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From the DVD case: Beware Tabanga! On a remote South Seas island, no one is safe from this hideous and unique monster. Tabanga is part man, part tree, all doom. Formerly an island prince, he was unjustly put to death by a witch doctor. Now he’s returned to life with roots, branches, and a vengeance. A macabre medley of creature feature, Polynesian kitsch, and Atomic Age cautionary tale, From Hell It Came is the killer-tree movie you woodn’t want to miss! (1957, b&w)

Mark saysFrom Hell It Came is one of those movies that leave an indelible impression on a child’s mind. One of the joys of writing online reviews is being able to help readers identify movies they remember from childhood.  I’m often asked if I can identify the movie “about a tree monster brought to life” by a tribal curse. My own memories regarding this movie are vague, at best, though it did inspire one of my very first nightmares. Unfortunately, that nightmare was scarier, and more memorable, than the actual film.

FHIC has a preposterous premise. Kimo, played by Gregg Palmer (Zombies of Mora Tau, The Creature Walks Among Us) is an island prince, framed for the death of his father, by the local witch doctor, the island chief, and his own wife, Korey, who is having a fling with the chief. Kimo is also accused of consorting with the American scientists who have come to the island to assess the damage caused by radioactive fallout from atomic bomb testing. While studying radiation levels, the scientists discover that the islanders are suffering an epidemic of the Black Plague. Most of the islanders are distrustful of the Americans who are attempting to treat them, but Kimo understands that the White Man’s medicine is good, and this poses a threat to the chief and the witch doctor.

For his transgressions, Kimo is put to death. In a ridiculous opening sequence, Kimo is staked to the ground, surrounded by chickens, and a ceremonial knife is driven through his heart.  However, before he is killed, Kimo puts a curse on the three conspirators, and vows to return to wreak vengeance from beyond the grave. And return he does, as a slow, lumbering, tree beast, known as “the Tabanga.”

The Tabanga was created by the great Paul Blaisdell, bless his heart, the creator of such beasts as The She-Creature and the “It” from It Conquered the World.  Mr. Blaisdell’s creations are not always frightening, but they are memorable, and always entertaining. The Tabanga is no exception (see image at the top of this review). The terrible tree monster is endowed with a permanent scowl and unblinking eyes. It moves clumsily, and at a turtle’s pace. Whenever it bends, the foam rubber construction becomes painfully evident. We can see its beating heart near the ceremonial dagger still plunged in its trunk. This is a true iconic B-movie prop, and easily the highlight of the movie.

From Hell It Came also features a romantic subplot between two of the American Scientists, Dr. William Arnold, played by Tod Andrews (Voodoo Man, 1944), and Dr. Terry Mason, played by Tina Carver (The Man Who Turned to Stone, 1957). Dr. Mason is a modern, strong female, who wants to live a life unhampered by tradition. Dr. Arnold, on the other hand, is a traditionalist who feels every woman wants a husband and children, no matter how obstinately she protests against it. Sadly, after been saved by Dr. Arnold, the strong-willed Dr. Mason seems to give up her convictions and agrees to the traditional role of wife and mother. This was predictable, but still a disappointment.

It’s not the laughable monster, nor the absurd plot that is the downfall of this movie, though. After all, foam rubber monsters and outlandish stories are what great B-movies are made of. What really kills this film is it’s dragging pace and tedious dialog. Not even a racy shower scene with Tina Carver can invigorate the segments not featuring the Tabanga. Linda Watkins, in the comedy relief role of Mrs. Mae Kilgore, only manages to make the slow scenes more grating. My guess is, if you remember this movie fondly from childhood, you’ll be disappointed to view it again as an adult. The novelty of Blaisdell’s Tabanga saves this film for me, but less hardcore fans are apt to be disenchanted.

Professional wrestler, Chester Hayes, not only plays Tabanga, the tree monster, but also the native, Maku (featured most prominently during the final sequences). Also, listen for Tina Carver’s screams while she is being abducted by the tree beast. They are some of the worst screams in all movie history. She sounds eerily similar to my cat hacking up a fur ball.

This movie effectively ended Milner Brothers Productions (Dan and Jack Milner) who produced The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues two years earlier.

Directed by Dan Milner.

Scene to watch for: The unstoppable Tabanga rises from the smoldering fire pit to exact revenge.

Line to listen for: “Will you stop being a doctor first and a woman second? Let your emotions rule you, not your intellect.”

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ½ out of 5.

IMDb Link

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11 Comments

  1. It’s good to see you back, Mark. I really enjoyed reading your review. I’ve seen a clip from this movie, but don’t remember seeing the whole thing. I’m sure this would have scared me as a kid. The monster is somewhat frightening, if you look past its “plastic” appearance.

    • Good to be back, Paul! I truly do remember the nightmare I had after seeing this movie more than the film itself. When I posted reviews more regularly, I used to get questions about this movie fairly often. When I saw it was offered as part of Warner Brothers’ Archive Collection, I had to pick it up. I don’t regret it, but the monster certainly isn’t the nightmare-inspiring creature I remember from childhood.

  2. Yeah, it’s the same thing with me and the Indian with the sewn up lips from 4 Skulls. He’s not as scary as he is silly looking now, but when I was a pre-teen, simply seeing a photo of him in a monster magazine would reignite the nightmares.

    • A little off topic, but along the same lines: I used to LOVE the Abbott and Costello movies like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, etc., when I was a kid. I was thrilled to finally purchase some of them on DVD, only to find that I could hardly sit through them! Not even nostalgia value saved them for me. On the other hand, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars was a movie I didn’t care for as a kid, but one I appreciate now.

  3. I know what you mean. Many movies have done a 180 on me. Just last night we watched a Rock Hudson comedy that I thought was the funniest movie ever made when I saw it on TV in the 60s, but now it just seemed slow and boring. Isn’t it funny how our tastes change over the years?

    • Probably a good thing our tastes do change, or I’d still be eating pixie sticks and watching Scooby Doo. Ok, I admit it, sometimes I do just that. ;)

  4. I was around 8 years old when i saw from hell it came .Our house had a winding hallway covered in wood panaling and was always dark. I was terrified to go threw there because of that picture .I felt that tree was waiting for me to throw me in quicksand.Here we are 35 years later i thought about it and type tree monstersand quicksand and what do you know BINGO its now ordered and on the way here .Now the rest of the family who never saw it and just thought i was scared of the dark will see that the tree monster existed in that movie.Ha Ha it’ll be great to see it again.

    • It will be a real treat for you, John! It’s always fun to revisit the traumatic films of your past. Your family, on the other hand, might be baffled by your fear after seeing the “terrible Tabanga.” ;)

  5. I LOVE this film! From the natives wearing bananas on their heads to mighty Tabanga himself, everything about this WONDERFUL production entertains. The confusing plot has everything…deceit, betrayal, murder, plague, atomic fallout, witchcraft…something for everyone! The women are gorgeous for the most part, especially when required to roll around on the grass pulling each others hair or ‘run’ from the spiteful stump as it rampages murderously after them. Films like this are a real treat, and I have a blog dedicated to them, complete with links so that you can watch them as well as read my own little reviews. It’s free to watch and no registration is required, so if you like From Hell It Came and movies of a similar kind, please feel free to click on the link below…I have the link for FHIC (with French subtitles, but don’t let that put you off!), also It Conquered the World and many more!

  6. Or simply click on my name on the left…it takes you to my film blog…hope to see you there soon!


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