October 24th, 2013
|10:11 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Not of This Earth|
Earlier this month, I talked about Attack of the Crab Monsters, which played on a double bill with 1957's Not of This Earth. It would be fitting, then, if I reviewed that movie here.
I'm not going to, though. Instead, we're going to talk about the 1988 remake of Not of This Earth, which if it isn't good, is a curiosity, at least.
Wikipedia says that the 1988 version was made by Jim Wynorski who accepted a bet with Roger Corman that he could not remake the film in 12 days on the same budget, adjusted for inflation. Wynorski took the bet and finished in 11 days. Why 12 days? I'm not sure, but knowing Corman's work, it probably took him 12 days to shoot the original.
The original Not of This Earth is a classic B-movie with a cult following. It's not great cinema, but it didn't cost much to make the movie, and they're not asking much of the audience (67 minutes). As I said in discussing Attack of the Crab Monsters, when the stakes are so low, why not give it a shot?
The 1988 version is 14 minutes longer, and it hasn't aged as well as the original.
So. Not of This Earth follows the exploits of Mr. Johnson, a sinister, business-suited man who wears dark glasses and carries a briefcase all the time. Johnson goes to the clinic one day to get some blood, and makes it very clear that he doesn't want a blood test first. The doctor and his nurse, Nadine, balk at this request, but Johnson performs some kinda mind control on the doctor. He still has to submit to a test, but the doctor will not discuss his case with anyone. Johnson hires Nadine as an in-home nurse; it's an uncomfortable proposition, but the promise of a few thousand dollars a month eases things a bit.1 Nothing really weird or inappropriate is going on, but there's something a little "off" about Johnson, and Nadine can't put her finger on it. On her first night, Johnson locks her in her room. She pounds on the door until he comes back. "Where I am from," he says, "no individual would sleep in a room that isn't totally secure."
Where Johnson is from, it turns out, is another planet. He's an alien from a war-torn world whose food supply is running out. Human blood might be a good replacement, though, so he's here checking it out, with his Magic Bloodsucking Briefcase. Nadine's cop boyfriend gets involved when dehydrated hookers start showing up.
The whole thing feels like non-sex scenes in porn. The best actors in the film are Arthur Roberts (Mr. Johnson) and Traci Lords (Nadine). Ms. Lords has become a competent actress but in 1988 she couldn't deliver a line to save her life. The other performers are much, much worse, and Wikipedia tells me that they're mostly soap opera dropouts and minor porn stars. In fact, Jim Wynorski has spent most of his career directing movies with names like The Witches of Breastwick and The Bare Wench Project and Busty Cops Go Hawaiian. I am not making these titles up. He's also done a few splatter films, but my point, I think, is that he's not interested in high art.
In most respects, this movie holds up poorly to its predecessor. It's not a note-for-note remake, but a lot of the dialogue is lifted verbatim from the original film, and it just doesn't work in the '80s. The special effects, are more impressive, but somehow bad effects and dialogue in a '50s movie are forgivable, and in an '80s movie they're annoying. On the other hand, this one's got quite a bit of nudity, and there is a certain faction who actually want to watch bad movies with a lot of boobs and blood. This movie will appeal to them. The original isn't a bad movie, it's just cheap.
Speaking of boobs, this film contains Traci Lords' only nude scenes as a legal adult, which is probably a selling point for somebody. Actually, it probably sold quite a few tickets when this movie was new.
Not of This Earth was also remade in 1995 with Michael York, and I'm curious about that version, but as far as I know it's never been available on DVD.
Click here for the trailer.
1 Incidentally, this makes Mr. Johnson liable for Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance Tax as a Domestic Employer. "Domestic Employment" refers to employment that takes place in a private residence (i.e., home health, lawn mowing, cleaning, etc.), and Domestic Employers become subject to the tax when they pay $1,000 or more in wages during a single calendar quarter. Subjectivity is backdated to the beginning of the calendar year.
Sorry. This is what I do for a living.