Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Earth Dies Screaming

In 1964 the world ended...again.  This time it did so at the hands of legendary Hammer director Terence Fisher with the help of shiny silver space robots and some zombies.

The film stars husband and wife Willard Parker and Virginia Field as two of a small group of survivors who assemble in a small English country inn following the sudden death of seemingly everyone else.  The motley crew of survivors consists of rugged American pilot, Jeff, Peggy, the plucky English woman in exceedingly unsuitable shoes (Parker and Field), creepy criminal, Taggart (Dennis Price), drunken sot, Otis (Thorley Walters), Violet the panicky housewife (Vanda Godsell), Mel the rebellious young man turned obedient puppy (David Spenser) and his heavily pregnant wife, Lorna (Anna Palk).

The film opens with a series of establishing shots of trains and planes crashing, people dropping dead and of bodies lying in the street. Indeed, eight and a half minutes of the film pass like this before a word is spoken.  These long periods of silence are characteristic of the rest of the film with neither the robots nor the zombies uttering a sound and, of course, the absence of sound reflects the quietude of the newly dead world whilst contrasting heavily with the assertion in the title.

At only slightly over an hour in length it's pretty short and packs a fair bit in while maintaining what feels like a pretty leisurely pace.  The more familiar actors here - Price and Walters - are playing very much within their comfort zones but all the cast are fairly strong even if little (very little) is done with the female characters - Field is essentially a damsel-in-distress here whilst the other two are victim and baby factory.

Probably the films the most effective aspect are the zombies.  We're used to the prosthesis heavy gore laden shambling corpses of the current variety but here they are given blank eyes, an implacable, shuffling gait and an eerie silence and it works an absolute treat.  One can only assume their influence on George Romero when he made Night of the Living Dead four years later.

In this age of the remake with both science fiction and zombies being so hot and especially considering it has probably the greatest name of any movie ever made I am amazed that no-one has had another go at this one.

Buy it here - The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) DVD Reg 2 - or watch it below.

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