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September 13, 2007

The Earth Dies Screaming

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Terence Fisher - 1965
Twentieth Century-Fox Region 1 DVD

For those of us who still enjoy watching horror and science fiction films from the Sixties, the Midnight Movies label is back, with Twentieth Century-Fox joining MGM for the fun. For almost a year there was uncertainty about whether the series would continue following Sony's partial acquisition of MGM. For those unfamiliar with the Midnight Movies series, most of the films were issued as double features of generally complimentary titles. Unlike MGM, which has been issuing their Midnight Movies DVDs from films acquired from American International and United Artists, the Fox films are from their own library. While some of the films, such as The Mephisto Waltz, were main features, other films were clearly made as parts of double feature combos, or as second features.

A case in point is The Earth Dies Screaming. It's a great title for a less than great film. The movie was produced by Robert Lippert who provided low budget features for Twentieth Century-Fox for more than a decade. Clocking in at slightly more than an hour, The Earth Dies Screaming was designed to be booked on the bottom half of double features. The C list cast is topped by forgotten actors Willard Parker and Virginia Field, with Dennis Price, the star of the classic Kind Hearts and Coronets getting third billing. Hammer horror film veteran Terence Fisher does what he can within the confines of a meager budget.

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The story may well have been the source of inspiration for a more critically acclaimed and commercially successful film. Consider that the film begins with people dying mysteriously. A group of survivors find each other and band together against the unknown, and unseen enemy. What they have in common is that while the air was temporarily poisoned, they were in isolated quarters with individual ventilation systems. The dead people start coming back to life as mindless zombies set to kill the surviving humans. Did a young Danny Boyle and Alex Garland see The Earth Dies Screaming? I wouldn’t be surprised if they had. The opening premise may remind some of 28 Days Later.

Contemporary audiences will more likely scream with laughter than with horror, especially at the sight of the robots sent to terrorize the earthlings. In addition to Terence Fisher's efficient direction, the film features a terrific score by composer Elizabeth Lutyens, an underappreciated film composer as well as one of the few women in this field. The Earth Dies Screaming is not exactly a classic, but it is worth a look as a film that may have inspired a couple of future filmmakers.

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Posted by peter at September 13, 2007 11:23 AM

Comments

Peter,
How did I miss this post by you? I stopped by as usual to see what's new, scrolled down the front page and saw an attacking Robot Man. And it's from five days ago. I need glasses.

Anyway, I absolutely adore fifties and sixties sci-fi and horror. I can't get enough of the stuff. My mom took me to a double-feature at a revival house when I was a kid that was showing Creature from the Black Lagoon (first) and It Came From Outer Space (second), complete with 3-D glasses! By the first ten minutes of It Came From Outer Space she was ready to go but I wouldn't let her. I had to see how it ended.

I've never seen The Earth Dies Screaming but what a title! Kind of the antithesis of Eliot's The Hollow Men. And great choices of screen shots. It may not be a great movie but it definitely sounds like something I wouldn't mind seeing.

Posted by: Jonathan Lapper at September 18, 2007 08:18 PM

I cannot remember the title of a robot movie that I saw in the Fifties. It began with a man with a hangover. He'd been on a binge and was waking up. He was in New York City. He discovered the city was entirely vacant of people, except for a few. Apparently, the city had been evacuated while he was passed out. Robots from outer space patrolled the streets. These robots were about 8 or 9 feet high. They, of course, could shoot a ray. I only remember the people (the man, a woman, and a few others) hid from these robots throughout the film. Does anyone know the title of this film?

Posted by: Buck Turgisson at January 11, 2008 03:33 PM

Sounds a lot like Target Earth. I hope it helps.

Posted by: Dan at November 7, 2009 05:08 AM