***½/**** Image A Sound A Extras A-
starring Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Jimmy Hunt, Leif Erickson
screenplay by Richard Blake
production designed and directed by William Cameron Menzies
by Bill Chambers Predating Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers by two years and Don Siegel's seminal film adaptation, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, by three, William Cameron Menzies's Invaders from Mars makes for an apt precursor in featuring a child protagonist and beginning at the dawn of an invasion instead of the usual in media res. When his alarm clock reminds him in the middle of the night to check out "Orion in its zenith," little David MacLean (Jimmy Hunt) accidentally rouses his father, George (Leif Erickson), who is careful not to discourage the curiosity of a fellow "scientist" while tucking his son back into bed. David is awakened again by a commotion outside, and from his bedroom window sees a flying saucer disappear below the horizon. Dad agrees to check it out, which is of course not the wisest idea, yet his respect for his son's intelligence is touching. While a twist ending recontextualizes this moment, suggesting it may have been wishful thinking on David's part, that's touching, too: Here's a movie where the child's fantasy of saving the world isn't about demonstrating feats of heroism beyond his years, but about adults giving him the benefit of the doubt.