Aliens, Robots, Science Fiction

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

Comments Off on The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) 08 November 2016

earth-dies-blu

Production Studio: Lippert Films, 20th Century Fox

Blu-Ray Distributed By: Kino Lorber

Initial Release: October 14, 1964

Blu-ray Release: October 4, 2016

Director: Terence Fisher

Rating: UnRated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…including The Earth Dies Screaming.

The Day of the Triffids, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds

Classic science fiction films and stories are not in short supply and most who enjoy the genre have seen at least one if not all of these films. Of course, among the most popular are an even longer list of mostly forgotten science fiction films. The Earth Dies Screaming probably falls in the latter category being largely overlooked by general audiences. The film celebrates its 52nd birthday this year and Kino Lorber has honored it with a brand new blu-ray, but is it worth our attention?

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

earth-dies_1Their target: Humanity. Their mission: Total Annihilation! The world has just been decimated by an unstoppable, merciless army of killer robots, and millions of innocent souls have been wiped out! Only a handful of survivors have managed to escape the deadly alien apocalypse, and they must endure a non-stop struggle to save themselves from destruction, and somehow find a way to defeat the marauding death machines… before the entire human race become extinct! Legendary Hammer director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula) directed this Sci-Fi thriller written by Harry Spalding (Chosen Survivors) under the pseudonym Henry Cross and starring Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price and Thorley Walters.

earth-dies_2The Earth Dies Screaming was produced by Robert L. Lippert and filmed at the famous Shepperton Studios, London England. Lippert is responsible for producing some of my favorite Vincent Price films such as The Last Man on Earth and The Fly. What makes this factoid of interest is the striking similarities between The Earth Dies Screaming and many other productions that both preceded and followed, but went on to become more iconic.

The film jumps off to an exciting start with a series of sequences that begin with random people passing out. The first is a train conductor that loses consciousness and the train derails. The next is an individual that drives full speed into a wall, asleep at the wheel. A pilot collapses forward and his plane falls out of the sky. And a series of other scenes show men collapsing on the ground where they stand. At first it seems they’ve simply fallen asleep, but it’s not until our main protagonist informs us that the people laying about town are actually dead. This sequence is very reminiscent of the opening frames of 1964’s Village of the Damned where the residents of a small town mysteriously all fall asleep simultaneously. In fact, according to the disc’s audio commentary track by film historian Richard Harland Smith, many of the opening scenes were the alternate takes from Village of the Damned. Naturally, I immediately checked my DVD copy of Village of the Damned and I believe Richard Harland Smith to be correct.

earth-dies_4But the similarities don’t end there. Take for example George A. Romero’s original classic Night of the Living Dead. Romero has always stated that he drew inspiration from The Last Man on Earth but a part of me wonders if The Earth Dies Screaming wasn’t in the back of Romero’s mind subconsciously. The Earth Dies Screaming is about a small group of survivors that hide in a hotel and come into contact with robotic alien invaders who can reanimate and control the deceased humans (sorry, soft spoiler). The robots are mostly mindless killing machines that have no obvious agenda other than to destroy everything in their path. Sound familiar? It’s the sci-fi equivalent to Night of the Living Dead four years before the horror classic.

But where Romero’s Night may have been inspired by The Earth Dies Screaming, the same may be said about Earth’s possible inspiration (or plagiarism) drawn from productions like The Twilight Zone. The popular television anthology series ran from 1959-1964, and The Earth Dies Screaming feels like it has been ripped directly from The Twilight Zone’s farewell season. Clocking in at a very trim 62 minutes, The Earth Dies Screaming wastes little time and moves at a brisk pace. Although I find no direct ties between the American series and the England produced feature, it’s impossible to ignore the notion that The Earth Dies Screaming is basically Night of the Living Dead meets The Twilight Zone.

earth-dies_5The Earth Dies Screaming isn’t a perfect picture. I’m sure in 1964 it had to be terrifying, but by today’s standards the robot’s suits look cheap and the aliens meander at a comical crawl. They lumber about so slowly that anyone using a less than brisk walk can escape from them. Any human that can carry on a light jog would be indestructible, assuming that you survived the first attack wave, of course. And since this is a low budget sci-fi film you never see tidal waves of robots. There’s only ever a couple of them stomping through your garden. Unlike Romero’s Night, The Earth Dies Screaming doesn’t age as gracefully and feels like pure sci-fi camp for today’s modern audiences. That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing and provides its own charms.

What props the film up is Terence Fisher’s decent direction and a very capable cast. Even though the alien threat never feels as paramount as a modern day zombie apocalypse, the character tensions help propel the drama and the ending of the film will leave audiences thoroughly satisfied despite any shortcomings the rest of the film may have.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★★★☆

earth-dies_6Kino Lorber’s blu-ray boasts a clean transfer that retains the original 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Fans of The Twilight Zone will also note the technical similarities between the five season blu-ray set and this feature. The cinematography has a bright and balanced appeal offering fine detail to locations, sets, and monsters alike. Film grain is subtle but natural and there are a handful of print imperfections, such as scratching and speckling. However, most won’t notice these few and far between film flaws.

The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix is natural and straight forward. Dialogue is natural and unassuming. The standout aspects of the audio come from the sci-fi sound effects and score. Fans of Hammer horror may recognize Philip Martell as the head of Hammer Studio’s music department, and he brings his trademark style of atmospheric dread and moody sci-fi unease through his orchestral accompaniment.

Extras Rating: ★★☆☆☆

earth-dies_3There isn’t a lot in the bonuses department, but what you do get is pretty rich in information. The crowning jewel of the set is the audio commentary by Film Historian Richard Harland Smith. Considering the film is only about an hour long, devoting extra time to take in Smith’s historical account of the film is well worth the listen. He covers a lot of information including background of the actors, the producers, production company, and also hypothesizes possible influences and inspirations (many of which I’ve already mentioned above). It’s a lot like sitting through a film school lecture but an entertaining one nonetheless.

The other bonus items include an animated image montage which is a series of publicity and behind the scenes photos underscored with music. And finally a trailer gallery (The Earth Dies Screaming, Invisible Invaders, Chosen Survivors, Panic In Year Zero, The Satan Bug).

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

earth-dies_7I’ve said a lot, but if I were to boil it all down, The Earth Dies Screaming is a perfect companion to long list of movies and shows. The film probably doesn’t get its just desserts as I suspect it is the blueprint for many more iconic films that would follow, most notably of which is Night of the Living Dead. If you haven’t seen The Earth Dies Screaming and you consider yourself a fan of many of the aforementioned films it should come as a foregone conclusion that picking up this blu-ray from Kino Lorber is a no-brainer.

Author

- who has written 67 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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