The Day It Came to Earth
April 7, 1936, seen on a lonely highway near Tuscon, Arizona. January 12, 1941, seen outside Lincoln, Nebraska. And then...
Year of Release: 1977
Genre: Science Fiction/Comedy
Running Time: 88 minutes (1:28)
Director: Harry Thomason
Wink Roberts ... Eddie Newton
Roger Manning ... Ronnie McGuire
Robert Ginnaven ... Lt. Kelly
Delight De Bruine ... Sally Baxter
Rita Wilson ... Debbie
George Gobel ... Prof. Bartholomew
Ed Lover ... Ed Love / The Creature / Lou Jacoby
A flaming meteor crash-lands in a small swamp town and unleashes a shambling zombie terror.
The Day It Came to Earth, remindin' us that an associates degree from an institution whose geology teacher doubles as an astronomy professor was still more valuable in the 1950s than a four year degree from a university is nowadays. Kinda makes you wonder whether colleges were a whole lot better back then, or whether folks were just so dense that the only way they managed to attract spouses was due to havin' their own gravitational pull. An speakin' of people who could fail an IQ test, this past week I finally decided I'd had it. There was a cancer that'd been preyin' on my mind an eatin' away at my guts for decades now, an I finally decided it was time to do somethin' about it. So this past Wednesday night I walked into the Videodome tape rental, looked Edgar Mastrude right square in the eyebrow, an demanded a separate section for the watered down, chickenstuff morality tale crapola. I'm sure you all know to what I refer; I'm speaking, of course, about Thrillers. Too long have they infested the horror sections of our video stores an blocked our collective view of Monkey Shines an various other classics. An do you know what Edgar said after my demands had been made? He says "don't nobody but you ever paw around in that garbage, an even if they did, I'm too busy." So I says "yeah, clearly you've got a lot on your plate what with your inability to recognize that black seven aughta be moved onto that red eight, you lazy, uncultured couch sore," an I stormed right outta there. Course, that was only long enough to relieve myself on the driver's side door of his 1982 Pontiac Firebird, at which point I went back inside an hid behind the gigantic Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild mockup until after closin' time. That's when I proceeded to spend the night movin' all that flashy indoor nonsense way over by the Dramas so that I'd never again hafta pitch The Devil's Advocate an The Sixth Sense across the room towards the children's section after findin' The Cremators an Night of the Demons wedged behind 'em. Edgar was pretty P.O.'d when the blue haired old ladies started askin' why Rear Window was now on the wall opposite Adam's Rib, but true to his word, he has thus far proven to be too shiftless to do anything about it. That's why I'm declarin' a moral victory over gutless cinema right here an now, an I'm proud to've finally struck a much needed blow for weirdo rights, an you can do the same. You just gotta take a long look in the mirror an make the decision to take control of your life, an trust me, it's EXHILARATING. Maybe now the citizenry of our fair city'll sit up, take notice, an acquire a little culture now that they need not be sickened by the sight of Basic Instinct anytime they wanna rent Critters.
Gettin' back to the flick though, I gotta say, The Day It Came to Earth really gets a bad rap. I personally think it's one of the best 1950s science fiction flicks ever to come out of 1977, an if there's anyone out there who thinks they can produce a better tongue-in-cheek version of The Alien Dead, I'll be happy to take their suggestion under consideration. I guess technically speakin', The Alien Dead was an attempt at makin' a serious version of The Day It Came to Earth, an that The Day It Came to Earth is actually a completely farcical version of The Blob, but rather'n lump these individual triumphs together, let's take a look at some of the specific aspects that make *this* movie a must see for convicts with nothin' better to watch at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. The first thing this flick offers up in the way of unconventional wisdom is the knowledge that bein' struck directly in the mush by an outer space meteorite will burn your visage to the bone until you look like Scorpion from Mortal Kombat with facial syphilis; however, your clothes will remain perfectly pressed an presentable. Second, it's pretty rough bein' an aquatic slime zombie. For instance, if you were to try buyin' a safe to store your valuables, most shop owners'll just go cracker jacks an start firin' semi-automatic weapons at you the moment you walk in the door, leavin' you no other option but to stuff your precious moon rocks under your moss mattress. An third, a diamond may be forever, but nothin' makes the panties drop like a piece of meteorite jewelry.
