Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review - Not of This Earth (1957 - Dir. Roger Corman)

I haven't done very well trying to watch all of the films mentioned in F. Paul Wilson's 'Nightworld' but I'm going to try and rectify that in the coming months. So here we go with Roger Corman's Not of This Earth.

An alien agent from the planet Davana (sounds like a seventies variety act) comes down to Earth and cases the joint. He's after blood you see - aren't they always - and he uses his wily alien ways to kill unfortunates, nick their blood and performs his dastardly experiments. He enlists the help of a petty thief Jeremy and a nurse called Nadine (the saucy old devil). In fact, he pays the nurse to live in his house to "take care of him". 

I decided in true 'Nightworld' fashion to watch this at night and I'm glad that I did, much of the atmosphere would probably have been lost in a bright sunlit room. The film was made on an obviously shoestring budget but it still manages to impart a sense of dread. To turn Paul Birch into an alien, all the special effects fellows did was slap some white contacts into his eyes. Which you don't see for the majority of the film due to his Peters and Lee glasses. He is made even more alien by his Jedi mind tricks where he talks directly into people's minds. Again this is cheaply done by a bit of dubbing in post production. All simple things but, along with his performance it's pretty convincing stuff.

The music helps with the whole atmosphere thing. It is fairly typical of fifties sci-fi B-movies but it does the job very nicely. It all feels distinctly creepy and made me think that I was watching something that actually happened in 1956 and this was just a Crimewatch style reconstruction.

The story plods along in a standard kind of way. It's obvious where it's going from early on and I can't say that there's anything that memorable. Unless you count a doctor being attacked by an umbrella creature as memorable. Mmm, maybe. But the story does its job. 

As you may have guessed the special effects are poor, especially on the umbrella creature, but this also extends to the sets. One sliding door that features prominently doesn't so much slide as judder along a bit as it's pushed by some behind the scenes chain-smoking technician. It all adds to the charm, I suppose.

There was a remake of this made in 1988 as a result of a wager. Someone bet the director that he couldn't make it on the same budget (allowing for inflation) and in the same time frame as the original. This sounds quite interesting you may think, until you hear that the director was Jim Wynorski. Oh dear. On the positive side it starred ex adult specialist film starlet Traci Lords. Okay, it still sounds really bad.

Not of This Earth makes a change from the usual alien invasion stories we get nowadays. It's a lot simpler and a lot quieter experience. Yet it's surprisingly chilling at times. A good late Friday night film.

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