The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

A crack space pilot returns to earth to find the planet has been devastated by some unknown forces. There are a few survivors, so he organizes them in a plan to ward off control by a group of killer robots.

In a way “science fiction film” is a contradiction in terms, or at least in this case there is a certain disparity between the canvas of the printed page and the screen, especially since the genre in its purest form never attracted a sufficient audience for a decent budget. In other words, these movies always seem to be about the End of the World, without sufficient funding to stage a convincing accident with a bicycle.

Accordingly, a sub-genre emerged, which may be termed wholesale cut-price destruction, the plight of the entire planet being “symbolically” reduced to a group of travelers wondering “if it’s the same everywhere”. It usually starts by showing nothing at all (which can’t have cost much).

The protagonist wakes up to find a village deserted (or perhaps a few streets from the studio back-lot). Where did everybody go? A few scattered corpses (at five dollars a head) may be strewn to some effect. There’s nothing on the radio (there’s nothing on television either, but that doesn’t lead me to surmise that the world has ended).

Now it’s time for our lone hero to find a damsel in distress, and soon after the rest of those five people, who always seem to survive World War III. There’s the rugged pilot or military man, who naturally takes command.

There’s the striptease dancer with a heart of gold, who was going to take her life anyway because of this whole lousy stinking world, and good riddance to it! Then there’s the gangster, who saw his chance to break out of jail.

He’s packing a gun and a trunk-full of USELESS money (oh the irony of it!) until our rugged friend punches out his lights. Not to mention the bragging youngster with a mousy girlfriend, who grows up by allowing himself to be ordered around by the serge, and with whom the popcorn-munching wimps in the audience are supposed to identify – or it may be an older couple, the indispensable dispensable coward with a nagging wife.

Now for an hour or so these characters will bicker, whine and philosophize about the futility of life, war, or making a movie on a budget of ten thousand dollars or less. Or at least until the advent of the low-budget monsters, who will either be zombies (extras with a blank stare or contact lenses) or robots (extras wrapped in aluminum foil).

Luckily, the success of the invasion and colonization of Earth hinges on the humans not being able to gain access to the control center, usually looking suspiciously like the local power-plant, and throwing a switch, the stripper in the meantime having agreed to repopulate the Earth. No, “silly” really doesn’t begin to describe it, but if you’re lucky, it will have some of that TWILIGHT ZONE inventiveness about it, and if it doesn’t – well, that’s science fiction! Does this description cover THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING? My friend, it covers all the no-Earth no-dying no-screaming movies in the world!