But there's somethin' this movie brought up that's bugged me for years, an that's the question of why the government chose the name "Witness Protection Program" for their compensated snitches an those unfortunate souls who've got John Hinckleys followin' 'em around. Cause let's get serious here for a minute, these people get exactly bollocks in the way of actual protection. For the sake of honesty, they really aughta be callin' it the "Witness Relocation an Pray to God Whoever Wants You Dead Hasn't Already Infiltrated Our Ranks Agency." I mean, have you ever seen a movie where the change of address form an fake mustache actually get the job done? An you know they aren't givin' these people the straight skinny until AFTER they've already outed themselves an testified against Sal "the Butcher" Gratziano an gotten 'im sentenced to 40 years or however long it takes to bribe a judge to overturn the case. At which point the agency's like: "oh, by the way, we can't really assign security to you cause of the recent budget crisis, an plus it'd look real suspicious if you had Secret Service guys doin' tactical rolls all over your lawn at 2 in the AM anyway." So basically, in exchange for doin' the right thing, you get scuttled off to Bungsuckle, Iowa, an stuck between two families of Ted Cruz supporters who keep neon crosses on their roofs all year 'round, where you're expected to start your life over with no job references for your current identity. I'd be willin' to bet my entire woodshed that after a week of that you'd turn yourself in to the mob just to be put outta your misery. That is, if you even make it that long before some guido posin' as a steak knife salesman uses your torso to demonstrate the amazing cuttin' ability of the new "Never-Dull Snitch Silencer." An that's actually best case scenario, cause sometimes they end up dumpin' your corpse into a creek where its struck by a meteorite that turns you into a pan-seared pus monster with a tie that don't match your blazer. It's just really not worth the hassle.
The movie begins with this voice over from a car radio about how some mob snitch is gettin' released from the Crossbar Hotel an bein' given a new identity, cept the Witness Protection Agency accidentally sets the guy up at the same bank the mobsters use, an when he tries withdrawin' some cash to buy a fedora, the Godfather's bastard children show up an marginalize 'im. Then they drive the body out to this lake that's real inconspicuous bein's it's the only lake I've ever seen with rapids, an proceed to dump the corpse like an oil drum into the Cuyahoga. The next mornin', these two students (Eddie an Ronnie) from the remedial agricultural college are sittin' in class with the illustrious Professor Mike Ditka Hair (Bartholomew), who's tryin' to discuss Jupiter amid the constant yokel chucklin' that accompanies lame Uranus jokes. It's at this point that Ronnie raises his hand to ask the professor if he believes in U.F.O.s an whether or not it's weird that he's a 35 year old man in his sophomore year of junior college. Professor Bart is on the fence about U.F.O.s, an he tells Ronnie that his scholastic achievements're the least of his worries, as it's gonna be pretty hard to get girls while displayin' this level of enthusiasm for alien probes. So once class is over, Eddie an Ronnie start inspectin' the student bodies of these two freshman girls (Sally an Debbie) an decide to invite 'em out swimmin' the next day to bone up for their pop quizzes, an then the girls go home to do eachother's hair an play Everly Brothers albums. Elsewhere, a giant flaming Lifesaver crash lands in the lake right on toppa the corpse an causes Jellator to rise from the whacked lagoon an head over to mafia HQ where he 86es the two goodfellas. You can understand his irritation after not only bein' killed by the two guys, but also bein' mistaken for Dr. Phibes. Then the cops (Mike an Larry) show up an find this pink slime on the floor an put out an APB on Ronald McDonald. The next mornin', the kids all head out to the lake to frolic in their innocent, wholesome 1950s kinda way, cept then Eddie finds this big chunk of turquoise aquarium rock an they decide to show it to the professor since he's actually a geologist who just happens to be teachin' astronomy until the geology gig opens up. Bartholomew hasn't seen anything like it since he stopped at a souvenir stand on the Arapaho reservation in Oklahoma, so he gets the kids to take 'im out to the lake where they found it an makes 'em track mud all over the Grime Reaper's new blazer while they scour the lake bottom. Eventually, they locate the majority of the meteorite an haul it out thinkin' it's one of the Jolly Green Giant's testicles, an when Uggopogo wakes up that evenin' an finds his night light missin' he's P.O.'d.
