She Demons (1958)

She Demons (1958) movie poster

director  Richard E. Cunha
viewed: 06/03/2018

“The body of a woman with the face of a demon!”

She Demons is cheap pulp horror/adventure featuring a mad Nazi scientist based in an underground island volcano laboratory, experimenting on kidnapped girls, turning them (temporarily) into She Demons. A shipwrecked pleasure crew (including ultra-vixen Irish McCalla, Victor “Number 2 Son” Sen Yung, and Tod Griffin) land on the island and discover its bizarre secrets.

First they encounter the all white native girls, “The Diane Nellis Dancers” dancing up a storm. Then the Nazis.

It’s cheap and corny and wooden at times, but it also occasionally perks up as fun. The make-up effects are hilariously camp, yet a genuine S&M undercurrent suffuses the Nazi villains. It also features some insinuated violence that seems pretty strong for 1958.

I was also struck that this vague twist on The Island of Dr. Mureau might also have influenced the films of Eddie Romero and Gerardo de Leon.

Richard E. Cunha is a deeply anomalous 1950’s horror/sci-fi director. He made four flicks, all in one year Giant from the Unknown, She Demons, Frankenstein’s Daughter, and Missile to the Moon, 1958. And then he stopped.

She Demons, for my money at least, is some pretty decent late Fifties junk.

Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

Devil Girl from Mars (1954) movie poster

director David MacDonald
viewed: 05/30/2018

“Nothing like a good cup of tea in a crisis.”

Devil Girl from Mars or possibly “The Day a Small Nameless Scottish Village Stood Still” is 1950’s science fiction by way of the UK.

The war of the sexes was won on Mars by the ladies, but afterward, their men became weak and useless. So, Mars needs men! And to gather some prime specimens, they sent a gothy Agnes Moorehead type (Patricia Laffan) and her handy (though rather clumsy) robot named “Chani” (Per a cited reference in the Wikipedia entry, Chani was actually “fully automated,” something that seems rather dubious, but okay!)

The very noisy spacecraft lands in wee old Scotland. Some problem with the atmosphere drifted them from their original London location. The flick features a lot of additional character dramas and backstories (a young Hazel Court among them) that both fills it out and bloats it as well. 

It might not be spectacular, but it’s give the world a cosplay character for the ages.

Space Invasion of Lapland (1959)

Space Invasion of Lapland (1959) movie poster

director Virgil W. Vogel
viewed: 04/27/2018

I began Space Invasion of Lapland as the Jerry Warren version Invasion of the Animal People with John Carradine. But midway, I switched over to Terror in the Midnight Sun, which is a less bastardized American version of this Swedish 1959 sci-fi horror flick filmed in English. It’s interesting that IMDb doesn’t give Warren credit for his version. Maybe he didn’t add or change enough.

Both versions feature the super pretty Barbara Wilson, an American in Sweden, who just happens to coincide with the landing of an alien ship, the slaughter of a bunch of reindeer, and eventually a big ol’ hairy monster guy, a kind of outer space King Kong landed in snowy Lappland.

You know, it’s got a lot to recommend it, though it’s also slow and draggy at times. The monster sequences are good fun, a forced perspective giant beast, hairy as all get-out. Is he big enough to be a kaiju?

Oh, and the aliens. When they suddenly start appearing on screen, it’s almost a modernist comic alien Death from The Seventh Seal.

Weird and cool.

 

Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964)

Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964)

directors  Koreyoshi Akasaka, Akira Mitsuwa
viewed: 12/13/2017

Evil Brain from Outer Space is my type of pop surrealism, like someone slipped some acid in your cheap hot sake.

It’s like an old fashioned serial meets 1950’s Superman TV show, madein Japan, of course, with bananas hackneyed dubbing, writing, and voice acting.

“I was trying to bring the brain here to you , Dr. Sakurai . Because it’s imperative that it be destroyed. To do so won’t be easy. Its indestructible.”

Okay, making fun of the dialog or voiceover is like shooting fish in a barrel. That said, I’m not sure the American soundtrack could be improved upon. It’s pure silly awesome genius.

This film, as it is, is an edited fabrication for American audiences of a couple of Super Giant movies from late 1950’s Japan.  Really, it’s one of a set, including Atomic Rulers of the World, Attack from Space and Invaders from Space, all adapted from the film series featuring Japan’s first cinematic superhero.

The action is almost non-stop and trying to transcribe the plot seems near impossible. It’s best taken as is, a straight-up late-night (or anytime) hallucination of cosmic weirdness and hilarious wonder, and 1950’s parkour, by which I mean lots of jumping and editing for action fights and leaps and flying by the seat of your tights (attached to a visible cable). Also, some really cute kids are in it, though they turn into other cute kids partway through (I think.)

That’s the point: don’t think. Just enjoy.

The Night the World Exploded (1957)

The Night the World Exploded (1957) movie poster

director Fred F. Sears
viewed: 11/01/2017

One of the first ever natural disaster movies (please check me on this), The Night the World Exploded shows that it’s not nice to trick Mother Nature.

“It’s almost as if the earth were striking back at us for the way we’ve robbed her of her natural resources. Not very scientific, is it?” This line is spoken by “Hutch”, played by Kathryn Grant, not only the sole woman in science, but virtually the sole woman in the movie.

Made by producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears as second feature with their astoundingly hilarious The Giant Claw (1957), The Night the World Exploded is by contrast a more earnest horror film. Human activity has brought about a new very unstable element higher into the planet’s crust, causing massive earthquakes.

Hopeful science, like cloud-seeding, saves the day. The element is neutralized in water, so busting dams and flooding places, causing rain somehow solves everything. I say it’s hopeful because humans are able to clean up their messes. An unlikely scenario in which we currently reside.

