Monday 14 March 2016

Blu Daleks!


A recent purchase has given me the perfect opportunity for Doctor Who review. Or rather, Dr Who review! I recently picked up the Peter Cushing Dalek films, on bluray, and housed in rather beautiful “steel book” cases.

I'm not going to focus too heavily on plots etc. Chances are, you've seen the films. You know what they are. I will, of course, venture forth my opinion on each one, but the review is primarily about the blurays themselves, rather than the films.

So, let's deal with the films first. Both are, in essence, remakes of the Hartnell stories, ‘The Daleks’ and ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. It's easy to write them off as “cash ins” on the success of the prevalent Dalekmania of the 1960’s, however, there is much to enjoy with each film.

Dr Who and the Daleks


The greatest strength of the first film, and by consequence, the second, lies in the casting of Peter Cushing. His Doctor bears many similarities to Hartnell, although is a much softer, less abrasive character. Portrayed as human, and named ‘Dr Who’ (something I will never get used to!), his character is a joy to watch. Jennie Linden plays a competent Barbara, with a young Roberta Tovey as Susan. Both fair well, although Tovey, due, perhaps, to her age, has a tendency to be mildly irritating.

Perhaps the oddest casting is that of Roy Castle. Don't misunderstand me; I like Castle immensely, however his portrayal of Ian is bewildering, to say the least. Gone is the competent, resourceful, stoic character of the television series, only to be replaced by a bumbling, inept parody of the role, who spends half the movie channelling the spirit of Stan Laurel. I understand the film needed a comic element, but it does border on silly at times, and serves to add little to the proceedings.

The Daleks look rather splendid, and I would imagine seeing them, in colour, on the big screen, would have terribly exciting at the time. Sadly, they are somewhat underused, slow and lacking in menace. They are rather fond of lava lamps, which, I'm sure at the time looked futuristic and alien. Nowadays, however, as set design goes, it does look distinctly dated.

Similarly, the Thals look decidedly camp, although credible performances, particularly from Barrie Ingham, as the Thal leader, Alydon, does much to assuage this.

Condensing a seven part story into an 80 minute film is not an easy thing to do, however, the film largely succeeds, and covers all of the main aspects of its televisual counterpart. It's a fun, but ultimately, fairly disposable film, which, even given the short running time does occasionally feel rather slow and stagnant.

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD.


With Cushing retaining the role as the Doctor, and Tovey as Susan, the eponymous hero is now joined by his niece, Louise, played by Jill Curzon, and the delightful Bernard Cribbins, who would, of course, go on to win the hearts of every Doctor Who fan with his sublime performance as Wilfred Mott, some 40 years later. The film benefits from an exceptionally strong supporting cast, with performances from Hammer Films’ Andrew Keir, and an early outing for Doctor Who stalwart, Philip Madoc, who appeared in four stories in the television series.

The Daleks are much more uniform, and have a sinister quality which was somewhat absent in their first big screen appearance. Special effects are, frankly, magnificent, particularly given the films budget of under £300,000. The Dalek ships look stunning, even by today's standards, and whilst the occasional wire is visible, they move smoothly and effectively.

Humour is much more refined, and whilst Cribbins’ portrayal of Tom Campbell has a moderately comedic undertone, most notably in the ‘dance of the Robomen’, it is subtle enough not to be too distracting from the storyline.

Originally, it was intended that the Dalek guns would fire flames, however, this was felt to be too frightening for young audiences, and so the effect was replaced with a gas. In hindsight, and with the later parallels to the Nazis, the effect is surprisingly chilling, echoing the use of the gas chambers from the Holocaust. The allusion was almost certainly unintended, but works remarkably well.

Set design and the shots of a desolate countryside and a decimated London city are effective and haunting.

It is a rare phenomenon that a sequel bests the original film, however, I firmly believe that ‘Invasion’ is a far superior film. It has a more refined humour, considerably better storyline, a great deal more action, superb special effects and holds up well against the ravages of time.

And so, to the blurays themselves..

Dr Who and the Daleks

Full technical specifications are listed below my comments on each bluray.

Presented in full 1080p, Dr Who and the Daleks is a considerable upgrade from the DVD edition. There have been concerns about the transfers of the two films, and not without good reason. There have been some, notably the dual pack edition, which have had decidedly mediocre transfers. Fortunately, the Studio Canal releases do not suffer the same fate.

Picture quality is, it must be said, somewhat variable. For 80% of the film, it looks stunning, however, there are areas where colours seem a little muted and lacklustre. It is particularly prevalent in darker scenes, where the contrast seems a little off balance. Blacks are not as sharp as they could be, and the picture has an occasional softness which is inconsistent with the majority of the transfer.

