good/bad" categories. Ok, yes, it is a silly film, but being a British sci-fi film that takes place in a Scottish inn called "The Bonny Charlie" far up in the Scottish highlands, well, it is also quite unusual, and in a twisted way, almost charming; what other movie has dialog such as,"Come on, Jamie, while we’re still alive, we might as well have a cup of tea."

The premise of the film is that the Martians have had some sort of a civil war between the women and the men…one in which the men got the short end of the stick and are now dying out. The Martian women realize that their race is now in a bit of a bind, so they send Nyah to Earth in order to kidnap Earth men and take them back to Mars, where they will breed with the Martian women (where do I sign up?!)

I doubt anybody that has seen this film will ever forget Nyah, the ultimate space Queen. In her glossy, black leather skull cap, cape, knee-high boots and mini-skirt, she manages to navigate interplanetary space but somehow misses London and winds up lost in Scotland. Not to mention her ridiculous robot, Chani, with its limp, useless arms and refrigerator-box body, it vaporizes a tree and an old truck to demonstrate its power, while trying not to trip over the scenery.

One thing that I immediately noticed while watching this movie was the amount of runtime devoted to characterization; something seldom seen in a "typical" 1950’s sci-fi movie. The reason for this is that the film is based on a radio play (!) of the same name. Obviously, a radio presentation could not rely on visual special effects, thus it was necessary to develop the characters (to a degree) in order to hold the listener’s interest. The radio ‘roots’ of this film become apparent as the first 20 minutes of the movie are solely used to establish the relationships between the 3 couples: The elderly Jamieson’s who run the inn, the secret love between the escaped convict Robert and Doris, the barmaid, and finally Carter the news reporter and the London model, Ellen, who happens to be staying at the inn for the winter, for reasons of her own…

I also found it refreshingly funny to watch how much the characters love to drink. What’s wrong with a nice warm Scotch on a cold winter night? Especially if you’re going to be kidnapped and taken to Mars as a stud-bull anyway?

Now, to meet the cast and begin our voyage through "Devil Girl from Mars":

The Cast:

The film starts with an airplane flying high over the clouds. Without warning, the plane explodes and the credits start. I can only assume that Nyah blew up the plane, but for what reason? I don’t know, it’s never mentioned again, but it was a cool explosion.

After the opening credits we enter a Scottish pub, "The Bonnie Charley", where a small boy, Tommy is listening to a radio while the barmaid, Doris, is drying glasses and doing ‘bartender-ly’ things. The radio announcer informs us that a meteor has struck accounting for the "noise" heard the previous day. As the report ends the pub’s elderly owner, and Tommy’s aunt, Mrs. Jamieson, enters and shoo’s him to bed.

Meanwhile, Prof. Arnold Hennessey, a leading astrophysics, is traveling to the impact site in order to examine the meteor. I guess this was back in the days when astrophysicists had a lot of free time on their hands. Hennessey, accompanied by reporter Michael Carter, have managed to get themselves lost in the Scottish highlands while trying to find the site. They turn on the car’s radio (for some reason) and hear that an escaped convict, Robert Justin, is on the loose. (Dum! Dum! Dum!)…fade to black…

Yes, Robert Justin, running through the woods, hiding behind rocks, dodging and ducking…wait! He sees a light up ahead…it’s the pub! The plot thickens!

Back at the pub, the Jamiesons are getting ready to serve dinner. Doris busily gathers plates and glasses, while Mr. Jamieson tries to sneak out into the bar for a quick one (you old devil, you!) Mrs. Jamieson is happily bossing everybody around, giving sharp orders to Doris to set the tables, scolding her husband for drinking so much, and so on.

As Doris goes into the lounge to set up for dinner there is a knock on the door. What do you know! It’s Robert, the escaped convict! We quickly see that Doris and Robert know each other from before, in fact, they are lovers. Doris asks him what he’s doing here, and he replies that he’s escaped from prison and needs a place to hide out. Oh yeah, don’t call him Robert anymore, call him by his fake name, Albert Simpson. Ok, Albert it is. (I will still refer to him as Robert throughout this walk through in an attempt to minimize confusion.)

