Archive for the Robert Hutton Category

TROG/1970 /FREDDIE FRANCIS /JOAN CRAWFORD/MICHAEL GOUGH

Posted in British Horror, Freddie Francis, Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Herman Cohen, Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, Robert Hutton on June 23, 2011 by Bill Courtney
TROG

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. 

 

THE SLIME PEOPLE/1963/ROBERT HUTTON

Posted in Camp-Cheese, Robert Hutton, Science Fiction-Fantasy on June 23, 2011 by Bill Courtney

THE SLIME PEOPLE

1963/Director: Robert Hutton/Writers: Blair Robertson, Vance Skarstedt
Cast: Robert Hutton, Les Tremayne, Robert Burton, Susan Hart, William Boyce, Judee Morton ,John Close

Bad acting. terrible dialog, inane plot. These are the qualities that make 1963’s The Slime People either the type of film that either gives the viewer a fun and rollicking evening of cheezy pleasure or causes him to lose what little faith he still clung to in the human race as a species worthy of dominating the planet. I, for better or worse, fall into the former category and have to admit I have been looking for a good copy of this online for a couple years now after having rented it on VHS ages ago and still recalling how unbelievable the viewing experience was. First of all I may offer some defense of this movie to the rest of society before trying to pander it to The Uranium Cafe film crowd. The movie was shot on a very low budget and the actors – with the exceptions of lead man and director Robert Hutton and B-Movie staples Les Tramanye and Robert Burton – were all basically unknowns, and thankfully remained unknowns afterward except for tertiary supporting roles. It was Hutton’s only directing attempt in a long and essentially tormented acting career that in the end saw him shunned because of his extremely conservative political views and finally crippled from a broken back. The actors don’t seem to be taking anything too seriously here and that adds to the film’s enjoyment rather than diminishes it. Lastly the monster are not really too bad for your standard man in a suit fare. I have seen much worse and the modern man-in-a-suit monsters in John Gulager’s Feast trilogy don’t look much better. Like a lot of films from the period where budgets were limited the film relies on dialog and scientific explanations to fill up film. Luckily the dialog here is not of the so bad it is unlistenable variety but rather the so bad it is amusing type.

The overall story is about the rapid fall of Los Angeles to spear welding Slime People who have either come forth from or been driven from their subterranean dwelling place in order to inhabit the surface world. Of course it is never made clear why they have to do this in either case. It does appear to be a generally bad idea since the creatures can only live in a humid climate similar to their own and to achieve this they surround LA in a “fog dome” that reporter Tom Gregory (Hutton) is having troubling landing his small Cessna type plane or reaching anyone on the ground. Now some how while he was to LA from wherever he was he seemed to not hear any news updates that the city was under invasion of any sort. Not the sign of a quality reporter. He lands on the air strip (and I hope that this is not supposed to represent what would eventually come to be know as LAX) and is created by elderly gentleman Professor Galbraith (Burton) and his two classically 60’s style dimwit daughters Lisa and Bonnie in their station wagon. He is filled in quickly as to what has been happening to all of LA during the time he was in his small private plane that could not have flown any further than Las Vegas. The Slime People, as they are endearingly called by the survivors of the attack for no apparent reason as they do not really appear slimy at all, only recently invaded the city and defeated the combined forces of the US Army and Marines with hand held spears. Not all people managed to escape and are trapped inside the fog dome that is in the process of creating an environment the Slime People can exist in 24 hours a day. For now they only come out and attack at night, though it is hard to tell day from night in films from this period since day was shot for night with a dark filter over the camera lens. To make it more believable a “good” director was sure to have the cars turn their head lights on, which often only added to the confusion. For now these trapped people are the equivalent of the French resistance in WWII.

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Tom decides the best thing to do is head back to the TV station he worked for and see if they can get any information there. Rather they meet a couple drunken, looters that give the film a Panic in the Year Zero moment, but it is a short moment. They soon run into young Marine Cal Johnson (who really looks a lot like Conan O’Brian) and he joins up with the group. He is the sole survivor of his Marine squad and he soon is in league not only with the small band to fight off the Slime People but is in league with fellow horn dog Tom in putting the move on the Galbraith girls at every opportune moment. The girls are simply too easy and some of the scenes are both campy and a little unnerving. Look, I am a red blooded guy and guess part of my twisted psyche wishes it were just this easy to pick up gals, but it is not and most women can turn off their libido when faced with an impending apocalypse. But not these two. They the epitome of clingy, desperate females. Well the film’s romantic subplots do not end there. In one scene while the group is searching for weaknesses in the fog dome, or something like that, they come across the house of cooky beat writer Norman Tolliver (Tramanye) who shows up holding a goat that he refers to as his “little love” and luckily the relationship is not explored further.

