“This killer is a fiend of the most diabolical kind, interested in only one thing: blood.”
A dying alien (Paul Birch) travels to Earth to secure blood for the inhabitants of his planet, hiring an increasingly curious doctor (William Roerick), personal nurse (Beverly Garland) and valet (Jonathan Haze) as his assistants.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Dick Miller Films
- Roger Corman Films
- Science Fiction
A clear inspiration for John Carpenter’s cult classic They Live (1988), this low-budget sci-fi/horror flick by director/producer Roger Corman remains one of his most enjoyable early outings (and just one of NINE films he made that same year!). Tautly edited and scripted, it tells a quick but surprisingly effective tale of alien vampiric forces invading Southern California, for greater purposes that are only gradually revealed. At only 67 minutes long, the story (co-written by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna) speeds along at a fast clip, barely giving us a chance to chuckle over the campy effects (note the brief, incongruous presence of a jelly-fish-like predator used to kill one nosy character) and gaping plot holes (why, for instance, would Birch leave his “nutrient-rich” drink out on his breakfast tray for Garland to conveniently swipe for analysis? and why bother having his valet make him meals every morning that he refuses to touch?). Such quibbles aside, we’re kept in suspense throughout about the true nature of Birch’s mission — and once he encounters a fellow alien (Anne Carroll) in distress, our sentiments towards this presumed villain palpably shift. Watch for Garland’s especially camp-worthy response when she learns who Birch really is: this is mid-century female strength and presence-of-mind at its best!
Note: Film fanatics will doubtless note that the special effects used here for Birch’s eyes (“lacking any visible aperture on the optical tissue”) were likely an influence on Corman’s later X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1963).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Creative opening titles
- An enjoyably pulpy sci-fi/horror plot
- A clever ending shot
Yes, as one of Corman’s best early features.