Archive for the Sci-Fi Category

“I’m all by myself in your silver light…”

Posted in 1950s, radiation, Sci-Fi, werewolf on November 9, 2007 by bigruta

All righty then all you slappy dinguses! The second werewolf flick for the 2007 (post) Halloween review jamboree is from the 1950s! Oh yeah! You know what that means! Everybody: “Radiation can do anything!”

The Werewolf

Clover Productions, Columbia Pictures Corp., 79 minutes, NR

actors: Steven Ritch, Don Megowan, Harry Lauter, Joyce Holden, George Lynn, S. John Launer

writers: Robert E. Kent, James B. Gordon

director: Fred F. Sears

producer: Sam Katzman

Taxonomy:Sci-Fi; werewolf flick; superstitious trappers

Plot:An amnesiac stumbles into Mountain Crest, California. The Hook: He won’t like what he soon remembers.

The flick opens at night in the little town of Mountain Crest, California. We see a guy in a suit drag himself down the street and go into ‘Chad’s Place’, the local watering hole. Seems the good folk of Mountain Crest like their liquor! They suck it down like it was the answer to their prayers. When asked why he is in town the stranger looks confused and says, “I guess I’m just passing through.” He then leaves. Another patron of Chad’s, a big dude named Joe, tries to mug the new guy – oh hell, his name is Duncan Marsh (of the Clan Marsh!). We don’t know that yet but I don’t want to keep having to write “the stranger.” Anyway, Joe tries to rob Duncan (Ritch) and soon has way more than he can handle! An old lady sees what happens (we only see feet – what is it with werewolf flicks and feet?) and screams.  A very hairy Duncan runs away and soon has to protect himself from an armed Deputy. The Sheriff (Megowan) is called in and all concerned think the large animal tracks indicate that Joe, was attacked by a crazed beast. Based on the fact that Deputy Clovey (Lauter) told him that whatever attacked him walked on two legs, the Sheriff thinks a human is responsible for Joe’s death.

Sheriff Hains takes Clovey to Doc Gilchrist’s place to get patched up. Here we meet tww_clovey.jpgAmy Standish (Holden) Doc’s nurse and Sheriff Hains squeeze. The doc thinks Hains is crazy talking about a man being the cause of Clovey’s wounds. Amy brings up the psychotic condition of lycanthropy. Hmmm…

The next morning we see that Duncan has slept in a culvert. I should mention that it is winter and Duncan is barefoot. He says, “I know I was dreaming!” when he sees that his footprints change into those of a large wolf. He then goes and finds his shoes and socks, which had been neatly placed near a fallen tree. What the hell!? Are these movies trying to convince us that werewolves would actually stop mid-transformation to remove their footwear? Also all of Duncan’s clothes are in good order – even his tie! Oh I can hear my Dad now, “You young people today are such slobs! Why in my day, even the werewolves were snappy dressers!”

Soon Duncan shows up at Doc’s place. He tells Doc and Amy that he can’t remember tww_duncan.jpgwho – or what – he is and he does not know why he is in Mountain Crest. He says he has vague memories of a car crash and two doctors… but it is all foggy. He says he thinks he killed a man last night. Amy and Doc show him sympathy and Duncan seems to trust them, but then they blow it when they try to sedate him. He cries, “Those other doctors did something to me!” and runs away. Amy promptly calls the Sheriff.

Next we meet a couple of scientists. We know they are scientists because they have a tww_me.jpglab full of animals and wear lab-coats and dark goggles. These two sweet fellers are Dr. Morgan Chambers (Lynn) and Dr. Emory Forrest (Launer). They are conducting experiments exposing animals to – wait for it! – atomic radiation! Ya knew we would get there sooner or later didn’t ya? Yes, these guys are “those other doctors.” Emory tells Morgan of the story of a death in Mountain Crest and we are then treated to Morgan explaining their research – as if Emory had no idea! It seems they believe, that is Morgan believes, Emory seems like a bit of a doofus, that fallout from H-bomb testing will mutate everyone on Earth into stupid vicious beasts. So, they are trying to develop a way to immunize themselves against this eventuality. Yep! Radiation immunization! God I love 50s sci-fi flicks! They also learn that Duncan is missing when his wife shows up and asks them if they could know where he might have gone. Fearful that Duncan could get them in trouble – nonconsensual radiation therapy and all – they zip off to Mountain Crest to pop a cap in his ass. Though they do not use those words.