Devil GirlAs Robert and Doris discuss the situation, in comes the busy-body Mrs. Jamieson (I still haven’t heard her first name, so bear with me). She demands to know what this stranger is doing here, which seems odd, since it is, you know, a pub. Doris quickly comes up with the cover story that he is a lost hiker who has also misplaced his wallet. Robert suggests to the skeptical Mrs. Jamieson that he could work for his keep, to which she agrees, saying that she can find plenty of work for him to do (And I do believe her!).

Mrs. Jamieson returns to the kitchen, presumably to boss around poor old Mr. Jamieson. Robert and Doris start arguing at the bar as it seems Doris has lost faith that he would ever get out of the prison. We also get some juicy exposition: Robert murdered his first wife, but it was just an accident (yeah right). Anyway, Doris is still jealous, blah blah. She gives him a drink and they make up, but not before the other hired hand, David, limps into the room, casts down some firewood, and exits without saying a word. Doris mentions that he "…gives her the creeps…" She also helpfully informs us that there is a model from London staying in the pub, Ellen Prestwick, and that she is "…really good looking." (All right!)

Down comes the aforementioned model, Ellen. As Ellen descends the stairs, she begins to flirt harmlessly with old Mr. Jamieson, at which time he is immediately commanded back into the kitchen by his domineering wife. Ellen approaches the bar and greets Robert, who is trying to maintain a low profile. Ellen notes that his face seems oddly familiar, causing the startled Robert to abruptly run to the kitchen, leaving the puzzled Ellen alone with her drink. Ahh, men…

We then cut to an isolated Scottish road in the middle of nowhere. Hennessey and Carter are completely lost now, and are looking at a signpost beside the road. Seeing that the sign points to only 2 things, "..Loch something-or-other and a pub", they wisely decide to head to the pub and have a drink. (Aye!)

Devil GirlBack in the pub, Ellen and Mrs. Jamieson are now setting tables while Mr. Jamieson is gulping booze at the bar. Doris busies herself with drying glasses, or something, when Hennessey and Carter arrive at the inn and knock on the door. Once again, everybody seems completely shocked when somebody knocks on the door. I still haven’t figured that out, but I’ll just go with the flow…

Although the inn is "…closed for the winter…", Mrs. Jamieson manages to give the gentlemen a room for the night, which is a much warmer reception than she gave to Robert when he showed up a few minutes ago: suggesting that Robert "…take a bath…" (!)

As Prof. Hennessey cozies up to the fireplace to get warm, Carter makes his way to the bar and introduces himself to the attractive Ellen. He begins to flirt with her (understandably), and Ellen responds quite positively to his efforts.

Devil GirlDid I mention there is a lot of drinking in this movie? Try watching this movie and taking a drink whenever the characters do. I dare you.

Devil GirlAs introductions are made, Hennessey moves from the fire to the bar and has a drink, while the eager Mr. Jamieson also has a "…wee scotch". (I never see anybody pay for a single drink during the entire movie…where is this place? I’m buying my plane tickets tomorrow!)

Hennessey says that he is investigating the meteor, while Carter is along to cover "…the newspaper side of it…". (Would that be on the "Meteor Page" of the B section?) Ellen, standing at the window says she saw a flash of light off in the distance, to which Hennessey dismisses it as just being her imagination. Hennessey walks Ellen back to the bar and they have another round of drinks! This time Mr. Jamieson eagerly declares it’s on the house, since it’s so seldom that they have "a distinguished professor from London, a writer for the newspapers, and a right bonny lassie staying with us!"

As the drinks start pouring, in comes Mrs. Jamieson with a steaming bowl of "Scotch Stew". As they dig in, Robert comes in from the kitchen with a loaf of bread for the dinner. Carter immediately recognizes him as the escaped convict and is just about to reveal the truth when the inn starts rumbling and a bright light fills the room.

