The story essentially follows the classic Frankenstein tale, that of a man whose supreme creation turns into a monster that sets out to destroy its creator. The film has a wrap around narration and opens up with a priest arriving at the jail house where a broken and disheveled Victor await the guillotine. He does seek absolution but just wants someone to believe his incredible story, and that it was a ‘monster’ that murdered his jealous house maid. We are taken back in time to when an already rich and arrogant young Victor Frankenstein meets his brilliant new tutor Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) and the two form a deep connection as time passes. However Victor’s passion run darker and more sinister than Paul’s as he desires to test their live reviving techniques on humans and not just small animals. Paul, though strong willed, is susceptible to Victor’s vision and passion and he is soon cutting corpses from the gallows to use in experiments. As in all Frankenstein stories the sublime nature of Frankenstein’s creation is not its physical form, hewed together from collected body parts, but it is to be the thing’s magnificent mind.
Archive for the British Horror Category
The film opens in the bleak bogs of Scotland where a group of soldiers are conducting tests looking for hidden radioactive isotopes. The testing is soon interrupted when a fissure opens up and two soldiers suffer sever radiation burns. The matter is brought to Dr. Royston who has been working in his little hideaway on experiments involving radioactivity. When he inspects the fissure he concludes it very well could be bottomless and the area is sealed off. Later two boys are out on a dare and while creeping into the decrepit lodgings of a local hermit one of them encounters something and suffers lethal radiation burns. A canister of Royston’s radioactive experiment is found there, much to his consternation. There is a lot of talking and scientific explanations between the films genuinely creepy moments. Later a medical Lothario sneaks a very willing young nurse into what appears to be the x-ray room and one of the film’s best moments occurs when the flesh melts off his face after he encounters the thing. The nurse goes into one of the best horror film screams on record, so good the scene earned a place on my site’s banner. There is a lot more talking and explaining of theories but the films moves along well enough. The creature is not revealed until the last part of the film and it is not bad really. This is a couple years before the blob and the movie was obviously pinched in the budget department. But when your monster is a pile of radioactive mud you are not worried too much. The thing oozes around and over things in believable fashion and I suppose I wish we had seen more of the mass. The beast is done in of course by a quick scientific method that makes little sense but in all these old movies science is both the monster and savior.
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The film is bleak and done in a pretty serious tone. Even the obligatory comic relief provided by two soldiers (one played by Anthony Newly) is nipped when they are consumed by the pile of slithering radioactive mud. It is a movie typical of the times in most ways and the evil was something in part man made and in part unknowable. The thing is basically unstoppable, but like the Blob there was a way to destroy it if you only thought hard enough and could hang on until the last fifteen minutes of the film. Hammer of course will always be remembered primarily for their lushly staged and designed horror films, but they did some other things as well and I think X the Unknown is one of their truly hidden gems. Hidden in a pile of radioactive sludge. A really good movie in my opinion and I think all regular readers of the Café would not be disappointed with it.
1974/Director: Terence Fisher/Writer: Anthony Hinds
Cast: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, David Prowse, John Stratton, Michael Ward, Elsie Wagstaff, Norman Mitchell
This was the last of the Hammer Frankenstein series and it actually takes up where Frankenstein Must be Destroyed left off as the prior film, The Horror of Frankenstein, broke the continuity of the films by going back to when Frankenstein was younger. Horror also suffered a bit by the absences of Terrence Fisher as director and Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein, but more on that film another post. Cushing and Fisher are both back for this 1974 film, as are Anthony Hinds (writing as James Elder) and Hammer composer James Bernard. In a couple more years Hammer would see itself all but out of business as the British film company that revived gothic horror and with Monster from Hell they ended on a pretty good note. The only flaws for me are the title that does not really suit the film’s atmosphere and the rather shoddy monster played by David Prowse (Darth Vader) who also played the creature in Horror of Frankenstein as well. There were understandable budget constraints with the film since Hammer itself was going under. The idea of some sort of Neolithic monster is not in and of itself that bad and certainly the monster here is one of the most unique in the annals of Frankenstein films. I think it could have worked better really with less rubber makeup and fakey body hair. But it is easily over looked after a while really. Some people have criticized Madeline Smith’s as the mute assistant Angel but I liked it. The close ups of her face are beautiful and the innocent character’s charm may have been soiled by exploiting her ample endowments with a title corset as is known to be the attire of most Hammer queens.