It Conquered the World (1954)

It Conquered the World (1954) movie poster

director Roger Corman
viewed: 09/24/2017

It Conquered the World (spoiler: It didn’t)

Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World is really a half-decent 1950’s sci-fi alien invasion picture. It’s undermined (or alternatively enhanced), however, by a classically comical schlock monster that is almost impossible to take seriously.

In the 1950’s it’s always about Communism, isn’t it?

The film starts with a nice opening shot following cool, low budget title sequence. More than anything, it features a cast of folks who perform well and would go on to bigger, better things. Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Peter Graves perform nobly.

It features some quintessential 50’s sexism, what with women not understanding stuff like science and whatnot, though also winds up having the wife take on the monster with a shotgun towards the end. So, feminism?

“The world is full of fat heads, full to overflowing.”

Charming.

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958)

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958) movie poster

directors  Tom Boutross, Robert Clarke
viewed: 09/20/2017

“Whiskey and soda mix, not whiskey and science.”

That line, uttered early in 1950’s sci-fi/horror flick, The Hideous Sun Demon, is the film’s tell as to its real significance. Alcoholism isn’t subtext so much as pretty well-woven into the film’s full text.

Many have compared The Hideous Sun Demon to a werewolf movie, probably because the monster is brought about, rather than by recognition of a full moon, but under the eye of the sun. Writer/star/director Robert Clarke thought it more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of thing, but it’s not the sun as much as the booze that brings out the beast in Dr. Gilbert McKenna (Clarke). It’s his own booziness that caused the accident that exposed him to nuclear radiation in the first place and warranted the “whiskey and science” quip.

And it’s his need for hooch that drives him continually out of the shadowy confines of his home and into dangerous situations. It’s what leads his to meeting Trudy, the lounge singer (played by the voluptuous Nan Peterson), who he leaves naked on a beach when his monstrous realization starts again. Peterson “sings” Marilyn King’s “Strange Pursuit”, a nice jazzy number, reminiscent of Chet Baker.

Some of the best parts of the film are the location shots around more desolate parts of the greater 1950’s Los Angeles, especially the oil derricks and old shacks. I also though that Suzy the little girl (Xandra Conkling) was pretty funny. She’s petulant and conniving like no other 1950’s moppet I’ve seen on film or television. She was taking those cookies and sneaking out no matter what mom said!

Oh yeah, and the monster costume is pretty cool.

For an independent production, shot on weekends with USC students, it’s really a pretty decent film. Perhaps more interesting as a cheapo The Lost Weekend meets 1950’s science fiction that any straight-up pure quality.

From Hell It Came (1957)

From Hell It Came (1957) movie poster

director Dan Milner
viewed: 06/18/2017

If they made Moana in 1957, it might have come out as From Hell It Came. It’s a time when depicting stories from the South Seas had nothing to do with broadening inclusiveness. Rather these islands were exotica and the primitive all rolled into one, and the depictions herein are as mangled and weird as any rendering Polynesia on film.

But goddam! The “Tobanga”, tree zombie, resurrected for revenge. Made by Paul Blaisdell, he might not exactly get around all that easily, but he can carry a swooning beauty with any monster from the 1950’s. Add that together with the pretty awesome poster and the title, From Hell It Came, and you’ve got a pretty compelling potash no matter what actually happens in the movie.

Me, I love this kind of stuff. So much so, I don’t really know exactly how to rate it.

It features a slew of really funny lines, whose intentionality ranges broadly. The monster tree has a heartbeat (apparently exterior) that looks quite like a swollen sphincter as much like a knurl. Wonderful crackpot pseudoscience too.

Sublime junk.

The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

The Astounding She Monster (1957) movie poster

director  Ronald V. Ashcroft
viewed: 05/16/2017

To be fair, The Astounding She Monster has an astounding movie poster. This one is another by artist Albert Kallis, who drafted many great 1950’s horror and science fiction images for Roger Corman’s AIP and others. I love his work so much.

The movie The Astounding She Monster is another thing altogether. The “She Monster” of the title is just a blonde in a body suit with some funny eye make-up. She kills by touch and falls into a rural kidnapping plot that isn’t probably worth describing. True or not, that Ed Wood, Jr. worked on this picture as a consultant, isn’t really all that surprising.

I have a serious soft spot for 1950’s horror and science fiction and even I will tell you that this is not as much fun as many others. But at 62 minutes, you won’t have to sacrifice much of your life to check this one off your list.

The Neanderthal Man (1953)

The Neanderthal Man (1953) movie poster

director Ewald André Dupont
viewed: 03/28/2017

How many mad scientist reverted to caveman movies were made in the 1950’s?

I grew up with Jack Arnold’s Monster on the Campus (1958) but little did I know of Ewald André Dupont’s The Neanderthal Man of five years earlier. Mad scientists gotta do what mad scientists gotta do and sometimes that is to play around with formulae to revert evolution. To be fair to the scientist of Monster on the Campus, his coming about was more by pure near slap-stick accident. The Neanderthal Man‘s scientist is more driven by discovery and having been rejected by his peers.

Dupont was once a prominent German director of the Silent Era, but his career shifted once he landed in Hollywood, and somehow late in life he found himself directing his first monster movie.

I’d say it’s almost exactly half-bad. Which means that it’s exactly half-sort-of-good in that 1950’s sci-fi/horror way. 1953 is still the early part of the decade and this looks like a B-production’s B-production, so this is a mix of not yet full-on clichés and rather uninspired film-making.

But I’ve got a soft spot for this biz.