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Category Archives: Movie Reviews 1950s

It the Terror from Beyond Space, 1958

From the DVD case: When his crew is brutally murdered on a Mars expedition, Commander Carruthers becomes the prime suspect. Taken into custody and facing a court-martial back on Earth, he discovers that the real killer – a grotesque, slithering monster – has stowed aboard the earthbound ship. But the indestructible creature has already begun a harrowing in-flight rampage, knocking off the members of the crew one by one. Now, as the spaceship heads home toward a panic-stricken Earth, the remaining crew must find some way to stop the unstoppable “It.” (1958, b&w)

Mark says: You may have heard this film hailed as the inspiration for 1979′s Alien, but you will be disappointed if you go into this movie expecting a prototype for the Ridley Scott classic. It! the Terror from Beyond Space more closely resembles 1951′s The Thing from Another World (Writer Jerome Bixby admits that The Thing was a key inspiration for his story). Unfortunately, the reality is that It! The Terror from Beyond Space is notably inferior to both productions.

It! has a simple but interesting premise. A seemingly indestructible beast stows aboard a spacecraft and kills crew members one at a time. The crew, completely isolated in space, have nothing to rely on but their own wits. With each attempt to kill the beast, they find themselves more desperate and increasingly cornered. By the film’s finale, the surviving crew are trapped at the very top compartment of the rocket as the monster crashes through the final barrier.

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The Blob, image 1

From the DVD case: One of the great cult classics, The Blob melds ’50s schlock sci-fi and teen delinquency pics even as it transcends these genres with strong performances and ingenious special effects. Made outside of Hollywood by a maverick film distributor, a crew experienced in religious and educational shorts, and a collection of theatrical talent from Philadelphia and New York, The Blob helped launch the careers of superstud Steve McQueen and composer Burt Bacharach. (1958, color)

Mark says: There’s something about the simplicity of The Blob that endeared this movie to me as a child. A meteor falls from space, breaks open, and a gray gooey substance emerges. The goo, once attached to a human, ingests the flesh, blood, and bone (turning red in the process) and grows a little bigger. The more people it ingests the larger it gets. Simple.

A group of local teenagers are the first to encounter The Blob (excluding the adults who have already been devoured by the thing), but because they are only teenagers, they have a difficult time convincing authorities of the threat. A great deal of the film involves the teens trying to persuade and warn the adult population of the growing menace. Unfortunately, the only menace the townsfolk will acknowledge are the teenagers.

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Fiend Without A Face, 1958

From the DVD case: A scientist’s thoughts materialize as an army of invisible brain-shaped monsters (complete with spinal-cord tails!) who terrorize an American military base in this nightmarish chiller, directed by Arthur Crabtree (Horrors of the Black Museum). This outstanding sci-fi/horror hybrid is a special effects bonanza, and a high-water mark in British genre filmmaking. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: Fiend Without A Face is an Amalgamated Production, geared to an American audience, but filmed almost entirely in England. A Canadian setting is used to serve two purposes: First, the action is near enough the US border to keep the attention of American film-goers, and second, it helps explain the odd accents. Marshall Thompson (First Man Into Space, It! The Terror from Beyond Space) was given the lead role to further enhance the American ambiance.

Thompson plays Maj. Jeff Cummings, second in command at an American airbase located in Canada. The neighboring community, consisting primarily of dairy farmers, is suspicious of the military’s radiation experiments and blame them for the sudden decrease in milk production.

Kim Parker (Fire Maidens from Outer Space) plays Barbara Griselle, sister to the first victim. Maj. Cummings is immediately attracted to Barbara, though it takes her awhile to warm to him. Barbara is featured in a shower sequence, obviously added to embellish the sexiness of the picture, but the scene comes off as rather tame and a bit awkward. I suppose for 1958 it was very hubba-hubba, though.

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Earth vs the Spider, 1958

From the DVD case: A giant spider goes on a rampage through a small town. Can anyone stop it before it takes over the world? (1958, b&w)

Mark says: If director Bert I. Gordon’s name (Beginning of the End, Empire of the Ants) doesn’t tip you off as to what type of movie this is, the misspelling of “starring” in the title credits should (they add an extra R: “starrring”).

Like a lot of Gordon’s films, Earth vs The Spider has a promising start. Jack Flynn (Merritt Stone) is driving home to surprise his daughter with a locket for her birthday. Jack suddenly sees something stretched across the highway, and before he can stop, he collides with a cable (it’s supposed to be the strand of a giant spiderweb) which slashes through his face in a rather gruesome and bloody manner. That’s where the excitement ends.

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Still from The Fly, 1958

From the video box: Vincent Price portrays the brother of a brilliant research scientist (Al Hedison) who discovers how to transport matter through space. But things take an astoundingly bizarre turn when Hedison’s atoms intermingle with those of a common housefly, leaving him with the head of an insect while his own head is attached to the fly’s body. A gruesome freak of nature, his desperate battle to return to normal becomes all the more difficult when he begins to lose his human will. (1958, color)

Mark says: I don’t think anyone who ever saw this movie as a kid ever forgot it. I know that I never have.

Al Hedison (who later changed his name to David Hedison) and Patricia Owens do a capable job portraying Andre and Helene Delambre, a very happily married couple with a young son, Philippe. You may recognize Philippe (Charles Herbert) as Buck Zorba from 13 Ghosts (1960), or from his minor role in The Monster that Challenged the World (he played one of the kids fighting for the sailor’s cap). Personally, I think he is less than convincing in any role, but his brief appearances in The Fly do not hamper the film, much.

