Jim Wynorski's films can never be taken seriously . . . not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whether he can or he won’t make a serious movie isn’t the question. The fact is people always talk about his films, albeit usually with a wry smile. And, when 19 year-old Traci Lords (she turned 20 that year on May 7, 1986) accepted the part of nurse Nadine Story in Wynorski’s remake of the sci-fi horror cult classic, NOT OF THIS EARTH, people really started to talk! Here was a girl who hadn’t previously acted in anything except for hours of underage video porn, having a go at a legitimate role.
The eyes of Traci Lords
Miss Lords says she “had a lot of fun” making NOT OF THIS EARTH, but was puzzled as to why the breakneck pace of filming was being employed by the oftentimes cantankerous director. Turns out Roger Corman agreed to let Wynorski remake his film and at the same time made him a bet that he couldn’t make his version quicker than the notoriously short schedules that Corman was famous for. Wynorski ended up beating Corman’s 12-day original shoot, which fully explains Lords’ comment of exasperation.
The movie is played with tongue planted somewhat firmly in cheek. As a result, it’s humorous but not really laugh-out-loud funny. The cleverest lines come usually from Our Man From Davanna, Arthur Roberts, who plays the character originally acted by Paul Birch in the 1957 AIP version. When Traci/Nadine shows up at “Mr. Johnson’s” house to be a live-in nurse, Johnson she’s he has a room ready for her. Nadine says, “I’m just dying to see it”. Johnson replies, in his steady, deadpan voice, “You’re not dying . . . I’m dying”, referring of course to his need for constant blood transfusions and the reason for Nadine’s professional services. In another scene, when the house butler tries to keep Nadine from bashing through an Earth/Davanna portal, Nadine intones, “I never screw around!” One can’t help but to chuckle at the irony.
Traci Lords in her best Fay Wray pose
The film stays somewhat close to the original, and views much more like a re-imagining rather than an outright homage. Miss Lords has never looked better, and her exotic, natural (wink! wink!) allure steals just about every scene she’s in. In the DVD special interview feature “Nadine’s Story”, Lords explains that right after NOT OF THIS EARTH she was asked to play a role (probably the one by the late Lana Clarkson) in THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA, but refused because Corman’s and Wynorski’s contracts always included obligatory nude scenes. Since she was at the time trying to break out of the near impossible situation of being a porn queen aspiring to be a “serious” actress, she (wisely) refused. The interview is enlightening in these respects. Now 42, but still showing some Hollywood chic and a bit of sass, Lords is quite articulate, as well as very self-aware of her perspective on acting and her goals. As a result, NOT OF THIS EARTH may be the last time we see Traci Lords “in the flesh” as it were. That’s okay, because she’s really a pretty good actress and funny to boot. The veteran Richards as Mr. Johnson is, at times, as good as Birch’s. The other cast members are competent in their roles, and by being so keep this movie above true schlock, and in the end, make it really entertaining viewing. NOT OF THIS EARTH floats close to the top of the froth in the B-Movie beer barrel, and arguably is one of Jim Wynorski’s best films.
Released by SHOUT! FACTORY as a part of the “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series, the DVD is an excellent print from film. The colors are all great and the sound is punchy. It is obvious that the folks at SHOUT! have a love for B-Movies and their steady string of quality re-issues are a testament to that. The packaging is first rate and it’s good to see the return of the DVD clamshell insert! Recommended viewing.
Arthur Roberts as "Mr. Johnson"
Traci Lords as the sassy nurse Nadine