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Category Archives: Movie Reviews 1950s

House on Haunted Hill, 1958.From the DVD case: Vincent Price is wonderful as the sinister owner of an old, dark and evil mansion located on a haunted hill. He bribes several of his enemies with an offer of $10,000 each, if they would spend the night in the crumbling mansion. He gives each of his guests a tiny coffin containing a handgun and proceeds to set in motion gadgets and devices aimed at frightening his visitors into using their weapons. Terror, murder and the supernatural make this one of producer/director William Castle’s best films. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: The DVD description above is not entirely accurate, and in fact, is just plain wrong in places, but it will suffice for a loose synopsis of the film.

The one thing the description does have right is that Vincent Price (House of Wax, The Fly) is wonderful as the sinister millionaire, Frederick Loren. He plays the role as the cool, cold-blooded gentleman we’ve come to expect from Mr. Price. Carol Ohmart is his lovely, and it turns out, just as sinister, wife, Annabelle Loren.

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From the DVD case: Something is definitely amiss with the menfolk in this classic 1950s sci-fi thriller. A distraught Marge Farrell (Gloria Talbott, We’re No Angels) is growing increasingly alarmed over the changes in her new husband, Bill (Tom Tryon, The Cardinal), who’s been acting strangely ever since their wedding night. And for good reason: Bill – and most of the other men in their small town – have been taken over by sinister aliens who have arrived on planet Earth to marry human women with the hope of reviving their dying race. Marge has stumbled onto their terrifying plan, and must now convince someone – anyone – to believe her before the aliens completely inhabit the bodies of the entire male population. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: This movie gets a few points just for it’s great campy title. I have to admit, though, that it took awhile for this film to warm on me. At first it seemed like a rip-off of such 50s greats as It Came from Outer Space, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Invaders from Mars. But what this movie lacks in originality, it makes up for with an intriguing story and a 1950’s suburban charm.

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Monster on the Campus, movie still.

From the video case: Fear stalks the seemingly tranquil halls of Dunsfield University with the arrival of a prehistoric fish, the coelacanth.

The terror begins when a student’s (Troy Donahue) lovable pet dog laps up water bloodied by the fish and becomes a savage wolf, attacking Madeline Howard (Joanna Moore). Next, paleontology professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz) is accidentally “bitten” by the coelacanth and blacks out, only to find that a hulking beast has killed one of his friends.

When Blake and two students watch an insect undergo a startling transformation after biting the coelacanth, the picture becomes clearer: Somehow, contact with the fish’s prehistoric blood causes a total collapse of evolution, turning animals – and humans – into mindless, murderous monsters. (1958, b&w)

Mark says: This is a slightly updated version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The substandard acting is only matched by the substandard special effects, which include Arthur Franz in a monkey mask and a large, and an obviously plastic, dragonfly.

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Beginning of the End, image 1

From the video case: Earth becomes an unholy breeding ground for a swarm of giant man-eating locusts that devour everything and everyone in sight. Conventional weapons are no match for the colossal carnivores whose steel jaws crush soldiers like walnuts. Man is hopelessly outnumbered. As a last ditch effort, military strategists dispatch a B-52 bomber carrying an atomic bomb. Chicago will be turned into a nuclear wasteland unless a brilliant entomologist (Peter Graves) can come up with an alternative in time. (1957, b&w)

Mark says: After the success of 1954’s Them! (giant ants), filmmakers were anxious to produce the next lucrative giant insect/animal picture. Over the course of years, several creatures were given the growth treatment with varying degrees of success, including: a praying mantis, a tarantula, a spider, scorpions, leeches, and crabs.

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Curse of the Demon, 1957.

From the video case: When psychologist John (Dana Andrews) Holden’s colleague, Professor Harrington, is mysteriously and brutally murdered, Holden denies that it’s the work of the devil until he becomes the next target of The Curse of the Demon! The supernatural skeptic is plunged into a macabre world of seances and devil worship as he attempts to expose a satanic cult. Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins), convinced that her uncle was slain by demonic means, begs Holden to stop the investigation for his own good. But he ignores her warning until the bizarre cult leader places a death curse on him and suddenly he’s confronted with a demon intent on destroying him! A chilling tale of the occult, Curse of the Demon will take you on an eerie expedition into darkness and danger! (1957, b&w)

Mark says: I really did not expect much from this movie. Something about the title (aka Night of the Demon) sounded so hokey that I expected it to be, at the best, cheesy, and at the worst, a total bore. I’m happy to report that I was very pleasantly surprised.

