Directors: Roger Corman, Edward L. Cahn
Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Lions Gate continues its “Samuel Z. Arkoff Cult Classics” collection with two aptly paired science fiction epics from the golden age of American International Pictures. Both films have the distinction of creature creations by the late, great Paul Blaisdell (whose outrageous designs are no doubt as familiar to vintage monster fans as those of Universal make-up man Jack Pierce), eerily effective music by composer Ronald Stein, screenplays by Lou Rusoff, and production credits by British-born AIP mainstay Alex Gordon (brother of Richard). Also, both films were remade in color (on even lesser budgets!) a decade later by Larry Buchanan to be sold in an AIP TV package.

In THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED, a narrator tells us of an atomic bomb blast, and it seems that there are only a few survivors after T.D. (Total Destruction) Day. A retired Navy captain (Paul Birch) and his pretty daughter (Lori Nelson, from REVENGE OF THE CREATURE) open their mountain home to a heroic geologist (Richard Denning) and his contaminated, flesh-starved brother (Paul Dubov); a trigger-happy heavy (Mike "Touch" Connors, later of “Mannix” fame) and his floozy dame (Adele Jergens); and an old moonshining prospector (Raymond Hatton). They all get on each others' nerves as they fight to survive and later come face-to-face with a lurking mutated mess, courtesy of the imaginatively campy monster suit created by Blaisdell (who also plays said creature).

THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED is one of the earliest AIP titles, and it's also producer/director Roger Corman's first sci-fi oriented film for the company. Shot for a reported $96,000 in and around the famous Bronson Canyon over a period of a few days, the film went out on the top half of a double bill with PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES. Blaisdell’s mutant creation (he deemed it “Marty”) was mostly built out of foam rubber, with most of the other accessories coming from a magic shop or carved out of whatever was available. Only 5’7” in height, Blasdell had to look through the mask’s mouth to make it appear taller, and supposedly, he nearly drowned when the suit filled up with water during a scene in a pond. A fun ensemble cast of bickering characters reluctantly gathered together in a house (shades of the forthcoming NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) help things move along at a nice pace, and it’s humorous to see a young smirking Corman appearing in a framed 8x10 photo as Lori’s Nelson’s deceased boyfriend.

Another very early AIP creature feature, 1956's THE SHE-CREATURE was directed by the overworked Edward L. Cahn, who also gave us sci-fi classics like CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN, INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN and IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. Sideshow stage hypnotist Dr. Carlo Lombardi (Chester Morris) performs a popular act in which he hypnotizes his assistant Andrea (Marla English), transforming her to a past life where she was a prehistoric sea creature! Of course, this activity manifests the "she-creature" of the title, as Lombardi controls it and influences it to kill. Now predicting the murders as part of his act, he draws the attention of the police, as well as wealthy socialite (Tom Conway) who backs the act and lets Lombardi stay in his home to perform in front of guests. Young Dr. Erickson (Lance Fuller) is skeptical of Lombardi and quickly falls in love with Andrea, whose will is not her own.

Fairly dull and talky, THE SHE-CREATURE is best known for the remarkable monster created by Blaisdell (who again appears inside the costume). A scaly lobster concoction with long stringy hair and enormous breasts(!), the she-creature is one of the most memorable 1950s monsters. Unfortunately, its screen time is limited to a handful of standout scenes. Most of the acting is substandard (Morris is awkwardly hammy and Fuller is wooden) with English being terrific eye candy. Also in the film are Cathy Downs (THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN), Frieda Inescort (RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE), William Hudson (ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN) and Kenneth MacDonald, the bad guy in numerous Shemp-era "Three Stooges" shorts. English, Fuller, Conway and most of the she-creature costume returned the following year in VOODOO WOMAN (also directed by Cahn), while the head mask can be seen (in vivid color!) in 1958's HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER.

Though non-anamorphic, Lions Gate finally presents THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED in its 2.35:1 “SuperScope” aspect ratio, as most previous versions were cropped from this and/or panned and scanned. The black and white image is quite crisp in detail, with only some minor lines and other miniscule blemishes, and the compositions now look terrific. The mono sound is adequate, displaying some hiss and pops at times. The full frame image on THE SHE CREATURE (which has never officially been released on home video in the U.S. until now) is satisfactory, with deep blacks and rich detail, but some of the outdoor nighttime beach scenes appear too dark. The source print has its share of spotty blemishes, and the open matte presentation is at times awkward. The mono sound is adequate. No subtitle options are included.

The packaging on this release is attractively eye-catching, but menus are very basic and unimaginative, and no supplements are included, not even the films’ easily available trailers. (George R. Reis)