In Monster from Hell it is now some seventeen years since we have been introduced to Cushing’s generally maniacal and unsound Victor Frankenstein. In this final chapter he is the now resident doctor Carl Victor and treats the inmates of an insane asylum where he himself was initially housed as a resident. He has since gained his position of power by having information that would spell the nasty end of the current director Herr Klauss (played with superb sleaze by John Statton). Soon admitted into the asylum for “sorcery” is the brilliant young doctor Simon Helder (Shane Bryant of Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter) who has long admired the works of Victor Frankenstein. His acts of sorcery involves the creation of life, or of the reanimation of the dead more accurately. He is carted away after the drunken grave robber he employed spilled his guts to the local constable.
In the young Helder Frankenstein sees the opportunity to return with full vigor to his life’s dream of creating not only a living human being from the rotted and mangled parts of dead bodies, but a literal superman endowed with genius and artist talent. The film at times makes note of the Baron’s own lack of refinement in these areas. He admits he is tone deaf and unable to appreciate beautiful music and he shows no interest in higher mathematics. He sees these are the necessities his creation must possess in order that his own brilliance will be revealed. Before the arrival of young Helder the Baron had to rely on the hands of Angel to do the intricate surgical work required to bring a collection of corpses back to life as his own hands were burned and crippled. This no doubt is a tie in to the ending of Frankenstein Must be Destroyed were his creation in that film (played excellently by Hammer regular Freddie Jones) walks into a burning house with Victor thrown over his shoulder.
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In Monster from Hell Frankenstein selects as his subject the body of a inmate who recently attempted suicide. The man is Neolithic in appearance and is easily driven to violence and shows particular interest in dicing up people with broken glass. Victor soon is sewing on the hands of a sculptor and making ¡°arrangements¡± to acquire the brain of the melancholy (though not insane) Professor Durendel (Charles Llyod pack). In this sequence we can see how obsessed and ruthless Frankenstein has become regarding his goals and the gaunt faced and wild eyed portrayal by Cushing is one of his best. The film version I have is the DVD version released in the states which is from their original edited and censored prints. I understand there is a foreign version fans are waiting for that contains a few extra minutes of gore that is unusual for Hammer. In one scene during surgery Frankenstein becomes frustrated with his useless hands and takes a severed bleeding artery in his mouth to clamp it. There are a few other quick scenes in the operating room that do not appear in this American version.
The monster, as in most Hammer Frankenstein films, is a tortured creature who is more than vaguely aware of his dire situation. While I did not care much for the appearance of the cave man type monster in this addition to the series I certainly felt it was one of the most suffering. A musical and mathematic genius’ brain trapped inside the body of a grotesque and suicidal apeman. The thread that connects all Frankenstein films is that the monster turns on its creator and rather than give the doctor the worldwide acclaim he seeks it sets about to destroy him.
In the final scenes the monster runs amok in the madhouse and kills Herr Klaus in a scene that, according to my research, was edited by a few seconds of some spurting blood from a throat wound. The film ends in a most bizarre and un-Hammer style when the inmates, for some reason, turn on the monster and rip it to shreds. They literally disembowel the beast and in yet another edited out scene are supposed to trample its entrails underfoot. Certainly extreme for a Hammer scene that would often show blood but not delve much into actual gore. The movie seems to end on at tone that may have been a set up for yet another sequel with the Baron perhaps assuming total control of the madhouse and young Helder becoming his protrogee and successor. It was not to be the case and the Hammer Frankenstein saga ended here. One closing thought I have about the film is that it captured the feeling and atmosphere of the early films one last time. Though made in 1974 the movie, through Fischer’s able direction, retains the appearance of Hammer’s early glory days. My only criticism of this film might the monster but it is a small criticism really when held in light of the movie’s entirety. Not the greatest film to ever come out of Hammer but still one of its better horror offerings.
