The above embedded video clip is from the much maligned 1954 film 'Devil Girl from Mars', starring Patricia Laffan as the titular extraterrestrial female. Going on this clip it doesn't look half as bad as it's made out to be, with the robot, Chani, having a fair degree of charm and a quite imposing bulk.
The problem is that Archeology of the Future only has this clip to go on. Whilst the American films of the same period are well documented and widely available for the most part, the British science fiction cinema that was its parallel has all but disappeared. To the best of Archeology of the Future's knowledge, 'Devil Girl from Mars' is not commercially available anywhere at the moment. Currently, there are very few available British Science Fiction films, or at least very few that are currently 'in print'. Lacking the budgets, charm or allure of their more canonical American counterparts, and falling into the gap between commercial viability and archivists objective, they seem to be consigned to the limbo of small viewership satellite channels and charity shop shelves. Like most things, something has to be considered either of overwhelming historical importance or of salable value to be saved from limbo.
Reading through some histories of British Science Fiction, Archeology of the Future has come across a long list of 'missing presumed dead' films that read like a litany of possibilities, frustratingly just out of reach. Some of them Archeology of the Future remembers seeing as a child, others we know only through stills and articles where they appear almost as footnotes to the 'real' business of science fiction on the big screen.
Each one represents a possible excavation of a known site that we don't, as yet, have access to, like a rumour of something untoward happening on the moors just out of town, waiting to be investigated.
These remote and exciting possible future digs, misty and indistinct, known only through snapshots and third person accounts include:
High Treason (1928)
The Tunnel (1935)
The Perfect Woman (1949)
Mr Drake's Duck (1950)
Dick Barton at Bay (1950)
The Four-Sided triangle (1953)
Immediate Disaster (1954)
Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1956)
Satellite in the Sky (1956)
Strange World of Planet X (1957)
Man Without A Body (1957)
First Man Into Space (1958)
Fiend Without A Face (1958)
Behemoth, the Sea Monster (1959)
Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)
Village of the Damned (1960)
The Damned (1963)
Unearthly Stranger (1963)
Children of the Damned (1963)
The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)
The Night Caller (1965)
The Projected Man (1966)
Night of the Big Heat (1967)
The Body Stealers (1969)
Moon Zero Two (1969)
The Bed Sitting Room (1969)
No Blade of Grass (1970)
The Final Programme (1973)
Each film, regardless of its place in the overall pantheon of cinema history represents something which we wish to interrogate, question and explore... They really are some of the lost worlds of British Science Fiction. As we've said before, there's something deeply cherishable about an apocalypse on your own doorstep, no matter how small or marginal.
Archeology of the Future asks all of you to consider us in our task. If you have a copy of any of these films, taped off late night television or boxed inappropriately for the 1980s video shop boom, we'll happily pay costs if you can let us have them for a while.
It'd really help us, if for no other reason, to save from obscurity the history of British futures.
Come on, look at the Devil Girl... There's no way she should be consigned to oblivion...
For more about the history of British Science Fiction Cinema, read the superb Kim Newman introduction to SF:UK: How British Science Fiction Changed The World.
Buy SF:UK from amazon.co.uk here
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