Yes, Invaders from Mars sidesteps itself with an it-was-all-a-dream finale—but William Cameron Menzies really does make his picture move like a dream, like so many of the low-budget saucer-movies of the last few years—but Menzies knows that kids are the ones most likely to see this—in fact, I was surrounded by little ones; and while they rustled around as they always do, I think they were drawn in because the plucky hero is a boy: They were loudly appreciative, screaming at the Martians and their Mutants, all sickly green and dull gold.
And maybe it was me who grew quiet inside, but the din of my fellow moviegoers seemed to fade during the scenes when the boy finds himself surrounded by possessed parents, police, neighbors, the certainty of their authority and protection, their love and aid, literally slapped down in the service of underground invaders. I wondered how those moments would sink into the children’s heads, the knowledge that they cannot depend on those dependable figures, that the lessons of civics class and Sunday school can so easily be dismantled, replaced by stalking fiends, false smiles tacked on without conviction.
And while so many of the interiors—the police station, the observatory—seemed unfinished, as rooms are in a dream, it all came down to the landing site, the fence at the edge of the hill, the sand pit into which the Martians—and worse: anyone who wandered too closely—sunk, the ground swallowing them, leaving no trace. The landscape is beautiful: the hill rises, the fence stands against the sky. But climb that hill, stand too close, and the diseased green light will get you, and you’ll emerge marked and determined, ruthless in your efforts to conquer. It’s an invasion, all right, and the monsters are all grown up—and all the roaring ordinance we can throw at them can’t erase the thought of Dad hating you, knocking you to the ground, dragging you off to the same place that turned him into a thing.