Friday 27 July 2012

Not Of This Earth

Earth Every Penny

Not Of This Earth
US 1957
Directed by Roger Corman
Shout Factory Region 2

Warning: A few mild spoilers here 
if you are worried about such things.

The end of an evening for a young couple as a girl is driven to the edge of the park where she lives. Her boyfriend wants to take her to her door but she protests, wanting to do the last bit through the park on her own in case her dad sees them. So the boy drives off and she walks through the park only to be confronted by a large man with a typical 50s “man in black” UFO image... wearing the suit, a trilby, dark glasses and carrying a briefcase. The man takes off his sunglasses as the girl screams and, as we find out later, the man burns her eyes out with his thoughts and turns her brain all gooey. He gets down beside her, opens his briefcase, taps one of her veins with a needle/tube and starts filling the four vials inside with the girls blood. Is this man a vampire? A vampire from space, perhaps?

One thing's for sure, he’s... Not Of This Earth!

And then the opening credits roll and... well actually I really enjoyed this less than stellar slice of 50s sci-fi. I was looking forward to something really quite bad, to be honest, considering that Corman directed this little piece of space vampirism in the same year that he directed his amazing, has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed Attack Of The Crab Monsters (see review here). To be fair, it is quite bad but the story concept is quite respectable, 1950s sci-fi novel fodder (and therefore early 21st Century movie fodder, mark my words) and the movie is a lot more competent than what you would expect if you’ve seen that other movie.

After using what I can only call his special “eye-powers” to thought control a doctor, Mr. Johnson, the big, dark glasses wearing guy from the opening sequence, has a new long-term guest in his house in the form of the doctor’s young nurse, who has been sent to give Mr. Johnson his vital daily blood transfusion. Fortunately for the audience, Nadine the nurse is played by Beverly Garland, who is a typical 50s B-movie honey, which means she’s not hard to look at, and who I last saw in The Alligator People (reviewed here). When she gets there, she finds a few things about “Mr. Johnson” a little odd... like his surprise that she doesn’t want to be locked in her room overnight, which to him means she has a secure environment. Or why he hires a petty criminal as his personal assistant. And where do all his dinner guests, like the three homeless men he invited to dinner, suddenly disappear to?

When her boss doesn’t want to discuss certain details of her new patient, it’s down to her, her petty criminal co-worker and her policeman boyfriend to solve the mystery. When it turns out the mystery is killing humans for blood and sending it through matter transport beam to a planet dying from a nuclear war, with plans to subjugate the earth... things seem to be taking a turn for the worse. But things are going bad for “Mr. Johnson” too when a fellow alien lady (with characteristic dark glasses) comes to earth through his basement communication beam and tells him she escaped his dying world. Like him, she needs regular blood transfusions so he breaks into the doctor’s office with her to dose her up... not realising he’s accidentally got the “rabid dog blood” by mistake... I promise I’m not making this up. Chases and sequences of suspenseful B-movie terror ensue.

Yeah, okay, it does sound kinda bad and, truth be told, it’s not the most sophisticated B-movie I’ve seen... but this pulled a lot less clunkers than I was expecting and I could see someone like a very young Philip K. Dick getting into similar kind of territory in his short stories and early novels. The direction and cinematography seems a lot more palatable than the same director’s aforementioned Attack Of The Crab Monsters too and Ronald Stein provides another “broad strokes” sci-fi/horror score which ably supports the on-screen action. And when I say ably supports, I mean over-the-top as hell but, then, that is the perfect musical complement to this kind of movie.

The ending of the movie, too, was something I found pleasing on the eye (as corny as it is) and I have to say I was much more satisfied by this ending than I have been by a lot of other movies of this ilk. Although, the movie did miss a trick after the alien lady was infected by “rabid canine plasma” where they had her just dying rather than have her foaming at the mouth and tearing the sleepy town of Dullsville USA apart in a weird alien rampage. Maybe the budget was as non-existent as a lot of Corman’s other features at the time. I’ve just found out, though, that  it was remade twice more over the years... one version even starred the notorious Traci Lords... so maybe the budgetary constraints were lifted a little on the later versions (probably not, but I’m going to do my best to track these versions down). Maybe they even have a rabid, alien, dog-crazy attack in them... who knows?

If you’re looking for a sophisticated entertainment to challenge your brain for an hour or so then stay away from this one at all costs, you won’t find that kind of stimulation in this movie. If, however, black and white 50s sci-fi movies with “white contact lenses standing in for insidious alien eyes that will burn your brain right out of your head” are the kinds of movies you enjoy... then you’ll probably get a kick out of watching this movie. It’s not as awesome as the sheer rubbishness of Attack Of The Crab Monsters... but the dialogue does weave a certain charm which will take you back to more innocent times. Enjoy.

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