Thursday, January 31, 2013

REVIEW: The Earth Dies Screaming

The Earth Dies Screaming
Director: Terence Fisher
Year 1964

The Earth Dies Screaming is a low-key, yet highly effective, science fiction film which centers around an alien invasion brought on by menacing robots and reanimated dead corpses. Shot in a classy black in white style and presented in the most earnest of ways, this engaging gem strips its scenery of life as it tells a morbidly twisted tale of Earth's demise by the hands of a mysterious foe. Focusing on its central cast to pull the viewer in, this outstanding effort has a quality to it that you don't find much anymore in this particular genre. With its beautiful photography, unsettling nature, and commendable effects, The Earth Dies Screaming is a respectable feature in which takes its otherworldly aspects and brings them to haunting life.

The film begins when the majority of the Earth's population simultaneously collapse from an unseen force. Rendering all that succumb to the strange phenomenon, a quick and effortless death, the remaining surviving population is forced to gather their wits and confront the problem at hand. A rag-tag group of survivors, led by space pilot Jeff Nolan, hold up in a small village as they try to wrap their heads around all that has been going on. Surrounded by death and without any answers, the group soon comes into contact with strange robotic beings who with one touch, can evaporate a person from existence. Not only that, but the recently dead are now walking the earth, serving as servants of some mysterious master alien race who want nothing more than to bring about the extinction of mankind.

Willard Parker plays the hero of the film, Jeff Nolan, who gathers together the remaining survivors to revolt against their alien attackers. Parker is an outstanding presence in the movie, always taking charge when the time comes for it and basically keeping the group from harms way whenever he can. With The Earth Dies Screaming being basically his only foray into the world of science fiction, I'd say he did a bang up job, and the fact that he takes on the role with a serious and no nonsense disposition makes the believability of his character that much more potent. Taking the central female role of the film is Virginia Field as she plays the character of Peggy. Always in peril and classically attractive, Field works wonders as the innocent and vulnerable woman of the ensemble. Though she is not as strong and capable as her more modern female cinema counterparts, she still manages to hold her own in this male dominated world, and now alien dominated one. The vulnerability of her character is endearing and the moments in which we find her character surrounded by the undead and robot hordes, we come to find a great attachment to her and her role in the film.

As for the rest of the cast, they each fill their respective roles and portray them equally with class, but the one main standout of the bunch is Dennis Price as the loathsome Quinn Taggart. The character is a slim ball, taking every opportunity in trying to sneak Peggy away from the rest of the group, with or without her consent. He even goes so far as to capture her at gunpoint and steal her away. Now that's a pure shithead right there! As much as you love to hate the character of Quinn Taggart, you can't deny the authenticity of Price's delivery. He portrays the man as an opportunistic scumbag, and damn does he do it well. All in all, the entire breadth of the cast is top notch and they essentially give the film a quality that is truly worth visiting again and again.

What is most impressive about The Earth Dies Screaming, is that the film is smothered in a thick ominous tone that never truly lets up. Astonishingly the filmmakers were able to maintain a tremendously effective atmosphere for the entire runtime of the film, which only serves to get more oppressive as the movie moves along. From the very early beginnings of the film, when we are presented with a string of silent depictions of the lifeless, corpse-filled villages streets, to the claustrophobic middle moments when the walking dead and imposing robots begin to terrorize the surviving group, the film makes it perfectly clear that this is a world where danger lurks around every corner. I appreciated that heightened sense of peril and it was perfectly balanced against the film's beautifully captured black and white photography.

The effects of this film are also noteworthy, not in the awe-inspiring sense, but in the practical and simplified one. This is not an over the top blockbuster, where special effects are lambasted across the screen every two or three seconds. This is a subdued and intimate story of survival, which focuses on the interactions of the characters and the altercations that they have with the handful of opposing beings that come up against them. With that in mind, the overall effects are impressive and wholly effective. From the truly mechanical look of the robots, to the dead-like eyes of the walking corpses, this film makes a definitive impression on its audience. Visually, the effects are extraordinary and help with enhancing the already astounding imagery that this production has to offer. If I could summarize this science fiction gem into one word, that word would be beautiful.

The Earth Dies Screaming is a picturesque depiction of what would happen if the world suddenly became a barren and lifeless wasteland in the blink of an eye. Its quiet approach to this concept is exceptionally rendered onto the silver screen, capturing all of those somber moments in an overpowering atmosphere that just blankets this film in a foggy haze of dire circumstance. You truly feel the loneliness of the moment and the seclusion that these characters are going through, and when the antagonists of the picture finally do show up, you feel as if lost in a dream. That's a powerful thing to recreate, but the filmmakers do it with sparing flair, opting to emphasize its overall atmosphere with haunting moments of stillness.

Highlighting this delicate approach is a cast of characters that just seem to inhabit this world through and through. Lost in the same nightmarish dreamscape, the group struggles with the trials and tribulations of this brave new world. As actors in such a unique genre effort, the entire cast does an exceptional job, but it is the standouts of Willard Parker, Virginia Field, and Dennis Price, that truly captivate the focus of this film. Juxtaposed off of them is an outstandingly simple collection of practical effects that only serve to enhance the already otherworldly aspect of the production. Needless to say, I'm a sucker for old black and white science fiction tales, and this one is among one of the finest. Filmed in earnest fashion and constructed with a love for the genre, you really can't ask for more from a film than that. The Earth Dies Screaming is a simple yet effective sci-fi effort with a heavy dose of atmosphere. This flick is.....

Get up you lazy good for nothings!

Something's wrong... Something's amiss!

Alien apocalypse staring contest..... GO!

You know you can't park here buddy.

Damn you and your zombie cleavage!

Creepy robots... are watching you. They see your every move.

You'll never get my groceries! NEVER!

Tell us another story Grandpa Parker.

I see you over there you little sneak.

Taxi! Wait up! Damn! What's a robot got to do to get a ride around this place?

Let me ask again.... Would you like to have sex with me?

Get off the road you stupid robot!

What are you weirdos looking at?

Virginia Field is the next contestant on the Price is Right!

Look what they did to my little robot boy.

Gee Mr. Wizard.... what does that do?

Take this you alien scum!

Shit! Nazi Robots! Damn you Hitler! Damn you to HELL!


  1. This is a superb review, Jay. I almost watched this the other night, actually. I took the dvd off the shelf and put it back for something else. And some nice caps, too. The robots remind me of a Dr. Who robot villain. I forget their name now, damn. Lol.

  2. Thanks Brian! The movie rocks and is actually pretty atmospheric and moody.