“Raw Panic The Screen Never Dared Reveal”
A movie that had Classic potential but fell short due to the cardboard box robots with dryer vent tubing legs.
Richard Denning (The Day the World Ended, Creature with the Atom Brain) and Kathleen Crowley ( Curse of the undead, City of Shadows) star as a couple on the run in this 1954 Abtcon Pictures Sci/fi thriller.
The plot is an interesting one. Los Angles has been attacked and is under control of robots from Venus. Denning awakes (after being conked on the head in a robbery and unconscious for 12 hours) to find the city has been evacuated. Crowley awakes after a botched attempt at suicide by sleeping pills to find the same thing. They meet each other in the vacant streets and try to figure out what has happened to all the people. As they walk around the city they come across a pair in a restaurant one of whom is the lovely and talented Virginia Grey (House of Horrors, Slaughter Trail) who is later shot by a menacing criminal. As the foursome gathers on the street they spy the robots. The rest of the movie is pretty much them playing cat and mouse with 4th grade art project robots. Until the army saves the day.
The first half of the movie is definitely a keeper. An empty Los Angles is a surreal creepy place and two people not knowing why it’s like that is quite scary. Finding a few dead bodies adds to the effect. But once the crummy robots appear with their cheesy death rays the movie’s a wash.
It’s an entertaining movie but not probably one you would recommend to a friend. However. . .. Go ahead and watch it. . .
20 Million Miles To Earth
“Monster From Outer Space Runs WILD!”
“20 Million Miles To Earth” is a classic, it’s a classic for one reason. Legendary stop action animation genius Ray Harryhausen. 20 Million Miles was Harryhausen’s favorite and he even appeared in the movie (un-credited) feeding the elephant at the zoo.
A rocket ship, having gone to Venus, crash-lands in the ocean off Italy’s coast on its return. In a stroke of good fortune a small boat of fishermen are near the ship when it crashes and are able to rescue the two astronauts on board. A small fisher boy grabs a container that is filled with what appears to be a sweet potato made out of egg flavored jello. The small boy takes the potato to an old scientist who lives in a camper trailer with his granddaughter who is almost a doctor. The old scientist buys the potato from the boy and it soon hatches into a very cool small beast. The beast grows huge practically overnight and escapes from the scientist only to be abused by people with vicious dogs and pitchforks. One of the astronauts dies but the other tracks the beast locating it in a barn and attempts to control it by beating it with long wooden stick. Ymir (the name of beast) escapes the barn and growing even bigger attacks Rome in an act of revenge for the abuse it has taken at the hands of man.
William Hopper (The Deadly Mantis, Conquest of space) handles the lead role (astronaut Robert Caulder) in screaming fashion as he screams at everyone all the time while smoking a cigarette. Joan Taylor (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Men in Space) plays the old scientist’s granddaughter who is almost a doctor and almost in love with Caulder). Thomas Browne Henry (The Thing that couldn’t die, Screaming Mimi) cranks out a solid performance as the Major General in charge of catching the monster.
The graphic effects are stellar for 1957 and the movie is a great one to experience. Arguably one of the ten best old sci/fi movies and should have a home in your movie collection.
Beginning of the End
“New Thrills, New Shocks, New Terror”
A movie so incredibly bad it’s awesomely good. Audrey Aimes played by Peggy Castle ( Target Zero, Back From the Dead) and Dr. Ed Wainwright played by Peter Graves ( It Conquered the World, Killers From Space) work as an unlikely pair to destroy a herd of giant bloodthirsty grasshoppers heading slowly towards Chicago eating a lot of people on the way.
