Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

The Earth Dies Screaming is a 1965 British science fiction film directed by Terence Fisher. It stars Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Vanda Godsell, Thorley Walters, David Spenser and Anna Palk. The film was shot in black and white at Shepperton Studios in London. Location filming was done at the village of Shere in Surrey. It was one of several 1960s British horror films to be scored by the avant-garde Elisabeth Lutyens, whose father, Edwin Lutyens, designed Manor House Lodge in Shere, a small property which features prominently at several points in the film.

A bunch of people sit around a pub talking about the end of the world, whilst outside, the rest of the Earth's population appear to have dropped down dead. And talk they do… on and on and on… If you don't think this sounds much like a horror film, you're absolutely right. In fact The Earth Dies Screaming has very few plus points, apart from its rather terrific (and misleading) title.  No-one in the film dies screaming, I'm afraid. Anyone who is seen to be killed is usually a zombie, and their reaction to a bullet hole is a kind of stiff upper lipped "Oh, I appear to have been shot. Cripes, what bad luck. Oh well…" than a blood curdling "Aaaiiiieeeee!"  Still, you can't have everything, and this is a black and white British horror movie, after all. Anyway, back to the plus points. The first five minutes are awesome, as people all over the Home Counties succumb to the evil death plague from space.  Oily mechanics collapse at the helm of steam trains, cars career off the road, bowler hatted types fall over on train station platforms… it's great.

Then our hero arrives in his Land Rover, and it all rather goes downhill from there. Turns out the population have been wiped out by a gas attack from a bunch of slow moving alien robots, who proceed to move slowly around the village our hero and a group of other survivors find themselves in.  For reasons best know to their slow witted selves, the robots only attack occasionally, completely letting off the hook an annoying pregnant girl who spends at least three hours standing at a window in full view of them.  These robots are impervious to bullets, but sadly not to Land Rovers. They also look like they're made out of odds and ends found around the kitchens of Shepperton Studios. This film was obviously a big influence on Doctor Who - the alien robots pre date the Cybermen (although they're not as realistic) and the deserted village scenario pre dates about a hundred other episodes of the long-running programme.

Don't ever let a Who fan tell you their beloved series is original again! But possibly the best thing about the whole farrago is its length - just 60 minutes short. The zombified villagers are a bit spooky as well, I suppose. from British Horror Films

62 MIN

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