1950s Monster B-Movie Reviews (Page 2)

12 Reviews (2 New)
A Dark and Scary Place

Superman And The Mole Men (1951)

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Starring: George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey, Walter Reed

In Black & White

Directed by Lee Sholem

Screenplay by Richard Fielding (based on Action Comics & Superman)

Clark Kent and Lois Lane, reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis, arrive in the little town of Silsby for a story on the deepest oil well, only to find it has been shut down after reaching a depth of more than six miles. They are told the reason is classified. Rather than a wasted journey, Clark believes there might be something interesting going on. He and Lois return from their hotel to the site to look around, and discover the night watchman dead. While Lois is phoning for help she sees two humanoid but mole-like creatures looking through the window at her. When help arrives there is nothing to be seen.
 

The others leave but Clark remains with the man in charge of the drilling to wait for the coroner. He tells Clark about samples which were brought to the surface; they glowed with radium and contained living microscopic lifeforms. The man speculates that there could be other creatures down there which have come to the surface – and that is what Lois saw. They receive a phone call saying the pathologist turned over his car after seeing the two creatures on the road.
 

As a lynch mob from the town is about to leave, a scream is heard. The mole men have climbed through a window of a house and a little girl is attempting to talk to them. The ball they have been rolling back and forth begins to glow with radium where they have handled it. Clark makes the change to Superman and reaches the house before the mob. The little girl is alright, and the mole men have moved on. Superman attempts to tell the mob what they are doing is wrong. One of them attempts to attack him, without success. Superman bends his rifle in half, but the mob set off again. The mole men are trapped on top of the dam. Superman tells the mob not to shoot them; that they are radioactive. If they fall into the water it will become contaminated. The leader of the mob shoots Superman but the bullet simply bounces off.
 

However, while Superman is distracted one of the men shoots one of the creatures and it falls from the dam. Superman flies up and catches the mole man before it hits the water. The other mole man escapes but is hounded by men and dogs. It is finally cornered in a hut. The men place brush underneath and set it aflame. It escapes by lifting a floorboard and dropping underneath. It makes its way back to the drilling site and descends through the same hatch it emerged from. Where is Superman in all this time?
 

The sheriff makes the mistake of telling Benson (the mob leader) that Superman took the wounded mole man to hospital. Clark persuades a doctor to remove the bullet but, as Clark leaves the hospital with Lois, the mob arrives. Clark disappears, and Superman confronts the mob, removing their guns from them. More mole men emerge from the hatch with a weapon. Superman brings out their companion from the hospital. Benson appears and tries to shoot them, but the mole men turn the weapon on him. Superman steps in front of the weapon’s beam, thereby saving the man’s life. Superman carries the sick mole man and helps them return to the hatch at the drill site. As they leave, the mole men use the weapon to destroy the drill rig so that no one can ever reach them again.
 

The mole men wear hairy suits with the zip-up back showing. They have boiled egg heads with Spock eyebrows and a bit of side hair. They walk bent-over and often in single file (like moles in a tunnel underground). Although far from convincing, they do provide the viewer plenty of hilarity at their expense. There are a number of unexplained coincidences, where the plot takes over realism (such as it is in these movies). Clark Kent is a much more convincing character than Superman. If you look at any of the series, George Reeves looks fine as Kent but resembles a slightly podgy old man as the superhero. In this, Kent gives so many hints about his identity you would have to be brain dead not to realise.

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2019) 

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The Land Unknown (1957)

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Starring: Jock Mahoney, Shawn Smith, William Reynolds, Henry Brandon, Phil Harvey

In Black & White

Directed by Virgil Vogel

Screenplay by Laszlo Gorog (Story by Charles Palmer)

A mapping expedition of Antarctica is arranged by navy officials. It is also to explore an ice-free warm water area in the region, filmed by an earlier expedition. Margaret Hathaway from the Oceanic Press is to accompany them. Amidst plenty of stock footage, a helicopter from the ship takes off and flies a recce over the ice-thick land. They spot and start to fly over the warm region, but receive warning from the ship of an approaching storm. The pilot finds a break in the storm and heads back. They enter an icy mist with very little visibility, and are clipped by something huge flying past. It affects the altitude control and they start to go down. They also lose communication with the ship. The temperature rises very quickly (it is only when this is mentioned that the four of them begin to feel warm and loosen their clothing). Far below what should be sea level they make an uneasy landing.
 

The humidity is oppressive. The chopper is damaged, so they take some supplies and find a place to sleep. But they are awoken by a loud shrieking noise. With no evidence except an unusual tree it is speculated about the region being from the Mesozoic period. A plane flies overhead looking for them, but the distance is too great and their helicopter’s battery power is low. They find water but there is a dead animal nearby. As they move away they are confronted with two giant lizards fighting each other. The victor splashes into the water, quickly disappearing. They realise why when a tyrannosaurus rex appears. Although it looks okay, the shape is all wrong, and it walks like it’s wearing fishing waders! They climb into the helicopter and throttle it up, hoping to scare the creature with the noise, but it’s only when one of the rotor blades slices into its skin that it backs away.
 

They hear a strange horn sound and speculate that whatever is making the noise is scaring the T-Rex away. Their supplies have been rifled through by what can only have been humanoids – except none existed in this age. When they are separated by the arrival of another giant lizard, Maggie is captured and carried off by a humanoid. Using the emergency dingy from the helicopter, they follow the trail of another boat and confront a man called Dr Carl Hunter, who has survived here for ten years. He offers to show them the wreckage of the crash that stranded him. It’s a possible way out if they replace the broken part on their own helicopter. The condition is that they leave the woman. They refuse and go in search of the wreck themselves. Maggie is caught by a tentacled plant, but is freed by Hunter who vanishes again.
 

