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The Terrornauts

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The Terrornauts (1967) starring Simon Oates, Stanley Meadows, Zena Marshall

In short, The Terrornauts looks and feels like a bad 1960’s episode of Dr. Who — which is disappointing, since the first third or so of the film was very promising.

The Terrornauts begins with a SETI-like installation in the UK — Project Star Talk, a small project run by Dr. Joe Burke (played by Simon Oates), with electronics expert  Ben Keller (Stanley Meadows) and office manager Sandy Lund (Zena Marshall). The project is about to be shut down by the Site Manager, Dr. Henry Shore (Max Adrian) since there have been no results so far. And they’re given a final 90 days to get results. During this time an accountant, Mr. Yellowlees (Charles Hawtrey) is sent to look over the project’s accounts. However, a repeating signal is received by the project.

But the signal is coming from a small asteroid with no atmosphere, where life couldn’t exist. Despite this, Dr. Burke spends the balance of his grant to equip the telescope with a powerful transmitter to contact the source of the signals. The night of the transmission, Mr. Yellowlees and Mrs. Jones (Patricia Hayes) who runs the tea trolley, are in the building as well; while  waiting for a response, Dr. Burke tells of his father’s discovery at an archaeological dig in France. A cube that gave him strange dreams as a boy, inspiring him to become an astronomer.

Signalling the asteroid

The signal is sent and reaches the asteroid. The asteroid has on it a huge installation that receives the radio signal. And answers it with a spaceship sent riding down the radio beam to the point of transmission. When the spacecraft arrives at Project Star Talk, it picks up the transmitter shed and carries it (including the people)  to the alien installation. The telescope staff’s leader believes, despite eyewitnesses that the transmitter shed exploded, killing the Star Talk team. Cementing his character as blockhead in charge.

Total cheesiness ahead

It’s at this point that the movie devolves into total cheesiness. The kidnapped people are taken to the alien civilization, where they have to pass a series of tests …. For initially unknown reasons. The tests are administered by an odd, almost Dalek-like robot, that doesn’t communicate with the people. Eventually, our heroes pass the tests and taken to see the alien in charge of the base — who, unfortunately, has been dead for a very long time.’

Via “memory cubes,” our heroes find out that this base is actually a battleship, sent out by a now-defeated benevolent alien race, to help other species of good will (hence the tests) from an evil, invading alien army out to destroy inhabited planets because …. well, because they’re the villains. Our heroes use “memory cubes” to find out how to run the station, and try repelling the invaders.  who, coincidentally, are targeting theEarth in a matter of hours. Along the way, the beautiful young heroine accidentally transports herself to one of the fallen planets, where the surviving people have degenerated into barbarism — leading to the lurid image on the poster.

Eventually, the invasion is repulsed, the base is destroyed, but our heroes escape at the last moment back to Earth via the re-calibrated teleportation disk.

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