1961/Director: John Lemont/Writers: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel
Cast: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Claire Gordon, Austin Trevor, Jack Watson, George Pastell
Producer/writer Herman Cohen is a name that will be popping up here at the Cafe on a regular basis. Eventually there will be posts on his great dirve-in classics The Bride of the Gorilla, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, his AIP classics like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and How to Make a Monster, and Horrors of the Black Museum. In fact Konga is not our first introduction to the works of this dedicated film-maker. I reviewed Trog starring Joan Crawford and Michael Gough, a few posts back and it, like Konga, was one of the color films Cohen made while in England during the 60’s and 70’s. He would also make the thriller Berserk (I do not even know if I have that film here or not. I need a hunchbacked, mute assistant to sort out all the stuff I have on DVDs or on my hard-drive) with Crawford while in England and I understand most people like it more than Trog, but I thought Trog was pretty darned entertaining. Appearing in five of his British productions was actor Michael Gough who seems to have been given free reign with his roles and he had the time of his life hamming them up to the extreme. While some consider his ultimate over-the-top achievement to be the insane curator and scientist Edmond Bancroft in Horrors of the Black Museum I think he is utterly hysterical as Dr. Charles Decker in the sadly underrated Konga.
During the late 50’s and into the 60’s giant animals and insect swarmed over the surface of the planet, usually the products of atomic radiation or explosions. Most of these unruly brutes were confined to downtown Tokyo or the deserts of the Southwest United States. But for a brief periods some giant monster decided to vacation in Europe and we were treated to some fairly intriguing films like 20 Millions to Earth, Reptilcus, Gorgo, The Giant Behemoth and a couple others before the creatures all had their visas revoked and sent back to Japan and the States. Cohen seemed to have an ongoing interest in killer ape type films and with Konga he made perhaps his best man-in-a-monkey suit ever. The title obviously is a reference to King Kong and in one poster I saw online the title was given as King Konga. Konga is a movie that is really savaged online and is undeserving of the venom it receives. But then maybe these film viewers never grew up with Saturday afternoon Tarzan films or late night creature feature fare. It may be unimaginable to people born after at least the invention of the VCR, mush less DVDs and computer media players, that there was a time when there were basically three TV stations to choose from and the programs on those stations represented the totality of what you were going to see on the tube at any given moment. Of course there were affordable drive-ins and matinees back then but when you a kid with no money and no car you learn somehow to make the best of what you have before you. I grew up in a world where huge Styrofoam boulders hurled by Hercules always bounced off people before they slowly collapsed. In real life they would be flattened to a pulp instantly. I also grew up on more than a few men-in-monkey suit adventures. And come to think I do not know if I have ever seen a genuine gorilla run amok in a movie. The costumes either got better after 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes or they began using computer graphics after that technology developed. What actor would actually want to deal with a real gorilla in a rage?
Make no mistake that the most enjoyable aspects of Konga are Gough’s take no prisoner style of overacting and the corny ape costume. The dialog is hokey but not in an American B-movie style, but in a British B-movie style and I have come to see that is certainly a difference in the way Americans approach a low budget horror film compared to their British counterparts. While Yanks seem to realize they have a turkey on their hands they have some fun with it, the Brits really seem to want to raise even something as ludicrous as Konga to some higher level. Luckily director John Lemont (born in Canada but lived and worked in England) and Gough follow Cohen’s B-movie instincts and Konga never becomes anything too serious. If what I just said sounds like some sort of criticism of British cinema let me be clear that some of my favorite films of all time were British films of the late 50’s to early 70’s. I do not mean only horror films but the social dramas that starred great actors like Terrance Stamp, Tom Courtenay, Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. These are some of the best movies ever made. But we are here to discuss Konga aren’t we?