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From the video case: Michael Landon made his first starring role one to remember. He brings a fierce intensity to the role of Tony, a likable high-schooler prone to outbursts of violence. A psychiatrist (Whit Bissell) treats Tony for his aggression, but the treatment is worse than the disease. Tony becomes a werewolf and begins a murderous spree that makes his past behavior look like a stroll in the park. (1957, b&w)

Mark says: This was an incredibly successful film (grossing ten times its cost within a year of release) and is credited for the string of “I Was A Teenage Fill-In-The-Blank” movies that followed. It’s a delightfully cheesy peek into the 1950s adolescent mindset.

Michael Landon plays Tony Rivers, an angst-ridden, teenage boy. He fights, he loves, he plays pranks, and fights some more. He’s half-way to being a werewolf already when he is sent to Dr. Brandon, played by B-movie regular, Whit Bissell (Creature from the Black Lagoon, Monster on the Campus) who is supposed to help him with his anger issues.

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The Brain from Planet Arous, 1957.

From the video case: Wonderful Atomic Age entertainment with floating brains, telepathic possession, atom bombs, and a scientist whose eyes can destroy planes in mid-flight, plus a sex-starved alien brain monster with lustful desires for beautiful leading lady Joyce Meadows, who delicately refuses it’s advances with a meat ax. (1957, b&w)

Mark says: I don’t normally like to “retell” the movie, but since the above description does not do it justice, I want to briefly outline the plot. Perhaps you will get a better feel for the type of picture this is.

The Brain from Planet Arous stars John Agar (Tarantula, Invisible Invaders) as a man possessed by a brain from another planet (Arous, to be exact).

The evil brain, Gor, has escaped his own planet to dominate and rule Earth. To do this, he needs the body of an earthling, and so he borrows the body of atomic scientist, Steve March (Agar). Gor, enjoying human sensations for the first time, finds himself amorously drawn to Steve’s fiancée, Sally Fallon (Joyce Meadows) and makes passes at her every chance he gets.

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From the video case: This menacing insect kills everything in it’s path while scientist work feverishly to stop it. Craig Stevenson stars as as the commander in charge of of putting an end to this beastly insect with William Hopper (The Bad Seed, 20 Million Miles to Earth) as the paleontologist and Alix Talton (The Man Who Knew Too Much) as his assistant, a photojournalist, assigned to help in this battle between man and mantis! (1957, b&w)

Mark says: This movie is an educational experience. First, we are treated to a basic law of physics: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is used to explain how the mantis is released from his Arctic sleep. Apparently, volcanic activity near the Antarctic Circle causes ice caps to melt at the North Pole where our giant mantis has been frozen since prehistoric times. This is one of the few giant bug movies that does not use nuclear testing/radiation as its explanation for gigantism.

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From the video case: A giant meteor crashes to Earth near the small town of San Angelo, and local geologist Ben Gilbert (Phil Harvey) brings a fragment back for testing. Shortly afterwards, fellow geologist Dave Miller (Grant Williams) shows up and finds the lab filled with rocks and Ben cold and dead, his body turned completely to stone.

Meanwhile, Dave’s girlfriend, Cathy Barrett (Lola Albright), takes her students on a desert field trip and young Ginny Simpson (Linda Scheley) takes one of the strange rocks home. Soon, like the lab, the Simpson farm is in ruins, Ginny’s parents are dead, and she herself is half petrified, but still alive.

Now, in a desperate race against time and nature, Dave and Professor Arthur Flanders (Trevor Bardette) must unlock the secret of the deadly rocks from outer space before they blanket the world and destroy mankind in an unstoppable wave of stone cold terror. (1957, b&w)

Mark says: The Monolith Monsters is one of my favorite lesser-known Universal films. It’s an intriguing, and somewhat unusual story, with an array of colorful characters. The acting isn’t great, mind you, but there is something about these folks that make you like them.

San Angelo is sort of Mayberry with a Twilight Zone twist. Somehow, this movie gets you caught up in its little adventure.

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The Monster That Challenged the World, 1957.

From the DVD case: Lt. John Twillinger thinks he’s seen it all until an earthquake under the Salton Sea unearths a horrifying nest of prehistoric killer crustaceans. Giant, terrifying, and with a hunger for human flesh, the beasts begin feeding on the locals, unleashing a shocking reign of murderous mollusk mayhem. Can Twillinger do anything to stop their spread? Or will the human race be forever left in the snails’ slimy wake? (1957, b&w)

Mark says: This movie focuses more on the human interest angle than most monster films do. There is a lot of drama, but the central focus is between Lt. Twillinger and a young secretary, Gail MacKenzie.

Lt. John “Twill” Twillinger (Tim Holt, primarily known for his western roles) is a naval officer who is “strictly by the book.” However, as the story unfolds, we get to know a more tender side. More on this later.

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