Friday, November 11, 2016

Not of this Earth

Not of This Earth
Roger Corman

When people picture the typical 1950s science-fiction invasion film, it usually involves a square jawed male lead, an initially independent but soon swooning female, and some kind of threat that may come in the form of a rubber suit or giant insect. The characters are simple, the plot is simple, and it’s all neatly wrapped up by the end of the movie. Not of this Earth bucks all these trends and delivers a perfect low-budget gem.

A strange man by the name of Paul Johnson (Paul Birch) arrives in town and hires a nurse, Nadine (Beverly Garland) to attend to him. Mr. Johnson wears dark glasses at all times and is adverse to loud noises. Mr. Johnson also has a habit of killing people by revealing his strange white eyes, which destroy the brain of anyone who looks upon them. Johnson is a being from a planet called Davanna. After a devastating nuclear war, Johnson’s race has developed a blood disease. Human have similar blood and they look ripe for conquest, if Paul can stay one step ahead of the police.

"I need every issue of Butt Frenzy you have... for uh, research."
Not of this Earth keeps its villain center stage for most of the movie, and manages to make him sympathetic in his own way. Johnson is driven by his condition and desperate to discover a cure for his people. His actions, as violent as they are, seem more driven by necessity than malice. He has a strange manner of speaking that belies something cold underneath the seemingly human form.
Beverly Garland is given another strong role in a Roger Corman production, Nadine is self-reliant and brave. She’s more than willing to dig in and try and figure out the mystery of Paul Johnson, and even confront him if need be. She is a far cry from often sidelined female roles that plagued 1950s (and to this day, sadly) genre films.

There is plenty of humor sprinkled throughout the film, to the point it borders on being a black comedy. The best comedic moments are delivered by the always enjoyable Dick Miller, who takes a turn as a hep-cat vacuum cleaner salesman who knocks on the wrong door. He even manages to break the 4th wall a little before his inevitable demise. In lesser hands this moment might be a bit too much, but Miller makes it work.

Worst hair replacement system ever.
This is not a very long film, and it gets down to business right away, only slowing down  the action to deliver some tantalizing background on the planet Davanna and its current state. We later learn that Johnson is perhaps not the only Devannan on Earth, and that leads the way for an ambiguous ending implying things aren’t resolved yet.

Taping into the myth of vampires, alien abduction, Men in Black, and the fear of nuclear war, Not of this Earth is an exciting b-movie with a lot more intelligence than it’s exploitative title and poster would have you believe.

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