To help the others – as their supplies are almost depleted – she takes the boat with the idea of giving herself up. However, a creature rises from the depths and only a shell blown like a horn distracts it. Hunter attempts to fend it off with fire and eventually it leaves. There is another confrontation, but their pilot is prevented from killing Hunter. Hunter relents and gives them a map to the wreck. They find the part they need and return to the chopper. Hunter helps Maggie get back. The helicopter takes off just as the T-Rex returns. Maggie is winched back inside, but the water monster appears and attacks Hunter, knocking him unconscious. They winch him up and ascend, where they are intercepted and rescued, but not before ditching into the sea when they run out of fuel.
 

The stars of this show are, of course, the dinosaurs. On the whole, they are realised pretty well on a very low budget. The sets are also very good, and much use is made of a relatively small area. As in many of these 1950s B-Movies, there is an immediate love interest. It normally involves the guy with the most authority and happens with very little reason or getting to know each other. This is no different, although his colleague is initially jealous. Overall, this is better than average entertainment. Watch out for the odd-looking T-Rex. 

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2019) 

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The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

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Starring: Glen Langan, Cathy Downs, William Hudson, Larry Thor, James Seay

In Black & White

Produced and Directed by Bert I. Gordon

Screenplay by Mark Hanna & Bert I. Gordon

A Samuel Z. Arkoff & James Nicholson Production

A plutonium bomb explosion has been rigged by the military, but the test detonation doesn’t occur after the allotted countdown. Everyone is instructed to remain at their positions behind protected lines. The bomb will still explode; they will just have to wait it out. A light aircraft approaches the area, clearly in difficulty and attempting to land. It flips over upon touchdown. Fearing the occupant may still be alive, Colonel Glenn Manning takes a chance, leaving safety and running towards the plane. The plutonium device explodes and he catches the full force of the blast.


Manning is rushed to hospital, his fiance Carol Forest naturally frantic and awaiting news. He has third-degree burns all over his body and is not expected to last the night. However, when bandages are removed the next day, he has mysteriously and rather miraculously grown new skin, which doesn’t even display any scars. The experts can’t explain what has happened, only speculating at some unknown property or element in the plutonium blast. A soldier goes to the home of Carol Forest and informs her that she won’t be able to visit the injured man for a while due to security reasons. Security isn’t very good at the hospital though, as she sneaks into the building to see what’s what. Manning’s room is empty, and suddenly no one has heard of him. Carol tracks down Doctor Linstrom, the doctor who treated him, to an army rehabilitation and research centre in Nevada. She is given the brush-off here, too, but manages to find the appropriate room. She screams (don’t they always!) in shock at the sight of an 18 feet tall Manning under sedation.


Linstrom explains that Glenn Manning is growing at the rate of several feet per day, due to the fact his body is producing all the new cells required for normal healing but the old ones refuse to die. He says the man will continue to grow until he dies (sounds technical to me!). Colonel Manning is dreaming about the horrors of when he fought in Korea, and then the more recent experiences. He wakes to find everything in his room is tiny, like in a dolls-house. At 22 feet he now barely fits in the room. He also realises for the first time that he is completely bald. His resentment is growing too, through bitterness and cynicism. That’s not the worst problem, as it’s discovered that Manning’s heart is growing at a much slower rate and will soon be unable to take the strain.


Finally, a cure is found: an injection into the bone marrow and stimulation of the pituitary gland. The only thing is Manning has gone walkabout. The search is on (wouldn’t a helicopter find him in two minutes flat?). He is seen heading towards Las Vegas. When he is shot at he retaliates, before heading for the Boulder Dam. Carol and Doctor Linstrom land a helicopter and manage to administer the vaccine using a giant hypodermic syringe. Manning picks up Carol (like in the King Kong and Fay Wray scene), but is persuaded to put her down when he has a moment of clarity. The moment he does the now 60 foot Manning is shot by a mortar rocket and falls from the top of the dam into the rushing waters below.
 

Although Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is the more well known film, The Amazing Colossal Man did the giant human being concept a year earlier, and is much the better project. Whereas as the former is a simple revenge film of a woman scorned, this one actually explores the concept of how the victim is affected, not only physically but mentally. At every stage of growth his state of mind changes. First he is unwell, then he rages at the world with resentment and hurtful sarcasm, before finally losing touch with his identity and barely understanding who or what he is. This grounds what is to all intents and purposes an outrageous monster movie. Look at it as an examination of the human condition. What makes us who we are? And do we lose touch with who we are if only one thing about us is changed. Of course, I’m sure Samuel Z Arkoff was just trying to make a cheap and entertaining film. However, it’s success would ensure a sequel, which was not common in this genre and era. This film has heart; we can actually identify with the monster. 

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018)  

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Conquest of Space (1954)

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Starring: Walter Brooke, Eric Fleming, Mickey Shaughnessy, Phil Foster, William Redfield

In Colour

Produced by George Pal & Directed by Byron Haskin

Operatives on a wheel in space have been building a ship to very specific designs. The men in blue will be the crew. They have separate training and are not permitted to eat real food, only food supplement pills. After a short period of involuntary paralysis one crewman is given proper food. He knows what this means and refuses to eat it. The condition could become permanent, so he is sent back to Earth.

A scientist arrives on the wheel and tells General Sam Merritt they will not be going to the Moon, as believed, but to Mars. Three of the trained men are chosen to accompany the General and his son, Captain Barney Merritt. During the journey two of the men are sent outside to repair the topside camera view. A huge asteroid looms towards them and the ship is obliged to take evasive action. Even afterwards they are bombarded by stray fragments, and one of the men is killed. He is given a burial in space by the General.

