|not of this earth|
In a society based on assimilation, infiltrators need only learn language and behaviors, but terror unfulfilled eventually yields to laughter. As the paranoid decade cracked a smile, Hollywood sci-fi enjoyed its first golden age: 1956's Forbidden Planet and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1957's The Incredible Shrinking Man, and 1958's The Blob, The Fly, and I Married a Monster From Outer Space.
|Garland posing for Corman's Gunslinger|
Setting the tone for a subgenre (Planet of the Vampires, Lifeforce), the space-vampire (Paul Birch) has the power to cloud men's minds. Passing as businessman "Paul Johnson," his first meals are easy: a 40ish blood-bank doctor, a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman (Dick Miller). As paperbacks and magazines then warned, aging and/or white collar men are at risk for dehumanization. This is America, so stalwart resistance comes from the humble margins: a free-spirit chaffeur (Jonathan Haze), a motorcycle cop and his love interest, nurse-with-moxie Nadine Storey (Beverly Garland).
Garland was a pistol, and she's the droll center of Not of This Earth. Ephraim Katz's The Film Encyclopedia notes a career "hampered by frequent confrontations with producers and the press." Collating with her persona: she had a backbone before fashionable. Garland is more alive than anyone else in the film (there's a pall over Johnson), and credible as alien-fighter: a well-turned blonde is expert around predators.
Beauty also sparks humor, like an anthropomorphized road runner chased by a coyote. Perhaps the only thing worse than an old man's advances is one, as here, who refrains completely. As Paul's private-duty nurse, Nadine's task is merely "seeing to it I do not expire." (He always talks that way.)
Old-weird-Johnson is from the troubled planet Davanna; like the ottoman Dick Van Dyke tripped over, "divan" suggests a xenophobia of objects. As in The Invaders a decade later, these aliens are collectivists, as they literalize pejoratives: anemic, bloodless, dead-eyed, death-warmed-over. Their quasi-vampirism has scientific causes, as in I Am Legend (published 1954). Finally, like the Vidians of Star Trek: Voyager, the Davannans sacrifice others to survive disease.
Johnson's mission is evaluating humans for "pasturing," i.e. as livestock (compare Daybreakers), with transport to Davanna, evidently, through a mirror, frame festooned with ping-pong balls. Enthralled, Nadine is set as the beta-test, but the hero cop runs Johnson into a ravine and fiery death. The tag teases a never-made sequel. This low-budget lark was cheaply remade in 1988 (with slinky Traci Lords) and 1995 (Elizabeth Barondes and Michael York). It's past time for another.