Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Not of this Earth (1995) – review


Director: Terence H Winkless

Release Date: 1995

Contains Spoilers

This is the third version of Not of this Earth, formerly filmed in 1957 and 1988. One might wonder at the point of remaking the film just seven years after the 2nd remake.

To be fair this might have a certain cheese factor but it is less cheesy than the ’88 version. Where the ’57 version had a cold war undertow and the ’88 was, well, simply sleazy cheesy, this version does have a message. However the AIDS message was only given in a single line and hit home with a sledgehammer of subtlety. It does contain considerably more nudity than the ’88 version and yet manages to be much less sleazy with it.

draining the blood and life essenceThe film begins with Cheryl (Wendy Buckner) and Danny (Joshua D Comen) in the trees of a park, he gets a little too fresh but some quick words see him forgiven. Cheryl makes her way home and we hear a voice ‘speaking’ to her. It is the alien, Paul Johnson (Michael York) speaking telepathically to her. He tries to get her to stop, when she screams a bolt of light burns her eyes out. Johnson puts a device to her neck that drains out her blood and a green liquid (her lifeforce) and instantly mummifies her.

Michael York as JohnsonJohnson goes to a clinic to receive a transfusion. His actions and words are utterly alien and one of the highlights of this version was how Michael York was able to bring an absolute alien quality to the character of Johnson… however this is great but also makes the character unbelievable. He is too different just to be eccentric and the characters never seem to question this. He gets, through eye mojo on Dr Rochelle (Mason Adams), his transfusion and convinces nurse Amanda Sayles (Elizabeth Barondes; the Forsaken: Desert Vampires) to work for him.

eye mojoLet’s talk eye-mojo. Johnson constantly wears black glasses – with side pieces, to hide his ever burning eyes. He is able to telepathically communicate and try to control others that way but the shining eyes enforce much more control. They are also able to be used as a weapon firing fiery doom at whoever crosses him. Indeed the whole alien aspect was done rather well, except for his stomach, complete with teeth, eating his own planet's food and him then expelling the waste from his mouth – the stomach looked a bit poor.

true form of the aliensWhen we see another of his race they look completely different and it is clear that he has assumed a form. He has a large pulsating creature hidden in his rooms that allows him – through tentacle attachment – to communicate with his home planet. The talk of hives and broods actually made the viewer imagine this very alien culture. Johnson cries when he hears about the death of his own brood but is indifferent to humans – that worked, but his apparent attraction to Amanda, at the end, seemed forced.

Amanda and JeremyBe that as it may, Amanda takes the job and moves into Johnson’s mansion where the butler/chauffer Jeremy (Richard Belzer) is her only other companion and – as a small time crook – becomes her unlikely accomplice as things start to seem off. She also starts a relationship with cop Jack (Parker Stevenson). Dr Rochelle is trying to find a cure for the illness that plagues Johnson’s people under hypnotic control that will not allow for sleep – that wasn’t exploited in film.

dying through rabiesOf course the vampire aspect is the need for regular blood (and lifeforce) to replace his ‘bad blood’. He asks Amanda whether she believes that the appearance of AIDS in humanity was the planet fighting back as we reach plague proportions and destroy the planets resources – talking about using a sledgehammer to crack that nut. There is no slow build to this thought – though it becomes apparent he thinks similar is happening in his world – just a blunt question with no answer. When he accidentally gives rabies infected blood to a female renegade from his own race the rabies kills her rapidly (and unlike the ’88 version she doesn’t become homicidal first). To underline the vampire motif, the film sees Johnson watching a vampire film and commenting on how he would like to meet Dracula.

Johnson with the femaleThis film did some things wrong. There were aspects that might have been exploited that were not. Barondes and Belzer were both good in their roles but it was Michael York who stole the show. However, perhaps other support actors were more than a little on the cheesy side. Better, in my opinion, than the ’88 version. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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