However, the General has his own problems. He is ill and takes to quoting from the Bible, talking of Man’s blasphemy in entering God’s heaven of space, when they were meant to remain on Earth. The others assume extreme fatigue and mental strain, and that rest will combat the ailment. As they prepare to touch down on Mars, the General mutters that they can’t land, they haven’t got the right. He turns on the thrusters, nearly crashing the ship before his son manages to grab the controls and secure a landing on Mars. General Merritt tries to sabotage the ship by opening the water valves. When, again, his son Barney stops him the general pulls a gun. In a wrestle for possession of the weapon it discharges and General Samuel Merritt is killed. The General’s friend accuses the son of murder, threatening a court martial when they return. The General is buried on Mars and a makeshift marker cross placed.

The water is drained from the heating system of the ship in order for them to survive the year until they are able to take off – when the Earth is in the right position. Then the impossible happens: it snows! Heavily. This solves the water shortage problem. The time for take-off nears and rock sample elements have been collected which will prove that, with care and hard work, Mars can be made fertile. Confirmation comes from a seed planted by the General’s grave, which has sprouted.

A Mars quake and rock fall opens up holes in the ground, affecting the stability of the ship. Short on time now, they have to take a chance and fire the retros, hoping it will level the ship so that they can take off. Eventually, it does. They are on their way home. Sergeant Mahoney decides that the story they will tell back home is the General died ensuring a safe landing on Mars. A fitting end for The Man Who Conquered Space.
 

The effects on this one are a little less convincing than they were on George Pal’s earlier offering, Destination Moon. However, the spaceship interiors and particularly the Mars surface are very well realised. Characterisation is good whilst being understandably dated. Many films from this era had similar characters. Whilst not exactly ciphers, they are somewhat predictable. There is even one joker in the pack, again someone less officious with whom the viewers can more comfortably relate. Essentially though, this is a people story, as any genre should be. Yes, it is about a journey and landing on Mars, but it is more about how the crew is affected by being taken out of their comfort zone. 

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018) 

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Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

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Starring: Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Whit Bissell, Nestor Paiva

In Black & White

Directed by Jack Arnold

Underwater Sequences Directed by James C. Havens

Screenplay by Harry Essex & Arthur Ross. Story by Maurice Zimm

Narration instructs us on the ‘Miracle of Life’ in all it various forms. Our story begins in the Amazon (does it do free delivery?). A large fossilised claw is found in the rock and is taken to the Marine Institute, where two young marine scientists, David Reed and Kay, who are a couple, greet Dr Thompson like an old friend. An expedition is arranged and they head back to the location on a local’s boat. The native who was left to watch the site is found dead in his tent, having been viciously attacked – it is presumed by a jaguar. Excavation of the rock does not reveal any more of the mysterious creature’s skeleton. Lucas, the boatman, tells them there is a secluded lagoon down river, which is known as the Black Lagoon. The scientists theorise that the rest of the bones could have been washed down river and into the lagoon.

The boat squeezes into the creepy and atmospheric lagoon, which then opens out. David Reed and Mark Williams (the greedy leader of the expedition) dive for rock samples, and are watched all the time by a man-sized prehistoric amphibian creature. Once back on the boat the men all go below deck to study the samples, leaving the young woman, Kay, to go swimming. Under the water the creature swims out towards her, mirroring some of her movements below the surface, before moving back into hiding at the bottom. But when she swims back to the boat the creature shadows her movements. As she is pulled on to the boat by helping hands, the boat lurches. Something big is caught in the net which has been cast from the boat. They attempt to winch it up but the supporting beam begins to crack. They are just about to cut the line when it goes slack. The net is brought up and they find a large hole has been torn in it. They also find a single talon-like nail which matches the claw they had found.

Reed and Williams take a camera under the water, spotting the creature. Williams shoots it with a spear. With the spear still sticking out of its back, it flees into deeper, darker waters. While they are below deck on the boat, hoping for a picture of the creature, their new foe kills one of the locals on deck, and just as quickly disappears into the inky black water again. Lucas tells of a way of catching fish by spreading a powder of the surface of the water. It sends them to sleep and they float to the top. They use the method to try to catch the creature. When it fails they sink it down lower. But the creature has left the water. It attempts to climb on to the boat but is spotted and returns to the water. Reed speculates that if it is drugged it could suffocate. He and Williams dive under the water and come up in a cave.

They follow the creature’s footprints, but the creature returns to the land and attempts to carry off Kay. However, the drug has weakened it. The creature falls unconscious. Reed prevents Williams killing it, but they do cage it in the water. Once fully recovered it easily escapes, attacking Doctor Thompson who is guarding it. Kay throws an oil lamp which sets the creature on fire, causing it to quickly return to the water. Against Williams’ protestations, Reed instructs that they head back, but an obstruction has been placed to prevent them leaving the location of the lagoon.

After another fight between the two men, Reed dives beneath the boat to see if he can free the way. Williams arrives with his harpoon gun and, again, spears the creature, but it grabs him and fights him to the bottom. Reed tries to help but Williams is already dead and the creature gets away. They still need to free the way to escape, so they liquidise the tranquilising power and use it in a gas canister, like a spray gun. A line is fixed under the obstruction and it is dragged clear. However, the creature is aboard the boat and leaps into the water with Kay. In the cave Reed tails the creature and finds her, but the creature appears and attacks him. He is saved by two men from the boat, who shoot it. However, Reed stops them and allows it to return to the water. Our final image is of the unmoving creature sinking to the depths. But with two sequels to follow, we know that the creature will return.
 

