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  Earth Dies Screaming, The Ghost Town
Year: 1965
Director: Terence Fisher
Stars: Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Thorley Walters, Vanda Godsell, David Spenser, Anna Palk
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Pilot Jeff Nolan (Willard Parker), an American in Britain, drives around the deserted countryside wondering where everyone has gone. He gets his answer when he begins to notice dead bodies lying in the streets of the village he winds up in, but what could have caused such mass death? Picking up a radio from a now-abandoned shop, he takes it to a local inn where he also tries to tune in the television - and is abruptly interrupted by a couple, one brandishing a gun...

What a title! With a name like that, you might expect something on the level of War of the Worlds or Independence Day, but what this actually is is a more modest alien invasion story. Starting out looking like a rerun of Village of the Damned, except the victims here are really dead and not unconscious, it goes on to look like a low budget predecessor of 28 Days Later with echoes of Brit sci-fi like Devil Girl from Mars in the way the cast congregate at the nearest pub for protection.

Setting it in rural England means the producers can get away with empty locations because it all goes towards building up the atmosphere, admittedly the film's strongest suit. When Jeff meets the pair with the gun, he quickly makes peace and they introduce themselves as husband and wife Quinn (Dennis Price) and Peggy (Virginia Field, Parker's real life wife at the time). But in a quiet moment soon after, Peggy admits they are not married: it's something to say so they stick together.

This marks out Quinn as a dodgy geezer as only Price could play him, but there are more survivors to arrive, including couple Edgar (Thorley Walters), fast becoming an alcoholic under the stress, and Violet (Vanda Godsell), not lasting long, and actual husband and wife Mel (David Spenser) who seems like the troublemaker Quinn really is, and his pregnant partner Lorna (Anna Palk). However, they are not alone as they notice strange figures wandering around outside.

These are the robotic aliens, who only appear two at a time presumably due to lack of cash for more costumes, and not only that but they can bring the dead back to life for some pre-Night of the Living Dead zombie action. Director Terence Fisher works up a measure of excitement from Harry Spalding's script with a couple of setpieces, one with Field hiding from the undead and another for the finale with a race to disable the aliens' transmitter, but it's a minor, non-Hammer effort from the man. On the other hand, UB40 did name one of their best songs after the film, and as a Channel 4 continuity announcer mentioned on a late night showing I caught back in the eighties, it's reassuring to see the busy motorway in the background at the end. Maybe things will get back to normal sooner rather than later. Music by Elisabeth Lutyens.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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