Sunday, March 29, 2009

The future's bright. It has Sugar Puffs.

I've just been watching - and thoroughly enjoying - my DVD of Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD, the second big screen outing for Peter Cushing's Doctor Who. I clearly remember seeing this film as a young kid; it was the first time I'd ever seen the Daleks in colour and it was on a double bill at the local cinema along with Thunderbirds are go! Remember, this was 1966 and we didn't get proper colour TV in the UK until the early 1970s (and even then, my parents didn't go colour until the old monochrome set died). It was also a big budget, big special effects fest compared to the William Hartnell version of the same story. I loved it and I'm sure it helped to cement my life-long love of Who.

It starred Hammer Horror stalwart Peter Cushing as Doctor Who (not 'The Doctor') and Roberta Tovey as his granddaughter Susan (considerably younger than Carole Ann Ford's TV version). There was also a new character, a grown-up niece called Louise (Jill Curzon) and comic relief from Bernard Cribbens as policeman Tom Campbell. Some forty years later Cribbens, of course, would play Donna's grandfather in series 4 (2008) of the new series. Cushing is often airbrushed out of Doctor Who history as his films are not strictly canonical. It's true that they were remakes of Hartnell's first two Dalek stories. And it's also true that the TARDIS interior had to be changed because the BBC held the copyright on the familiar console design. But Cushing did much to promote the TV series and his films deserve to be celebrated nowadays, even if they did get a frosty reception from film critics.

It's always fascinating to watch old films and TV series as you get a sense of the era in which they were made. The cars, the fashions, the hairstyles, the music soundtrack and even the language all help to date a film. What's curious about this film was the utter lack of any attempt to predict what London would look like in the year 2150AD. Whether through laziness or budget constraints, our future capital looks suspiciously like 1967 with crappy old Bedford vans and banners advertising Castrol motor oil.

The weirdest thing for me though was the ubiquity of Sugar Puffs. Posters advertising them popped up with strange frequency during the film ... so I did some digging. And sure enough, I discovered that the film was part-sponsored by the makers of the Honey Monster's favourite breakfast cereal. In exchange, the company was allowed to run a special competition on its cereal packets (with a Dalek prop as the prize) and feature the Daleks in its TV ads. And they were allowed product placement in the film. Which explains why Sugar Puffs signs and products can be seen throughout.

Blimey. You learn something useless every day don't you?


punk in writing said...

You live, you learn. :)

Stevyn Colgan said...

You do.

Planet Me said...

I love these films, if only for the stunning image of Battersea Power Station.

Mark Hodgson, said...

It goes without saying that, conversely, Daleks were plastered all over packets of Sugar Puffs at the time, as well.