Originally released in 1957, Roger Corman’s Not Of This Earth is about a man named Mr. Johnson (played, in a nicely creepy performance, by Paul Birch).
At first glance, Mr. Johnson may look like your typical dark-suited, 1950s businessman but, on closer examination, there’s definitely something off about him. Why does he always wear those dark sunglasses? Why is he so sensitive to loud noise? Why does he move stiffly, as if he’s still getting used to his ody? And when he speaks, why is his tone always so formal and correct? Never trust anyone who doesn’t use a contraction or two. Why is it that Mr. Johnson seems to spend all of his time in his mansion, only venturing outside so that he can visit the local blood banks?
Could it be that Mr. Johnson is …. not of this earth!?
Well, yes, of coursem he’s an alien. I mean, it says so right in the title of the movie! It turns out that Mr. Johnson comes from a planet called Davanna. The inhabitants of Davanna are dying of a mysterious blood disease so he’s been sent to Earth so that he can run tests on human blood. Needless to say, Mr. Johnson is under constant pressure from his bosses back home. They expect Johnson to find a cure but there’s only one problem. Human blood is sometimes hard to come by.
Oh sure. Johnson can always go to the local doctor (William Roerick) and get a transfusion. But, unfortunately, Johnson is often forced to deal with his need for blood by murdering anyone who happens to be near the house, whether it be a teenager or a vacuum cleaner salesman. Like a vampire, Johnson drains them of their blood before retreating to the safety of his mansion.
Paul Birch gives a wonderfully odd performance in the role of Mr. Johnson, playing him in such a way that suggests that Mr. Johnson is still not quite comfortable with his human disguise. When he starts speaking with his stilted and awkward syntax, he’s like a man who has just learned how to speak another language. On the one hand, it’s tempting to feel sorry for Mr. Johnson because he’s desperately trying to save his people. On the other hand, he does end up killing a lot of people.
Beverly Garland and Morgan Jones play Nadine and Harry, a nurse and a policeman who stumble across the truth of Mr. Johnson’s origins. Beverly Garland was one of those confident, no-one-is-going-to-conquer-my-planet actresses who could elevate any film by her presence alone and, as this film shows, if you’re trying to stop the aliens from stealing all of Earth’s blood, Beverly Garland was someone who you would want on your side.
With the exception of a scene featuring Dick Miller as a slick salesman, director Roger Corman plays the material straight and the end result is a quickly paced and, at times, genuinely creepy little sci-fi/horror hybrid. Corman makes good use of his low-budget and even the film’s cheap look ultimately works to its advantage. The stark black-and-white cinematography perfectly captures the harshness of Mr. Johnson’s mission. This an effective and enjoyable B-movie.
Finally, since this is a Roger Corman production, be sure to look for all of the usual suspects. As mentioned above, Dick Miller plays a salesman. (Before becoming an actor, Miller actually did work as a door-to-door salesman and he ad libbed the majority of his dialogue.) Jonathan Haze appears as one of Mr. Johnson’s servants. And, of course, the film was written by Corman’s longtime collaborator, Charles B. Griffith. Three years after making Not Of This Earth, Corman, Haze, Miller, and Griffith would collaborate on the somewhat more light-hearted Little Shop of Horrors.