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  Night Caller, The Not Today Thanks
Year: 1965
Director: John Gilling
Stars: John Saxon, Alfred Burke, Patricia Haines, Maurice Denham, Ballard Berkeley, John Carson, Stanley Meadows, Barbara Stevens, Robert Crewdson, Aubrey Morris, Jack Watson, Tony Wager, David Gregory, Marianne Stone, Warren Mitchell
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Scientists at a research station are passing just another ordinary day when suddenly a strange object appears on the radar, moving at ten thousand miles per hour. Dr Morley (Maurice Denham) is convinced it is a meteor, or he is until his assistant Ann Barlow (Patricia Haines) points out that the object is slowing down and changing direction, swooping over London and heading out into the countryside. Morley, accompanied by colleague Dr Jack Costain (John Saxon), travels out to the location they believe it has landed, but when they get there the army tells them there is nothing to be seen...

Ah, but there is, for as we soon discover the mystery object is in fact a football. Okay, it's not really, but that is what it looks like, and soon Morley has spirited it away to the lab, with a bunch of soldiers in close pursuit, convinced as they are that they are dealing with a foreign power (read: the Soviets) who are staging an invasion. Like a lot of British science fiction cinema in the sixties, The Night Caller owed much to the television industry's version of it, and this plays like an adaptation of a serial although it was not.

Scripted by Jim O'Connolly, who was perhaps best known as a director, this effort is nothing if not talky, chit-chat being cheaper to film than elaborate action or special effects sequences after all. Unfortunately all this dialogue in the first third takes the form of a lot of technical jargon as the boffins attempt to work out what the space football is doing there and what it is for - not the best way to seize the imagination of your audience. Nevertheless, there is a low level of intrigue generated when the football begins to glow and emit strange noises.

Ann is alone with it in the next room when it starts this kind of behaviour, and when she goes to investigate she has to fend off a rubber claw before sounding the alarm. When Morley shuts himself in with the object, he suffers a slight mishap in that it kills him, but not one to hang around, after this revelation we jump forward four weeks and in its curious manner the story turns into a detective yarn with Costain (Saxon seems to be struggling with an accent here) joining the police in trying to work out the connection between the alien presence and the disappearance of about twenty young women around the country.

Could that publication Bikini Girl be to blame? It's a women's magazine that has an advertisement within, asking for attractive young ladies to get in touch for modelling assignments, and all the vanished people had answered it. With leaden inevitability, you may have realised we are in Mars Needs Women territory, and the final revelation comes as no surprise. There may be some suspense in The Night Caller, but there's very little zip to its convolutions, so the only amusement stems from occasional actorly elaborations, such as Warren Mitchell and Marianne Stone as a loquacious couple whose daughter has gone off with the alien, or Aubrey Morris as the kind of sleazy character he did so well. Mainly this feels like a missed opportunity, as it should have been a lot more bouncy and wacky, but instead plods where it should skip. Music by Johnny Gregory (advice: stick with the UK theme).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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