Saturday, 7 May 2016

Not of This Earth (1957)

A fast-paced, entertaining low-budget sci-fi movie with a somewhat dark atmosphere

Directed by Roger Corman
Produced by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith, Mark Hanna
Music by Ronald Stein
Cinematography: John J. Mescall
Edited by Charles Gross
Distributed by Allied Artists
Running time: 67 minutes (or 71 minutes)
Budget: $100,000
Box office: $1 million


Paul Birch as Paul Johnson
Beverly Garland as Nadine Storey
Morgan Jones as Harry Sherbourne
William Roerick as Dr. F.W. Rochelle
Jonathan Haze as Jeremy Perrin
Dick Miller as Joe Piper
Anna Lee Carroll as Davanna Woman
Pat Flynn as Simmons


Spoilers follow below….

A human form ensconced in a chair radiates inhuman intent through cruel and cold milky white soulless orbs devoid of emotion. A device next to him triggers the opening of a cabinet in the wall that reveals the figure of one of his own kind who reports that,

“Time narrows, there is death upon Davana…. It is assumed that we shall perish.”

The seemingly human seated figure is not a human at all but is instead a shell occupied by an alien agent who goes by the name of Mr. Johnson. This being who is not of this earth has been sent to infiltrate our planet via a high-tech matter transporter from the distant planet, Davana. The inhabitants of his home planet have developed an incurable blood disease as a result of a nuclear war. Johnson's mission to Earth is to test the blood of humans for its usefulness in saving his species from extinction. His every thought and action is dictated by the implacable imperatives of survival.

Shut your eyes fast before they are suddenly assailed by abstract visions of inverted skulls and abrupt fleeting glimpses of dripping blood and bleached bones. For now, you are now being prepared to, 

“…adventure into the 
dimension of the impossible.” 
“To enter this realm, 
you must set your mind free 
from earthly fetters that bind it. “ 
If you find the events that follow to be unbelievable,
“it is only because your imagination is chained.” 
All you need do is to believe 
“so that you may cross 
the brink of time and space…. 
into the land you sometimes visit 
in your dreams!”

Not even the hopeful and carefree concerns of youth is spared from the life-force sapping alien influence. One evening a young couple in a sports car are necking. The teenage girl soon leaves and the boy drives off. As the girl is walking home, she is suddenly accosted by a dark figure carrying a briefcase. He removes his sunglasses revealing something that causes the girl to scream and collapse. The mysterious figure takes out a rubber tube and needle and attaches it to her neck. He then proceeds to drain her blood into the glass vials in his case. See now more closely the face of Johnson, our new modern-day Dracula with the white pitiless washed out emptiness of his inhuman eyes.

Later on, a Cadillac pulls up outside a hospital, but the driver has pulled up on the wrong side of the road, next to a fire hydrant and in front of a no-parking sign. The driver clearly is in command of the tangible and physical manifestations of our civilization but he does not understand the rules, conventions and principles that underlie and help to govern it.

Paul Johnson enters the hospital and is greeted by Nurse Nadine Storey. He has come for a transfusion of blood. When he is informed that his blood will need to be tested, he responds by saying, “No test…I came for a transfusion of blood.” Dr. F.W. Rochelle soon comes out of his office and invites Mr. Johnson in where he explains to Johnson that no doctor on earth would do a transfusion without first knowing the blood type of a patient. Johnson informs him, “I must have blood. I am dying. I have Type “O.” Johnson uses a scalpel to cut his wrist but to Rochelle’s amazement there is no sign of bleeding. Johnson explains to the doctor that it will bleed later.

Johnson uses the power of telepathy to communicate with and control the mind and will of Rochelle. Johnson agrees to the blood test, while Rochelle will not be permitted to divulge any information about Johnson. Johnson then asks Nadine to work for him and she agrees only if the doctor approves, which he does. As part of fulfilling Johnson’s command to “see to it that I don’t expire,” Rochelle is to give him a daily infusion of 500 cc of type "O" blood every night.