Devil GirlOutside comes a flying saucer, cruising over the treetops. With a roar and a blast of sparks and smoke, the saucer lands on an empty field just outside the inn. Carter runs back inside to phone in what has happened, but the phones mysteriously don’t work. Carter and Hennessey decide to drive to the nearest phone which is 7 miles away, but wouldn’t you know: the car won’t start! Meanwhile, Robert has taken advantage of the confusion and hidden from the others behind some curtains. Doris finds him and stashes him away in the attic.

Outside, the door of the saucer finally opens and we get our first glimpse of Nyah. I must admit that this scene was pretty cool. Drums pound, trumpets blare, and out of the huge saucer stalks a woman in a shiny black leather cape, leather mini-shirt, pointed shoulder-pads, and skullcap! Maybe it’s just me, but I think she looks pretty damn cool!

Devil Girl

David, the hired hand we briefly saw carrying firewood in an earlier scene, makes his way to the saucer and stumbles over a rock. David sees Nyah and tries to run but is blocked by an invisible wall that Nyah has placed around the inn. He bounces off the wall, Nyah smirks, and vaporizes him with her ray gun, leaving behind only a smoldering pair of glasses! What an entrance! I love it!

Meanwhile, Hennessey and Carter struggle to get the car started but nothing seems to work. The go back inside to try the phone again, and also to have a couple of "nice big scotches" (!) As Carter tries the phone (still not working), Hennessey notices that Doris appears hypnotized, sitting on a chair staring off into space. Carter notes in a whisper that "See can’t see us…she can’t hear us…", so I wonder why he bothers whispering…anyway…

Devil GirlHennessey and Carter turn around and standing in the doorway is none other than Nyah. Carter asks her what her name is and where she comes from to which she matter-of-factly replies "Nyah.","Mars." (I’m in love!) Nyah walks over to the bar and ‘de-hypnotizes’ Doris while she gives Carter a good looking over…hmmm, I think she has found her first stud.

Nyah explains that the Earth’s atmosphere was "thinker than expected" and ripped off a part her spaceship, thus explaining the meteor that we heard about on the radio. She also tells him that she is traveling with a "mechanical man" named Chani. (Admittedly one of the silliest robots I have seen, as you too will soon see.)

She also tells the inferior humans that her ship can repair itself, using some sort of ‘organic metal’. (Much like the "bad" terminator in the second and third "Terminator" movies. Alas, we never get to see the ‘organic metal’ in this movie, we just have to take Nyah’s word for it.)

The story continues as Nyah explains that the Martians finally perfected the ultimate weapon: "A perpetual-motion chain-reaction beam". If you are curious how that works, Nyah obligingly fills is in on the details: "As fast as matter was created, it was changed by its molecular structure into the next dimension, and so destroyed itself" (!). Hennessey takes this all in stride and says in amazement, "So, there IS a fourth-dimension!" (Yes, it must be the dimension that this film came from…)

At that moment, Mrs. Jamieson enters the lounge and in a classic line, Carter introduces her to Nyah: "Mrs. Jamieson, allow me to introduce your newest guest. Ms. Nyah. She comes from Mars." (!)

Understandably startled, the poor old woman scurries back to the kitchen. Nyah, having had enough chat for now, explains that there is an invisible wall around the house that nobody can pass through. She turns around, cape all a-flutter, walks out the door and vanishes into the 4th dimension (I’m not making this up!). Realizing that there is nothing they can do in the face of such overwhelming power (and such bizarre costumes), the guests decide to wait and see what happens. (See Classic Lines)

To kill some time, Carter goes up to Ellen’s room and asks her if she has any scotch. She doesn’t have scotch, but she does have a bottle of brandy in her suitcase, which he accepts and uses to fill his pocket flask. They start discussing what a "bonny" lady like Ellen is doing all alone in the first place. It turns out that she fell in love with a married artist, and she had to run away where he can’t find her, yadda, yadda. Carter gives her a drink and they start talking about how much he likes drinking booze. I love this movie!

