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Category Archives: Movie Reviews 1950s

Indestructible Man (1956)From the DVD case: Brought back to life by a scientist after being executed, a violent criminal hunts down his foes. Lon Chaney Jr. is “The Butcher,” large, incredibly strong, newly mute, and seriously angry. (1956,b&w)

Mark says: Indestructible Man ineffectively blends film noir with a monster movie. Neither genre is elevated through the union due to a horrendous script, lousy acting, poor editing, uninspired direction, and just an overall rotten concept. If not for an affection for Lon Chaney Jr. and a fondness for camp horror, I would have never made it through its 70 minute running time.

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The Manster, 1962

From the DVD case: An American reporter is sent to interview a Tokyo-based scientist. The scientist goes completely mad, and while experimenting with mutations, he turns the reporter into a two headed monster called The Manster, half-man and half-monster. The ending is truly bizarre. (1962, b&w)

Mark says: The Manster. Even the title sounds like a joke. This American/Japanese production is just as silly as the title suggests, though it does have a few eerie moments and one unforgetable scene.

Satoshi Nakamura (The Human Vapour, Mothra) plays Dr. Robert Suzuki, a Japanese scientist who attempts to speed up evolution to create an entirely new species of man. We learn early on that two of Dr. Suzuki’s experiments have failed miserably. His first experiment on his wife, Emiko (Toyoko Takechi), resulted in half of her face practically drooping off. This is actually a disturbing sight, especially in combination with her constant groaning and screaming. Emiko, reduced to the status of a grotesque beast, is kept in a cage in the doctor’s lab.

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Plan 9, Tor rises from the grave

From the DVD case: Cult Director Ed Wood’s “cinematic masterpiece” and also regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. Alien invaders use their dreaded “Plan Nine” to re-animate dead earthlings. They wreak havoc and unleash a host of things bizarre, macabre, horrific, and just plain horrible. (1959, b&w)

Mark says: Plan 9 from Outer Space has to be one of the most famous “cult” films of all time. It is often regarded as the worst movie ever (it’s not), and its director, the infamous Ed Wood, Jr, is routinely crowned the worst director in the history of cinema (he’s not).

Even if you’ve never seen Plan 9 from Outer Space, you’ve probably heard about its legendary goofs. Tombstones fall down, scenes inexplicably change from night to day, the boom mike is visible, you can see the wires on the flying saucers (which look like hubcaps), and the list goes on and on (to read a partial list of goofs, click here.)

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The Tingler, image 1

From the DVD case: Vincent Price stars as an obsessed doctor who discovers that fear manifests itself as a parasitic creature, which grows on the spinal cords of terrified people. If they scream, the Tingler can be destroyed. If they don’t, it will sever the spinal column and kill them. He successfully isolates and removes the Tingler from a deaf mute (Judith Evelyn) who has been scared to death by her devious husband. Once captured, the Tingler escapes and runs amok in a crowded movie theater. Terror is loose, but can it be stopped? (1959, b&w)

Mark says: There is nary a scene in The Tingler that isn’t filled to the brim with absurdity. Of course, with a William Castle picture (I Saw What You Did, House on Haunted Hill), you don’t expect much else.

Castle was the king of gimmicks and for The Tingler he created “Percepto.” At larger theaters, Castle had one of every ten seats rigged with an electric motor that would buzz and vibrate at just the right moments. The premise being that if audience members screamed, they could escape the clutches of the “Tingler,” thus saving their own lives. A silly gimmick, to be sure, but it must have been wonderful fun.

Vincent Price (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Pit and the Pendulum) is Dr. Warren Chapin, a pathologist researching the phenomena of fear. Warren ultimately discovers that the tingle you feel on your spine when you are afraid is an actual living creature that can only be kept at bay by screaming. Warren further postulates that if a person were somehow prevented from screaming, the Tingler would actually kill that person by crushing his/her spine. And that, my friend, is the ridiculous basis of this film.

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From the DVD case: A young wife (Beverly Garland) is abandoned by her husband (Richard Crane) on their wedding day. Distraught, she traces him to his ancestral home in the bayous of Louisiana, where, amid the swamps and deadly undergrowth, she discovers a terrible secret.

Her husband was saved from death by an experimental medical procedure involving serum derived from alligators, and now he’s developing horrifying side effects. She’ll face any danger to help him, but soon discovers her love may not be enough. (1959,b&w)

Mark says: When film historian Tom Weaver asked Beverly Garland about her experiences during The Alligator People, she replied, “The hardest thing in that movie was simply to keep a straight face.” That gives you an idea as to the type of movie we are dealing with here. Of course, you probably already guessed that from the title.

Most of The Alligator People is told in flashback. A psychiatrist, Dr. MacGregor (Douglas Kennedy; The Amazing Transparent Man) discovers that his nurse has suffered a traumatic shock that she can only remember through hypnosis. The nurse, played by Beverly Garland (It Conquered the World) has taken on a new identity since the trauma, completely repressing the events that led to her breakdown. The story unfolds through Garland’s narrative while under hypnosis.

Beverly Garland is not just window dressing to support a leading man, but the true star of this picture. She plays Jane Marvin, who, before her trauma, was known as Joyce Webster. Because most of the story takes place in the past, I will refer to Garland’s character as Joyce for the remainder of this review.

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Teenagers from Outer space, 1959

From the video case: A strange flying saucer lands in the desert near Hollywood, bringing a deadly menace to Earth: A mischievous gang of teenagers from outer space! Derek, the one alien whose not a hoodlum, makes his way into town and meets a cute little Earth girl, Betty Morgan, who has stars in her eyes. Interplanetary relations begin.

