Not of This Earth (1957)

“This killer is a fiend of the most diabolical kind, interested in only one thing: blood.”

Not of This Earth Poster

Synopsis:
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:

Review:
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!

P.S. 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
    NOTE Opening Credits
  • An enjoyably pulpy sci-fi/horror plot
    NOTE Birch
  • A clever ending shot
    NOTE Closing Shot

Must See?
Yes, as one of Corman’s best early features.

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One Response to “Not of This Earth (1957)”

  1. First viewing. A surprising must!

    ~surprising because we don’t tend to sit down to a Corman film (esp. an early one), start watching it, and start thinking, ‘Hey…this is really pretty…GOOD!’ (…considering) 😉

    Even more surprising is the number of particularly (fun/)bad Corman flicks that one can find easily anywhere – yet ‘NOTE’ still seems elusive (tho you can find it on the Net). Why would this be so??? Where’s the Criterion edition???! (I’m almost serious – wait, more than serious; they picked up ‘Fiend Without a Face’, didn’t they?) 😉

    The assessment covers the thin plot. (And this is one of the better early Corman scripts, if you decide to pay attention to the dialogue.)

    But what do we come away with most?: Hooray for Beverly Garland! Here, Corman gives her a really nifty role. To tell the truth, I’ve always liked Garland but have not, til now, figured out the arc of her career. Unlike actresses like Davis and Crawford, who ended up in (bigger budget) horror at the end of their careers, Garland squeezed in any kind of work, including low-budget horror, throughout hers. She is quoted as saying she took work like this seriously – it was a job like every other job and she approached everything the same way: as a real actress. One day, Corman; next day co-starring opposite Frank Sinatra in ‘The Joker is Wild’; maybe back to Corman or tv work; then turning in a knockout performance in the Tuesday Weld sleeper, ‘Pretty Poison’… (I respect that about her; kinda like the way I respect Cloris Leachman for appearing in ‘Beerfest’ – and taking it seriously!)

    But I digress…

    I was pleasantly captivated by ‘NOTE’. If it’s a little silly (and it is), it’s mostly compelling. You will find yourself trying to ignore a few things (like what the dialogue sometimes indicates are night scenes…taking place clearly at around 2pm). But ffs will not find this typical campy or third-rate Corman. Ya did good with this one, Rog!

    As for that ‘clever ending shot’, it immediately put me in mind of the opening of ‘Night of the Living Dead’, with the two leads seeming like the brother and sister in the cemetery, and the zombie approaching in the distance…

    Sidenote, which seems appropriate here: at one of the Tokyo International Film Festivals I covered, there was a special screening of Corman’s ‘The Intruder’ – his ‘message’ film that he was so proud of, but which nevertheless was a deep, personal disappointment to him when it bombed at the box office (causing him to never repeat such an experience). Corman was invited and he attended, pleased to be there, pleased to see that film given special attention at a festival. He was very charming. I don’t mean to give the impression that Corman is/was a fundamentally bad filmmaker. He’s kind of like William Castle: a showman, an entertainer; giving the people what it seemed they wanted. Sometimes, it seems, he got lucky. Sometimes he really comes through.

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