The outright star of this show is the underwater sequences. It’s no exaggeration to call these beautiful. When you consider this was the 1950s, it’s probably the best camerawork of its type. If I seem to be harking on about it, it really does have to be seen to be believed. Giving it additional credence is the stunning costume design, which is truly iconic. The creature’s movements in the water are artistic and filmed in fluid and sometimes quick movements, just like a fish. What more can I say other than it’s quite stunning.
 

This movie was so successful for Universal Films – after the golden age of the 1930s had all but died out – that it spawned two sequels: Revenge of the Creature, and The Creature Walks Among Us. The design style of the Creature has been copied in a handful of films, most notably in Guillermo Del Toro’s Oscar-winning The Shape of the Water. Whilst seemingly a monster romp, Creature From the Black Lagoon satisfies on all counts. It has science, character, conflict, sympathy for the monster (a la Frankenstein), and a leading lady who screams at every opportunity! Enjoy. 

Verdict: 9 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018) 

Destination Moon (1950)

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Starring: Tom Powers, John Archer, Warner Anderson, Dick Wesson, Erin O'Brien

In Colour

Produced by George Pal & Directed by Irving Pichel

Based on the book by Robert Heinlein

Screenplay by Rip Van Ronkel, Robert A Heinlein & James O'Hanlon

After four years of planning, a satellite rocket test blows-up and crashes. Two years later a private sector engineer is approached to develop a rocket to go to the moon. The idea is presented to the prospective backers by use of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon which answers all the questions sceptics might have. But what really sells it is the military aspect. It’s implied the Russians are planning their own journey by rocket to the moon. Whoever is the first to establish missiles on the moon will hold the power, as there is no defence of an attack from space. The race is on.

The problems they encounter from the outset are very real ones. They are refused permission to test the atomic engines, and there is an organised ground swelling of propaganda against the project. Therefore, they decide to launch the manned rocket untested, and bring forward the take-off to only 17 hours hence. After their communication and radar expert is rushed to hospital at short notice with appendicitis, a reluctant replacement is found – who only accepts because he thinks the others are all crackpots and it will never get off the ground. Someone arrives with a court order to stop the launch, but the astronauts make it to the ship first.

The crew comprises: General Thayer (Tom Powers) – the idea behind the plan, and co-pilot; Jim Barnes (John Archer) – the businessman financing the project; Doctor Charles Cargraves (Warner Anderson) – designer of the craft, and power expert; and Joe Sweeney (Dick Wesson) – radio/electronics expert.
 

There is real tension in the launch sequence. Initial gravitational force and then weightlessness is handled well; you almost feel it with the crew. Their first view of the Earth from space is a spectacular one – although they point out American cities they can see. It’s the first indication this film was made 19 years before the ‘supposed’ first moon landing. A problem with the antennae means the men are obliged to undergo a space-walk outside of the moving ship. A man is accidentally cast adrift and another uses an oxygen bottle, releasing a little at a time to change his direction, to get him back. The landing on the moon is not without complications, but they arrive safely, and two of them leave the ship to be the first men to set foot on the surface.

Earth comes through on the radio and the men describe their first impressions. They might have detected a trace of uranium, but they have another more immediate problem. Corrections in their landing means they do not have enough power to lift off. So they strip the ship of all unnecessary weight. But it’s not enough. They argue about who is going to stay behind; the new recruit even tries to make the ultimate sacrifice. However, desperation has them devise a cagey plan to lose the extra weight of the spacesuits themselves. The last suit is tied to the line of the expired oxygen tank and dragged out of the airlock – the door closing securely behind. The rocket takes-off successfully. They are going home. ‘This is the End of the Beginning.’
 

The acting is competent enough that the moments of ‘people jeopardy’ carry real weight. You feel for the characters. There is even an everyman for the audience to relate to, in the shape of Joe Sweeney. But it’s the technical side of the production which makes the movie work so well.
 

This film has an impressive pedigree. It was produced by George Pal, who went on to make The War of the Worlds in the same decade and The Time Machine in the 1960s. It’s based on the book by science fiction premiere master writer Robert Heinlein, and so reflects Heinlein’s realism. This is foremost an adventure, but is scientifically correct based on what was known at the time (how quickly times change!). The finned rocketship was to be copied in countless other films that followed. Proof of the confidence in this movie is reflected in the extra money spent on colour film and very high production values. The background artwork by artist and designer Chelsey Bonestell is phenomenally impressive, and the special effects won an Academy Award in the year of the film’s release. This was said to have been America's first major science fiction movie. 

Verdict: 9 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018) 

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Godzilla (1954)

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Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Harata, Takashi Shimura

In Black & White

Directed by Ishiro Honda

Screenplay by Takeo Murada & Ishiro Honda

Story by Shigeru Kayama

A ship appears to explode in the water near Japanese Odo Island. A nearby fishing boat is sent to investigate, but it mysteriously sinks, too. There is a news media frenzy. Was it an undersea volcano or earthquake? Some people on the island believe it is a bad omen, and even speculate that it is Godzilla (Gojira), a legendary sea beast – particularly because fish supplies in the area are extremely depleted. The old ones say Godzilla will come to land to prey on men in retribution.

Fierce storms batter the island and many homes are destroyed. Representatives from Odo Island give evidence on the mainland, resulting in a research party being sent to the island. Some of the water wells are found to be radioactive, and a thought-to-be extinct trilobite is found. Someone sounds the alarm and the people scramble up the hills to high ground. Heavy footfalls are heard, followed by the shocking sight of a huge Jurassic monster appearing over the high ground. The people flee in terror. But then it turns and leaves the island from the other side, leaving huge footprints in the sand.

