Not of This Earth (1988)
The 1988 remake of Roger Corman's 1957 Not of This Earth originated in a bet that exploitation director Jim Wynorski made with horror legend Corman. Wynorski bet that he could shoot the film in 12 days, a bet which he won.1 While Wynorski surely scores points for efficiency, he nevertheless delivers a film that is lacking in most respects. A cheaply made film does not necessarily have to look as cheap as this one does, and it appears that Wynorski sacrificed thought and imagination to get the film completed in so quick a time. While it does have occasional interesting, or at least titillating, moments, ultimately this is a boring film that displays contempt for its story and its audience as well.
A mysterious visitor from the planet Davanna, whose people are at the brink of destroying themselves, has arrived on the planet Earth to discover if the blood of humans can sustain his peoples' population. This man, known only as Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts), has the power to drain humans of all their blood, which he then transmits back to his home planet for analysis. He employs a nurse (Traci Lords) named Nadine to unwittingly assist him. Nadine soon begins to suspect that Mr. Johnson is not what he seems to be and attempts to thwart his evil designs.
There is unfortunately not much good to say about this film. It has none of the inventiveness that a low budget or strict shooting schedule can sometimes bring. It has, instead, a cheap and hurried feel. The effects are extremely poor, the one exception being the portal to Davanna that is in Mr. Johnson's library. It appears to be a long tunnel with muted lighting, and it is effective. The rest of the effects are dreadful. For instance, when Mr. Johnson removes his sunglasses, his eyes shoot out bright lights that kill people almost instantly. This is presented on film with poor animation effects that don't look remotely believable. The best thing one can say about the effects in this film is that there are not too many of them.
One of the most disappointing aspects of Not of This Earth is that it actually contains the germ of a good idea. A race that is dying due to endless war that tries to survive by draining the blood of humans is a concept that, while it may not be terribly original, could provide some chills and maybe even some pathos. In Jim Wynorski's hands, however, it becomes not much more than a combination of weak titillation and an unfunny joke. Mr. Johnson's henchman Jeremy (Lenny Juliano) is portrayed as a parody of an action hero, and at one point Mr. Johnson kills three busty prostitutes who are there for no other reason than to provide some R rated excitement. The scenes with the mind controlled Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask) are mildly amusing, but most of the rest of the "humor" in the film is weak and sophomoric, and defuses any sense of tension or horror it may have generated. All in all, the film seems much more like a soft porn film instead of a sci-fi/horror film.
About the only watchable parts of this film are its two leads. Arthur Roberts turns in a good performance as Mr. Johnson. He exhibits a very Spock-like demeanor, and doesn't stoop to the crude humor of the rest of the film. In one scene, when he finds out that his wife has been killed, he exhibits a believable stoic sadness. Traci Lords, in her first role after a series on adult films, is entertaining as Nadine. She is not the world's best actress, but she shows off a spunk and grit that makes her performance enjoyable. With the exception of these two actors, however, the rest of the cast is very poor, making Not of This Earth an unpleasant experience.
Overall, Not of This Earth is not a good film. Its director and most of the cast treat it as a cheap knockoff of a film, and it feels that way throughout. This film was remade again in 1995, and that version, while not a masterpiece, was much better than this. This is a film that is better off avoided.
- Horwath, Alexander, Noel King, and Thomas Elsaesser. The Last Great American Picture Show: Traditions, Transitions and Triumphs in 1970s Cinema. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2003. Print. Page 129. (back)