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 says: From 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.
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From the DVD case: Director Edward L. Cahn teams with another great writer, Bernard Gordon (using his blacklist nom de plume, Raymond T. Marcus) for this delightfully loopy adventure about a sunken ship’s cargo of diamonds guarded by its zombified crew members. And wouldn’t ya know it, there’s a bunch of foolhardy scavengers who aren’t scared of the swimming dead. (1957, b&w)
Mark says: The DVD description gives us a hint as what to expect from Zombies of Mora Tau. It’s never favorable to hear a zombie flick described as a “delightfully loopy adventure.” It makes you think the film might feature Abbott and Costello (which it doesn’t).
What Zombies of Mora Tau does have is a strong cast of B-movie regulars. Most notably, Allison Hayes (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) stars as Mona Harrison, a greedy and voluptuous vixen. Mona has her eyes set on Jeff Clark, played by Gregg Palmer (From Hell It Came, The Creature Walks Among Us), even though she is married to George Harrison (Joel Ashley). Morris Ankrum (Kronos, Earth vs the Flying Saucers) portrays Dr. Jonathan Eggert, a man more interested in a story than diamonds. Marjorie Eaton (The Reincarnation of Peter Proud) is a Maria Ouspenskaya-like character (see The Wolf Man) known as Grandmother Peters. You’ll also recognize Gene Roth (Twice-Told Tales, Attack of the Giant Leeches) as Sam, the chauffeur.
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From the DVD case: In an act of cosmic irony, an enormous bird from outer space descends upon the Earth and begins chowing down on people. As usual, scientists and the military must team up to save our planet. This hysterically feathered fable stars sci-fi icons Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, and Robert Shayne, and is directed by Fred F. Sears. (1957, b&w)
Mark says: It was such a treat to find this movie on DVD. As a devoted fan of 1950’s schlock entertainment, I knew The Giant Claw was legendary in its appalling production values and “special effects.” I’ve seen stills and I’ve read articles, but until recently, I had never actually seen the film. I must say, it was worth the wait.
The Giant Claw starts out like countless other cheap sci-fi/horror flicks of the time. We get a lot of stock footage of military operations and rotating radar dishes. A narrator sets the scene: “An electronics engineer. A radar officer. A mathematician and systems analyst. A radar operator. A couple of plotters. People doing a job, well, efficiently. Serious. Having fun. Doing a job. Situation: normal. For the moment.”
Oh, we know its going to be bad, but there’s no way to anticipate how wonderfully terrible it’s going to get.
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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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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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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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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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