Attack of the Crab Monsters/Not of This Earth/War of the Satellites (1957 - 58)
By: Paul Ryan on June 6, 2011  | 
DVD
Shout Factory (USA) | Region 1, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 195 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Roger Corman
Starring: Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Dick Miller, Susan Cabot
Screenplay: Charles B. Griffith, Mark Hanna, Lawrence Louis Goldman
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase
Shout Factory's mightily impressive Roger Corman's Cult Classics collection has put out a fine selection of titles from the legendary B-movie mogul, but to date, almost all of these have been produced by Corman, rather than directed. This new two-disc release corrects this oversight, with three of his vintage sci-fi/horror outings from the late fifties given the shiny disc treatment.

In Attack of the Crab Monsters, a team of scientists travels to a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a team of atomic researchers. Mystified by giant, unexplained craters and sudden tremors, the team soon discovers that the island has been taken over by giant, atomically-mutated crabs. Crabs that can absorb the minds of the their victims and speak in their voices, no less!

Short, sharp and silly, Attack of the Crab Monsters is prime fifties Corman. The pace is quick, there's extensive (read: economical) location shooting, a brassy Ronald Stein score, and the monsters are lovably ludicrous (with occasionally obvious human legs poking out underneath). Scripted by regular Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith (The Little Shop of Horrors, Death Race 2000), there's much of Griffith's trademark eccentricity – did I mention crabs that can absorb human brains and talk in their voices? - and amusing dialogue ("It's no good Dave! The bullets pass through like x-rays!"). The cast features many notable names, including Russell Johnson (later of Gilligan's Island), Pamela Duncan (of Corman's The Undead), Mel Welles (later Mr Mushnik in The Little Shop of Horrors) and Griffith himself as a lesser (nay, expendable) member of the crew.

Released on the same double-bill as above film, Not of This Earth follows the nefarious exploits of alien "Paul Johnson" (Paul Birch) who comes to earth in search of human blood to save his dying race. Able to manipulate the minds of those around him, he controls an attractive nurse (Beverly Garland, of Corman's It Conquered the World), a doctor (William Roerick) and a housekeeper (Jonathan Haze, again later of The Little Shop of Horrors). On the side, he lures and drains a raft of victims, including necking teens, a parking inspector (Tom Graeff, subsequently auteur of camp classic Teenagers From Outer Space and assistant on this film) and Chinese laundromat owner, among others.

Moody and imaginative, Not of This Earth is great fun. Again scripted by Griffith (with Mark Hanna, of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), this has plenty of clever touches and unusual asides (check out Dick Miller's hilarious cameo as a doomed door-to-door salesman). There's some distinctive visual style on display for a drive-in quickie, with Birch's simple appearance – in a suit and hat with sunglasses – conveying a strong sense of otherness, making the film's other prominent monster (a flying octopus thing, resembling an ornate lampshade) more forgivable.

Birch – reportedly a heavy drinker - and Corman reportedly came to blows near the end of filming, and the actor stormed off the film. Ergo numerous scenes feature actor Lyle Latell (Pat Patton in the 1940s Dick Tracy films) standing in for Birch, though it's not especially noticeable. Corman's expected budgetary ingenuity is also in evidence in the the scenes involving Johnson "telepathically" communicating with others, which no doubt cut down on the need to shoot with on-set audio.

Legend has it that, the day after Sputnik was launched, Corman promised the head of Allied Artists that he could have a similarly-themed film out within seven weeks. Whether this is actually true or not – Sputnik went up in October 1957, while the resulting film came out May 1958, and Corman's own account is inconsistent on this DVD – War of the Satellites arrived with a suitable degree of timeliness.

Ruthless aliens are sabotaging Earth's attempts at using satellites to explore deep space. To this end, they take the form of recently-deceased scientist Pol Van Ponder (Richard Devon) to infiltrate the facility that is working on the latest satellite. Luckily for humankind, we have heroic scientists Dave Boyer (Dick Miller, again) and Sybil Carrington (B-movie beauty Susan Cabot, of Corman's Sorority Girl and The Wasp Woman) on our side to put a stop to their plans.

The miniature effects are comical (with strings holding up planets aplenty), the sets crummy (the bare-backdrop-and-two-desks United Nations, along with rocketship seats that look like chaise lounges) and the "science" laughable (sudden braking in the void of space), but War of the Satellites is hugely entertaining nonetheless. This is due in no small part to the unusual casting of Miller in the hero role – and he is great fun to watch, as always – but Corman's fast-paced direction also keeps things highly watchable, and helps you overlook the multiple production lapses.
Video
Almost certainly the best you'll ever see these three films, short of a Blu-Ray release. Attack of the Crab Monsters and Not of This Earth are presented in anamorphic 1.78:1. Both have their share of nicks and scratches in places, but overall, they're impressively clear and sharp. War of the Satellites is delivered in 4:3 full frame and has more in the way of artefacts, but still looks far better than you'd expect. Attack of the Crab Monsters and War of the Satellites have been sourced from British release prints, as evidenced by the British ratings certificates and distributor logos at the start of each film. No subtitles are included.
Audio
All three films carry thoroughly functional 2.0 mono soundtracks, each with their share of mild crackle and hiss, but all reasonably clear given their age and budget.
Extra Features
Another bumper crop from Shout Factory. Both Attack of the Crab Monsters and Not of This Earth come with commentary tracks from genre historians Tom Weaver, John Brunas and Mike Brunas. The commentaries are packed to bursting with trivia and anecdotes, including the revelation that Not of This Earth is a childhood favourite of FOX News shock-jock Bill O'Reilly (!) and Miller mostly ad-libbed his dialogue in that film's nutty salesman scene. These two films also carry alternate syndicated television openings (created by director Herbert L. Strock years after the fact), in notably lesser picture quality. Neither adds much to their respective films (and would actually slow them down in a full viewing), but they're interesting for the sake of completeness.

A Roger Corman interview gives an overview of how these three films came about, and features a contribution from Dick Miller at the end. The most substantial featurette is the 25-minute A Salute to Roger Corman, in which countless Corman collaborators and proteges discuss how the man influenced their approaches to filmmaking. Participants include Peter Fonda, James Horner, Chris Walas, Peter Bogdanovich, Mark Goldblatt, Harry Dean Stanton, Jack Hill, Margaret Markov, Corman himself and the late George Hickenlooper, to whom this featurette is dedicated. Lastly, the Roger Corman Trailer Collection compiles 27 trailers (including the three films featured here) for most of Corman's directorial efforts.
The Verdict

Tremendous fun for fans of B-cinema and Cormanphiles alike, this excellent two-disc set comes highly recommended.

Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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