Well the race to find Duncan is on! Sheriff Hains enlists Doc, Amy, Mrs. Marsh and Duncan’s little boy to help him bring Duncan in. They know he is hurt – leg got caught in a trap; wonder where they got that idea? Hmmm… – and use a bullhorn to get him to give himself up. That night Morgan nad Emory break into the town jail, drug the deputy and prepare to kill Duncan. Surprise! Duncan has changed in his sleep! Morgan and Emory get chewed up. Dang! Now we will never get that radiation vaccine! Stupid werewolves don’t understand the benefits of modern medical science!

Sheriff Hains gathers a large posse and goes out hunting for Duncan. No that Duncan tww_meat.jpghas killed two more people the Sheriff does not intend to show any mercy. At one point during the chase, the Sheriff orders the men to throw torches toward Duncan so they can get a good shot. Hey yeah! Several flaming chunks ‘o wood won’t cause any harm in the California woodlands! Holy crap! Well this leads to the climactic scene where Duncan is trapped on a bridge and the posse gun him down. “Now he can go home.” says Sheriff Hains. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage: None. Joyce Holden is an okay actress, but not a babe. the actress who plays Duncan’s wife looks like, well, a 50s housewife.

Sleazeploitation: Like I noted above, the folks in Mountain Crest love their booze and there is a blond barfly, but nothing really happens that could be classified as sleaze.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes:Duncan in his ‘werewolf’ form. Mogan & Emory.

Violence: Uh … well … nope. Kind of odd for a werewolf flick.

Gore & FX: The transformation is done with fades just like in The Wolfman (1941). Not too bad really. I guess the setting could be an ‘effect’; the flick was shot in and around Big Bear Lake, California. Unfortunately black and white does not do the scenery justice.

Great Lines:

Doc: “Man what you’re trying to say is just a lot of poppycock! Storybook stuff! The kind of things kids get nightmares about!” No doubt about it – Doc Gilchrist is Dana Scully’s father!

Sheriff Hains: “Doctors try to save people. The law doesn’t always have a choice.”

Dr. Morgan Chambers: “They’ll make the hydrogen bomb more powerful, then more powerful again! Enough to change every person on the face of the earth into a crawling inhuman thing from fallout radiation!” And that was just his testimony before Congress about stem-cell research!

Dr. Morgan Chambers: “The perfect science, Emory. The science that ends all science.” Uh … What!?

Dr. Emory Forrest: “You’re not going to kill him!? [Duncan]” Dr. Morgan Chambers: “You think he still wants to live after what he has become? It will be an act of charity!” I think you mean an act of mercy, doc. Or were you planning on putting his kid through college?

Here are a couple of exchanges that show just what softies Sheriff Hains and Deputy Clovey are: Amy, “What a horrible horrible thing to happen to a human being!” Hains, “Yeah.” Hains, “How do you explain a thing like this to a wife and kid?” Cloves, “Maybe you don’t try.” Stop it you two before I tear up!

Moral: Never wear your good shoes in the snow.

Conclusion:

The Werewolf is actually a fairly good little flick. Only one problem – it’s not about a werewolf! Sure Duncan looks like a werewolf when he changes, but none of the werewolf folklore comes along for the ride. Full moon? Don’t matter. Sunlight? Don’t matter. Infects those he injures? Nope. Silver needed to kill him? Lead bullets do just fine. A shame really because the flick nails the tragic element rather well. We really feel sorry for Duncan and his family. If this flick were made in the 80s the culprit would be exotic drugs. The 90s – genetic engineering. But this was the 50s and it had to be radiation. I guess they wanted to add a well known monster into the mix. Ah well, still a tight little cheapo b-movie. Nothing wrong with that!

