Saturday, January 12, 2013

Not of This Earth (1957) Review

Not of This Earth 1957 poster
Director: Roger Corman
Stars: Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Dick Miller
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror

Not of This Earth is an early Roger Corman classic, released on the same day as his also classic Attack of the Crab Monsters as a double-bill.

On the planet of Davanna, in the aftermath of a nuclear war, all the planet's people suffer from an incurable blood disease. One of Davanna's citizens is sent to Earth under the guise of Mr. Johnson to test the blood of humans and see if it is useful in helping cure his planet's people. But when some humans find out that he is not of this world they make things a bit hard for Mr. Johnson.

This is one of my favorites from Corman and one of my favorite 50s science fiction films.

I actually like the plot of this one a lot. Sure, it's about an alien coming to Earth and killing people, but instead of the usual mindless slaughter or evilness, this alien isn't just killing humans for the sake of killing them or taking over their planet, he's trying to safe his own planet. I just feel like it was a cut above the rest of sci-fi films of the time when it came to antagonist motives.

[Spoilers in this paragraph:] I absolutely love the ending to this film. It's so perfect. I love the last lines of the film, while talking over the grave of the dead alien: "I can't feel sorry for him; he had no emotions as we know them." Don't you just love ironic dialogue? It's actually quite a thought-provoking end to the film. Just because a creature can't show sympathy does that automatically void them the right of our sympathy? If so, doesn't that make us a bit selfish? Only caring for things that can care back. Especially since the alien was only trying to help his planet and wasn't necessarily evil? Maybe I'm over analyzing it? I dunno, it provoked a bit of thought in me. Also, the entire time they're having that final conversation that man in the background walks up behind them and then right to the camera; that was perfectly chilling and some really great imagery. [/end spoilers]

Not of This Earth 1957 grave

The whole film has a sort of dark atmosphere. At times it feels more like noir than science-fiction. It works though. The film doesn't always take itself seriously, however. Take for example the famous vacuum salesman (played by Dick Miller) scene, anyone who has watched this would probably agree that that was genuinely funny.

Not of This Earth 1957

It's not terribly scary (50s B-movies seldom are) but the one scene where Mr. Johnson picks up the phone while Nadine was on the other phone in the house and eavesdrops on her conversation was actually pretty intense. There was definitely a sense of entrapment.

I also think Mr. Johnson (the alien) looks pretty cool in design. He dresses in a black suit which kind of makes him look like a men in black, he has dark round glasses that hide his creepy all-white eyes. He's just a terrifying character and Paul Birch did a fantastic job portraying him. All of the acting is pretty solid, with some of it being below average and some of it above. The beautiful Beverly Garland does a great job. 

Not of This Earth 1957 Mr. Johnson
Not of This Earth 1957 Mr. Johnson eyes

It's a Roger Corman movie from more than fifty years ago, and being known for making very low-budget B-movies the film does have the expected overlaying cheese and camp. It's not too bad though and some of the cheesiness even works towards the film's advantage. The umbrella monster scene is really the only hilarious unintentionally funny moment. You can even see the string on the umbrella monster! But think about it, the silly looking umbrella monster of Not of This Earth predates both the facehugger from Aliens and the headcrab from Half-Life. So, arguably, Not of This Earth's monster design was far ahead of its time.

Not of This Earth 1957 umbrella monster

Not of This Earth is a must see for any Roger Corman or 50s sci-fi fans. It's great, and it's only 67 minutes long so it won't take up too much of your time. Plus the always excellent Shout Factory recently released a Corman Triple Pack which features Not of This Earth in fantastic quality. There were two remakes: one in 1988 and one in 1995.

4/5 stars

Purchase Not of This Earth on Amazon: DVD
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