Dr. Wainwright (Graves) is working with radioactive isotopes and food plants mutating the plants to grow huge fruits and vegetables to feed the worlds growing population. A colony of grasshoppers get inside a grain bin and eat Wainwright’s irradiated wheat which causes them to grow to the size of city buses. Ace Reporter Audrey Aimes sniffs a newspaper article with her name on it and investigates. Frank, who is Wainwright’s right hand man ( and deaf and dumb from radiation exposure) attempts to help the two get to the bottom of the situation but is killed by the grasshoppers early in the movie ( ever see a deaf and dumb mute trying to scream in terror as he gets attacked by giant grasshoppers?. . . It’s a troubling and a hilarious sight).
The acting in “Beginning of the End” is believable enough. But the special effects . .. Not so much. The giant grasshoppers look comical and make a very loud mechanical screech sound whenever they are shown. The best special effect was the car phone in Audrey Aimes car she calls her editor from. This movie was made in 1957, I‘m fairly certain car phones came much later.
As the grasshoppers near Chicago the Army decides to evacuate the city and drop an atom bomb on it to kill the giant bugs, Wainwright and Aimes work together on a plan to save the city and herd all the grasshoppers into lake Michigan where they will drown. Guess how it turns out. . . Or better yet watch the movie.
The Monolith Monsters
“Now The Amazing Monolith Monsters Reveal Powers Shocking Beyond Belief!”
For the horror and sci/fi buffs out there “The Monolith Monsters” is required seeing much as “To Kill a Mockingbird” was required reading back in high school.
The plot is a stellar one, the dialog crispy, and the acting well done. The Movie was produced in 1957 by Universal Pictures and was directed by John Sherwood (The Creature walks among us, Raw edge) who only directed three movies. It stars Grant Williams (The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Leech Woman), Lola Albright (Panic, The Incredible Hulk) and Les Tremayne (The Monster from Piedras Blancas, From the Earth to the Moon).
The movie begins with a long narration that most likely is supposed to set the mood. After the narration we watch as a meteor crashes down in the desert close to a small town shattering into a million pieces. A few minutes later we find out that when the pieces come into contact with water (Like Rain, or a spilled glass) the pieces grow straight up and become taller then buildings finally toppling over due to the height and shattering into even more small pieces to again get wet and grow. Anyone in the way of a falling monolith gets crushed or if a person touches an active piece of monolith they turn to stone. There’s a lot of other stuff going on in the movie but that’s the main plot.
Having the monoliths made of a crystal substance and non-living, instead of an evil alien hell bent on world domination is a nice twist. Of course the monoliths move towards the town threatening the townsfolk but that’s to be expected.
This movie has it all, including a little girl in a iron lung slowly turning to stone. Can they save her? Can they save themselves? You will have to watch it to find out.
The Sound of Horror
It’s Terrifying, It’s Gory, It’s Invisible”
The Sound of Horror is a 1966 production made in Spain. That in itself is pretty unusual because in 1966 General Franco ruled Spain with his Authoritarianism style Government many would call Fascist. It is surprising under an oppressive Government like Spain’s any horror movie could be made.
The movie was produced by Zurbano Films (Remember that name because you will most likely never hear it again). And starred a bunch of people you have never heard of, and will, in all likelihood ever hear of again, with the exception of Ingrid Pitt (Countess Dracula, The House that Dripped Blood) who made her movie debut in this movie and went on to become a Hammer House temptress in many Hammer productions.
The storyline is this . . A group of people explore the mountains in Greece looking for treasure that was hidden there during WWII. While blasting with dynamite in a cave they unleash a terrifying monster that is hell-bent on killing them all. By the way. . The monster is invisible. But since it shrieks like a Banshee who just had its hand slammed in a car door it’s not hard to tell when it’s around.
The movie contains a lot of blood and gore compared to other movies made in 1966 (unless it was directed by Peckinpah.) And although slow moving at times is well worth the time to watch it. In other movies if the monster was invisible I would scream gyp and say they were to cheap to make a monster but in this film it works fine. It’s a gritty horror flick, and although cheaply made, is quite entertaining.
The Undying Monster
Also known as “The monster who doesn’t show up until there are just six minutes left in the movie, and dies two minutes later.”
