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Whoever did it won the war...
on 27 October 2007
Following a mysterious global gas attack that apparently wipes out most of mankind, a disparate group of survivors find themselves battling a robotic enemy from space...
The Earth Dies Screaming is one of Terence Fisher's least well-known and most underrated movies, the first of several science fiction flicks he made for independent producers in between his 1960s' Hammer horror gigs, and the only one to rival his best gothic chillers in terms of atmosphere. An apocalyptic tale of alien invasion (with a bit of Cold War paranoia thrown in), it's a cheap, short second feature that overcomes its (very) limited budget to impress as a genuine hidden gem, featuring an eerie score by Elizabeth Lutyens, icy black-and-white cinematography by Arthur Lavis, and a compact (though ambiguous) little script. The cast, headed up by second-tier western fixture Willard Parker, isn't starry in any sense, though the great Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets) is reliably good as a shifty villain, and Thorley Walters, who usually provokes irritation in the audience via his comic relief turns in Fisher's horror films, is here excellent in a relatively serious role (watch out for him shooting Price in the balls). Though filmed mainly at Shepperton studios, The Earth Dies Screaming's location work was done in and around the Surrey village of Shere, which has recently been invaded by a different kind of menace; tourists, who now apparently flock there after it was used as a location for the recent Cameron Diaz / Jude Law rom-com The Holiday.
Whilst it's nice to see Terence Fisher's 1964 B-movie find its way onto DVD (albeit Region 1 only), it's certainly fulfilling its original function in that it's making up the lower half of one of Twentieth Century Fox's 'Midnite Movies' double features; in this case it has been paired up with a minor US thriller from 1974 called Chosen Survivors, a film whose only connection to The Earth Dies Screaming is that they happen to share the same screenwriter, Harry Spalding. Considering other double bills in this collection include well-paired duos like Devils of Darkness and Witchcraft (both 1964), surely a better pick for a co-feature here would have been the similarly Fisher-directed, Robert L. Lippert-produced, Price-starring spoof chiller The Horror of It All (also 1964)? Unseen for decades, it is a film that is yet to see the light of day from Fox on DVD (though admittedly, that's probably because it sucks); as an aside, it actually formed a double feature with the aforementioned Witchcraft when it first played in cinemas.
Carping about the overall content of this Region 1 release put to one side, it is certainly good value if you want to take a look at either movie; however, as a British viewer, I hope that The Earth Dies Screaming eventually makes its way onto Region 2 DVD in some form too.