The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958)

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958) movie poster

director  Rafael Portillo
viewed: 10/16/2018

Little wonder that when Jerry Warren got his hands on the Mexican flick La Momia Azteca that he saw the possibilities of chopping and splicing it into a his eventual Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1964). The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy had already cannibalized La Momia Azteca and its sequel La Maldición de la Momia Azteca as the first half of this one, the final in Rafael Portillo’s Aztec Mummy trilogy.

And frankly, I’m guessing that The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy is the only original Aztec Mummy movie you really need. Parts one and two fill up via storytelling flashbacks and voiceovers what you might have needed to know.

Only, like Godzilla later, the Aztec Mummy goes from original villain to monster good guy over the period of his films. The Aztec Mummy is actually kinda cool and scary looking.

I’m not the first to notice that super villain The Bat is a magnificent Z movie Orson Welles. The whole pulp world of the Aztec Mummy feels like Dick Tracy serials. And let me tell you, nothing trudges slower than a mummy except a poorly designed robot.

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy is low grade pulp, but highly pleasing low grade pulp.

Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958)

Frankenstein's Daughter (1958) movie poster

director  Richard E. Cunha
viewed: 09/30/2018

I’m a weirdo. I have very much dug each Richard. E Cunha picture that I have seen. His films don’t get much love. And this would indeed include Frankenstein’s Daughter.

Cunha worked as a photographer in the military and a cinematographer in Hollywood and television post-war. And then in 1958 he busted out four science fiction and horror films, of an originally planned 10 pictures over two years. These included: Giant from the Unknown, She Demons, Missile to the Moon, and Frankenstein’s Daughter. Sure, they’re probably all junk but such fun junk.

“I need a brain!”

The villain of Frankenstein’s Daughter,  Oliver Frank/Frankenstein (played with oozy aplomb by Donald Murphy) is a real sleazeball. Insinuated in the laboratory of a well-meaning scientist and his his niece Trudy (Sandra Knight, unleashes a number of prime screams), he’s first ruffying teenage girls with monster serum, getting very fresh to a point close to sexual assault, and eventually running down a girl for her pliable brain.

No jumble of plot points need hinder the movie rolling on because this one is pretty all over the place. Cunha even has time to cram in a performance by the hardly racy Page Cavanaugh and His Trio, plus Harold Lloyd, Jr. coerced into singing along.

The girl monsters are pretty hilarious and it’s true that the final creature, the titular “daughter” of Frankenstein is much like a lip-sticked pig. Still, I’d watch this a dozen times before any number of the movies in the cinemas today.

Trivia: Frankensteins Daughter would go on to Meet Jesse James and versus Santo (I know it’s not the same thing, but still, quite a career.)

The Brain Eaters (1958)

The Brain Eaters (1958) movie poster

director Bruno VeSota
viewed: 09/22/2018

Honestly, no AIP picture ever lived up to any Albert Kallis poster art. How could it? His work is out-and-out gorgeous and amazing.

That said, I actually enjoyed The Brain Eaters much more than many other 1950s Roger Corman productions.

Bruno VeSota directs what even Corman came to realize was a relative rip-off of Robert Heinlen’s The Puppet Masters (he settled out of court).

It’s these little creepy (though rarely pictured clearly) crawlers with tentacles that attach themselves to the back of the neck and start running humans amok. What’s interesting is they’re not aliens but primordial parasites risen back from time below the earth’s surface. And a young Leonard Nimoy (in Methuselah costume) is their leader.

An interesting brain eater viewpoint attack is quite surprising. Was this an innovation or had this POV creature view been done before, crawling along the floor and up onto the bed?

I actually thought this was pretty good and I don’t have a creature attached to my neck making me say this. Or do I?

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.