50s Sci-Fi Checklist:

  • radiation can do anything!

  • big ass cars – Mountain Crest has 22 police cars!?

  • tons of booze and cigs

  • tones of the hep-cat era

  • big ass jukebox

  • atomic not nuclear

  • real men still wore hats

One to Ponder: Were the clothes really werewolf proof in the 40s and 50s?

Well, that’s two post Halloween werewolf flicks for 2007. Catch ya next time – and remember: comments, questions, suggestions and contributions welcome.

-BigRuta

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"Aye, there’s the rub!"

Posted in 1950s, Sci-Fi on August 7, 2007 by bigruta

Get ready for some boffo-socko British b-movie sweetness tonight kiddies!

The Crawling Eye
(The Trollenberg Terror, The Creeping Eye, The Flying Eye, Creature from Another World)
Tempean Productions Limited, Allience Film Studios, Middlesex, England; 1958; 84 minutes; NR
actors: Forrest Tucker, Janet Munro, Jennifer Jayne, Warren Mitchell
director: Quentin Lawrence
writers: Peter Kay, Jimmy Sangster
producers: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman
Taxonomy: Brit Sci-Fi; alien invasion flick; opthamologists
Plot: Strange doins’ abound near the Swiss village of Trollenberg.
The Hook: Them’s aliens I tells ya!
Trollenberg Switzerland is a small village near the base of a famed mountain that attracts many climbers. Is the mountain called “Trollen?” I don’t know. The name of the mountain is never mentioned. It seems that lately this mountain has earned a bad reputation. You see, several climbers have had accidents and died. Some are never seen again. Some just lose their heads completely. Literally! The opening shot is of the members of an English climbing party who are resting on a ledge while their leader climbs to the next way point. The ‘mountain ledge’ is an appallingly cheap looking studio set with a curtain painting backdrop. The leader notes something odd, screams and then falls down past the other two climbers – without his head! The funny thing about this scene is that we hear him scream as he falls! Well all this death and decapitatin’ spooks the locals, many of whom leave town.

Then our heroes arrive! The story revolves around three groups of characters: 1. Alan Brooks (Tucker), who is “from the UN.” and Professor Crevett (Mitchell), who studies cosmic rays in an avalanche proof observatory high on the mountain. In fact Crevett has called Alan in to help him with a little mystery. It seems there is an odd cloud, that glows with radioactivity and never moves from the south side of the mountain despite the wind. Most of the climbing accidents have occurred on the south side of the mountain. Hmmm…

2. Ann and Sarah Pilgrim (Munro and Jayne), who are performers in a mentalist act that regularly plays at The Palladium in London. They were on their way to Geneva, but once Ann saw the mountain, she insisted that they stop in Trollenberg and stay at the Hotel Europa, the only hotel in the village it seems as all the characters are staying there! Ann has odd feelings about the town and mountain, as if she had been here before … Hmmm…
3. Everybody Else, including Dr. Dewhurst, a geologist and his guide Brett and the assorted villagers and die hard climbers still hanging around. Two words: alien chow!
Okay well, as this is a Brit flick, there is plenty of atmosphere and dialog and character interaction which is actually well done and helps flesh out the characters and move the story along, but is not very exciting to write about. So, I’ll just give you some highlights and we can move on to the thrilling climax, mmm’kay?
Well! Alan, Crevett and Ann all have secrets that are eventually revealed. Ann is not just a ‘mentalist’, she is an honest to goodness telepath! She is very sensitive and can pick up the thoughts of others, but apparently she cannot transmit her own thoughts. This turns out to be a very bad thing. You see, Alan and Crevett have worked together before, in the Andes, and there was a radioactive cloud, and a clairvoyant old woman, who was killed! Seems Alan is a member of a special UN team that investigates “phenomena.” Yep! That’s right, Alan is Fox Mulder’s father! Alan and Crevett know that aliens are responsible for the cloud; it is a reproduction of their atmosphere. The aliens are highly telepathic, and they kill human telepaths because they know too much! The implication is that the aliens are trying to take over the Earth by slowly replacing our atmosphere with theirs! They can control the cloud and telepathically control dead humans! Got all that?

