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Friday, November 25, 2016

Not of this Earth

Not of this Earth
1988
Jim Wynorski

Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts) is an odd man dressed in a dark suit who comes to Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask), in search of a cure for his unusual blood condition. It seems his blood is literally evaporating from his body. To this end, he has hired a nurse, Nadine Story (Traci Lords) to give him regular transfusions of fresh blood. The truly remarkable thing about Mr. Johnson, is he is in fact an alien who has a habit of stalking the night for young woman to zap with his strange eyes. He then relieves them of their blood via a machine that he has enclosed in a silver suitcase.

This 1988 remake of Not of This Earth (1957) allegedly exists because director, Wynorski bet Roger Corman that he could remake Corman’s 1957 original for the same budget (adjusted for inflation), the same script,  and under the same time constraints. The primary difference between the 1988 and 1957 versions is the inclusion of quite a bit of female nudity and, of course, adding Traci Lords to the cast who was looking to distance herself from her controversial porn career.  Beyond that, it is virtually identical to the original. Interestingly, by playing out the original script with much of its dialog unaltered and juxtaposing it with a more modern exploitation sensibility, it creates a much more campy atmosphere, as opposed the more straightforward narrative of Corman’s version. This campy attitude gives the movie it’s own personality, otherwise it might just feel like a pointless exercise in duplication.

Bruce Vilanch in a role that will surprise you.
Traci Lords imbues Nadine Story with an amusing sassy attitude, she’s not required to really stretch herself in the role, but this isn’t the kind of movie where that is expected. Arthur Roberts does what he can with the odd aloofness of the alien, Mr. Johnson, but I never felt he was particularly menacing. He does manage to evoke a little sympathy for a creature that is driven by circumstance rather than malice. The real star of the movie is Lenny Juliano as Jeremy, Mr. Johnson’s ex-con domestic help, who brings just the right balance of fun and sleaze to his roll, and it looks like he’s having a great time performing it in the process.

Special effects are simple and kept to a minimum, which works just fine for a story the is far more about character than gloopy alien effects.  The music is similar, a simple serviceable synthesizer score that does what it should with a minimal of fuss. These elements are a perfect emulation of Roger Corman’s no-frills ethos.

"For the last time, I am not interested in taking your temperature."
The 1988 version of Not of this Earth is a real oddity of a remake, it is virtually identical to the original, but manages to forge it’s own identity with just a few minor changes. It’s a lightweight exercise in exploitation and camp that ends being a lot of fun. Don’t go into this film expecting any more than that and you will be pleasantly surprised.

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