The group wind up holed up in a super market with signs showing some really great meat sale prices that seem harder to believe in our day and age than the Slime People invasion itself. Cal feels he needs to atone for his past screw ups and want to go out the store and whoop some Slime People around. His sweet heart Bonnie wants to tag along to help but he emphatically protests. Tells her in no uncertain terms she cannot go out. To which she responds with something like “Please let me. I can help” and he seems to forget how determined he was moments before and lets her go with him. She is then kidnapped by a Slime Person hiding in a trash dumpster and he whimps out and runs back inside without her. So, he screws up yet again. The group then go on a rescue mission for Bonnie and actually find her pretty quickly in a cave, along with the fog machine the Slime People use. It looks like a small hot air balloon with a dried ice machine underneath it. They rescue Bonnie with little effort and Tom and Cal beat a couple Slime People in fist fights. It is through this process that they discover the weakness of the Slime People. Remember that in most old monster films guns and atomic bombs are useless against the beast and one has to discover what the unknown agent or method is before the film’s end. The reasons the army’s bullets were ineffective is because wounds the Slime People receive are instantly self sealing and healing. But, they can be killed by their own spears, which are hollow and so allows the blood to pump out. Tom and Cal have no problem simply taking the spears from the brutes and impaling them with their own weapons and killing them. Also during this period the fog dome’s weakness is figured out by Prof. Galbraith while talking to Tom. The dome is impenetrable really and the Army is locked on the outside trying to get back in. The professor realizes that Tom flew over the Pacific returning to LA and his plane was coated in salt. The answer: table salt. Soon the girls are dragging bags of table slat back to the wall to dissolve some of it and allow the military back in.

Now I can’t help but wonder where all the Slime People are that defeated the US military in a day or so. The most we see on the screen at any one time is about three. The group really seems to come and go at their leisure and when they meet a Slime Person they kicks it ass and take its spear from it and kill it. Even the old professor kills one. In the end the monster are beat not by the Army saving the day, but by Tom and the group blowing up the hokey looking fog machine and letting in some fresh air. The film wraps up with lots of stock footage of jets and tanks rolling in and an Army colonel with a mustache that looks like it belongs on a pizza crust maker. This movie is not for everyone (though what movie is really) but I enjoyed it and had more than a few unintended laughs and found myself replaying scenes in disbelief. In the final analysis this is the type of movie I started this blog to do. I have had a lot of personal issues that kept me away from posting for a few weeks but I can think of a better movie to return to posting with. I think if you slightly masochistic you will enjoy it even more since some parts are simply painful to watch. But a little pain never hurt anyone. Right?