The criminal mind, the social outcast, the powerless individual stuck in a morass of limited prospects, lack of direction and under achievement often provides a willing fertile ground for those possessing “loftier” ambitions of ill-intent toward the world. Enter Jeremy, Johnson's chauffeur and butler and former small time criminal. Jeremy Perrin greets Johnson at the latter’s residence and is instructed to prepare a room for the nurse. 

Johnson enters the kitchen and removes several vials of blood and places them in the refrigerator. After doing so, he goes down into the basement. Jeremy, contrary to his instructions, enters the kitchen and tries to open one of the containers. Suddenly, he is caught in the act of snooping and is telepathically frozen by Johnson who tells Jeremy, “if you do so again, I shall eliminate you.”

Jeremy later greets Nurse Nadine upon her arrival at Johnson’s residence. She quickly rebuffs his rather clumsy and inept pass at her and makes her way to the living room and apologizes to Johnson for her late arrival. 

Johnson escorts Nadine to her room upstairs and when he leaves the room he locks her door from the outside. Nadine tells Johnson if her door is to be locked, she'd rather be the one to do so. Johnson informs her that in the place he comes from, “no person would dare sleep in insecure quarters.”

“Death Is Upon Davana”

Back in the living room, Johnson uses his communication device to contact his home planet of Davana. The closet door that conceals the matter transporter slides open. The alien courier telepathically informs Johnson about the dire conditions on his home world. Due to the war and the radioactivity that has resulted, the aliens require huge quantities of blood. Johnson’s mission on Earth will consist of six phases:

Phase 1: Study humans 
Phase 2: Increase the quantity of blood 

Phase 3: Obtain a live human specimen to be teleported to Davana for research 

Phase 4: Blood transfusions & Johnson’s own life or death 

Phase 5: If Johnson lives: conquest, subjugation and pasturing of the Earth's population 

Phase 6: If Johnson dies…….

Obliteration of planet Earth!!!!!

“Death Is Not a Remarkable Thing”

The next day we discover more about Johnson that highlights the fact that he is indeed not of this Earth. For one thing, he does not eat solid food. Instead, he adds a pill to water, which turns the liquid a dark colour which he then drinks.

Later that day in a rather comedic scene, a vacuum cleaner salesman by the name of Joe Piper calls at the residence and is met by Johnson. By now we are familiar with Johnson’s stilted, sterile and overly precise use of grammar and vocabulary. Contrast this with Joe’s free-flowing vernacular-ridden and rather unusual “crazy man” counter-intuitive sales pitch:

“I ain’t gonna force ya’ to purchase.”

“Hey, Lemmie finish will ya’!”

“Gimme a chance will ya’?”

“Look buddy, just gimme five minutes of ya’ time in ya’ cellar.

Instead of turning Joe down with a well-chosen expletive and a door slammed perilously close to his face, Johnson invites him in and escorts him down to the cellar. It won’t be dirt that will be sucked up down in the bowels of the house. Rather, it will be Joe’s own blood that will be extracted by Johnson after he removes his sunglasses and exposes Joe to the murderous menace emanating from the wicked white of his eyes. An incoherent scream takes the place of Joe’s well-practised spiel. All trace of Joe then disappears into the furnace. Sale completed: Paid for in full…. Paid for in blood! Take that, you pesky door-to-door sales people!

As Jeremy drives Johnson to the library, they encounter three drunks. It is time for Phase 2: Increase the quantity of blood. Johnson tells Jeremy to invite the three men to dinner that night. I wonder what’s on the menu?

Meanwhile, as Nadine is enjoying some down time by the pool, she notices smoke rising from the chimney which is unusual considering the nice weather. Impelled by the kind of curiosity that can be lethal to domesticated felines, she enters the cellar to investigate. In the cellar she notices a large number of flasks. She puts her cap down, picks up an empty flask, removes the stopper and sniffs. Her reaction indicates how bad the odour is. As Nadine approaches the furnace, she hears the sound of a car horn. She then places the empty flask on a small table and exits the cellar. But what has she left behind?

“Time is indeed the only element, doctor”

Nadine’s boyfriend, motorcycle patrol officer, Harry Sherbourne and Dr. Rochelle arrive. Dr. Rochelle enters the living room with Johnson where he informs him, "Your blood is different from any I ever studied in my entire career." He has a low count of red corpuscles and his blood will likely turn to dust and he will die. Dr. Rochelle surmises that it might be a plague and that time is critical.