A palaeontologist gives a lecture explaining that it’s two millions years old (happy birthday!) and 150 feet tall. He says that H-Bomb testing in the South Pacific has disturbed its peace. Radioactivity found in its wake means it has been irradiated – or at least carries traces on its body. There is a fierce debate over whether this information should be released or kept from the public. A Counter-Godzilla headquarters is set up. They release depth charges in the area where the monster is thought to be. Doctor Yamane, the palaeontologist wants to preserve and learn from the creature, rather than kill it.

A reporter drafts Yamane’s daughter into introducing him to Doctor Serizawa for an interview. He tells the reporter nothing, but shows the woman, Emiko, his laboratory and something that frightens her. She is sworn to secrecy. A siren sounds signifying Godzilla’s return. It pulls down high tension wires, destroys a bridge and causes a train to derail and crash. Ninety foot barbed wire barriers are erected, as families are evacuated. Godzilla is moving towards Tokyo. It melts the electrified barriers with it’s breath (I suggest a mint) and moves on, breathing fire on to buildings. Tokyo burns.

Godzilla returns to the sea, attacked along the way by ineffective fighter planes. Emiko witnesses the devastation and breaks her promise, revealing what Serizawa is working on – a device which removes oxygen from water and decimates whatever is in the locality. Serizawa will not give it up to anyone else, as it will surely be used by governments as a terrible weapon. Eventually, he agrees to use it once on Godzilla, but destroys all his research papers. No one will be able to make any more. He dives down into the sea with the oxygen destroyer, locates the creature and deploys the device. Godzilla sinks to the depths, and Serizawa cuts his own lines so he can’t be used to repeat the experiment. Doctor Yamane speculates on there being more than one Godzilla, and that if we continue to experiment with H-Bombs and other devastating weapons we could well get another visit.
 

This classic Japanese film has received a very nice make-over from the British Film Institute. Upon its first release in America it was severely cut and, quite illogically, had a new sequence inserted wherein an American journalist became a main character. It was also dubbed into English and had the anti-nuclear message of the film removed. The original version (pictured above) is fully restored to how it was, including Japanese language and English subtitles. It also has special features: A full voice-over commentary, Designing Godzilla featurette, Story Evolution featurette, The Japanese Fishermen short, Original Japanese Trailer, The US Trailer for the altered Godzilla: King of the Monsters! There’s a Gallery of Posters, Storyboards and Original Artwork. A fully illustrated booklet. The sound is in Dolby Digital Mono.
 

This film is really quite powerful considering how silly it could have looked if they had got it wrong. Godzilla itself looks pretty impressive. Its rampage of destruction destroys intricately constructed models. The falling building, toppling telegraph towers and raging fires look very real as the film is slowed and the appropriate sound effects added. There is a very strong anti-nuclear message here. Fish stocks are depleted as a result of testing in the South Pacific, and the waking of Godzilla – a monster from the past – acts as a cipher for God’s retribution to man’s foolishness. Serizawa has morals as a scientist. He hates what he has discovered, and therefore takes it upon himself to destroy his own work and die with the last oxygen destroyer weapon. When it proves successful there is no real celebration. The expressions of those on the boat, accompanied with the melancholy music, describes the feeling that defeating this magnificent creature was not wanted, but it was necessary.
 

Godzilla has spawned more sequels than any other film in history, with more than 28 films in the franchise. 

Verdict: 9 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018) 

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The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

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Starring: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, Paul Langton, April Kent

In Black & White

Directed by Jack Arnold

Screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on his novel 'The Shrinking Man'


Scott Carey is on the deck of a small boat when a strange mist emerges from nowhere and passes overhead, coating him in a rather fetching party glitter. But Scott doesn’t even get the chance to show off down the disco (not that discos have been invented yet). Barely six months later he notices he is losing weight. He and his wife suspect he has a debilitating illness, so he visits the doctor to get checked out. One of the many tests involves his height; he appears to be shorter, but the doctor declares this an impossible mistake (why? Many people shrink with old age). Subsequent examinations convince the doctor of the truth, and he finally refers Scott to hospital experts who desperately attempt to halt the process.


However, as time goes on it seems to be accelerating. We are soon met with the shocking but impressive image of Scott sitting in an armchair opposite his wife but, like a small child, only taking up a fraction of the seat. This shot is nicely set up with the viewer initially seeing only his wife talking, before the camera pans out to reveal the reality of the matter. Word leaks out of this curious phenomenon and pretty soon the press is camped outside the house desperate for a glimpse of the ‘freak’. There is a very nice sequence wherein Scott, who is going stir crazy cooped-up in the house, decides to sneak out at night. He finds himself on the edge of a carnival where he is approached by a beautiful midget woman, April, who rebuilds his confidence. They strike up a friendship. Scott now has a more positive outlook on life, bolstered by the news from the hospital that his shrinking might have halted. However, when he next meets the lady he finds he is now shorter than her.

The next thing we see is Scott descending a staircase. The bannister and stair rods shake like a cheap piece of set scenery, but this is all part of the masterplan. Again, some deft camerawork reveals the fact Scott is now tiny and living in a doll’s house. His wife leaves the main house to pick up supplies, inadvertently shutting in the cat. The cat tries desperately to reach Scott through the windows, and while the animal is distracted he makes a desperate dash from the doll’s house across the seemingly vast stretch of carpet in the full-size room. He hides behind the door to the cellar, but the cat pushes it open, causing Scott to fall into a basket at the bottom of the cellar steps. His wife thinks the cat ate him and grieves for his death.