Now remember group 3? Well, they start getting killed left and right! People have “accidents”, a couple of guys get a climbing pick to the head, decapitations happen! The aliens try a using their zombie slaves to off Ann, but Alan – who has developed a thing for her of course – comes to the rescue. Then the aliens mentally compel Ann to come up to them, but that don’t work either. Finally the aliens decide to close in for the kill. The cloud moves down the mountain and surrounds the village. The only place to run to is the observatory. B-movie moment! As everybody is escaping up to the observatory in the cable car, a little girl goes back to the hotel for her ball! Damn kids! Just as she retrieves her ball, an alien pops open the door and grabs her! Well, thanks to the stupid American title and poster, we already know what the alien looks like! It is a big giant eyeball with tentacles! Alan chops off a tentacle, frees the stupid little girl and makes it up to the observatory! He should have let the alien eat the girl, it might have bought the rest of them more time!

Once everybody is in the observatory, the aliens surround it with clouds and attack! They send another zombie to kill Ann, but studboy Alan shoots it. Yeah, he shoots and kills the dead guy, don’t think about it too much! Then the aliens start busting through the walls to get to Ann! Frankly, I can’t blame them; Janet Munro was dang purrdy! At this point Alan theorises that the aliens need a cold environment and apparently calls in a big favor because he has the RAF firebomb the mountainside and observatory! That’s right, the UN guy has the British Air Force bomb a Swiss mountain! Holy crap! This guy has pull! The British bombers appear to be Vulcans!
Up until this point the special effects have been mostly okay, with some good miniature shots, but the scene of the aliens getting napalmed is just too good to miss! I’ll just say that Ray Harryhausen had nothing to worry about if this was his competition! Well, since the observatory was made to withstand Alpine avalanches, the rather heavy looking firebombs don’t penetrate the roof (sure!). The aliens get turned into eyeball ‘que and Alan and Ann get all misty eyed over each other. The End?
Goodies:
Babeage: Janet Munro! Oh my goodness, is she a cutie! Janet Munro started in several films and TV shows from the 50s to the 70s. She would be most recognizable to Americans from her Disney flicks: Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), Third Man on the Mountain (1959) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). She was liked by critics, but some did not approve her attempt to change her good girl image with nude scenes in the sci-fi film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). Feel free to learn a bit more about Ms. Munro, but be warned – there is no happy ending.
Sleazeploitation: None. The few scenes with Janet Munro and Jennifer Jayne in nighties are rather funny now a days.
Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Zombies, intelligent clouds, gigantic tentacled eyeball creatures!
Violence: A couple of fist fights, attempted stabbing, climbing pick attack, gun shots, Molotov cocktails, hatchet, decapitations, firebombs. Sounds worse (or better depending on your point of view) than it actually plays out.
Gore & FX: Some blood, a very quick look at a decapitated torso, decent miniature sets, nice cloud effects that supposedly influenced John Carpenter to make The Fog (1980), and some very silly eyeball monsters!
Hey! That’s what’s his name!: Forest tucker was in a ton of movies and TV shows, including doing his own time with Disney. He may be best remembered by Boomers as Sgt. Morgan O’Rourke on the 60s TV show F Troop.
Great Lines:
British climbing team at start of flick, “Didn’t you see him?!” “What are you talking about?” “His head – it was torn off!” This line is repeated later in the flick – just in case you were not paying attention.
Dr. Dewhurst keeps his resume short and sweet, “I’m a geologist. I know all about rock formations, that sort of thing.”
When Professor Crevett learns of Ann’s telepathy, he advises Sarah to get her away from Trollenberg, “It’s not good for her here.” But I do enjoy leering at her, oh yesss!

