Sunday, January 31, 2016

THE CYCLOPS 1957

Blogathon



"It Was A Monster - Yet It was a Man !"
"You'll Hardly Believe What Your Eyes See !"




    Although Allied Artists produced and/or distributed many first rate crime, western, noir & drama films they also seemed to had an affinity for low budget horror films including the entertainingly ludicrous Karloff vehicle FRANKENSTEIN 1970, the lurid THE HYPNOTIC EYE and the classic "walking tree of terror" FROM HELL IT CAME along with this 1957 effort from Bert I. "Mr. B.I.G." Gordon. One of Gordon's earlier efforts THE CYCLOPS is also one of his more impoverished and woefully cheap films (which is really saying something), but like all of Bert's films it still a wonderfully entertaining little piece of low budget sci-fi/horror. It's helped immensely by the presence of Gloria Talbot,  which along with this and I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, THE LEECH WOMAN and Edgar G. Ulmer's interesting DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL (which played on dbl. bills with THE CYCLOPS) found a niche in films such as this and always could be counted on to give a performance that was often more then the material warranted.
    Talbot plays Susan Winter who gathers together a disparate group of four men in order to search for her missing fiance who disappeared in a remote valley in northern Mexico while exploring for uranium several years before. Along for the ride are Roger Craig (WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS) as Russ Bradford who was a friend of Talbot's fiance and has ulterior motives for the trip as he wants to prove the fiance dead in order to marry Talbot. He also serves as the film's nominal hero and scientist whose there to explain the strange goings on with writer Bert I. Gordon's typical head scratching "scientific" explanations (we can tell Russ is a scientist as his first introduced wearing Clark Kent-like glasses and continually puffs away thoughtfully on his pipe).
    Plus there's, a scenery chewing Lon Chaney Jr. as prospector Martin "Marty" Melville who hopes to find a rich uranium strike and Lee Brand, a pilot with a shady reputation who will fly them to the mysterious valley (who talks constantly about himself in the third person) and is played by Tom Drake (who showed up on practically every TV show in the 60's and 70's).




     After being forced to evade the Mexican authorities who will not give them permission to venture into the valley, the group makes a rough landing in the valley as a suddenly crazy Marty (a personality trait he lapses into about every 15 minutes or so here) grabs the controls of the plane and knocks out the pilot. Upon landing Marty immediately finds his uranium and pleads with the group to head back immediately.
    Susan however preservers and presses on with Russ where they begin to see giant animals such as a lizard, a hawk and most bizarrely a groundhog (which is eaten by the hawk !). These are all rendered with Bert's usual somewhat iffy rear projection process whereupon footage of actual animals is superimposed on the screen with the actors all standing on one side of the screen vaguely gesturing and interacting with the creatures on the opposite side of the screen. Russ summarizes that the radiation present in the valley is causing the growth and that they'll soon be mutating.
      The group soon discover a giant roaming the area with a huge lump of flesh over one eye, a snaggle tooth grimace (along with a loin cloth) and appears to be a distant cousin of the creature in Bert's WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. Some wreckage from a plane and bits of clothing from Susan's fiance are also found and after venturing into Bronson Caverns they're trapped by the "Cyclops" as he rolls a huge boulder in front of the entrance and then spends some time snarling and grunting at them. Susan seems to have some sort of connection to the giant as Russ ventures the theory that she is recognized by him. and it soon becomes exceedingly obvious to everyone except for Susan and her intrepid group who the giant really is.




     Clocking in at 67 minutes, like most of Gordon's output there's fascinatingly weird curiosity in viewing THE CYCLOPS with its endearingly inept special effects as the rear projected images often having that low budget patented partially invisible look to them and the stilted and often time unintentionally hilarious dialogue. The sequence where the group sneaks past the stiff as a board sleeping cyclops is worth the price of admission in itself and there's an entertainingly daffy scene with the cyclops attempting to wrestle with an obviously drugged & lackadaisical snake.
     Talbot's Susan shows the most backbone of all the characters and in a bit of a change is the one who's constantly pushing and prodding along the somewhat ineffectual males, although the climax finds Russ going to full hero mode (along with channeling a bit of Odysseus from Homer's The Odyssey) and the somewhat shifty Lee rises to occasion while constantly reminding everyone he's part Cherokee.
     Gloria Talbot had a couple big roles in major pictures such as Douglas Sirk's ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (in which she's quite good in a small, but important role) and Michael Curtiz's WE'RE NO ANGELS, but seemed to settle into roles in TV and low budget westerns and horror and always seemed to gamely try her best no matter what the film (as here). She gives a great little performance as the unknowing wife in I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE from 1958.
     Sporting the classic pencil thin mustache and a shock of brylcreem laden hair, Roger Craig is OK as the co-male lead and a somewhat stocky hero who in addition makes his feelings toward Talbot's character obvious from the get-go (which doesn't seem to bother her too much). His best role was probably in Fritz Lang's newspaper crime drama WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS where carried with on with Rhonda Fleming behind hubby Vincent Price's back.




    After appearing in some excellent small character roles in movies such I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES, HIGH NOON and SPRINGFIELD RIFLE, Lon Chaney Jr. was already well into his decent into lower and lower budgeted films. Although he would have a nice little role in 1958's THE DEFIANT ONES and  later appear Jack Hill's excellent cult classic SPIDER BABY and Roger Corman's THE HAUNTED PALACE, Chaney would sadly watch his career spiral downward in the coming decades before his death in 1973. Only 49 at the time of filming THE CYCLOPS he looks at least 20 years older here and as the treasure hunting "Marty" he's alternately sullen/sweaty or chewing the scenery with abandon. The actor playing the title character has been referred to as an un-billed stunt man, while some sources claim it was Dean Parkin from WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST.
     Warner Archive has released THE CYCLOPS in a nice anamorphic 1.78 transfer. The initial release mistakenly was cut as it was minus a bit of bloody cyclops eye spearing but Warner quickly issued a new version.
      A big thanks to my very good friend Toby over at 50 Westerns From The 50's  for putting this blogathon together.












   

4 comments:

  1. You know, you cleared something up for me. Im not sure why, but I've had this movie and War of the Colossal Beast merged in my brain. I don't think I realized it was two different films. Both very cool, odd monsters in my humble opinion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The two big guys do look alike in both movies. I love Bert Gordon's stuff. I grew up watching them on Sat. afternoon TV - and your right there is something odd & cool about them.

      Delete
  2. This looks like a sweet movie will have to put it on my radar!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it's pretty cool and like all of Bert's efforts it definitely worth a little over 60 minutes of your time.

      Delete