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February 24, 2011

Not of this Earth

(1957, Dir. by Roger Corman.)

I'm not sure why I was more interested in the remake of Not of this Earth - which I reviewed HERE - than Roger Corman's original black-and-white drive-in feature.  Oh, right. It's because a) the original wasn't available on DVD at the time and b) the remake was an '80s cheese fest with a notorious starlet in the oft-nude lead.  Now where were we?

Though it originally played as the second half of a double bill with Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters, Not of this Earth is a surprisingly impressive b-flick that balances the goofy fun we expect from Corman with some effective black-and-white cinematography and an imposing lead performance by the original 'Marlboro Man', Paul Birch.

Working backward, I was surprised to find that the plot of the remake is lifted almost directly from Corman's original film, with the only differences coming from the overuse of T & A in the remake.  (Though Jim Wynorski's big-haired update is no epic, it actually runs 14 minutes longer than Corman's 67 minute original.)  Full scenes are presented almost word for word in the remake, but the charm of the original shines through over the remake in almost every way.

Birch stars as the intergalactic creature in search of adequate blood, and a young Beverly Garland plays the nurse role that Traci Lords inhabited in the '80s.  Garland does a fine job of being the woman we'd expect to see in a b-movie of this era, but it's Birch's hammy performance in the lead that won me over.  With his deep voice, stilted movement, and dark sunglasses, Birch comes off as sufficiently inhuman.  He's never quite terrifying - though there are a few wonderfully creepy moments - but there's a definite unease surrounding the character.

As with most of Corman's films, there's plenty of light-hearted schlock to go around.  A cameo by Dick Miller as the ill-fated vacuum salesman provides some good chuckles, and the interactions between Garland's Nurse Nadine and her police officer beau are a good example of the unintentionally hilarious presenation of men and women in genre films of the '50s.  The reveal of the villain's laser eyes and his vampiric flying octopus creature are on par with some of the great silly sci-fi gags of the decade, but the operative word there is still "silly".

Still, I found a bit more substance in Corman's version of Not of this Earth than I expected to.  It's not a sci-fi classic by any means, but for a b-side at the drive-in it's kind of fantastic.  It's quick, original, and just a little creepy, which makes it everything you'd expect from Corman and more.  I've got a feeling this one will quickly become a b-movie favorite of mine, and leave that copy of the remake (there was also a second remake in 1997, but that one seems to have been swept away) dusty on my shelf.

1 comment:

R.D. Penning said...

I do love all things Roger Corman, and this one is one of them. A classic if you ask me, and a quick enjoyable film.