If you can envision the movie “Hound of the Baskervilles” with a very small serving of “The Wolfman” on the side you have just envisioned this movie. And having envisioned it there’s no real reason to watch it.
With a title like “The Undying Monster” you would think the movie would be a terrifying horror fest. But it’s not. . . It’s a mystery. .complete with a couple of detectives trying to solve it. If you are in the mood for a mystery this is probably a fairly decent one with a supernatural twist on the end. But if you are in the mood for a horror film. . Not so much. . I was expecting horror and therefore felt slighted by the film.
The movie was produced in 1942 by Fox International pictures and starred some people who . .probably. . acted competently although not in a scary way. The exciting part, (at the end) when the monster finally does show up, he very coolly attempts to carry off the leading lady to do who knows what to her but is killed two minutes later.
If you are in the mood for a taste of suspense with a dab of a who done it, and a small pinch of horror. .. Check it out. .. But if you are looking for real full blown horror. . Keep your powder dry on this one.
Monster On The Campus
“The education is just beginning”
College Professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz ( Invaders from Mars, Flight to Mars)) unknowingly becomes exposed to irradiated coelacanth blood while doing research. The exposure transforms him into a crazed murderous missing link cave man creature who runs amuck the college campus killing a teacher and a police detective.
The Dean’s daughter and Blake’s girlfriend Madeline Howard (Joanna Moore, (Touch of Evil, Run Christie Run) and mother of Tatum O’Neal) believes Blake is working too hard and the visions he is having are merely illusions and un-real.
The police detective (Judson Pratt, Futureworld, The Incredible Hulk) has collected footprint and fingerprint evidence, but they are more creature like than human.
If you are thinking this sounds like a Jack Arnold directed Universal picture from somewhere around 1958, you would be right. If you’re thinking the movie sounds like a real treat and would be fun to experience. . .you would be right again. . . If you are thinking with all this movie has to offer who could want anything more. . You would be almost right. For extra bang for your buck they added Troy Donahue (The Monolith Monsters, The Chilling), (And who looks like a grown up version of Dennis the Menace) in the role of Jimmy, a college student and friend to Dr. Blake. Now it has it all.
Monster is a solid product delivering scares and chills without the blood and gore. The special effects are not all that special, even for 1958 but you won’t even notice, especially during the giant dragon fly scene.
Monster on the Campus is a movie that scares instead of shocks and is worthy to have a place in your video library.
“Death comes on eight legs. . . And It’s pretty darn big.”
When an experiment in a lab in the desert goes awry , no telling what can happen. Especially if this happens in a Jack Arnold (Revenge of the Creature, Monster on Campus) directed movie.
In the desert outside a small unnamed town someplace in the south west part of the country, Doctor and Scientist Deemer (Leo G. Carroll (Suspicion, Spellbound)) is formulating a nutrient that will feed the future world’s population inexpensively. A noble and worthy task. The nutrient, when injected into animals makes them grow very large very quickly, but when injected into humans turns them into something that resembles the incredible melting man. (Why inject humans? The movie never answers that bothersome and puzzling question). During a scuffle in the lab a baby spider ( already the size of a German Shepherd ) escapes and over the next few days grows to the size of a city block.
John Agar ( Zontar, The Thing from Venus, Attack of the Puppet People) plays the towns Doctor and love interest for Mara Corday (The Black Scorpion, The Giant Claw) who has recently arrived to the town and has become Dr. Deemer’s lab assistant. Nestor Paiva nails the part of the inquisitive sheriff perfectly and dresses exactly like Howdy Doody with a gun.
Dr. Deemer injects himself with his nutrient (for reasons unknown) and quickly melts to death which leaves Dr.Hastings (Agar) and Steve (Corday) and the sheriff and the Air Force to deal with the giant spider as it approaches the town with destruction on its mind.
