Blog Film Review - 1988's Not of This Earth

Film Review - 1988's Not of This Earth

Posted Oct. 31, 2015, 10:27 a.m. by Andy

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Made in 1957, director Roger Corman's typically efficient low-budget sci-fi flick Not of This Earth came to be regarded as a minor genre classic in the years to come – and mostly for good reason. Dealing with an alien who's come to Earth to evaluate whether human blood can save his dying species, the film boasted special effects that ranged from impressive (faces and bodies disappearing in a device similar to Star Trek's famous transporters) to not-so-hot (a flying monster that looks suspiciously like an elaborately adorned dust cover), but packed precisely the sort of material drive-in audiences of the time would have wanted to see into a slim and trim 67 minutes. It's also instantly apparent that, from its opening scene where a couple necking in a parked car chatter back and forth with as much “hip” dialogue as could be crammed into thirty seconds to a fiery climax and wonderfully ambiguous conclusion, Not of This Earth is nothing less than prime Mystery Science Theater 3000 type material.

Thirty years after the release of the original film, Corman (by then an incredibly prolific film producer) accepted a bet from director Jim Wynorski (perhaps best known for 1986's Chopping Mall) that a remake could be made for the same amount of money, inflation being considered. The resulting film (completed in just twelve days) hit theaters in mid 1988 with a thud, but grew a reputation mostly due to the fact that it was quintessential video store fare.

Wynorski's remake closely mirrors the action of Corman's original, again revolving around a mysterious, sunglasses-clad man (identified simply as “Mr. Johnson” and played by an admirably stoic Arthur Roberts) who waltzes into a clinic demanding an immediate blood transfusion. After forcing his will on the doctor with some sort of mind control, Johnson insists that one of the nurses on staff takes up a position as his permanent medical adviser, moving into his rather extravagant estate across town. As it turns out, young nurse Nadine Story (ex-underage-porn actress Traci Lords, in her first mainstream gig) settles into her new position nicely, but quickly becomes aware of the fact that something's not quite right about her all-too-generous new employer. Johnson's caretaker Jeremy (an enjoyably sleazy role for Lenny Juliano) informs Nadine that people enter the house but never leave, and Johnson also refuses food, instead seeming to get nourishment from a sort of supplement he adds to water. Eventually, it's up to Nadine and motorcycle cop Harry (portrayed by a hammy Roger Lodge) to uncover the truth before Johnson gets to enact “phase VI” of his nefarious plan – which involves the harvesting of the human race.

Consistent with a film that was thrown together with this much haste, Wynorski's film is capably made but largely unremarkable from a technical standpoint. Cinematographer Zoran Hochstätter merely seems to be getting the job done, the hectic production schedule not affording him any time to craft something truly special with regard to the various shots in the film. I also should point out that there are numerous errors visible in the final production – no less than twice, one can easily see the reflection of the film crew in the polished finish of Johnson's Cadillac. Viewers familiar with previous Roger Corman productions will also notice several instances where stock footage is used in Not of This Earth: the credits sequence is made up entirely of special effects shots pulled from other films (including the infamous tentacle rape from 1981's Galaxy of Terror), and fright scenes taken from Hollywood Boulevard and Humanoids From the Deep are also utilized.

Without doubt, this recycling adds to the campiness of this tongue-in-cheek production. There are numerous in-jokes for the attentive viewer to enjoy, and Lords in particular seems to be having a good time playing up the inherent goofiness of the story. Special effects in the film are obviously dated but fun in a nostalgic sort of way - I especially liked Johnson's “burned in” eye effects – and rather abundant nudity only adds to the film's B-movie appeal. Considering Lords's previous occupation, it's not surprising that she not only parades around in very revealing costumes, but also drops trou on two occasions (and, it must be said, looks great naked). Wynorski, who's makes his living these days with Skinamax-type movies which play late-night on the pay channels, doesn't stop there however, throwing in various other completely gratuitous nude scenes for the sole purpose of appealing to the youthful, predominantly male audience that a film of this nature would have.

Honestly, Not of This Earth is unexceptional in most every regard but remains entirely watchable – and maybe even quietly enjoyable - throughout. Some credit for that must be directed towards composer Chuck Cirino, who was responsible for the film's soundtrack. Cirino's music packs the energy that the film itself often lacks, making various sequences which would otherwise have seemed bland and forgettable genuinely exciting or at least tolerable. I don't think anyone is going to confuse Cirino's vintage electronic soundscapes with the sweeping, orchestral compositions one would expect during masterpiece theater, but his music works perfectly in context, adding significantly to one's enjoyment of the film. At the end of the day, the 1988 Not of This Earth remake (the story would, inexplicably, be remade again in 1995) plays as a prime example of '80s genre cinema, the sort of film that video stores were made for. It's hardly something that would positively need to be seen, but I could think of worse ways to spend eighty minutes. Best enjoyed with some friends and some adult refreshments.

Blood & Guts = 4/10

Smack Talk = 2/10

Fap Factor = 8/10

Cult Appeal = 6/10

The More You Know =  “I was jacking you before. Now I'm just telling you something.”

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