Meanwhile, Hennessey has left the inn to find this so-called invisible wall. He returns to the inn, battered and bloodied after "crashing" into the wall. (Was he running full speed when he hit it!?) He is quickly given some brandy, and now Mr. Jamieson has had enough. He comes staggering out with a pistol, ready to take on Nyah by himself. The drunken old man is disarmed by Mrs. Jamieson (probably for the best). Carter takes the gun from her and comes up with the bright idea of taking Nyah prisoner. He hides the pistol in his pocket just as Nyah stalks into the room. Nyah notices that everybody is suspiciously quiet, when Carter pulls out the pistol and commands her to put up her hands. She refuses and he fires a volley of bullets at her, but they have no effect (Duh! She is a Martian!) Irritated with the unruly humans, Nyah takes the empty pistol from Carter, tosses it to the ground, and orders them all to go outside where she will demonstrate the awesome powers that she controls: Chani!

While everybody heads outside to see the display, Robert, still secluded in the attic, looks out the window and spots the young Tommy sneaking out of his bedroom window onto the roof. Worried that the kid might hurt himself, Robert also jumps to the roof and helps the boy down to the ground, where they decide to hide behind some trees and look at the saucer.

At the foot of the saucer, Nyah halts the humans and pulls out a bizarre three-pronged remote control that she points at the spaceship. Sure enough, the saucer’s main door opens and we are introduced to the awesome powers of the Martians: Chani:

Devil GirlDevil Girl

Chani waddles around, and at Nyah’s command, zaps a tree, a barn, and an old truck. Chani is admittedly a pretty silly looking robot. His arms are completely useless, and you can see the Christmas lights (or whatever) in his head wiggle around when he walks. As you can see, Chani is actually pretty large, so the actor inside of the box must have been looking out of the round hole in his chest, trying his best not to stumble over the fake shrubbery on the set.

Devil GirlAfter this awesome display of violence against the surrounding shrubbery, the humans run back to the pub in terror while Nyah discovers Robert and Tommy cowering in some bushes. Nyah, seeing the young human, declares that she will take Tommy back to Mars, but Robert sticks up for the boy and won’t allow it. Nyah quickly hypnotizes Robert, forcing him to return to the attic while she takes Tommy by the hand and leads him into the saucer.

Meanwhile, the others have gathered around the bar and are having a few drinks while they discuss the situation. Nyah comes in through the door and in typical Martian fashion, mocks the humans since they have no power to stop her. Hennessey takes a different approach and tells Nyah that the only thing they’ve seen her do is kill, thus they have no evidence that she is really as advanced as she says. (Umm, what about the saucer, the invisible wall, Chani, interplanetary space travel,…). Well, whether this is a ploy to trick Nyah, or whether Hennessey is truly interested (I suspect both), Nyah commands him to follow her outside where he will see how powerful she truly is. Fearing for the worst, the others protest, but it is too late, as Hennessey follows Nyah out the door and into the saucer.

Devil GirlInside the ship, Nyah brings Hennessey into the control room (I guess. It looks pretty empty to be honest). Spotlights shine up onto the walls created little patterns, but I don’t see any machinery that would fascinate Hennessey as much as he appears to be. When he expresses his wonder at how cool the temperature is inside the ship, Nyah explains that the organic metal dissipates the heat: "The entire structure of the nuclear ship is made of organic metal, therefore each molecular cell can absorb its own amount of heat or cold." Sure. You betcha. She further explains that the ship is powered using "a nuclear fission, on a positive-negative static density." (Wow!)

Nyah tires of explaining everything to such a "savage primitive", and they leave the ship to return to the inn. While Hennessey has been inside the saucer, the others have not been idle. Carter has connected some electrical wires to the door knob and tries to electrocute Nyah as she enters. This second attempt to kill her serves only to irritate her further, and she threatens to kill Tommy if they keep up this nonsense. With a smirk, she proves once again how powerful she is by fading into the 4th dimension and disappearing from the room.

