THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (1964) – The Dungeon Review!
The sci-fi horror flood of the 1950s was just a dribble by 1964. The paranoia-oriented sub-genre was starting to peter out. Personally, I am always up for some scientific insanity! I absolutely love the mad scientists, monster mayhem and alien action of these entertaining gems. Okay, they may not all be gems, but there are certainly gems among them! The Thing from Another World, Village of the Damned, Them!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Godzilla just to name a few. I had never even heard of The Earth Dies Screaming until I compiled my list for 1964. It appealed to me on name alone! The Earth Dies Screaming…that is pretty heavy man! The Earth Dies Screaming is certainly a late comer amongst its ilk, and it did occur to me that the film might not have much fresh to offer. Seeing as Terence Fisher’s name was attached as director I wasn’t too worried though. Fisher directed many outstanding titles for Hammer Films including Dracula, The Mummy, The Devil Rides Out, The Gorgon, The Curse of Frankenstein, and The Curse of the Werewolf. How could I not trust Fisher after those titles? While there are certain familiar aspects to the plotting, it does introduce at least one very unique concept. The Earth Dies Screaming, while not a perfect film by any means, definitely did some things very well.
The Earth Dies Screaming has a delightfully grim opening where we get samples of what the earth looked like when it died screaming. Trains, cars and planes crashing and people just literally dropping dead where they stand! It is a short little montage but it is well done. The film has a great atmosphere with a few very nicely executed moments. It doesn’t always maintain its mood however, for that I blame the robots. The robots are a smidge hokey in appearance (especially in the face area) but they looked robboty enough to pass; it was the way they moved that really gave me a chuckle. Bloody hell these are some slow moving bastards! In one scene towards the finale it takes forever for the robots to move across a warehouse floor to a room where two characters wait in fear. They wait and wait and wait! It was hard to find these clunky ass robots intimidating especially considering they had to literally make contact with you to kill you. It might have helped if they had lasers or something. As clunky as they were, I can not say I didn’t find them entertaining! What The Earth Dies Screaming lost with its robots is made up with its zombies! Okay, these are not brain-eating zombies, but they are mind-controlled reanimated corpses with dead white eyes! The bits featuring the dead are great! It certainly upped the ante on the danger quota. There are a ton of bodies all over the streets that could be mind-controlled reanimated armies!
Jeff Nolan, drives through the eerie aftermath of body-littered streets. Jeff investigates the town, finds a radio and takes shelter in a seemingly abandoned home. Here he meets Peggy and Quinn. Quinn in fact holds Jeff at gunpoint, but lays off when he realizes Jeff is not an enemy. Two more join the group; Edgar and Violet. They discuss what could have happened to cause this catastrophic event and why they survived. The group run into their first encounter with one of the robots at this point. Soon after a young couple, Mel and his very pregnant wife Lorna join the group. They are a diverse bunch ripe for inevitable conflict. The most intriguing of the characters is Quinn. It is strongly hinted at that he has a criminal past (he expertly picks a lock among other clues). Quinn is the loose screw in the works, and he wants to do things his way. He does indeed cause problems for the survivors. Dennis Price was perfectly cast as Quinn. Virginia Field is strong and likable enough as Peggy but the rest of the cast is pretty forgettable. Jeff Nolan takes lead of the group and is the story’s hero. Nolan played by Willard Parker is focused on regularly and he is incredibly dry.
The Earth Dies Screaming is only an hour long. Considering its rather rushed ending, I think the film could have benefitted from the addition of another five or even ten minutes. We never know for certain what happened or who was responsible as we only have the survivor’s theories to go on. Their theory of a gas attack and aliens as the responsible party makes as much sense as any I suppose. Despite some hokey elements, a dull lead performance and a rushed ending I did not dislike The Earth Dies Screaming. I actually enjoy hokey details a lot! This film however seemed intent on being a serious affair and I thought the hokiness did mess with the mood. I certainly appreciated what was done well like those awesome re-animated corpses. Fisher knows his way around a camera and certainly makes the most of the tight budget. Opting with black and white was a good decision here. The Earth Dies Screaming has a steady pace throughout its short runtime and was an easy and pretty fun watch. Lightly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3/5
Directed By: Terence Fisher
Starring: Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Thorley Walters, Vanda Godsell, David Spenser, Anna Palk