Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

Terence Fisher will always be best remembered for his Hammer horror films but he made quite a few science fiction movies, including this 1964 effort, The Earth Dies Screaming.

It’s an end of the world movie, an incredibly popular genre at the time. A mysterious gas attack has wiped out most of Earth’s population, but as in any good post-apocalyptic movie there’s a motley handful of survivors. The gas attack has been followed up by an invasion of robot men. We assume they’re from outer space although we never get to see any spaceships.

In fact what the audience sees is exactly what the survivors see. The movie doesn’t tell us or show us anything that is outside of their immediate experience.

The survivors aren’t entirely the sorts of people you’d pick to save civilisation. Jeff Nolan (Willard Parker) is a no-nonsense engineer type and he’s the only one who really has any clue about what to do. Edgar (Thorley Walters) is a nice guy but a total mess, Quinn Taggart (Dennis Price) is completely untrustworthy, there’s a nice young couple who are OK as long as someone tells them what to do but on the whole one feels that these people have the odds stacked against them.

But they’re British and if Hitler couldn’t beat them they’re certainly not going to let a bunch of robots do it.

This movie is in some ways a precursor of the wave of zombie movies that would infest cinema screens in the 70s and 80s. It’s almost a dry run for Night of the Living Dead. The people killed by the robots come back to life as zombies.

This is a very low-budget movie but it’s not unduly hampered by this. The robots look reasonably good, the zombies are distinguished only by their eyes, and Terence Fisher manages to make both seem convincingly menacing.

The acting is adequate enough with Dennis Price being highly entertaining as always.

An entertaining enough blend of science and horror.

The Region 2 DVD from Final Cut is a perfectly acceptable widescreen transfer.

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