"A creep and a two-bit crook.
I don't like the feel of this place."

Later on, Johnson is in the cellar stoking up the flames of the furnace when he notices Nadine’s bathing cap. Soon after the three drunks wind up in the cellar with Johnson drinking when Johnson suddenly removes his sunglasses and gives new meaning to the term “dead drunk!” 

Johnson then places a number vials of blood into a trunk and tells Jeremy to move it to the living room where Johnson proceeds to communicate with Davana. The trunk containing its precious contents is then teleported. Next – Phase 3: Obtain a live human specimen to be teleported to Davana for research.

More clues emerge about Johnson as Nadine relates to Harry that her time spent as a nurse at his residence has revealed him to be “cold, odd and brilliant” and that he seems to be “unaware of the simplest things.”

“I can just see the vampire headlines” 

Excerpts from…..

The Daily Observer

Conundrum Continues

………. Each have involved the presence of neck punctures………. 

…….so far 13 people have been killed in precisely the same manner……….. 

Police sources have reported that something had been used to burn the brains of the victims…………and take their blood. 

…………claimed that some kind of device that burns out the eyes and brains of his victims, and then he drains them of their blood………. 

…. all we can think of is,
Who’ll be next?

Meanwhile at police headquarters, Sgt George Walton and Harry have been discussing the above incidents. As one of them comments, “All I can think of is who’ll be next?” we fade to an image of Nadine giving Johnson his evening transfusion during which he asks her if she has any relatives. She replies with, “Just an aunt in Detroit who raised me." No guesses needed as to the answer to the question,
“Who’ll be next?” 

Time now for phase 3! Johnson selects at random an Asian man and telepathically instructs him to follow him home. Once at home, the alien courier has some bad news to report. Back on Davana there is “destruction within the Council of the Northern Orbit” and that “rule is dissolving.” If that isn't bad enough, it turns out that “independent action increases on a 73% degree tangent!!!!” Oh my God! It’s anarchy!! Johnson reports that it will take three days before he’ll know if the treatments are working. He then handballs the Asian man over to be teleported to Davana. 

Meanwhile, more clues are mounting concerning Johnson. Nadine has noticed the dark water amongst the contents Johnson’s untouched breakfast. She decides to take the liquid to a lab and have it analysed. Jeremy also reports that the three alcoholics were seen to arrive but were never seen leaving. Similarly, that Johnson “takes the china man into his room and neither of them come out.”

Nadine later brings the sample to Dr. Rochelle. His new nurse brings in a bottle of canine blood that has been infected with canine rabies. She labels it and puts it in the refrigerator. Of course this not done for nothing. It is significant for the purpose of setting the audience up and for the foreshadowing of events.

Johnson has a meeting on the street later on with a woman who is also from Davana. She explains telepathically that she came to Earth via the “dimension warp” due to the chaos back home: “I had to escape them all.” It turns out that the alien courier has been killed and that the human specimen was crushed as it is “impossible to transmit a human or sub-human anatomy through the beam.”

The alien female informs Johnson that she needs blood as she will expire without it. Johnson then takes the woman to Dr. Rochelle's lab at the hospital. During the transfusion, Johnson accidently gives her blood from the container marked with, “Caution: Canine Rabies.” She complains about feeling strange and comments that “there is activity within me.” She then walks to her hotel room, but soon returns to the hospital and collapses outside. As he returns to the hospital, Dr. Rochelle spots the woman and together with a nurse gets her to his office. When he removes her sunglasses, she opens her eyes to reveal the same kind of deadly white orbs as Johnson’s. 

It is later determined by Dr Rochelle that the alien female “is something other than human” and that she has “lived in an area that is constantly charged with radioactive material” – an area of all-out nuclear warfare!

"I must have a second live specimen."

We next see Johnson as he goes to pick up his car. When the attendant leads him to where it is, Johnson telepathically directs him to enter the car. Suddenly a car horn sounds for the attendant and the telepathic link is broken. The attendant wisely decides he doesn’t need to be there and quickly tries to scarper but Johnson is hot on his heels and manages to kill him.

