I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

He Just Isn’t Our Type: Not of this Earth

by Ryk McIntyre
April 10, 2012
I’m pretty sure the scientific and medical methods used in this film do not accurately portray the medical practice of Phlebotomy in its proper and ethical light. I’ve also never met anyone taking my blood who had death-ray eyes. You’d remember something like that, I bet. I did meet this girl once who eyes that could hypnotize you. It was Summer of 1984 and as the cool, Atlantic Ocean breeze caused us... oops, sorry. Distracted there.

Not of This Earth, the 1957 Roger Corman directed film, tracks the phlebotomological adventures of an alien from a ruined world, who comes to earth to conduct experiments on whether or not human blood might be the key to saving his kind. The natives of his home world, Planet Davanna, have been wracked with that ubiquitous 1950s scenario: the aftermath of a nuclear war, are all dying and are desperate for something to cure them. To this end, they have dispatched one of their number, “Mr. Johnson,” and with the aid of dark sunglasses (and by the way, yes – He’s wears his sunglasses at night, so he can’t, so he can’t be seen) he looks just like a human and fits right in with the locals. Mostly. Ok, he kills people and takes their blood, but let’s not rush to judgement here.

Using more methods than just murder, our alien at one point tries to get a doctor to just give him a transfusion without any pre-testing (so that he wouldn’t have to reveal being an alien). The doctor refuses, and Mr. Johnson finally allows the doctor to draw blood first, but then hypnotizes the doctor to compel him to keep Johnson’s true identity secret, and with the by-product of making the doctor his servant. I guess those milky-white eyes of his are a two-for: death ray and hypno-ray... man, I have got to get me a pair of those. I could rock the sunglasses too. Anyway, then Mr. Johnson hires the nurse as his private nurse. Are you beginning to see the complex threads of Mr. Johnson’s diabolical plan? Yeah, me neither. Looks like this alien menace wants to turn our planet into a hospice.

Matters complicate with the arrival of another Davanna-ite, a woman so sick that she cannot wait. Johnson steals blood for her, but in a tragic mix-up of Medicaid proportions, he steals Rabid Dog blood, which ends up killing the poor girl alien. This, in turn, brings police around to question the doctor, who says nothing, due to being hypno-rayed and all. Indicative of how this movie was both shot, and written, in black-and-white, Mr. Johnson decides it’s better to just kill the doctor, and well, this makes his hired nurse suspicious, so she calls the cops again. Tragedy and comeuppance both occur when, trying flee the police by car, Mr. Johnson is overwhelmed by the noise of the siren. He loses control of the car and before you can say “fiery crash” there is a fiery crash.

You have to give it to humanity that they chipped in and gave Mr. Johnson a proper (by Earth standards of the 1950s United States of America) burial, complete with a sweet headstone with its sentimental message, “Here Lies a Man Who Was Not of This Earth.” And below that, “Contact proper authorities before you dig in this area.” Just kidding, I made that part up. As the few (read: two) mourners leave, we see another alien, dressed just like Mr. Johnson, wearing the same sunglasses and holding an exact replica of his briefcase, walk into frame and towards the camera. Do you get it? The diabolical mission goes on! Nurses! Phlebotomists! Look to the skies! Auuuuuuggghhhh!!!!!!

Look, like most Roger Corman joints, this is a cheaply made film with charming Ed Woodian production values and writing tone. While not as literary as Corman’s faux-Poe The Terror, nor as all-out a cheap thrill-ride as, say, Carnotaur, this is a charming little bit of 1950s “Science Amok/They Could Be Among Us Right Now” paranoia story which chose to use blood for it’s metaphor. As Alien cautionary tales, Not of This Earth  isn’t as visceral as The Thing but it isn’t a blood type devoid of its own thrills either. 

Ryk McIntyre is a Multi-Hyphen sort of person. Poet, critic, performer, workshop facilitator and co-host at both GotPoetry! Live (Providence) and Cantab Lounge (Cambridge,MA). He's been living in RI for the past 6 years, with his wife and daughter. Ryk has performed his work at Boston's ICA, NYC's New School, Portsmouth, NH's Music Hall and Lollapalooza, to name just a few. He has toured the US, performing in countless Poetry open mics and festivals.  He turned down Allen Ginsburg once.