Now trapped in the cellar, the shrinking man gets water from a drip beneath a water heater, and utilises an empty matchbox for shelter. But he is driven by hunger; more so when the cheese he knocks from a mouse trap falls through a grating. He spots what looks like cake next to a spider web high up on top of a unit. He watches wide-eyed as a spider appears and crosses the floor of the basement. Removing a pin from a pin cushion, Scott secures it around his waist, before fashioning a grappling hook by bending another pin and attaching cotton thread as rope. With great effort he makes it to the top. He eats some of the cake before finding a grate looking out into the infinite jungle of the garden. The spider suddenly returns, prompting Scott to hide in the matchbox. However, there will be a reckoning. The leak in the basement turns to a flood when the water heater releases its tank. Scott’s wife and brother turn off the gas and water before they leave the house, but he is too small to be seen or heard by either of them. He survives by hanging on to a pencil like a raft. Scott soon realises his only source of food is up by the spider web. Facing the spider is inevitable.
 

What can I say about this film except it is a true bonefide classic. For a 1950s film it still has the power to keep you on the edge of your seat. As Scott fights for survival in a world of normally mundane monsters and vast spaces, the tension is ratcheted-up with a series of life threatening set pieces. The attack by the house cat, scaling the heights to the cake, the flood, and the ultimate confrontation with the spider which he manages to kill with the pin sword.

The effects are excellent compared with other giant man/creature movies from the same period because they are kept to a minimum. Many of the sets and props, particularly in the cellar, were built large to make the actor look according small. Grant Williams (also in
The Monolith Monsters and The Leech Woman) acts the part very well, but it is the source material here that really shines. Richard Matheson was a master storyteller with seminal works such as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Hell House, Duel, and The Shrinking Man (the ‘Incredible’ was added for the film). The fact he wrote the screenplay makes the piece all the more coherent.

Scott begins by writing his day-to-day story in a journal, but from the point he is in the cellar we actually hear his thoughts in the past tense. There is a poignant ending, as he moves between the bars of the vent and into the garden. He is like the smallest insect now and accepts that his connection with the universe has changed. He is still significant … but for his new prospective in a different world. He speculates if it is God’s plan and wonders if this is the future for humanity. He finally accepts his place in existence.

Verdict: 10 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018)

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The Tingler (1959)

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Starring: Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Judith Evelyn, Patricia Cutts

In Black & White

Directed by William Castle

Written by Rob White

Dr Warren Chapin is performing a post mortem. He explains to Oli, a relative of the deceased that part of the vertebrae is cracked and separated, which he has seen before in victims of severe terror. The relative runs a cinema. Chapin, the pathologist, returns with him to meet the man’s wife. She is a deaf mute with an obsession for hygiene. When Chapin cuts his hand on a broken saucer the woman is struck with intense fear and passes out.


Chapin carries on his own experiments on ‘the Tingler’ – a tangible effect of fear with David Morris, his assistant and love interest to his wife’s younger sister. Chapin’s wife is selfish, nasty and a cheater. When she returns from one such liaison, Chapin offers her an ultimatum to change her ways or ‘commit suicide’ when he changes the scene to make it look like she took her own life. She is terrified at the point he shoots her with a blank. While she is out cold he takes some x-rays of her spine. It is all an experiment. The x-rays reveal a substance or organism along the spine, which appears to be very strong and causes the spine to go rigid.


Chapin speculates with David about how to combat it, and suggests screaming might incapacitate or remove it, which is why the mute woman went into shock and fell unconscious. They need to find someone who can withstand the terror and pain without screaming; that might produce a specimen they can remove. Chapin wants to experience the sensation of the tingler, but nothing scares him. So he administers a solution which induces nightmares. He begins to experience fear but at the height of terror he can’t resist screaming. He realises the ideal candidate is the deaf mute woman, so he visits her under the pretence of calming her so she can sleep. He injects her with the same solution and leaves. She experiences some haunted house-like phenomena and a ghoul appears to stalk her. She runs to another room, only for similar events to happen – including a hairy hand appearing from the closet to throw an axe at her. The fear is becoming palpable.


In the bathroom red blood is pouring from the sink tap (remember, this film is in black and white, so the appearance of red blood is very striking). The bath now is full of red blood, and a hand slowly emerges from beneath the surface. The woman’s husband brings her to Chapin’s lab, after he finds her on the floor, but Chapin declares her dead. In shadow puppet style behind a screen, Warren Chapin pulls a living tingler from her back. After it tries to attack him, he secures it in a box. His wife steals the nightmare-inducing solution and puts it in a drink for him. When he passes out she opens the box and leaves the tingler to attack him. As its pincers attempt to strangle him, his wife’s sister arrives home and screams, rendering it motionless.


It is secured in the box again. However, it seems nothing will kill it, so Chapin has the idea of returning it to the dead woman’s body in the hope it will reduce to microscopic size (it’s original state before the fear set in). But Oli killed his wife himself by frightening her to death. The tingler breaks free from the box and disappears into the theatre below through a broken floorboard. As the patrons watch a silent movie the tingler moves down the aisle. A woman screams and it moves on to the projection booth, and the cinema blacks out to the announcement: ‘Scream. Scream for your lives!’ The tingler is secured again and returned to the woman’s body. After Chapin leaves, Oli experiences his own fear when his dead wife’s body rises and comes for him – probably brought on by his fear of going to the electric chair for her murder.
 

Science Fiction master storyteller, Robert Heinlein wrote a book called The Puppet Masters. This featured the parasitic creature attaching itself to the spinal column and thereby controlling that person to integrate into positions of power. This was probably best realised in the original 1960s version of The Outer Limits, as The Invisibles. The Tingler’s shape and general purpose is a variation on this theme, except that the creature is already there. Other films and TV shows have also touched on this idea. The Tingler itself is well-realised, except the remastering has further revealed the strings. The jerky movement of the strings does, however, produce an otherworldly feel.
 