In the meantime, Nadine decides to ignore Harry’s advice to leave Johnson’s residence. Instead, with Jeremy in tow, she sets about conducting a bit of investigative work herself by searching the house. They eventually discover the communication device and the transporter in the wall closet. Jeremy then does a Hamlet when he discovers a skull in the furnace.

Unbeknown to our two sleuths, Johnson arrives home. The phone rings and Nadine answers. It is Dr. Rochelle on the other end with information about the Davana woman. Of course, Johnson has been listening in on the conversation. He tells her to remain in her room, then hangs up the other phone and proceeds to dispose of the hapless Jeremy.

As Johnson looms over Nadine with murderous intent, she lets loose with a Fay Wray scream. As Johnson is sensitive to loud noises, she is able to escape him and exit the house. Johnson pursues her in his car and telepathically informs her that he is going to destroy Dr. Rochelle.

And what of Dr. Rochelle? There he is busily examining a blood sample when a head crushing creature brought to life by Johnson suddenly enters through an open window. It abruptly plops down and envelopes Rochelle’s entire head. There he lies collapsed on the bench, his head concealed within a monstrous membrane about to be immersed in a spreading sea of his own blood.

Meanwhile, Johnson heads for Nadine by honing in on her mind signal. After Nadine calls Harry and tells him that Johnson is after her, he and Simmons try to locate Johnson and Nadine on their motorcycles.

Johnson finally gains control of Nadine and instructs her to return to the house where she is to transport herself to Davana. Johnson is also able to dispose of Simmons. When Harry pursues Johnson’s car, he uses his motorcycle siren, the noise of which causes Johnson to lose control of his car and roll it. It also resulted in breaking Johnson’s control of Nadine’s mind.

“A foreign thing who came here to destroy us” 

"I can't feel sorry for him; he had no emotions as we know them."

We now end with both Harry and Nadine standing before a headstone, on which an inscription reads;

"Here lies a man 

who was not 
of this earth."

But wait!! Notice a solitary figure of a man approaching, dressed much like Johnson and wearing sunglasses. He also seems to be carrying the same distinctive case as Johnson had containing transfusion equipment. How do you feel as you watch that man in the background walking up behind Harry and Nadine and then heading right towards the camera? The implication of this imagery being of course……

Points of interest

It is unfortunate that the copies of the film that I have seen have been of a very ordinary quality. Most appear to be far too dark and are hard to watch. I hope a remastered or superior quality copy exists or will be produced for fans of the genre to enjoy more fully.

Not of This Earth was released in the U.S. on the bottom half of a double bill with Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters. 

The film was targeted largely at the drive-in market and teen audiences. 

I’ve seen it mentioned that Paul Birch apparently left the picture before principle photography was completed. Lyle Latell is supposed to have completed his scenes.

The “umbrella” head-crushing creature brought to us by none other than special effects wizard, Paul Blaisdell may be unintentionally funny, but it does pre-date the face-hugging creature from the later sci-fi film, Alien.

There have been three remakes of Not of This Earth: The first was made in 1988 by Jim Wynorski and starred Traci Lords. The second was made in 1995 starring Michael York and the third in 1998 with female actor, Athena Massey in the alien role.

The film does seem to raise some interesting ideas, particularly at the end. For instance, does a creature not deserve our sympathy just because it is unable show sympathy itself? If it doesn't, what does that say about us? Should we only have sympathy or empathy for beings that can reciprocate?

Be sure to keep an eye out for tributes later on to Paul Birch and Beverly Garland who have both appeared in other classic sci-fi films featured on this blog.

©Chris Christopoulos 2016

1 comment:

  1. I was born in 1951. I must have seen this movie at the Palace Theater in my smallish hometown of Burkburnett, Texas not too long after it came out in 1957. I did not laugh at "Paul Blaisdell's "umbrella" head-crushing creature. It must have scared the **** out of me as the horror of that scene has "haunted" me ever since. Until now I had been unable, despite repeated efforts, to find the movie that contained this terrifying creature. I couldn't remember the name of it. Mystery solved after all these years. Far out man! To me you are a hero. Thank you Chris so much for posting such a thorough description of the details of Not of This Earth...David