Thor, the teen alien bully unleashes his pet Gargon monster. It grows to titanic proportions and devours its way into the heart of Hollywood. Will Earth survive? (1959, b&w)

Mark says: As in many cases, the video box description above isn’t entirely accurate, but will suffice as a synopsis.

The first thing you notice about this movie is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a teenager in it, despite the title. At the very least, the aliens appear to be in their early twenties. But this is completely forgivable, as older people are often used to portray teenagers in movies (one of my favorite examples is Steve McQueen’s portrayal of a teenager in The Blob.)

Some other aspects of this movie are less forgivable, though. The acting, for example. It’s so cheesy you’ll find yourself craving crackers after the first ten minutes. Of course, you need cheesy acting to go along with all that cheesy dialog. That’s right, Teenagers from Outer Space is a complete cheesefest. Still, don’t let all that cheese stop you from enjoying the story. After all, sometimes we hanker for a hunk-a cheese.

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From the video case: London is fear struck, and Scotland Yard is baffled by a series of strange murders that have plagued the city. Stories of the atrocities, by crime journalist Edmond Bankcroft (Michael Gough), come to their own conclusions missed by the “Yard.” This is because of the fact that Edmond is behind these horrible crimes in order to create material for his writing. Along with his assistant, Rick (Graham Curnow) who helps him run a private “Black Museum” filled with murder and torture devices. (1959,color)

Mark says: This film features the amazing gimmick of Hypno Vista, a technique which “actually puts you in the picture.” Ok, so maybe it’s not that amazing, and maybe it doesn’t really put you into the picture, but it is a bit of fun. What Hypno Vista is exactly, is a psychologist (Emile Franchel) who, at the beginning of the movie, gives a lecture on the power of suggestion. Then, before the film starts, he “hypnotizes” you so you feel the full shock and terror of the picture.

Hypno Vista doesn’t work, of course, but it does provide some amusement. Unfortunately, it is not entertaining enough, and it lasts too long, to withstand repeated viewings. You’ll most likely fast forward through this section of the film after watching it once or twice.

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The Bat, 1959

From the video case: Mystery writer Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) has rented a remote mansion for the summer. One night, a prowler tagged “The Bat” invades the guarded house, terrorizing Cornelia and her maid. The resourceful novelist decides to set a trap to capture “The Bat.” (1959, b&w)

Mark says: This movie seems older than it is due to the stagy acting. The Bat is based on the play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, so that accounts for its theatrical leanings.

Vincent Price (House of Wax, House on Haunted Hill) and Agnes Moorehead (Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte) make this a worthwhile production, but just barely.

I’m not a big fan of the “whodunit” genre, and so this film had to work harder to keep my attention. I admit that there is a bit of a guessing game as to the identity of the killer (we have so many red herrings thrown at us that the place reeks like a fish market), but when “The Bat” is finally unveiled, we’re not terribly surprised.

If I wasn’t such a big fan of Mr. Price, I doubt this movie would have held any value for me. However, his performance is strong enough to make the film interesting, and the movie is somewhat successful in setting a spooky/mysterious atmosphere, which helps its cause.

The Bat also features Gavin Gordon (1933′s Mystery of the Wax Museum) as Lt. Andy Anderson, and Darla Hood, who you may remember as Darla from the Our Gang/Little Rascals series.

This picture is directed by Crane Wilbur, who also wrote the screenplay for Mysterious Island.

Scene to watch for: Lt. Anderson discovers that Dr. Wells (Price) has a suspicious bat shrine in his laboratory.

Line to listen for: “Only the shivers? Scared hell out of me!”

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ½ out of 5.

IMDB Link

Attack of the Giant Leeches, 1959

From the DVD case: A bar owner forces his wife and her lover into a murky Southern swamp to be eaten by giant leeches. These over-sized bloodsucking monsters soon develop an appetite for human flesh. Sometimes scary, sometimes chilling, but always low-budget and slimy, this cult classic makes a fine choice for a late night scare/laugh. (1959, b&w)

Mark says: Sometimes I wonder if the people who write descriptions for DVD cases have actually watched the movies they are describing. Anyway, this is a movie about giant leeches in a swamp.

You’ll recognize a lot of the same cast and crew from the movie Night of the Blood Beast. Low-budget kings Roger and Gene Corman produce the picture, and Bernard L. Kowalski directs it. You’ll also see Michael Emmet and Tyler McVey again as Cal Moulton and Doc Greyson, respectively. What this movie has, though, is what Night of the Blood Beast sorely lacks, Yvette Vickers (Attack of the 50 Ft Woman).

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From the DVD case: There’s not just one man but armies of men on the moon and they’ve come to take over the Earth – one corpse at a time! Perfecting their body-snatching skills, invisible moon-men have taken over our dead! Can a scientist, a sergeant, and a sexy gal figure out a way to destroy these invading grave robbers and defeat their transparent plot? (1959, b&w)

Mark says: This movie is so stupid you can actually feel your IQ dropping as you watch it. Fortunately for us, sometimes this is exactly what we want from a B picture.

I can’t even begin to list all the things that are wrong with this movie. The entire premise is so ridiculous that my jaw goes slack thinking about it. Men from the moon, who have been living there invisibly for the last 20,000 years, attempt to overthrow Earth by commandeering human corpses. Really. That’s the story.

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