INVISIBLE INVADERS/1959/EDWARD L. CAHN

Posted in American Horror, Camp-Cheese, Edward L. Cahn, John Agar, Robert Hutton, Science Fiction-Fantasy, Zombies on June 17, 2011 by Bill Courtney
INVISIBLE INVADERS
1959/Director: Edward L. Cahn/Writer: Samuel Newman
Cast: John Agar, Jean Byron, Philip Tonge, Robert Hutton, John Carradine, Hal Torey
This is a film I think I saw when I was ten years old or so and have not seen it again until only recently. But it is film that has stuck in my mind all this time for it images of reanimated corpses that have many people have come to feel must have been some influence on later films like The Last Man on Earth and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I would not go so far as to say Invisible Invaders is a zombie film in the sense that we today are familiar with zombie films but I would say it serves as a sort of bridge between old time zombie films more modern living dead features. We are definitely dealing with re-animated corpses here. The film also seems to have borrowed its concept of alien beings using re-animated corpses to attack and defeat the Earth from none other than Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space. The really early zombie films had zombies that were typically under some sort of ‘voodoo’ type spell and were controlled by some witch doctor or white man who has been in the jungle long enough to learn the rituals necessary to bring a dead man back to life and have said dead man do his bidding. Modern zombies, since Romero and his Italian imitators, are either the flesh eating living dead or humans infected with some virus that drives them into a homicidal frenzy. Invisible Invaders rests somewhere in the middle of these great epochs of the shuffling dead. The dead are not ravenous flesh eaters but they are still driven to kill living human beings (though not only with their bare hands as we shall see). They are not controlled by a witch doctor but they are manipulated nonetheless by some type of intelligence outside their own instincts. And unlike the army of living dead in Ed Wood’s entertaing Plan 9 (an army of basically Vampira and Tor Johnson) Invisible Invaders features hordes of chalk faced corpses lumbering over hillsides (most of them wearing Wall Street suits) that created the images that haunted me as a little lad. Of course now I am much older and I watch a film like Invisible Invaders not to terrified but to be entertained with outrageously bad acting and dialog as well as gigantic plot holes, confusing stock footage and pretentious, unnecessary narration. Invisible Invaders is indeed a cheese classic by director Edward L. Cahn (It! The Terror from Beyond Space, The She Creature and and living dead classic Zombies of Mora Tau) but it is also a fairly well made film for the most part and thoroughly enjoyable.

The story, like many of the period, centers around the evils of atomic power and research. Almost anything evil during the films of this period could be traced back to atomic research gone awry. And how much awry can an experiment go than to have a hand held test tube suddenly erupt into an atomic explosion. Such is the case for the driven atomic scientist Dr. Karol Noymann (played by the king of all driven and mad scientists John Carradine). The poor guy is simply holding a test tube and it ‘goes off’ and luckily only kills him. It was a very small atomicr disaster I guess. Like an M-80 sized nuclear explosion. The ‘disastrous’ explosion and death of his old friend and colleague pushed another driven scientist, Dr. Adam Penner (Philip Tonge) to give up his career of atomic research and retire back to the quaint little mansion his previous years of devious research have blessed him with to kick back in and mull over his new found pacifistic position in life. He had spent the earlier part of the day with his daughter Phyllis (Jean Byron) and her wimpy boyfriend Dr. John Lamont (Robert Hutton of The Slime People) and they did not hear hedges being moved by some invisible entity or see paths being made in the dirt by the same entity that cannot lift it feet up when it walks. Later while Dr. Penner is home alone pondering the fate of the world he receives a late night visit from none other than his old pal Karol Noymann (a name so riveting that writer Samuel Newman had to use it again in another classic he helped pen, The Giant Claw). Karol is looking pretty fair for a guy who just got blown to shreds in an atomic mishap. Not only that but he has grave news for Dr. Penenr and all of mankind; he and they have 24 hours to surrender the Earth to his race of superior being who now live in invisible colonies on the moon (that is why we have never seen them with our big telescopes). His race have been living on the moon for 20,000 years and they have decided it time they invade and conquer the earth. They could have done this during the stone age or bronze age but they figured they would wait until we had developed atomic bombs, jet fighters and machine guns to make it more interesting.
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The means by which the aliens will conquer and subdue mankind consists of them basically entering the bodies of dead people and using their lifeless husks as a means to move around cause damage. There are loads of problems with this scenario and I will explore some of them before the post concludes. The aliens are reasonable creatures and offer the humans the 24 hour grace period to submit to their demands. Dr. Penner pleads with Dr. Lamont to go to Washington to convince the politicians and military of the seriousness of the threat. Lamont is concerned with what effect something like this may have on his future career but Penner insists and John figures it is worth a try and soon is off to convince the leaders in the capital that invisible creatures from the moon are on the earth now in invisible space ships and will soon begin inhabiting corpses and will soon conquer all the planet. Surprising as it sounds no one in Washington believes him. Not only do they not believe him but for some reason Lamont’s visit becomes world wide news. Lamont heads back to Phyllis and Dr. Penner with tail between his legs and egg in his face and Penner pleads with the aliens for a little more time. This they grant him and they also offer a couple demonstrations of their awesome powers. First they bring back a military pilot who dies by flying his plane into a huge white X painted on the side of mountain. We do not even need to see this happen since the ongoing narrations tells us almost everything that is happening on the screen. The pilot does not really look too bad for having just been in a fiery plane crash and he lumbers slowly off to a hockey game and not only gets in without a ticket but gets to walk in secure areas and enter the announcer’s box and chocks the announcers to death and gives the Earth fair warning. But another demonstration is needed. So a corpse from an auto accident is re-animated and it shuffles of to yet another sports event and gets in with no ticket and gets in the sports announcer’s box, strangles the announcers and givers the earth some more fair warning. After two sporting events have been interrupted the citizens of earth begin to take the alien invasion seriously but it is a little too late. The invasion ahs began as we can tell form the narrator telling us it ahs began and from the all the stock footage of various disasters. It is beyond time to get serious and so the government gets John Agar involved. Mr. Ex-Shirley Temple plays pilot Major Jay. His mission is to get our three protagonists to a secret cave where they will figure out a way to stop the invaders. Along the way the Major shoots a panicked farmer (with a big shot gun pointed at them all) in the forehead with his .45 and it really freaks the others out. Especially poor Phyllis. But after Major Jay explains he was a little freaked by it too. After all the people he firebombed in Korea during the war was different he explains, he never saw their faces. Phyllis must understand because she offers him a cup of coffee and soon she is forgetting all about her wussy scientist boyfriend Dr. Lamont. When it comes down to it most women really want a guy that can plug a farmer in the forehead with a .45 at point blank range.