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Konga is more about the maniacal obsessions of one Dr. Charles Decker than a giant ape. The King Sized gorilla does not really appear until the last fifteen minutes of the movie actually. There are actually four stages of development for Konga: a baby chip, a grown chimp, a grown gorilla and then a giant gorilla that actually does little damage to downtown London. Not as much as Godzilla would do in his sleep in Tokyo or Osaka anyway. Botanist and University Professor Decker was presumed dead in the jungles of Africa after his small engine plane went down and burst into flames. He suddenly appears from the wilds of deepest, darkest Africa one day with a little chimpanzee in tow. Now this scene is simply marvelous. Actor Gough looks utterly uncomfortable with the little chimp and as he is giving an interview at the airport he is holding the chimp and compulsively rubs the darned thing nearly bald. In one scene he is leaning forward in the chair and rubbing the chimps ear thoughtlessly. This scene is mentioned by a few other reviewers of the film so I am not alone in my amazement at how unrelaxed Gough seems to be with the little guy. Anyway, during the interview Dr. Decker explains that he stayed in the jungles and lived with natives of his own accord for one year in order to pursue experiments with some of the insect eating plant life there, that he calls insectivorous with a mad twinge in his voice, and that he has discovered some sort of genetic link between the plants and human beings and that soon his discoveries will have many biology textbooks rewritten. With no further delays he is back to his post at Essex College and his extremely nice campus housing with a laboratory in the basement. He shares the details of his adventures with his assistant Margaret over a warm glass of brandy. As the conversation progresses it becomes clear in a vague British way that Decker and Margaret (Margo Johns) were once more than just friends. Decker is as cold and distant and just down right callus as any pompous snob could be and yet Margaret seems to the desperate type who fears being an old lonely spinster. Her feathers are ruffled still more by all the attention and concern Decker lavishes on Konga, the baby chimp. Decker is clear that Konga is crucial to his experiments in genetics and that the chimp will change forever the world when he helps to prove that there is an evolutionary link between plants and animals.
While he lived with the natives I the jungles of Uganda he discovered that certain plants had properties that when concocted into the proper potion can make life forms grow larger. Exceptionally larger. And if that weren’t enough the potion also puts the receiver under the mental control of the person who administers it to them. That is down right convenient. The first thing to do, after shooting the house cat who licked up a little of the potion, is to give little baby Konga an injection in his rump. I wonder what Gough was thinking as he had to bend down behind this little chimpanzee and, I assume, pretend to stick a hypo in its arse. After some worbly visual effects Konga is now an adult chimpanzee who is soon serving tea on a platter to Margaret, who has now warmed up to the furry fella a bit more. Decker’s greenhouse is now filled with fantastic insectivorous plants. One looks like a huge egg plant with its tongue hanging out. Another is a huge Venus Fly Trap, the type you used to be able to order out of the back of comic books, only much larger.
Well Decker must still pay the bills and he back in the classroom showing a film documentary he made while living with in native village. He explains how lucky he was to rescue all of the photographic equipment from the quickly descending aircraft before he bailed out, and let the pilot plummet to a fiery death. He has some after class words with his curvy, bombshell student named Sandra Banks (Claire Gordon), who not only fills out a sweater quite nicely but is also his most promising and dedicated student. He wants Sandra to assist him with his class more and with some outside projects as well. She is tickled to no end to help the professor in his studies but Decker is simply oozing with lechery. None too happy about the situation is Bob (Jess Konrad) who is smitten with Sandra, but she has made it clear to him that her studies and career come first. The guy would probably be portrayed as jock in an American film but here is simply some awkward nice guy who is sure he can win the girl if he is given the chance. Later Decker has a meeting with Dean Foster who read some about Decker’s claims of standing modern evolutionary theory on its head in the newspaper interview form the airport. The Dean and Decker are soon in a heated debate where basically Decker is called a madman and told he will have to take some time off to rethink his position on established school approved theories. Decker is a guy who easily gets pissed off and when you take a egomaniac with a volatile temper and mix it in with a super-growth serum that also gives the administer mind control abilities and I think you may have some serious problems on your hands.
Decker takes none to kindly to being called mad and having his tenure threatened so he hightails it home and injects the tea serving Konga with yet another dose of the serum and after some more worbly visual effects Konga transforms into a full grown gorilla, or a full grown man in a fairly decent (for the time) gorilla suit. No point in splitting hairs here over the fact that a gorilla and chimpanzee are two different species since this is a minor flaw in most all ape films. And anyway, what would a giant chimp look like? A gorilla most likely. Now this leads to another issue most all ape flicks had, and that is how in the hell can a full grown gorilla get around town without causing a commotion. Now I suppose here Konga only had to get from Decker’s dwellings on Essex College campus to Dean Foster’s place but it still stretches the imagination a tad that someone would not notice the brute lumbering about. Needless to say he bursts ungraciously into the Dean’s study and kills him. Decker is a suspect because the heated argument (which he terms a debate between professionals) was over heard by Dean Foster’s secretary. Decker is as arrogant and pompous as any man can be while being interviewed at Scotland Yard but is released because the police are looking for either an animal or incredibly strong man.