I have to admit that Nyah has actually been quite patient with the humans. The only reason she is hanging around in the first place is to give her ship time to repair itself. After that, she is going to London and pluck up some men, so she has no need of these people at all. Despite the fact that they have shot her and tried to electrocute her, she hasn’t lifted a finger against them (except for the initial zapping of David, which was rather odd). If it was up to me, I would have zapped the whole lot of them and just kicked back in my ship until it was ready to go.

Realizing that Tommy has been abducted, the guests start to despair. In an effort to save Tommy, Carter goes to the ship and courageously offers to exchange himself for the boy since he would "better suit her purpose". (I have to wonder why Nyah just doesn’t take them both? Why bother bargaining at all?)

Back in the inn, Tommy suddenly appears from behind a curtains, apparently released from the saucer. He tells his story, saying that Nyah did in fact release him, but that he hasn’t see any sign of Carter. While retelling his adventures, Tommy mentions that he met a strange man in the attic, Robert. Realizing that Robert’s hiding place is now compromised, Doris runs from the run and up to the attic to warn him.

In the attic, Robert sits in the corner, still hypnotized from his first encounter with Nyah. He roboticly says that there is no use in resisting the Martians, that their power is too great, and so on. Doris realizes that something horrible has happened to him and she runs back downstairs in order to get help.

Back downstairs, who should appear through the door: Carter! It appears Nyah has let him come back to the inn in order to say good-bye. (!) Doris takes him by the hand and hurries him upstairs to the attic to take a look at Robert. At the top of the stairs, Robert bursts from his room and attacks Carter. The men scuffle and fight, throwing each other around, smashing chairs, and so on. Carter finally gets the upper hand by throwing Robert down the stairs and smacking him a good one in the face, knocking him out.

Doris finally admits that she was responsible for hiding Robert in the attic and begins to weep. As Doris wallows in her guilt, Hennessey tells Carter that a "good blow" to the ships energy core might just be enough to explode the ship. (Don’t you love how all spaceships have one, highly accessible area that can effectively destroy the entire ship just by hitting it?) Carter bravely agrees to try to destroy the ship once he returns, even though it means he will also be killed. At that moment, Nyah enters the pub in order to fetch Carter and take him back to the saucer.

Devil GirlEllen and Carter exchange a tearful kiss (well, Ellen’s tears, men in the 1950’s didn’t cry), and Nyah escorts Carter back to the ship. Before they enter the saucer, Nyah gloats over her incredible power yet again. (OK, Nyah, we get it…) She pulls out Chani’s remote control and Carter snatches it from her hands. Now in control of Chani, Carter tries to turn it against Nyah. Alas, Nyah paralyzes Carter with some sort of ‘Jedi mind-control’ trick, takes the remote from his hands, and regains control of the killer robot.

Finally fed up with Carter’s attempts to trick her, Nyah marches him back to the pub where she proclaims that because of his trickery, they shall all be killed. In one last attempt to gain access to the ship, and thus smash the energy core, Hennessey offers to be her "guide" (!) in London, but only if she will spare the others.

Seeing the ‘logic’ behind what Hennessey said, Nyah declares that she will indeed take one of the them as a guide, yet the remaining people will still be killed once she leaves for London. Nyah says she will come back in a few minutes to fetch her guide, after that she will kill the remaining people and depart.

When Nyah exits the room, Hennessey makes it clear to the others that he wasn’t trying to save himself, but as he explained before, if someone could smash the saucer’s energy core, the whole ship will explode (in case you didn’t hear it all the first time). Hennessey volunteers for the job as "guide", and rushes off to his room to write down everything he has learned about the ship, so that others might find it helpful in fighting the Martians should he fail in his mission. The others remain downstairs while Mrs. Jamieson serves refreshments, noting that "there’s nothing like a cup of tea in a crisis!"

Devil GirlNow they get down to the business of deciding who is to go on the ship. They decide the best way to determine who is to attempt the suicide mission is to draw cards from a deck; the person who draws the highest card is the loser. As luck would have it, Carter draws a king, thus sealing his fate. The others scurry down the cellar in order to get as much protection as possible from the explosion in case Carter succeeds in blowing up the ship.