So Goo Manchu heads on over to the college to get his rocks offa the professor's desk where they're lightin' up like E.T.'s chest cavity an just about gets run over by the Junk Yard Dog on the way. Only once he gets ahold of the meteorite the campus cops show up an start shootin' all the professor's beakers an science stuff til the room ignites, an Muck Rogers ends up landin' on his rocks after dumpin' out the 3rd story window. Then the real cops show up an Bartholomew hasta explain all about meteorites to pad out the movie after realizin' the one that used to be on his desk's been burgled while the cops scoop up some more of that Kaopectate plasma offa the professor's desk. The next mornin', the girls're sittin' in the library studyin' for their domestic engineerin' degrees an makin' a big fuss about this meteorite pendant Eddie made for Sally in jewelcraftin' class. Sally likes it so much that when she an Eddie go out to neck later that night she decides that it's high time Harry met Sally an just about rapes Eddie before he can get outta the car to tinkle. Unfortunately, that's about the time Snot Baio happens by an notices Sally's wearin' some of his slag swag an starts tryin' to repo the necklace while Sally screams like a loose fan belt. Eddie gets back just in time to gun it outta there, an then they haul it on over to the cop shop to make like Steve McQueen in The Blob an tell everybody there's a mucus monster roamin' around town tryin' to steal costume jewelry offa horny coeds. Then, the next evenin', Sally, Debbie, an a buncha other girls with low self esteem've grouped up in this haunted house where they're bein' forced to stay the night in exchange for bein' accepted into the future good wives club sorority house, only the guys've snuck in through the basement an rigged up some props from Spencer's Gifts to scare the tar out of 'em an hope that makes 'em all horny. I'm pretty sure this only works when you aren't personally responsible for makin' 'em soil their shorts, but we'll see what happens. Meanwhile, Detective Mike is startin' to realize that the Sludgehammer only seems to show up places where there're moon rocks present, an decides to dub the creature "the geological gaseous goon" or "ge-ga-goo" for anybody who still wasn't clear that the movie is a spoof. But elsewhere, the guys've unleashed their red-eyed mannequin on the girls an really put the carpet's Scotchgard waterproofer to the test an needless to say, the gals from Sister Pledge are just a teensy bit P.O.'d. Course, that doesn't last too long once Huey Lewis and the Ooze has made his way into the house, an pretty quick everybody starts squealin' like Ned Beatty in Deliverance an clearin' outta there before any fights break out at the Yuck-ay Corral. There's absolutely no way you'll ever guess how this thing ends, so I'ma cut the description here to avoid spoilers.
Ya know, I personally can't understand how anybody can watch this movie and rag on it in any serious way, and furthermore, I can't see why anyone would suggest that it's "so bad it's good," as this flick is a completely self aware, affectionate send-up to the cheesy science fiction movies of the 1950s. By definition, anything that's legitimately self aware cannot possibly be "so bad it's good," because if it's self aware and bad, it was done intentionally, and as we all know, you cannot purposefully make a movie that's so bad it's good. That doesn't mean that people don't have a right to dislike it, and I'm not the kinda guy who's gonna get all holier than thou and suggest that anyone who doesn't like it missed the point, but I did want to point out that we're clearly dealing with a movie that has a deliberate angle. Another observation I'd like to make; if this movie had been shot in black and white, there'd prolly be a whole gaggle of film historians and scholars who'd think it was artistic as all get out. But anyway, I think Harry Thomason did a pretty decent job directing this one, as it succeeds masterfully in generating that 1950s feel due to all the stupid dialog and the silly sitcom style rituals that the characters engage in. It really is an utterly stupid movie, and I mean that with the utmost respect and admiration. Realistically, I guess it's pretty much The Blob, just with a different kinda monster, but I still liked it. Something else that's interesting though, if you really wanted to get into whether or not this movie was intended to be comedic, just take a look at The Alien Dead for a perfect comparison. Alien Dead has pretty much the same exact plot, except that it's played straight and had a somewhat smaller budget. THAT is a movie with unintentional humor, although the two would make a pretty good double feature. This is all in addition to the fact that the movie stars George Gobel, a regular on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and Hollywood Squares, and who also had his own TV show that ran for 136 episodes between 1954 and 1960. The one thing I would criticize about the flick is that if you don't enjoy the 1950s motif, a lot of the irrelevant scenes that're essentially in the movie just to add a hint of '50s nostalgia would tend to bog the movie down quite a bit. I liked those scenes myself, but it's pretty much a given that anyone who doesn't like the spoof angle is really going to hate them, and they're going to make the movie seem not only bad, but excruciatingly slow.