Decker holds a cocktail party later for friends and faculty and there meets Professor Tagore (George Pastell from the excellent Hammer version of The Mummy) who it just so happens is conducting almost identical experiments as Decker and is at the point where he is ready to announce his finding to the scientific community. Decker has not worked this hard to be robbed of glory now and so later he pays Tagore a visit at his laboratory and brings Konga along with him to make sure his point is clear. The scene where Gough orders Konga to attack is simply fantastic. He bellows the command in a maniacal fashion that perhaps on he or Richard Burton could have pulled off. Now that Decker has found a way to handle problems with anyone who stands in his way he decides to use Konga to remove the obstacle between him and the luscious Sandra; duffy Bob. Any ambivalence Decker may had about how to settle matters with Bob are erased when Bob basically assault him and kicks his academic ass while Decker’s and some of his class are on a field trip. Bob is simply jealous and lets Decker know he does not want him interfering in his romantic plans for Sandra (though she has basically blown him off repeatedly). Well Konga shows up and kills poor Bob right in front of his own home. I think all these murders takes place in a span of time of just a few days. Decker just cannot control himself. Margaret has let Decker know too that she is absolutely aware of what he is doing and yet she will not go to police so long as he agrees to make an honest women of her finally, to which he agrees with the utmost sincerity, until her back is turned and it is plan that Decker is not the least bit interested in Margaret as anything other than someone to fill up his syringes.
In what is the most unsettling scene of the movie Decker invites Sandra to his place to show her his research and offers her the position of his assistant. He shows her the hot and humid green house with all his strange plants and then loses all control and then starts manhandling her in a scene that Gough must have decided had to be utterly over the top to work. He plants the most awkward and sloppy series of slobbery kisses ever put on film on her reluctant face while proclaiming his love for her. Poor guy must have really gotten lonely out in the jungles. Margaret over hears the entire nauseating conversation and in a jealous rage runs down to poor Konga’s cage and inject him yet again and gain control of him. Problem is she gives him just a wee bit too much and he grows to King Kong size proportions and crashed through the roof of the house. He picks up an immobile rag doll version of Margaret and throws it to the ground and kills her. Sandra has her arm caught by a huge Venus Fly Trap plant and is, presumably since we never see it happen, killed by it in some grisly fashion. Outside Konga grabs Decker, who keeps yelling “let me down Konga” and heads off on a less than climatic rampage into downtown London. I cannot think of another giant ape film where a man is held by the beast and not a beautiful female that the ape has become enamored with. Actually nothing much happens to London at all and Konga is actually killed by machine gun fire from the British Army who arrive on the scene in mere minutes. Konga hurls Decker to the ground before dying and in the final scene reverts back to a baby chimp in a pretty strange looking closing shot. One of Gough’s “greatest” performances in my humble opinion.
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1970 /Director: Freddie Francis/Writers: Peter Bryan, John Gilling
Cast: Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, Bernard Kay, Kim Braden, David Griffin, Robert Hutton
Now here is a film that is really beaten nearly to death in reviews over the net and while it deserves some degree of flagellation it is not the total waste of time most people make it out to be. There is some degree, albeit half-hearted, talent involved with the project and while the movies suffers from an over serious attitude often found in British low budget films it is nonetheless worth a watch. At least if you the type who can watch and enjoy other films that producer Herman Cohen produced while he still lived and worked the US such as I was a Teenage Werewolf and I was a Teenage Frankenstein. In fact 1970’s Trog was originally slated to be called I was a Teenage Caveman. Appearing in the film is a regular of Cohen’s other British horror films (Horrors of the Black Museum, Konga, Berserk and The Black Zoo) the manically over the top and hammy Michael Gough. Leading the cast in her swan song film role is Oscar winner Joan Crawford who had all but slipped into 60’s style B movie oblivion after 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. While a lot of her films during this time are derided I thought a couple, like Straight Jacket and Cohen’s Berserk, were pretty good “psychotronic” fare. Off screen Joan was not only downing copious amounts of vodka but more than her fare share of Pepsi as well. In fact, everyone on the set was drinking Pepsi since Joan had become a member of Pepsi’s board of directors and I managed to find a couple amusing shots of Joan sharing a cold bottle of the soft drink with Trog himself. The last piece of talent involved is none other than seasoned Hammer actor, cinematographer and director Freddie Francis (Dracula Has risen from the Grave, the Evil of Frankentstein). Surely Trog will not be remembered as the nadir of any these people’s careers but I found it a fair watch. I may be slightly biased here as Trog holds some sentimental value for me. I saw the film a couple times back when it was first released in San Antonio Texas (Joan Crawford’s city of birth) at the Lackland Air Force base matinee for all of .35 cents. Some young friends and I had a good time reinacting some of the scenes later.