Vincent Price is excellent, as he is in almost every horror film in which he appears. This is a William Castle film, who had a tradition of trying to increase the suspense by introducing his films and virtually telling the audience to be scared before the film had started. Castle even had selected cinemas with vibrating seats and a Tingler moving down the aisle, to match the scene on the screen. 

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018) 

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The Trollenberg Terror (1958)

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Starring: Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Jennifer Jayne, Janet Munro, Warren Mitchell

In Black & White

Directed by Quentin Lawrence

Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, Story by Peter Key

Three men are mountain climbing in Trollenberg. One is higher than the other two and shouts down that there is a thick mist and he can’t see a thing. Then he suddenly calls down that someone or something is moving towards him. This is followed by a hideous scream. The body falls past them. The two men grab the rope and begin to haul the inert body back up. One of them sees the man’s face, causing him to let go of the rope in shock and terror. The rope rubs on the rock and frays to breaking point. The body is lost.

In a train carriage is a man travelling alone, and there are two women who are sisters. One seems excitable and at times a little frail. When the guard announces the next stop to be Trollenberg the man, Alan Brooks, says he is getting off. The excitable sister, Anne Pilgrim, claims they have to get of here, too. Even though they are supposed to be travelling straight through to Geneva. She tells her sister, Sarah, they can stay at the Europa Hotel, though she has never heard of or been to the place before. In the car from the station she suddenly asks the driver if there has been an accident with climbers on the mountain. Brooks looks at her strangely. She seems to instinctively know a lot about the place.

Brooks goes to meet his friend the professor at the Observatory, who is studying cosmic rays. The professor tells him there is a cloud over one region of the mountain, and that it never moves. What’s more, it’s radioactive. It turns out a similar phenomenon occurred at the Andes. As there was no evidence it was to blame for people going missing, Brooks was practically accused of making up the whole thing.

The two sisters perform a mind reading act for the entertainment of a handful of people at the hotel. When the object described is a snow globe with a mountain and a hut inside, Anne turns trance-like and describes two climbers in the hut. One of them is compelled to go outside, and when the other wakes there is no sign of him. Brooks telephones the cabin and tells the second man to stay inside. A report from the Observatory states that the radioactive cloud has moved down the mountain to the hut. Brooks phones again to warn the climber but hears the man scream in terror. The cloud moves back to where it had been.

Brooks and a rescue party of locals climb the mountain to the hut, which is locked from the inside. Forcing the door, they find the second climber’s body; the head has been torn off. The Professor tries to instruct the Pilgrim sisters to leave Trollenberg. He tells Sarah that Anne has a telepathy and can pick up other people’s thoughts, but that there is a more powerful and manipulative mind out there which could prove dangerous to Anne. But Anne sneaks away from the place she has been taken to for safety. The rescue party find the missing man’s rucksack. The first man to it finds a severed head inside. The head of the man in the hut. The missing man shows up and attacks him with an ice axe. Another man arriving on the scene also gets attacked.

The aggressor turns up at the hotel looking dazed and uncoordinated. As soon as he sees Anne – who has been brought back down from the Observatory – he tries to attack her with a knife. Brooks gives him a good old bunch of fives. When the man later tries for Anne again he is shot dead. It seems that whatever is on the Trollenberg is afraid of the mental abilities of Anne.

The cloud moves down towards the town. Everyone is evacuated to the Observatory, but they barely make it to the top after the cloud freezes the cable mechanism. Three other clouds converge with the first at the Observatory. Inside each cloud is a gigantic alien eye with far-reaching tentacles. Brooks and others use fire bombs in bottles to throw at the creatures. The weapon against them is heat. As a fire bombing raid is arranged with the air force, the creatures attack through the wall of the Observatory. However, the attack by the air force is successful and the creatures burn.
 

This is another solid home-grown science fiction horror from the 1950s, but with Forrest Tucker in the lead role. Ironically, he’s quite convincing even though Brooks seems to spend most of his time leaning and smoking. Laurence Payne plays Truscott, and there’s an early role for Warren Mitchell as Crevett. In America this film was released under the name The Crawling Eye, which rather gives the game away from the start. The screenplay is by Hammer Films stalwart Jimmy (‘Do you want it Tuesday, or do you want it good?’) Sangster. The plot thread of Anne’s mental abilities isn’t really played through. I would have expected the character to be utilised in the last ditch battle with the creatures, but instead she is just used as an excuse for the creatures to attack and is otherwise forgotten. It doesn’t matter though. This is a very enjoyable film which deserves its cult status. 

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018) 

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

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Starring: Sally Fraser, Roger Pace, Dean Parkin

In Black & White

Produced and Directed by Bert I. Gordon

Screenplay by George Worthington Yates

Story by Bert I. Gordon

In Guavos, Mexico, a man has lost his truck load of groceries. The young driver is in shock and cannot speak. A policeman takes the man to where the boy was found. There are tracks in the mud but no vehicle – it’s as though it has just disappeared (but we know better, don’t we readers?). In Los Angeles Joyce Manning sees a Mexican news item and contacts the man with the missing truck. She learns of the boy in shock and travels to Mexico and a bedside vigil. She, the policeman and a plutonium expert interested in the case, find a giant footprint and surmise that the Colossal Man, Glen Manning, has survived his fall from the dam and is heading for the mountains.


Joyce (his sister) and an army attempt to find more evidence before the big guns are brought in. They find a collection of wrecked food trucks which Manning has taken sustenance from, and get a glimpse of the giant which is 60 feet tall and has half of his face deformed. It is decided to bake large loaves of bread packed with enough sedatives to render him unconscious, and then drive a vehicle loaded with the bread towards the mountain. The bait is taken. Manning’s unconscious form is loaded aboard an aircraft. No US department feels equipped to deal with the ‘monster’ so he is temporarily secured in a hanger at the airport.