The movie was made in 1955 by Universal pictures and the special effects look like they too were made in 1955 by Universal pictures. It’s a good movie, way better than “The Black Scorpion, The Deadly Mantis, or Empire of the Ants but not nearly as good as “Beginning Of The End, Them, or Kingdom of the spiders. However it is a classic and should be experienced by all sci/fi horror fans.
Conquest of Space
“See How It Will Happen In Your Lifetime”
The narrator starts, “This is the story of tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow.” A great start to a pretty darn good sci/fi space flick. Conquest of Space was made in 1955 by Paramount pictures and was filmed in “Technicolor”…it’s very colorful and has an appealing look to the eye. The movie was directed by Bryon Haskin (War of the Worlds, From the Earth to the Moon) who was even better at special effects than at directing and did the special effects on over fifty different movies. The special effects are amazing in Conquest of Space, especially for 1955.
Conquest stars Walter Brooke (Andromeda Strain, Stowaway to the Moon) as the general and designer, builder of the space wheel, Eric Fleming (Queen of Outer Space, Curse of the Undead) as the general’s son and second in command, Mickey Shaugnessy (Don’t Go Near the Water, Edge of Eternity) as the general’s long time friend and right hand man, and Phil Foster (The Happy Hooker goes to Washington, The Texas Godfather) who adds lots of comic support.
The movie starts as the space wheel space station and space cruiser ship have been completed being built and the crew for the cruiser are being trained for a trip to the moon. Suddenly they receive orders from Earth dumping the moon plan and instead going to Mars to check for resources that Earth will need in the future. The crew travel to Mars but on the way Ross Martin (Johnny Jupiter, Night Gallery) ( Conquest was Martin’s first role in a Movie although he had done tv) while repairing the ship’s antenna is struck and killed by a meteor. The incident pushes the general over the edge and he later must be shot and killed by his son when he tries to sabotage the ship. The crew faces many adversities and only stand a small chance of surviving. . . But will they?
The movie is a good one and well worth your time to watch it. Stanley Kubrick loved this movie and used the models of the space station and cruiser ship as a guide for the ships in “2001 A Space Odyssey”. Sit down some evening with a Mars bar and a glass of Tang and enjoy the experience of “Conquest of Space”
Bride of the Gorilla
“How jungle itself took the law into it’s own hands”
The thing I learned watching this movie? As you travel in the jungle be prepared to meet a snake every ten feet or so, and all the snakes you meet will be twins.
Bride of the Gorilla was released in 1951 by Jack Broder Productions (Bela Lugosi Meets the Brooklyn Gorilla, Run for the Hills) and starred Barbara Payton (Four Sided Triangle, Run for the Hills), Lon Chaney Jr. (Face of the Screaming Werewolf, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors), and Raymond Burr (Godzilla King of the Monsters, Tarzan and the She Devil). The film was directed by Curt Siodmak ( Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Creature with the Atom Brain) who if you don’t know directed a ton of sci/fi horror movies back in dark ages. A young Woody Strode also has a small role as a jungle cop, which is an awesome bonus.
You might think with a cast like that you would be in store for extreme terror, but. .. That is not the case in this film. Bride is more of a love story with a side helping of horror, a little murder mixed in, and some freaky Voodoo spells cast by an old woman, much like Minerva in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.
The story goes like this. Deep in the heart of Africa a plantation foreman (Burr) murders the old plantation owner (Cavanagh) by pushing him down on a venomous snake ( I told you about the snakes!) to get his beautiful wife (Payton). An old African witch lady sees the murder and casts a wicked voodoo spell on the murderer. Every night after that the murderer will become a gorilla and rampage through the jungle killing a lot of stuff. The police chief (Chaney Jr.) knows in his heart who the murderer is but just can’t find the evidence needed to arrest them.
The movie is pretty good and you can probably see it on TCM sometime. It would be a good movie to watch on a rainy day with a bowl of buttery popcorn and a pitcher of green Koolaid like you did the first time you watched it forty years ago.