The Terrornauts (1967) | Charles Hawtrey and a camp Dalek have a right Carry On beyond the stars!


A British radio telescope laboratory and its occupants, headed by Dr Joe Burke (Simon Oates), are transported into an abandoned fort on an asteroid in deep space. After undergoing a series of intelligence tests, the group – which also includes a pushy accountant (Charles Hawtrey) and a confused tea-lady (Patricia Hayes) – are teleported to an alien planet where they discover the Earth is in the path of an interstellar war. Under the guidance of a robot, the team take control of the fort’s battle stations to shoot down the invaders’ passing ships…

The Terrornauts

This 1967 space saga, adapted from Murray Leinster’s 1960 novel The Wailing Asteroid, was an attempt by Amicus to cash in on the success of their big-screen Doctor Who films starring Peter Cushing. Again aimed squarely at the kiddie market, this sci-fi certainly has much in common with those colourful adventures and, providing the comedy relief (integral to the Who films), are Carry On star Charles Hawtrey and the wonderful Patricia Hayes. Hawtrey is super camp here and gets all the laughs, while the script’s accountant jokes are pure Douglas Adams. But the film’s shoestring budget makes this a lacklustre affair.

The Terrornauts

While The Terrornauts is great to look at (the bold primary colour scheme is heavily influenced by Soviet sci-fi like 1962’s Planeta Bura), the models of the radio laboratory, moonbase and assorted spacecraft are just modified children’s toys – with most of the ships based on the Pyro Space Clipper by Tudor Rose. But considering the films’ intended audience, it makes sense [I especially liked the alien fort and its rocket launchers]. Unlike the Who films however, there’s no merchandise tie-ins on offer [What a missed opportunity]. As for the rest of the sci-fi on show, well, the film’s robot comes off like a camp Dalek and the technological equipment is made up of old radio ham kits. But there is a nice line of swimming caps on show [ahem!].


There’s also a few Doctor Who connections on show here. Fans of the classic series might recall the 10th anniversary episode, The Three Doctors, back in 1973, when UNIT HQ was transported into a Black Hole. Well, one wonders if Leinster’s original story wasn’t the inspiration for that landmark episode. There’s also the inclusion of the transmat (first used in 1965’s The Daleks Master Plan), while the blue-faced aliens might just be related to the Thals in the Cushing Who-verse.

All-in-all The Terrornauts is a fun nostalgic ironing film. My only gripe is why the original theatrical version wasn’t restored, because that’s where you see the cool monster that’s in the trailer and featured in lobby card (pictured below).

The Terrornauts

The Network Distributing release features a brand-new transfer from the original film elements of a shortened version, running just over 58mins (though some hotspots and grain still remain, and the alien planet sequence is still murky). The extras include an unrestored 74min theatrical version, US trailer (also unrestored) and image gallery.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on March 15, 2014, in British Film, Hammer-Amicus-Tigon, Maybe Miss, Maybe-Miss, Sci-Fi and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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