While sleeping Ann calls out a warning for the investigators, “Keep them away from the hut!” They cannot hear her, being way up on the mountain and all, but hey, she tried!
Alan to a Crevett, “I’m going to throw a bomb at that one. You watch on the screen and see what happens.” Let me get this straight, you are going outside to throw a Molotov cocktail at one of the giant telepathic pissed off eyeball monsters, and you want me to stay here in the nice safe observatory and watch what happens over the video camera? Will do
Chief!
Moral: Don’t play with that! You’ll poke your eye out!
Conclusion: The Crawling Eye is actually a better flick than this review makes it seem. The actors play their characters well, especially Janet Munro who makes Ann come across as shy, sweet, sad and a little spooky all at once! These days the actors in many sci-fi / horror flicks play their roles too knowingly campy which spoils the mood and is simply annoying. The ideas involved – that aliens would try to take over the earth simply by changing the atmosphere to suit them and not us is intriguing. The telepathy stuff is done in a straight forward manner much more subtly than in later sci-fi films. The special effects are hokey, but this was not a huge budget flick in the first place. Additionally, prior to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), special effects in sci-fi, fantasy or horror movies were not really expected to be all that spectacular. My biggest complaint is that the American title, The Crawling Eye, and the posters used to advertise the flick spoil the surprise! The English title, The Trollenberg Terror, gives no hint at what the aliens are, of if there are aliens. This approach would have made the first sight of the eyeball monsters a bit more shocking.
This is me at age nine baby!: Yeah, yeah, who cares! Blah, blah, blah! (first 3/4 of the flick). Decapitated head in a bag! Cool! Let them eat her! Hahaha! Yeah that looks real! Vulcan bombers! Cool!
Brit B-Movie Checklist:
a Dialog a bit more complex than American b-movies
a very polite English folks
a the gruff American
a the money grubbing Swiss
a Imperial gallons of booze
a the pretty girl who faints often
a the staunch male heroes who disapprove of the girls being there
a British stock footage
a classic miniature special effects
How about a Swiss weisse? Sure! As long as it is German!
Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen
Brauerei G. Schneider & Sohn
Munchen, Bavaria, Germany
Hefe-Weisse is “wheat – white” beer. It is made with a large proportion of wheat malt to barley and usually does not incorporate a a large amount of hops. The result is a light in color and taste. These beers are often drunk in the summer and are often supplemented with flavored syrups or liquors.
ABV: 4.90% IBU: 14
Color: A light honey amber color, cloudy from the wheat proteins.
Aroma: Very soft and clean, no hops, slight malted wheat predominates, hint of citrus.
Head: Persistent full high creamy tan colored head. Note: The glass should be very clean or it will result in the head “flattening.”
Taste: Very smooth light and slightly sweet start moves to a clean sweet slightly fruity middle and then to a brief hint of bitterness during the finish and a short aftertaste.
Recommendation: This is perhaps the arch typical Hefe-Weizen. Just as Guinness is the baseline for stouts, Schneider is the baseline for Hefe-Weizen. Any self respecting Hefe-Weizen needs to be at least as good as Schneider’s. This beer is light and refreshing with a hint of citrus – less than in Belgian wit beers. Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen is produced in accordance with the German Beer Purity Law of 1516 and is bottle conditioned – so be careful of the little blob of yeast at the bottom of the bottle. A fine summer beer that is mild enough that it may win over some converts from the mass market American brews. Recommended for those willing to try something new, but not ready for any radical departure from what they are used to drinking.
Hope everyone has had a great summer vacation! Back soon!
-BigRuta
Remember: comments, suggestions, questions and submissions always welcome!