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The Crawling Eye, 1958

From the DVD case: A science fiction terror thriller about a weird creature from outer space that survives in the rarefied atmosphere of the Swiss Alps and terrorizes scientists in a remote high altitude research station. This hideous monster hides in the fog-shrouded cloud of mist and kills its victims by decapitation.

As the mysterious cloud descends on the Swiss village of Trollenberg, United Nations science investigator Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker), Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell) and a young woman with psychic powers (Janet Munro) must find a way to stop the monster’s murderous rampage before it’s too late. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: How can you not love a movie called The Crawling Eye?

This film has a lot going for it: space aliens, decapitations, psychics, a pretty lead actress, a screenplay by Hammer Horror writer Jimmy Sangster, and even a zombie or two. Of course, it’s strongest asset is Forrest Tucker (The Abominable Snowman, The Cosmic Monster) in the role of Alan Brooks. Tucker plays his part solemnly, even while the most ridiculous events are going on around him. His somber portrayal gives at least some legitimacy to the plot.

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I Bury the Living, 1958

From the DVD case: The new manager of a cemetery (Richard Boone) begins to question reality when he places black pins instead of white in the cemetery map, seemingly causing the owners of the plots to die. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: This could have been a great film. It starts out like a really well-done Twilight Zone episode, but ends up like an episode of Scooby-Doo. I can’t recall another film that promises so much and then disappoints so thoroughly.

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Horror of Dracula, 1958.From the DVD case: Dracula (Christopher Lee), a centuries-old nobleman damned to an eternal half-life, travels from his native Transylvania to London. In the lurid nightlife of his adopted city, he finds new victims. He also finds Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), a scientist who becomes the Count’s implacable foe in a deadly game of bat-and-mouse. (1958, color)

Mark says: Hammer Production’s Horror of Dracula is the standard by which I measure all other vampire films. More than Universal’s Dracula with Bela Lugosi, Horror of Dracula brought true chills to the imaginations of the youth of my generation.

Christopher Lee (Horror Hotel, The Wicker Man) plays the celebrated fiend with power and grace, and an animal magnetism that his female victims can not resist. He’s charming when need be, and is appropriately gruesome when in the throes of blood lust.

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Night of the Blood Beast, 1958From the DVD case: The first man into space is killed during his re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists sent to investigate the wreckage discover evidence of an extraterrestrial stowaway alongside the astronaut’s corpse. This insidious force from outer space, reanimates the dead man’s body, using it as a breeding ground for alien embryos. The horrified scientists take refuge in a remote research station while the blood beast picks them off one by one. In a fiery, other-worldly climax the monster reveals his intentions in a dramatic confrontation between the space invader and the forces of Earth. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: The people who wrote the DVD description above should be sued for false advertising. The blood beast certainly does not pick them off “one by one.” In fact, only one person is actually killed by the beast in this picture. I would take issue with the “other-worldly climax,” too, but we’ll leave the description as is for the sake of a synopsis.

Though this movie was directed by Bernard L. Kowalski, it definitely has the cheapie production values of Gene and Roger Corman, who are producer and executive producer, respectively.

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Attack of the 50 Ft Woman, 1958

From the video case: No one will believe Nancy Archer has encountered an alien from space in the desert one dark night. The local sheriff and her doctor think she’s suffering from hallucinations. Her husband, who’s openly having an affair, wants Nancy committed to an asylum so he can take her money and enjoy a life of lustful luxury. But it becomes quite obvious that Nancy is telling the truth when she turns into a 50-foot woman who soon becomes a towering menace as she seeks out her husband to get even. Driven by her murderous rage, the enormous woman stalks through the town destroying everything in her path, determined to take matters into her own giant hands to satisfy her gargantuan craving for revenge. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: Attack of the 50 Ft Woman stars two 1950s B-movie sex kittens in roles for which they will forever be linked. Allison Hayes (The Crawling Hand) plays the angry 50-foot giant, and Yvette Vickers (Attack of the Giant Leeches) portrays the “other woman,” on whom Allison exacts her revenge.

William Hudson (The Amazing Colossal Man) plays the philandering, and very disagreeable husband, Harry Archer.

This movie is so cheap, it rivals Plan 9 from Outer Space as one of the worst movies ever produced. Of course, I mean that in the most complimentary way. It is a perfect delight to watch. The special effects are horrendous (they especially seem to have trouble depicting giant hands) and the dialog, though not as quotable as Plan 9, is corny and laughable. For example, Harry Archer to his wife: “Now you pulled a boner tonight and you know it!”

Every now and then someone will speak of the great feminist statement 50 Ft Woman makes. Personally, I wouldn’t waste time trying to find any message in this film. You will enjoy it more for what it truly is, a good bad movie.

Every mark I give this movie is for pure camp value.

Attack of the 50 Ft Woman is directed by Nathan Hertz, aka Nathan Juran (The Deadly Mantis, The Brain from Planet Arous).

Scene to watch for: Harry, attempting to give his wife a lethal injection, discovers that she has turned into a large papier mache hand.

Line to listen for: “Astounding growth!”

Note: I’ve never seen the 1993 remake of this movie starring Darryl Hannah, but I can’t imagine it being nearly as fun.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! out of 5.

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