Terence Fisher, mostly known for his brilliant directorial work for Hammer Films with a resume that includes HORROR OF DRACULA, CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF and over twenty others, directed what would be considered a “quickie” black & white science fiction film for Lippert Films called THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
The movie’s plot is your basic ‘aliens taking over Earth’ type of film. It all starts with a gas attack which kills most of the Earth’s population, which is then followed up with the visitation of some tall robots that walk the streets. The robots can kill humans with their touch, and subsequently, bring them back to life as white-eyed zombies to help in the attack against Earth. A small group of survivors assemble together to not only survive the attack, but look for a way to thwart it. They discover what is controlling the robots and they devise a plan to stop the invasion and save the Earth!
The cast includes American veteran actor Jeff Nolan (Willard Parker, KISS ME KATE, THE ZERO HOUR) and Peggy (his real life wife, Virginia Field; her resume included some great classics such as WATERLOO BRIDGE and THE PRIMROSE PATH and she also appeared in one "Charlie Chan" and a few “Mr. Moto” films while working for 20th Century Fox). The rest of the cast includes Quinn Taggart (Dennis Price, THEATRE OF BLOOD, THE RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN), Edgar Otis (Thorley Walters, DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, VAMPIRE CIRCUS), Violet Courtland (Vanda Godsell, KONGA) Mel (David Spenser, from the BBC “Dr. Who” television series) and Lorna (Anna Palk, THE FROZEN DEAD, TOWER OF EVIL).
THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING is a short (just a little over 60 minutes) but in-your-face film, with an eerie atmosphere, robots and zombies chasing the few survivors which make up the minimalist yet impressive cast. It may remind you of a mid to late 1950s B movie which is when science fiction films began to really take off. The acting with the mainly veteran cast is top notch with excellent direction by Terence Fisher. Some critics will say that Fisher wasn’t a great director of science fiction, often cited for this film and NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT as being subpar, but I disagree. While this film might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s well done and well thought out for it's super low budget, with Fisher’s vision of the end of life on Earth being pretty creepy. He also decided to go without any dialog for the first eight minutes to add a little spice to the movie. Speaking of NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, in addition to both that film and THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING being directed by Fisher, they have another interesting similarity in that the cast in both films happen to be seeking refuge in a pub type of setting. Because of the undead that attack the living in, there are those who say this inspired George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (along with about a dozen other films from the period).
THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, having been paired with CHOSEN SURVIVORS on the previously released "Midnite Movies" double feature DVD from 20th Century Fox in 2007, makes its debut on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:66:1, in 1080p with an MPEG 4 - AVC encode and the results are just terrific. There are excellent black levels, daylight scenes look terrific, and there's great depth and detail; this looks just fabulous and probably the best that the movie will ever look on home video. The audio quality for the movie is the usual Kino DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0. The dialogue, screams and special effects all perfectly fine. There are no English subtitles for this release.
Extras for this release include an audio commentary by Richard Harland Smith. As with his other commentaries, he gives an informative, funny, entertaining perspective of THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING. He tells us about the cast and crew of the film, discusses the locations of where the film was shot, the budget (which was $100,000) and brings up other movies with similar themes including THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. He talks about American actors such as William Parker appearing in British films for American audiences. He goes on to state that by the 1960s, British films didn’t really need American actors, but the film's producer Robert Lippert wanted an American actor in the lead. He goes on to say that some of the aspects of THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING remind him more of DAWN OF THE DEAD than of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Rounding out the extras is an animated photo montage, and a trailer gallery which includes THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, CHOSEN SURVIVORS, PANIC IN YEAR ZERO, THE SATAN BUG and INVISIBLE INVADERS (all available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber). (David Steigman)
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