Color, 1988, 81m.
Directed by Jim Wynorski
Starring Traci Lords, Arthur Roberts, Lenny Juliano, Roger Lodge, Ace Mask
Shout Factory (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

This amusingly daffy remake of Roger Corman's 1957 sci-fi/vampire drive-in favorite is the perfect textbook example of late '80s Concorde Pictures entertainment. Yet another permutation of Roger Corman's indie company (which also became New Horizons and New Concorde), it offered lots of cheap, disposable fun with limited theatrical play and a long life on cable and home video. Not of This Earth actually began as a bet between Corman and director Jim Wynorski (who had already proven his mettle with Chopping Mall, Big Bad Mama II, and Deathstalker II), with the latter claiming he could churn out a remake even faster than Corman's notoriously thrifty, time-conscious original. Shooting for twelve days (and actually coming in half a day under), Wynorski won the bet and earned a new car in the process, not to mention one of the most consistently popular titles in his filmography.

Of course, the film's real claim to fame is its status as the first legitimate starring vehicle for Traci Lords, who had just been busted by the FBI for performing underage in adult films since 1984. Theories still swirl around about the particulars of this case, but the aftermath was considerable with the entire industry shaken up and Lords going into temporary hiding. Wynorski managed to track her down and offered her the lead, prompting a lot of naysayers to doubt the entire project when it finally unspooled in limited release. Of course, Traci and company wound up having the last laugh as she turned out to be more than capable of carrying a film. Her charisma, gorgeous screen presence, and impish sense of humor (often direced at herself) quickly proved her dreams of crossing over were indeed possible, and soon she was popping up in everything from John Water's Cry-Baby to TV shows like Married... with Children and Melrose Place. She still continues to have a successful, well-earned career on both the big and small screens (a personal favorite: her femme fatale appearance on Andy Barker, P.I.), and she also released a surprisingly credible dance album and an autobiography between gigs. And to think, it all started out here with a sexy nurse's outfit. As for the film itself, it's a quick, cheap, often ramshackle affair with a lot of inexplicable detours and shameless cribs from earlier Corman films, but then again, what did you expect?

The film follows the basic story beats of the Corman original, albeit with a lot more T&A and neon-tinged special effects. Mysterious, sunglass-wearing Mr. Johnson (Revenge of the Ninja's Roberts) shows up in a small town and keeps zapping hapless women with his glowing eyes. During his off hours in daylight, he frequents a doctor's office for blood transfusions and recruits the office nurse, Nadine (Lords), to become his live-in Florence Nightingale. As it turns out, Johnson is an alien recruited by his dying home planet to test out a five-pronged plan to inhabit the Earth and thrive on the blood of its inhabitants. Aided by a buff handyman (Juliano) and a romantically inclined cop (Lodge), she soon uncovers the frightening cosmic truth about her employer but might not live long enough to stop him.

Practically a love letter to Corman's earlier films, Not of This Earth pelts the viewer with loads of stock footage right from the opening seconds with a spaceship prologue and a later flashback swiped from Galaxy of Terror, along with a breakneck (and somewhat baffling) opening credits sequence that mashes together highlights from Forbidden World and Humanoids from the Deep, among others. Even Hollywood Boulevard pops up with a brief stalking scene for good measure, along with its "Miracle Pictures" opening studio card. Some amusing stunt casting helps, too, including buxom appearances by Ava Cadell (aka sex therapist Dr. Ava), Critters 2's Roxanne Kernohan, Hollywood Hot Tubs' Becky LeBeau, Night of the Comet cutie Kelli Maroney, and of course, omnipresent B-movie queen Monique Gabrielle. Surprisingly, even Traci herself supplies a bit of skin in two scenes, making this the last time she would ever appear undraped on camera.

Not of This Earth fared well enough to earn a VHS and laserdisc pick-up from MGM, who loaded it into Blockbusters around the world and made it a late night party staple. Eventually Corman retained the rights for a DVD release under his own label, using the same passable but (by then) very dated open matte transfer along with a decent Wynorski solo commentary track. (Corman also saw fit to unleash another Not of This Earth in 1995 with Michael York and Parker Stevenson as part of a film series for Showtime, and it actually isn't bad-- though the exploitation value is much lower.) Shout Factory's line of Corman releases gives the film a much-needed visual overhaul with a colorful, punchy anamorphic transfer that restores the intended theatrical framing. The copious stock clips mean the visual texture is hardly consistent from scene to scene, but it looks as good as you could hope given the nature of the source. Overall it's a really good-looking presentation. The original Wynorski commentary is carried over here, but the real selling point is a brand new commentary with the director and Traci herself. Their reunion is lots of rollicking fun as they recall how she became attached to the film, how Roger gave his blessing to remaking one of his personal favorites, and why Wynorski still holds a grudge against Lodge to this day over an automotive mishap. As usual Lords proves to be a witty commentator, explaining her own personal state at the time and explaining her own personal transition to legit acting which didn't always go smoothly on a B-movie set. Lords also appears for a new 11-minute video interview, "Nadine's Story," in which she elaborates a bit more on her own experience with the film, pointing out that no one on the production seemed to grasp the concept of continuity (as evidenced by her infamous high heels goof getting out of the shower, among many other amusing glitches). A photo gallery rounds out the disc along with trailers for this film, the original (which is strangely prefaced with an unannounced trailer for Attack of the Crab Monsters when selected), Starcrash, and Galaxy of Terror.