The Day Mars Invaded Earth – USA, 1963

The Day Mars Invaded Earth – aka Spaceraid 63 – is a 1963 American science fiction feature film produced and directed by Maury Dexter (House of the Damned), The movie stars Kent Taylor, Marie Windsor, and William Mims. It was released by Twentieth Century Fox.

Plot:

NASA successfully lands a robotic surveyor on Mars. However, after just a few minutes, the rover is completely destroyed by what appears to be a high energy surge. Back at mission control, Dr. Dave Fielding (Kent Taylor), in charge of the project, suddenly feels oddly disconnected and not himself; he shakes it off and then goes to face the crowd of expectant reporters. Right after he leaves, his exact body double is sitting at his desk.

Dave then leaves for a long-overdue vacation and flies to California to be with his family; they are now staying in the guest house of a lavish mansion belonging to his wife’s family. At first, the tensions between Dave and his wife Claire make it less obvious that they are seeing their body doubles walking around the estate. However, as things turn strange, the whole family suspects something is wrong, very wrong…

Reviews:

The Day Mars Invaded Earth hasn’t a great deal going for it. The actors are willing but Maury Dexter’s direction is rather pedestrian, failing to inject mystery or urgency into the proceedings, or to smooth out problems in the screenplay. When in doubt, he’ll end a shot with a meaningless pan to a statue. But wait — statues are copies of people, right?” Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant

” …one of Lippert’s least interesting sci-fi melodramas, despite two startlingly good moments. The 69-minute film plays like a protracted, lesser episode of Twilight Zone, and almost certainly was built around the availability of Doheny Mansion (aka Greystone Mansion), a Beverly Hills landmark.” Stuart Galbraith IV, DVD Talk

” …so much time in the movie is spent with people silently wandering around the estate, that I wonder if the movie was actually a real estate film; it’s a beautiful place, and if I only had the money…, but a real estate sales pitch doesn’t build suspense, a commodity this movie needs badly.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“The middle of the film develops an eerie atmosphere with faces blurring out; the unsettling quietude of the estate gardens in their geometrically laid-out perfection and the wife being pursued through them by an eerie noise; the scenes with the doppelgangers trying to kill their owners. The end revelation of what is going on, which prefigures Solaris (1972), is slightly underdeveloped, although there is an effective twist ending.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“Surprisingly grim ending is weakened by a mediocre cast and script.” TV Guide

“Unpretentious programmer with echoes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

“Spooky, well-constructed tale of Martian menace, deftly blending uncanny suspense and human interest.” Daily Cinema

“This pallid, pint-sized exercise starts out with a scientist and his little family vacationing on a huge California estate after he has supervised a rocket landing on Mars. At least, we’re told he has. Then the family begins seeing spots and double images, to spook music. This took 40 minutes, before one viewer came back to earth, retreating…” Howard Thompson, The New York Times

Cast and characters:

  • Kent Taylor … Dr. David Fielding
  • Marie Windsor … Claire Fielding
  • William Mims … Dr. Web Spencer
  • Betty Beall … Judi Fielding
  • Lowell Brown … Frank Hazard
  • Gregg Shank … Rocky Fielding
  • Henrietta Moore … Mrs. Moore
  • Troy Melton … Police Officer
  • George Riley … Cab Driver

Filming locations:

Filmed at Greystone Mansion, in Beverly Hills, California, seen in many films, including House of the DamnedPicture Mommy DeadPhantom of the Paradise, EraserheadFlowers in the AtticDeath Becomes HerGhostbusters II and The Witches of Eastwick.

Technical credits:

70 minutes | CinemaScope

Trivia:

Maury Dexter later said the film’s title came from Associated Producers’ Robert L. Lippert and was meant to evoke memories of Fox’s 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.

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