“Not of this Earth” first came into my life when I was around 13 years of age. Despite its Roger Corman-produced shenanigans and endearing B-movie fixings, I was more interested in the actions of the film’s nubile star, Traci Lords. Revisiting the film two decades later for this review, I’m able to appreciate the picture’s ragged low-fi spectacle, lively sense of humor, and the rather creative ways its stretches its budgetary dollar. Yet, my attention returns to Traci Lords, capture here in all her post-porn, pre-mainstream magnificence, matched exceedingly well with Corman’s pervy exploitation legacy.Visiting Earth from the planet Davanna, Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts) has come to test the human blood supply, hoping to save his vampiric home world from starvation. Nadine (Traci Lords) is a nurse assisting the aloof alien-in-sunglasses with his blood transfusions, taking residence inside his mansion, where wisecracking parolee Jeremy (Lenny Juliano) also calls home, working as Mr. Johnson’s chauffer. Taking hookers, backseat lovers, and strippers as victims, the mysterious visitor is attracting unwanted attention from his staff, with Nadine teaming up with a doctor (Ace Mask) and her cop boyfriend (future “Blind Date” host, Roger Lodge) to investigate Mr. Johnson’s ultimate interstellar goal.
"Traci Lords. Do you need more reason to watch?"
Taking a sip from his own reservoir of schlock, “Not of this Earth” is actually a remake of a 1957 Corman-directed picture. Never one to let a good idea go to waste, the producer ordered up a second round for 1988, allegedly on a dare from director Jim Wynorski, who bet he could match Corman’s original vision with roughly the same resources 30 years later. The budgetary restrictions are obvious in the update, with stock footage (from Corman’s own vault, natch), limited locations, and cast made up of favors and newcomers. I’m not complaining about the two-cent appearance of the film, as it fits right into Corman’s legacy as a visionary producer with a padlocked checkbook.
Wynorski skillfully maneuvers around the picture, using his healthy sense of humor to gloss over the frayed ends of the script. “Not of this Earth” has its tongue firmly in cheek, with the filmmaker mounting a sci-fi tale that relies heavily on finger-snap banter between Lords and Juliano, crafty little special effects and props, and a heaping helping of nudity to keep viewers interested in the story. A B-movie warlord, Wynorski knows what he’s serving up here, which makes the film consistently amusing, playing up its influences and temptations with a swift pace and spirited performances, only occasionally falling prey to nonsensical filler to get the film past 80 minutes in length. The story is a flimsy take on a telepathic alien invasion, and the cast is expectedly stiff at times, yet Wynorski keeps the picture loose and cheeky, always on the hunt for something titillating or macabre to jolt the movie awake.
Being her first major career step after her off-limits run in the adult film industry, Traci Lords is a major focal point of the picture. Wynorski covers her physical assets like a champ, but he also pulls a proficient performance out of the young actress (18 years of age at the time), allowing her to play brainy, busty, and ballsy without pushing his luck. Lords is fun to watch here, and not always for the blue-bikinied reasons one might expect. She’s genuinely pleasant in this modest sci-fi playground, holding her own despite a rather unlikely thespian training ground. Wynorski, eager to fill his frame, brings along a few cult faces to back Lords up, including appearances from Monique Gabrielle, Becky LeBeau, and Kelli Maroney. If you don’t know who these ladies are, I’ll have to assume you never experienced life as an adolescent boy in the late 1980s.“Not of this Earth” eventually runs out of gas during its protracted finale, adding a case of rabies to the bloody mix, along with a mention of AIDS to sober the film right up. Still, it’s a convincing chunk of absurdity, good for a few laughs, some knowing winks, and the very presence of Traci Lords.
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originally posted: 11/05/10 14:55:28