DVD Comparison Screen Capture

dvd dalek2

Bluray Screen Captures8129_6_large




The audio is presented in LPCM (linear pulse-code modulated) dual mono, and is clear, crisp and effective. Those hoping for a 5.1 or DTS audio upscale will be left wanting, however, from a personal perspective, whilst surround sound adds much to a presentation, as a purist, I prefer the original audio track. As a side note, when played on an amplifier/receiver with Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS-Neo 6, the audio is well distributed, sharp and punchy. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend listening as the director intended.

Extras are very well served, with an audio commentary by Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey, two short interviews, the trailer and a couple of interviews. The highlight, however, is the inclusion of ‘Dalekmania’ the 1995 documentary, originally released on VHS. It is presented in Standard Definition; unsurprising, as it was originally shot on video, however with a running time of almost an hour, it is an exceptionally welcome addition to the bluray, and is both informative and entertaining.

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certificate: U
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Bluray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 79 Mins.
  • Studio: StudioCanal
  • Bluray Release Date: May 27, 2013
  • List Price: £19.99


  • Audio Commentary with Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey
  • Dalekmania (1.33:1l SD/PAL; 00:57:30)
  • Restoring Dr. Who and the Daleks (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:08:26)
  • Interview with Gareth Owen (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:07:41)
  • Stills Gallery (1080p/24; 00:02:12)
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080i/50)

Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD.

Once again, the main presentation is in 1080p/24hz. However, it is fair to say that in terms of picture quality, ‘Invasion’ fairs considerably better than its predecessor. The images are sharp, colourful and evocative of the Sixties Technicolor era. Natural grain has been retained; something to be lauded, as digital removal often leaves the picture with an unpleasant, “waxy” effect.

Bluray Screen Captures8164_1_large




On the audio side, I refer you to my comments on ‘Dr Who and the Daleks’; the audio quality differs little, although is perhaps a little more taut, with a slightly stronger bass.

Extras are less well served, with approximately 15 minutes of interviews, a stills gallery and a trailer.

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Colour: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certificate: U
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Bluray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 81 Mins.
  • Studio: StudioCanal
  • Bluray Release Date: May 27, 2013
  • List Price: £19.99


  • Restoring Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:07:11)
  • Interview with Bernard Cribbins (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:04:02)
  • Interview with Gareth Owen (1.78:1: 1080i/50; 00:04:08)
  • Still Gallery (1080p/24; 00:01:36)
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080i/50)

To conclude, let's give some scores on the Tardis doors..

‘Dr Who and the Daleks’

  • The Film. 6/10
  • Picture Quality. 7.5/10
  • Audio. 8.5/10
  • Extras 10/10

‘Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD’

  • The Film. 8/10
  • Picture Quality. 9/10
  • Audio. 8.5/10
  • Extras 4/10

Lastly, I cannot finish without commenting on the packaging. Available in standard clamshell format, the artwork is stylish and effective, however for those looking for a collectable piece of memorabilia, the steel book editions are absolutely glorious! The artwork is stunning and capture the essence of the 1960’s to perfection. I highly recommend them over the standard releases. They make a fine addition to any collection.

Standard Packaging


Limited Edition Steel Books

Steel Book images are photographs of my own copies, still in cellophane, and really do not do them justice!

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I haven't watched the Dalek films in a long while. I had planned, for some considerable time, to upgrade them to Bluray, and when Zavvi had them in a “2 Steel Books for £18” offer, it was an opportunity too good to pass up, both as a Doctor Who fan and as DVD/Bluray collector. And I can say with absolute certainty, it was £18 VERY well spent. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting these classic films, and seeing them presented in high definition was an absolute delight.

And so, if you are a collector, a fan, or simply fancy a wander through nostalgia, look no further than these. As films go, they aren't without their faults, but they are still hugely entertaining and with the Studio Canal releases, they have never looked better!

1 comment:

G Ward said...

Couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the films themselves and very glad of the review of the bluray's technical aspects. Very useful to me and a friend who've hesitated in upgrading after the other rather shoddy release.
As a sidenote, while I often criticise Mr Moffat's take on DW, I did like his idea for including the films in the Whoniverse by making them film adaptations of the "memoirs" of Ian and Barbara. Knowing the film industry takes liberties with facts it irons out the discrepancies and allows some extra validity to two old childhood favorites.
Either way, enjoyed this post and look forward to more. I'm now off to peruse the blog for other posts of interest. Carry on the amusing musings!