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Invaders from Mars: 4K Restoration Review

What if one night you heard a noise outside and a family member went outside to investigate—then returned, but not the same person who left?

That is the premise of Invaders from Mars, the 1953 cult classic that has now been remastered and released in a stunning 4K restoration from Ignite Films

Directed by William Cameron Menzies and starring Jimmy Hunt, Arthur Franz, Leif Erickson, and Hillary Brooke, Invaders from Mars comes in at a brisk 73 minutes and currently has an 87% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The plot follows a young boy, David MacLean (Hunt) who begins to suspect that aliens have invaded and set up a base in his backyard to kidnap the local townsfolk. He must team up with an astronomer and doctor to try and save the town as more and more people begin to be taken.

Invaders from Mars may not be the best-known ’50s sci-fi, as it was eclipsed by other films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds (released the same year), and Earth vs the Flying Saucers. Invaders from Mars was created during the “Red Scare” of the era, a time when America was terrified of being invaded from within and without.

While the supposed threat of nuclear war and invasion by millions of Russian soldiers was frightening, it was the idea of being invaded from within that truly scared many. What if the people you knew best could not be trusted? What if the people who wanted to destroy your way of life were already here and destroying it from within, using your neighbors, family, and friends to do it?

Invaders from Mars cover of the 4K bluray case
Image: courtesy of Ignite Films.

This is the basic idea of Invaders from Mars, which really does a good job of bringing that paranoia into your mind. The film takes the idea of vulnerability and expounds on that. As it makes the main character a child, and then systematically removes from that child all the protections, stability, and security one expects while growing up. It also strips away trust, as the individuals we are told to trust as a kid, Moms, Dads, police, and authority figures are all compromised and potentially seeking to do harm.

Overall the film is unique in that everything is seen from a child’s eye, from the buildings to the locations. The whole narrative is given a dreamlike or nightmarish quality: as children, we all have our moments of monsters under the bed, the things that go bump in the darkness of our backyards. Only this time the monsters are real and there are things going bump in the night.

Invaders from Mars runs a lean 73 minutes, with no fat. Instead, the narrative moves from one setpiece to the next while and keeping the plot moving forward.

The Restoration 

Ignite Films has remastered Invaders from Mars film in a stunning 4K restoration; the difference between this disc and the older home video release is night and day. All the colors are deep and saturated, and the details of the Martian ship pop right out of the screen.

Included with the disc is a 20-page extensive essay on the restoration process titled Invaders From Mars: A Nightmare of Restoration by Scott MacQueen: it’s a fascinating look inside the process and all the work that was needed to restore the film. 

Invaders from Mars was shot on 35mm film using spherical lenses by cinematographer John Seitz. However, restoration supervisor Scott MacQueen faced challenges when the SuperCinecolor process did not result in correct coloring. With no two prints alike, MacQueen had to use original negatives as a baseline for the new color grade. This resulted in Invaders from Mars not looking exactly the way theaters goers in 1953 saw it, but it’s the way it would have looked had better technical means been available then.

MacQueen and his team did a great job reducing the old washed-out and miscolored look of the previous editions of the film, now replacing it with a crisper and more detailed offering. It’s not perfect—not every shot looks masterful and grain is still there—but the difference between this 4K remaster and the previous versions is impressive.

Green Aliens carry a woman and a child inside a green space ship with a metal rod sticking up from the floor

Special Features 

This 4K Restoration comes loaded with many cool special features, including “The Architect of Dreams” hosted by author James Curtis, who wrote the book William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Films to Come. This featurette sees Curtis talk about the film production as well as chart the career path of its director in an interesting and entertaining peek behind the Hollywood curtain.

Another of of the special feature highlights is “Jimmy Hunt Saves the Planet,” with the film star Jimmy Hunt, which sees the retired actor joyfully recount memories of the production and interactions with the cast and crew.

One of the more interesting segments is “Terror From Above” which detailed the cultural impact of the film. It includes many authors who describe the cold war implications and how Menzies shot a sci-fi story from a child’s point of view.

Overall I was very happy with the special features in this disc, I felt I got a great understanding of the movie and its production as well as the restoration efforts. Here is a full list of the special features included:

  • Restored 4K original 1953 trailer and a newly commissioned trailer 2022
  • Interviews with star Jimmy Hunt, William Cameron Menzies’ biographer James Curtis, and recollections of Menzies’ eldest granddaughter Pamela Lauesen
  • Featurette with acclaimed film directors John Landis, Joe Dante, editor Mark Goldblatt, special visual effects artist and two-time Oscar Winner Robert Skotak (foremost expert on Invaders from Mars), and enthusiast and film preservationist Scott MacQueen
  • John Sayles’ introduction at Turner Classic Movies Festival in Hollywood, April 2022
  • Before/after clips of restoration—original negative and archival film elements—with film restoration supervisor Scott MacQueen
  • Restored segments in 2K of the Alternate International Version—alternative ending and extended Planetarium scene
  • Gallery with original Press Book pages, behind-the-scenes photos from the restoration process
  • 20-page extensive essay on the restoration process: “Invaders From Mars: A Nightmare of Restoration” by Scott MacQueen


I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Invaders from Mars. It’s a unique take on the science fiction alien invasion story that sees it told from the point of view of a child. At the time this would have been very new and exciting. Nowadays we see this often with shows like Stranger Things or films like The Adam Project, yet in the ’50s this approach was novel.

The restoration was well done and the viewer will be able to see lots of love put into every frame: the work done allows the film’s paranoia and dreamlike nightmare to truly come to life.

 Invaders from Mars is available for purchase directly from Ignite Films.

Written by Byron Lafayette

Byron Lafayette is a film critic and journalist. He is the current Chairman of the Independent Film Critics of America, as well as the Editor and Lead Film Critic for Viralhare and a Staff Writer for Film Obsessive. He also contributes to What Culture and many other publications. He considers Batman V Superman the best superhero film ever made and hopes one day that the genius of Josh Lucas will be recognized.

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