To enjoy the film one must first enjoy the guilty pleasure of the classic man in an ape suit adventure. This can run the gamut from the irritatingly comical Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (irritating because of the obnoxious Martin & Lewis rip off duo of Duke Mitchell and Sonny Petrello, review coming eventually) to Planet of the Apes (the original of course) and even Stanley Kubrick’s opening sequence to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Speaking of 2001 the mask used for Trog is part of a custom used by one of the prehistoric men in Kubrick’s classic. But they literally only used the mask and it is obvious as there is a ape like head with wild and wooly hair planted onto pos a place skinned, hairless guy (Joe Cornelius). Actually Trog does not look too bad and is a step up from previous men in suit apes. He even has some facial expression and lip movement that was lacking in the 1968’s Planet of the Apes masks.
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Trog opens up the credits appearing over a trio of college buddies exploring the English country side looking for caves to explore. They stubble upon a cave that does not appear on any of their maps and excitedly prepare to be the first to explore it. The interiors of the cave, though unrealistically well light, look like something from a Hammer Film of the period, no doubt Freddie Francis’ influence. The lads find an underground spring and showing absolute lack of good judgment decide to swim under the cave wall to see where it leads. Well, it leads to a chamber where a troglodyte exists. It never really explains why he is still alive or how he managed to survive in cave other than he may have been frozen solid and thawed out recently but he is not happy and kills one of the students and drives the other to a near nervous breakdown. The spelunking student who opted to lag behind Malcom Travers (David Griffith) takes his friend to the Brockton Research Center located, fortunately, right down the road. And if that weren’t lucky enough the Center’s area of research just happens to be anthropology. It is headed by Dr. Brockton, of course, who is played by Joan Crawford who simply never seems to look like a brilliant anthropologist. She is fascinated by Malcom’s story and suspects the creature he describes may just happen be to a prehistoric missing link, the kind anthropologists and evolutionary scientists have bben searching the world over for, and by golly there is one in a cave a short drive from her research center. She goes to the cave with Malcom and appears in its depth in a goofy looking white leisure suit, the same place the three spelunkers arrived at using by crawling and shimmying along in the dark. She aims her camera into a dark niche and on her first shot captures a great picture of what appears to be a troglodyte about to hurl a massive rock in her direction.
Soon the news spreads and the community, led by Dr. Brockton, is at the entrance of the cave in quest of Trog. It is not long before Trog is out of the underground river and killing scuba divers and idiotic cameramen who feel they do not have to use their zoom lens but rather should walk within a foot or two of this raging beast to get a good shot. Dr. Brockton soon immobilizes the pissed off caveman with her hypo gun and he is taken back to the institute, much under the angry criticism of local land developer Sam Murdoch (Michael Gough) who sees the troglodyte as a threat to his investment plans. Who wants a cozy country cottage next door to an ape beast who has already killed a student, a scuba diver and two newsmen. And I have to be honest I sort of see his point. Dr. Brockton must all these lost lives as collateral damage in the big scheme of things and soon she is having Trog play with dolls and toy trains in her research center where he happily gulps down rubber looking lizards for snacks. She is soon joined by scientists from around the world in her quest to establish that Trog must be kept alive. Among the imminent researchers and doctors who support Brockton is the American surgeon Dr. Richard Warren (played by The Slime People’s Robert Hutton) who does something that allows Trog to voice simple and mostly incoherent sounds. All of this worthwhile research is being carried on the in the shadow of town hearings to determine whether or not Trog is a threat to the community or not. The hearings get a little too “lofty” as Brockton, the voice of scientific reasons, squares off against Murdoch the voice of prejudice and religious superstition and sound real estate planning.