Of course I am not really sure why the team has to hide out in a bunker hidden away in a cave in the side of a mountain in the middle of no where to carry on their experiments but that is what they have to do. Many old sci-fi/horror films of this nature take place inside caves. Robot Monster, The Brain from Planet Arous, It Conquered the World, to name just a few. The cave in Invisible Invaders is a bit different in that the government insures that the cave is packed with everything they will ever need. It it is not in the cave it has not been invented! The gang set about trying to come up with a solution to how to destroy the slow moving corpses inhabited by the aliens whose weapons, for some reason, will not work in the Earth’s atmosphere. In fact you have to wonder why the combined militaries of the world are having a hard time with these aliens. They cannot sue their high tech weapons on us in our atmosphere. That is not doubt a lucky break for mankind. Plus they cannot remain invisible and must occupy the bodies of dead people. Another lucky break since fighting an invisible entity could be troublesome as hell. The aliens must basically shuffle around and use either their bare hands or man made weapons like handguns. I do not see why flamethrowers and napalm could not kill these guys off (and it does seem the aliens prefer the carcasses of men to women). But the creatures, of course, must be killed off by some esoteric method. But can the small group of researchers find a solution before they kill each other off? The tension is high and Phyllis getting all hot and bothered over flyboy right in front of Lamont does not help. In fact it leads to some old school fisticuffs. And guess what? Whimpy Lamont basically kicks Major Jay’s butt! Well while all this is going on the crew fionally conclude the only method by which to kill the aliens is to spray them with acrylic paint! Yes. This closes the skin pores of the corpse and basically suffocates the alien inside. I still thing napalm and flamethrowers would have worked but acrylic paint it is. This will involve acquiring a test subject of course. How to capture a superior being with the ability to travel through space and conquer worlds? Why not dig a hole in the ground and cover with branches and trick the thing into walking into it? By golly, it works too. The film concludes with some decent walking dead scenes and Earth being saved and Phyllis giving all her attention to a wounded Major Jay (wounded by a pistol packing corpse).

I may poke some fun at the film but it has some moments that make it exceptional cheese fare. The walking dead look genuinely creepy for the time and had the film had a little more of a budget it may have turned out to be one of the great horror classics of all time. There are the obvious problems stemming from the low budget and rushed production, most notable being the unnecessary narration. In most of this sci-fi/horror films the narration adds very little to what is already happening on the screen. You may have scenes with a character opening a door and then have the narrator explain “Jack opens the door”. It certainly made Ed Wood Jr. films fun but in many cases it leaves one feeling stupefied. Another problem with these types of films is the abuse of stock footage. When the plane in Invisible Invaders crashes to the ground it smacks right into a giant X painted on the side of mountain and it is obviously some sort of military training film. And yet it is also these odd little quirks that actually make the film even more enjoyable. If you cheezy old John Agar and John Carradine sci-fi films and have not seen this one yet I suggest you pick it up soon and give a late night viewing. You will not be disappointed.

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