Alrighty, let's go divin' for pearls and find out if this thing's worth dredging, or whether it oughta be left at the bottom of the sea of mediocrity. The plot could basically be summed up like this; if you enjoyed it, you'd call it "classic," if not, you'd say it was "hackneyed," and both assessments would be fair. As I mentioned before, it's the basic Blob formula, with certain aspects being tweaked enough so as to be homages, rather than theft of intellectual property. It's a very tried and true story, and as long as you're not looking for earth-shattering originality, you'll find it acceptable, if a bit tired. The acting is kinda all over the place, with most of the lead performances being completely over the top, and several of the supporting characters being really amateurish. There're even a few moments where the two descriptions overlap, like in the make out scene between Wink Roberts and Delight De Bruine. When Delight starts goin' for Wink's groceries, things do get a little hilarious. As far as legitimate acting talent, Robert Ginnaven (who plays the deadpan Lt. Mike Kelly) is easily the best, and gets some of the best lines like: "on second thought, if you do see the monster, read it its rights." Now, admittedly, some of the supporting cast stink it up. The security guard, the mayor, and a few of the sorority girls, for instance. But in general, most of the acting isn't quite cringe inducing. Here's who matters and why: Roger Manning (Screams of a Winter Night, The Shadow of Chikara), Robert Ginnaven (So Sad About Gloria, Encounter with the Unknown), Rita Wilson (Psycho 1998), Lyle Armstrong (Encounter with the Unknown), Joe Barone (So Sad About Gloria), Conrad Rothmann (Beware! The Blob), Lou Hoffman (So Sad About Gloria), Dick Curtis (What Waits Below, Motel Hell), Jim Bailey (Vultures), John H. Fields (Cat People 1982). Rita Wilson would probably be the best known of the bunch, having married Tom Hanks in 1988 and costarred with him in the retch-inducing Sleepless in Seattle.
The special effects are, admittedly, abysmal. We're talkin' special defects, here. Fortunately, because the movie is shot in such an obvious tongue-in-cheek fashion, it's a lot less damaging than it would be to a movie with a more serious slant and, equally important, there aren't many special effects in the movie to begin with. Essentially, there's the muck monster and the flaming marshmallows that come down from outer space. The fright mask on Goobacca is about one step above K-Mart quality, and the meteorites (there are two scenes that feature them) are superimposed into their respective scenes. To put the effects into perspective, Roger Corman would never have allowed anything like this into one of his flicks. The shooting locations are alright, with the classroom, dorms, police station, and cafeteria all appearing reasonably plausible. The best scenes take place at the lake, and while there is clearly some pretty fast moving water in one shot, the overall aesthetic of the lightly wooded area is generally pleasing. That said, the "haunted house" where the sorority girls are spending the night for their hazing ritual looks pretty ridiculous, and the editor really should have cut the one daylight scene that takes place in it for that reason. The soundtrack is where the movie really cranks its silly factor up to full blast, as there isn't one track that's wholly serious. You've basically got music that ranges from moderately silly, to all out malt shop "Grease" style medleys that play during the opening and closing credits. However, while the scoring is undoubtedly cheesy and ridiculous, the tracks fit in perfectly with the tone of the movie. Overall, The Day It Came to Earth is a lot of fun, and is not only significantly better than its IMDB rating, but also a movie that really should have more notoriety than it does. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes cheesy 1950s science fiction movies, and even general audiences who're interested in movies that showcase '50s nostalgia, because regardless of its rating, it's obvious to me that it was intended as a fun send-up of drive-in movies from a bygone era, and I feel it succeeds in that regard.