Illustration for article titled Before iNight Of The Living Dead/i, this creepy sci-fi sleeper brought zombies (and robots) from space

Screenshot: The Earth Dies Screaming

Watch This provides film suggestions impressed by new releases, premieres, present occasions, or often simply our personal inscrutable whims. This week: With A Quiet Place Half II postponed, take a look at these earlier motion pictures about hostile alien invaders, all obtainable to hire digitally or stream from residence.

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

The Earth Dies Screaming opens with what might be essentially the most unsettling prolonged montage to return out of the golden age of drive-in science fiction. We see trains and automobiles with unconscious drivers and passengers crash into the English countryside. At a station, a morning commuter keels over into an empty baggage cart. Our bodies lie crumpled on the street, draped over windowsills, or facedown in puddles. Some are caught mid-action: a golfer on a garden; two males at a punch clock; an outdated lady mendacity on the steps of her cottage with a damaged bottle of milk.

Someplace, the middle-aged American check pilot Jeff Nolan (Willard Parker) searches a quaint small-town road from behind the wheel of a Land Rover. He stops in entrance of a retailer and takes a shortwave radio from the window. Additional alongside, he finds extra corpses and a small resort. With the shortwave in a single hand and an Enfield rifle within the different, he goes inside, drags out the physique of the resort receptionist, and plugs within the TV, clicking the dial by channels of creepy, pulsating static. It’s practically 9 minutes into the movie (which is simply 62 minutes lengthy) earlier than we hear the primary line of dialogue, from a fellow survivor who stands within the resort doorway with a pistol skilled on Jeff: “Flip it off.”

It will be laborious for any film to maintain the eerie stress of those introductory scenes—or to dwell as much as a title as sensationally deceptive as The Earth Dies Screaming. And but the movie proceeds with a velocity, financial system, and intelligence that belies its cheapie black-and-white manufacturing values. Shortly, we start to satisfy different survivors. Unseen aliens have launched an invasion of our planet, attacking first with gasoline. Now come the shock troops: indestructible, slow-moving robots (or “ro-buts” in Parker’s pronunciation) whose victims can rise from the lifeless as senseless killers with bulging grey eyes.

These robots are themselves not very scary-looking. But their lumbering gait is invested with dread and suspense by Terence Fisher, the most celebrated of the Hammer horror specialists, who was also responsible for such gothic genre classics as The Curse Of Frankenstein, the Christopher Lee version of Dracula, and The Devil Rides Out. The Earth Dies Screaming, however, wasn’t made by Hammer, but by the American B-movie outfit Lippert Films. Lippert was best known for cranking out Westerns and programmers, but like many a B-movie mill before and since, it occasionally made room for more independent-minded filmmakers, including the writer-directors Samuel Fuller and Charles Marquis Warren.

In everything except terminology, The Earth Dies Screaming is a zombie movie—an obvious precursor to George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, hitting many familiar notes of a genre that did not yet exist alongside a number of future tropes of post-1970s horror. And like so many of the zombie classics it resembles, Earth is in part a vehicle for social commentary, with mistrust among survivors as a parallel threat. Fisher, a high-church Anglican, famously referred to his Hammer horror films as “fairy tales for adults,” and in The Earth Dies Screaming, one finds a fast-moving story that poses questions of morality and B-movie philosophy, coming back to its director’s eternal themes of reason and alluring, intractable evil. But it also does what we have come to expect from the best minimalist genre movies, transforming subjects as innocuous as an empty street or a man in a spray-painted space suit into sources of fear.

Availability: The Earth Dies Screaming can be streamed for free on Tubi, and is accessible to hire from Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, and VUDU.