At this point we get a flashback from the first film – The Amazing Colossal Man – which not only brings the audience up to speed, but informs us that Mannering is now remembering his past. His rage breaks him free. All airforce jets are instructed to take off for safety, and Mannering is shot with tranquillisers again. His bindings are reinforced. The next step is to check the state of the giant’s mind via association tests. If his memory is stimulated he can be helped. But even with Joyce’s help he just gets frustrated and enraged. The plan is to ship him to a small island to live alone, but his instinct is to escape. ‘The Colossal Man is loose in Los Angeles.’


He is seen in Griffith Park, and the army’s mobile units are moved in. Spotlights are focused on the area; he is finally pinpointed. Manning doesn’t do much for the whole film apart from issue an ‘Arrggg!!’ now and again, but at this point he picks up a coach full of kids. Joyce drives into the restricted area to plead with her brother to put down the coach and try to think. He speaks his first word in this film: ‘Joyce.’ Then he wanders away to purposefully electrocute himself on the pylons. The Colossal Man is dead.
 

A nice touch is to have the picture change from black and white to colour at the point he is electrocuted amidst a cloud of sparks. Nevertheless, this is a simple rehash of The Amazing Colossal Man. During this period sequels were rare. It was not without reason. There was not enough money to do anything significantly different with the story. So it was seen as a way to make two films whilst reducing the overall cost. I watched this immediately after The Amazing Colossal Man, and so found the sequel a case of diminishing returns. 

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018) 

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X The Unknown (1956)

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Starring: Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern

In Black and White

Directed by Leslie Norman

Story & Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster

An army platoon is carrying out radiation detection exercises when they encounter a powerful source. The ground opens up and something unseen escapes. A scientist from a nearby atomic research facility travels to the site to find that an extraordinarily deep fissure has opened in the ground. Two local boys creeping about in the woods at night encounter a frightening presence. One of them suffers first degree burns and ends up in hospital. The scientist goes to the area where the boys were. He finds a hidden dwelling and, inside, an empty radiation container stolen from his own laboratory. The unexplainable fact is there’s not a trace of radiation on or in the pot, and that’s impossible.

Something gets into the radiation lab of the hospital where the boy has just died. Again, uranium is taken, but a doctor sees something terrifying before all of the flesh melts from his face. From a protected room a nurse witnesses the event, but is so traumatised it is considered she will never talk or be the same again. At the site of the fissure two soldiers are killed by the menace. Two scientists and the Atomic Commission investigator consider what they are dealing with. The scientist theorises about an intelligence formed in the Earth’s crust when compressed gases helped form the world.

A volunteer is lowered by winch into the fissure, and sees not only the body of a burnt soldier but something from a nightmare. The volunteer is quickly brought back up and put into a car with the scientist. The military officer orders explosives detonated at the fissure, with instructions above to concrete it over (!). The menace breaks through easily, melting four people in a car nearby. The scientist maps its previous attacks and realises it is making for the Atomic Centre. They try to transport out the cobalt but their adversary is already there. The primal attacker is a huge mass of mud and slime moving quickly to the laboratories. The defenders know it will return to the fissure, so they arrange to quickly evacuate its path of people – who are shepherded to the church in true horror fashion.

There’s no help from the outside, as the radiation of the primordial ooze turns all communication to static. They come to realise if they don’t stop the thing at the fissure it will make for the experimental nuclear station (why didn’t it go there first?). The scientist tests a new process of passing irradiated material through a field which neutralises it. It’s successful but causes an explosion. They have no choice but to try it on the fast-moving mud. A full-scale version of the trial is set-up at the fissure, with the cobalt as the lure. The fissure begins to glow as the mud emerges. The neutralising fields are turned on, producing a high-pitch noise and an explosion. It worked. The sentient energy mud creature is no more.
 

On screen thanks are given to the War Office in the production of the film. It’s a British venture set in Scotland, wherein most of the characters speak with educated middle class accents. This is to all intents and purposes a Quatermass-like story. The science is solid but exaggerated, aside from the science fiction element of the sentient mud (you’ve got to have a monster, after all).

This is a Hammer Films production; subsequently, Hammer would almost exclusively stick to horror once they had huge commercial and critical success with
The Curse of Frankenstein, The Horror of Dracula and The Mummy. It’s nice to see Michael Ripper, who was in more Hammer films than any other actor – including Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Of course, many of them were small roles: policeman, innkeeper, villager, etc. Here he plays the army sergeant. While we’re playing ‘Spot the Actor’ the surviving boy is played by Fraser Hines, who would pop up ten years later as Jamie McCrimmon alongside Patrick Troughton in Doctor Who.
 

The latter part of the film has a similar structure to The Monolith Monsters; essentially, a town standing in the way of a seemingly unstoppable horror. In a way, what has been done here is what was more recently achieved in the aforementioned Doctor Who. Robert Holmes’ shop window dummies coming to life, and Stephen Moffat’s Weeping Angels – statues which move when you are not looking at them – are both examples of making the mundane frightening. This is no different, with a primordial ooze (mud) moving with a purpose, pretty much filling the same role. A very solid if not outstanding piece. 

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(original review Ty Power 2018)

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The Thing From Another World (1951)

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Starring: Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, Margaret Sheridan, James Arness

In Black & White

Produced by Howard Hawks & Directed by Christian Nyby

Screenplay by Charles Lederer (based on the novel 'Who Goes There' by John W Campbell, Jr)

**COMING SOON**

Verdict: 9 out of 10

 (original review Ty Power 2018) 

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