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Video reviewed by Alistair Hughes

I first heard about the death of Peter Cushing last year while rewinding a videotape which I had set to record a film the previous night. I had unexpectedly taped a selection of clips and close-ups, which had been edited together in a skilled and almost dream-like fashion, showing this very talented man in many of his guises and roles. Characters from historical, adventure and horror films, even Hamlet, glided past in silent procession, before a slow-motion shot of a grey-haired, moustached man winking knowingly ended the short tribute. 'Who' was the final face, an indication of the regard that the role of Dr. Who has among Cushing's admirers. But what status do the Dalek films have among the admirers of Doctor Who?

It needs to be said first up that Dalekmania, Kevin Davies' new documentary, is not about Doctor Who, or even 'Dr. Who', but solely dedicated to the brief film career of those 'BLOODLESS, FLESHLESS MEN OF STEEL', the Daleks.

The video sleeve tells us that this is a nostalgic look back at the making of the 1960s Dalek films and the documentary accordingly begins with a recreation of these times featuring young Josh Maguire (from Davies' 30 Years in the TARDIS). This is meant to set the scene but comes across as a little pointless and completely lacking the charm of the similar sequences in 30 Years.

Logically enough, we then head straight into an analysis of Doctor Who and the Daleks. Both films are covered via interviews with the cast, 'Dalek creator' Terry Nation and sundry DWM staff (including the shockingly young-looking Editor, Gary Gillatt). We are also treated to the original movie trailers (including one dubbed in Spanish!), and generous amounts of clips. Dalekmania concludes with a look at the fascinating work of model-maker Julian Vince whose sheer enthusiasm for the Daleks is infectious and quite endearing.

Fortunately for such an interview-dependent production the interviewees are all very interesting and, perhaps more importantly, interested. Roberta (Susan) Tovey's sincerity (incidentally, why is it that child stars always manage to continue to look extremely young?), Barrie Ingham (Thal leader Alydon) and his sense of humour, and the depth of knowledge of DWM contributor Marcus Hearn combine to make this video worth watching. But where the hell was Bernard Cribbins (PC Tom Campbell)? And surely the late Peter Cushing and Roy Castle must be on film somewhere saying something about their involvement? I could very well be mistaken about this, but it would seem surprising considering that Cushing himself named Dr. Who as one of his favourite roles.

Still, it's very amusing to hear Barrie Ingham and Yvonne Antrobus (Dyoni) reminisce about the difficulties that the Thal make-up and costumes posed, particularly for the more 'butch' extras. Roberta Tovey does make up for the lack of Cushing material in a small way by recounting the story of how Producer Milton Subotsky had asked her to appear in the second Dalek film. Apparently, he had spoken to Peter Cushing first, who stated that he would appear in the sequel, '...but only if Roberta will be in it too.'

Moving on to Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150AD, we are treated to an interview with someone who the 'movie buffs', which this video claims to appeal to, will genuinely be interested in: stuntman Eddie Powel. His credits include playing the creature in Alien, and doubling Christopher Lee for all those spectacular death scenes in the Hammer Dracula films. His work for Daleks' Invasion Earth is also impressive, including the 'Dalek-pinball' stunt-driving scene and the fall through the awning near the beginning of the film. Powel explains that during this particular scene the ledge that crumbles and causes his character to fall was triggered too soon, necessitating him to leap early and break his ankle. As I am in the process of recovering from a broken ankle of my own, I can strongly relate to how Powel must have felt as he continues the scene scrambling across some rubble, clearly keeping his pain- wracked foot up and out of the way.

Along with the still-impressive Dalek saucer and numerous action sequences (infinitely better choreographed than in the television version), the second film is the more visual of the two and arguably the Daleks' finest hour. Like the Batman films however, the Dalek films are probably best appreciated in the drastically condensed form of their own trailers. These really are quite exciting, shown on this tape in their full length. The Invasion Earth trailer even has 'in your face' Die Hard/Terminal Velocity-style title graphics, living up to it's 'years ahead of its time' promise, for once.

We also have an obligatory Dalek merchandise section, which avoids monotony with its frantic pace and truly amazing 'then and now' cost comparisons. (Dalek papier-mâché mask: then 1/6d, now £175!!!)

One question, which this documentary does leave me with, is - Why was it made? Who among TSV readers would watch these films instead of a TV Dalek serial if made to choose? And how many of us would actually buy the films, much less a documentary about them?

Unlike the television serials, with much of their appeal drawn from the larger world of Doctor Who, the Dalek films are really only curiosities with their one big drawcard (the Daleks in colour!) long since surpassed. A video which also covers the television history of the Daleks might have been a more valid product.

However this doesn't detract from the very enjoyable sections which Dalekmania does offer. If you have ever found yourself mystified about the appeal of the motorised dustbins, you will find what Julian Vince has to say very interesting. I was pleased to hear that some of his observations were pointers towards what I've always believed is the Daleks' main 'hook': their totally unique appearance. So stand up designer Raymond Cusick, and sit down Terry Nation, whose well-worn comments and dismissal of Cushing's performance were the low-point of this tape for me.

It has to be said, though, that if we can all make just one brilliant decision in our lives, please let it be as profitable as the one which Terry Nation made thirty-two years ago and which has kept him in clover ever since: and that is, of course, convincing the BBC to let him control the rights to the Daleks.

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).