Things almost turn against Trog when he kills a German Shepard dog that just wanted play ball with Trog and Dr Brockton, but ultimately the hearings favor letting the murderous caveman remain alive and run around the grounds of the Brockton institute with only Dr Brockton and her young assistants to watch over him. Sam Murdoch has had it and one night breaks into the laboratory holding Trog (after waylaying a night guard with a crow bar of course) and soon is taunting him and throwing objects at him and finally releasing him from his cage. Bad idea, since a minute or two later Trog kills Murdoch and escapes into the local countryside and into the local town where he runs amok for a few minutes. During that time he turns over a car and causes it to immediately burst into flames, throws a produce stand clerk through a plate glass window and hangs the neighboring butcher on a meat hook. The towns folk panic and run through the streets and at one point even run past a Pepsi stand. Again, this is at the behest of Ms. Crawford who wanted product placement for the soft drink in most of her latter films.
Trog grabs some little girl and seeks shelter in a nearby cave though I am not sure if it is the same cave he was discovered in. The British army show up in force and though Dr. Brockton is able to coax the child away from Trog the general sentiment is one of “enough is enough” and the soldiers descend into the cave and amazingly miss Trog at point blank range for a few machine gun clips until finally he is hit and falls and impales himself on a stalagmite. The film is not really too violent except for the meat hook part and even that is pretty tame. Crawford was reputedly unhappy with the results and after viewing the movie claimed she may have committed suicide had it not been for her conversion to the Christian Science religion. Instead she stayed home and became a reclusive “Mommie Dearest” until her death in 1977. She would stop drinking in her last couple years because of her commitment to Christian Science. Michael Gough is great playing the snobbish aristocrat he typically plays but his scenes are pretty sparse. Movies here at the Cafe are not Oscar winners and this is not a movie for people who cannot tolerate bad cinema. It is certainly a bad and cheezy flick but it is well shot and no way a total waste of time. The story has been done before in most all the gorilla movies and the only thing really missing the beauty to further give sympathy to the beast and make its inevitable death at the hands of the military more heart rending. I assure you no will cry when Trog gets blasted at the end and what does that ultimately say about us as a species? That would be another high brow ethical debate for Dr. Brockton and Sam Murdoch had Trog not killed Murdoch.
1958/Director: Arthur Crabtree /Screenplay: Herbert J. Leder
Cast: Marshall Thompson, Kim Parker, Kyanaston Reeves, Stanley Maxted, Terence Kilburn, Gil Winfield
This is a great little disembodied brain movie full of cold war paranoia and strange science gone awry angst. I could not figure out why these supposedly Canadian and American actors all had weird British or Irish sounding accents until I read that it was part of a series of British movies filmed during the late 50’s that were supposed to be set in the States. It is on the Criterion Collection which as I understand tries to find and transfer the best quailty prints possible. Well, the film looks great and is a barrel of fun. Plenty of unintentional laughs and some really disgusting looking brains that crawl like inch worms using their spinal cords.
The story takes place on and around an American military base somewhere in western Canada. The characters are typical 50’s sci-fi sterotypes… the dashing and sickingly noble hero and sexy but coquettishly innocent female lead who fall in love with each other after the obligatory cold period, the brilliant and ultimately altruistic scientist whose vision to help mankind turns against him and destroies him, and a whole slew of doofy supporting characters that hardly have a disembodied brain between the lot of them. The misguided doctor creates a machine that projects his thoughts as teleketic energy and soon he can move small objects around his room. This is to suppose to help the world somehow. His thoughs soon evolve into an invisible and muderous power that is later made visible by increasing the level of radioactivity at the military base. The creatures are stop-action animated brains that spurt gobs of blood when shot or hacked with axes. One scene I really liked was when some Canadian redneck (played by a Brit) comes mumbling into a room where a meeting of the towns folk is going on. His brain has been drained by the one of the beasts and the look on his blithering face is classic.
Definintly worth a look. Loads of fun and campy dialog that is taken seriously by the cast of bad actors. Check out the weird Jerry Lee Lewis lookin’ guy that runs the nuclear power plant. But the brain beasts are not the only radiactive matter in this fantastic B-gem. The movie contains enough plutonium to power a microwave for six months or more.