Doris waits until the others go downstairs and then frees Robert from the chair to which he was tied after being knocked out in the scuffle with Carter. Upon his release from his bindings, he embraces Doris and they have a heart-to-heart talk. Robert realizes that he has lived the life of a fool, and that nobody has the right to kill anybody else, as he did wife, "even though she was bad". (!)

Robert, deciding to sacrifice himself to make amends for his life of crime, shoos Doris to the cellar and leaves with Nyah when she returns. They enter the ship, Nyah closes the ramp and the saucer lifts off. Carter, having returned from getting the others into the cellar, sees Doris alone and realizes what Robert has done. They can only watch as the ship flies up into the sky, up, up, up, and just as it is about to vanish from sight…it explodes. (A pretty cool explosion scene actually…a billowing cloud of gray and black smoke, boiling out from the point of the explosion, followed by a tremendous clap of thunder).

Upon hearing the explosion, the others come up from the basement and see that the saucer is destroyed.

Realizing that the Earth is saved, they simply do what comes naturally:

"This calls for a drink!"

"Yes! Drinks on the house!"


Dennis Grisbeck (March 2005)

Devil Girl from Mars is a surprising amount of fun to watch, even if the premise was not particularly original (a dying race coming to Earth in order to replenish its population). There is nothing "wrong" with this film, nothing exceedingly cheap or poorly done (Chani was indeed goofy looking, but hardly the worst robot I’ve seen). In fact, the leather-clad Martian dominatrix, Nyah, the dreaded, clumsy Chani, and the steady flow of booze, all has a pleasant contrast to American sci-fi films from those same times.

Despite the standard scientific gobbledy-goop (for example, a "perpetual-motion chain-reaction beam" that works on "a nuclear fission, on a positive-negative static density"), some of the ideas were quite interesting. For example, the ‘organic metal’ of the ship, which was capable of repairing itself, has not been mentioned in other movies (that I can think of), at least not until the "Terminator" movies with the self-repairing ‘liquid-metal’ terminator. Another particular that was mentioned in this film was the heat generated as a spaceship enters the atmosphere. When Nyah’s ship lands on Earth, the humans can’t get near it because it is white hot from the atmospheric friction; a scientific fact that is almost always overlooked in sci-fi films.

All in all, I was surprised at how much fun this movie was. If you do get a chance to see it, have a nice bottle of scotch beside you, unplug your mind a little bit, and enjoy, as Nyah skulks, gloats, smirks, and chooses her studs…


8 comments to Devil Girl From Mars (1954)

  • guts3d

    This one sounds interesting…

  • It’s hard to find, but if you can dig it up somewhere it’s definitely worth the price just for the odd take on “sci-fi”.

  • harsens-rob

    I just feel the need to point out that Earthlings already knew about he 4th dimension… it’s called “Time”. You know, Einstein and the curvature of space/time?

  • guts3d

    Found this gem in a box set, will watch it this weekend!

  • emanuel goldstein

    I doubt the simple country folk knew what Einstein was talking about:.) in any case This is one of my all time favorites. It was ahead of its time making a beautiful woman the evil alien. great old film made when you didn’t have to make a political statement or add swear words or nudity.. just a film the whole family could watch.
    Lastly I would have left with Nyah it a heart beat to repopulate mars:.) TMI I know:.)

  • 50sScifilover

    I grew up in the 50s and 60s where I spent every Saturday afternoon watching Creature Double Feature out of channel 56 in Boston. Became very fond of all these old films. it took me many years but II now own every horror and scifi film made between 1950-1960. This particular film was one of my favorites. Hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did. when are you going to review THE WASP WOMAN? looking FORWARD TO IT. THANKS!!! Barry

  • Guts3d

    Heh heh, Wasp Woman! I saw the MST3K version and found it to be pretty good.

  • […] Grisbeck at Monstershack points out that the idea of self-repairing metal probably hasn’t been used in a film after […]

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