I really miss Dick Miller.
When we first meet door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman John Henry (Tavis L. Baker) trying to sell to a reluctant customer, I found myself thinking of Dick’s brief little part in Not of this Earth, as a far too eager salesman who bothers the wrong customer.
Which, I suppose, is no great surprise when we’re talking about a film which is trying to recapture the feel of those early Roger Corman films, back when he actually directed things instead of producing endless SyFy Network Monster movies.
Perhaps, however, I should be thinking of Jonathan Haze in The Little Shop of Horrors, who gets drawn into an ever expanding cycle of murder and violence by that hungry plant (although that isn’t, now that I think of it, that much different from the plight of Miller’s Walter Paisley in Bucket of Blood) — or, perhaps even more of Peter Graves’ scientist character in It Conquered the World, who consorts with that big carrot from Venus to help all mankind.
As in so many of Roger’s horror films, we have a not too bright ordinary guy who just can’t seem to succeed at anything being given a way to fame and success. In this case, the offer comes from an alien visitor who just needs a little help. Help, that is, to find a few subjects — human subjects, naturally — to experiment upon.
There is a nice irony here that the help amounts to nothing more than a few, not particularly impressive, technical improvements for Henry’s vacuum cleaners. Our alien is actually a little bemused by this as John could have asked for almost anything: as alien technology goes, a swivel hose that will reach into any corner of a room sounds awfully trivial. It has to be the absolute worst reason for betraying the human race ever.
The obvious comparison here is Christopher R. Mihm‘s extensive library of retro SF movies, which have a lot in common with this film: their slow pace, minimal — and crude looking — effects, and black and white “film” (Chris even featured this one in his newsletter!). However, this one is far less accomplished than any of Chris’s films: it is too slow, too talky, and never quite comes as close to that late-Fifties vibe. I’ll confess I like the spaceship interior, which has a sort of Frank Lloyd Wright/House on Haunted Hill look about it. But it would have been far more effective if it had been an almost identical set made of painted flats instead of a purely green screened CGI affair.
And if you haven’t seen those classic Corman SF films from the Fifties, like It Conquered the World, Not of this Earth or Attack of the Crab Monsters, then you need to watch those. Right away. Now.
What are you waiting for?
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