CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

THE COSMIC MAN

1959. Directed by Herbert S. Greene

An independent sci-fi escapade that sees an alien from another world come and offer the human race a chance at interplanetary peace.  It is par for the course that the armed forces become involved and make a hash of things and we are left wondering if another attempt at space age peace will ever be made.

The film begins with a strange white sphere coming to land inside Stone Canyon in Oak Ridge with the UFO duly investigated by USAF Col. Matthews (Paul Langton) and the astrophysicist, Dr. Karl Sorenson (Bruce Bennett). Living nearby is widower Kathy Greene (Angela Greene), who runs a nearby tourist lodge, and her wheelchair bound son Ken (Scotty Morrow). Later that night a humanoid figure leaves the sphere and arrives at Sorenson's Lab where he helps solve a long-standing problem with a 'Proton Chamber'. Both Sorenson and Matthews suspect alien intelligence at work with the latter viewing things as dangerous. Unable to move the sphere the USAF crew fire a blast at it and reveal the true magnitude of its power. Matthews considers this a huge risk should it fall into the wrong hands. Meanwhile, a stranger has turned up at Kathy's Lodge, he is a shady character (literally) and it doesn't take a genius to work out who he really is and that the message he has is really worth considering if the planet hopes to survive.

From an era obsessed with all things space-age comes another typical jaunt that fails to set the radar throbbing or the transmitters trembling. I do like the outlandish thinking behind these flicks that wasn't as way-out as we initially thought. Who knows, in another 50 years they may be deemed as visions into an alien infested world, in the meantime this is a film straight off the generic conveyer belt of the 50’s.

   

MADHOUSE

1974. Directed by Jim Clarke

A real crazy film featuring two stalwarts of the horror genre and several other folk from an era of 'faces'.  It has all the typical Amicus touches with a distinct soundtrack and knife-edge suggestions to keep the aficionado absorbed.  For those outside the lunacy and on a saner flat-line, things may seem rather unusual.

At a Hollywood Party Paul Toombes (Vincent Price), who is famed for his Dr Death role, announces his engagement to Ellen Mason (Julie Crosthwait).  Later that evening they have a tiff after film producer Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry) makes some rather revealing, and insinuating, comments about Ellen's past.  When an upset Ellen retires to her room a Dr Death look-a-like cuts off her head - you can only guess as to who the main suspect is!  Toombes, who is the first to discover Ellen's headless corpse, cracks and ends up in a mental hospital - we then travel forward in time to his release.  Here Toombes meet his  London  based friend Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing) who is now working alongside Quayle to produce the next series of Dr. Death - they both want Toombes to continue his portrayal of this popular character.  Whilst stopping with Flay our actor is hounded by a wannabe actress, discovers some frightening revelations from the past and constantly questions his own sanity - several grisly murders only enhance his doubts!  As the tale progresses the finger seems to be pointing at one obvious perpetrator of these horrendous crimes, but anyone with any understanding of these escapades will surely realise all is not what it seems - pass me a red herring sandwich please - I feel a trifle peckish.

In some ways the outcome of this one is obvious, in others it is not but, along the way, Cushing and Price entertain, we are taken through an oddity with angular ease and are given something amusing rather than fully horrific.  One or two scenes though do have an edge, it is one I will certainly watch again.

   

THE TROLLENBERG TERROR

1958.  Directed by Quentin Lawrence

Forest Tucker stars in this 'invasion film', I expected something cheap, nasty and formulated - I got just that but for some reason I found myself enjoying the mystery unfold with a sensation of being transported back to an era when things were a darn simpler.

The main gist of this sci-fi jaunt is set around the mountain of Trollenberg where several climbing expeditions have resulted in death and decapitations.  Thrown into the plot are a London mind-reading double act made up of t wo sisters, Anne (Janet Munro) and Sarah Pilgrim (Jennifer Jayne),  UN troubleshooter Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker) and Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell) who works in the local observatory and points out that wherever the deaths take place an always-stationary radioactive cloud is regularly observed.  The smoking and boozing Brooks is soon on the case with another headless body found, cases of extreme freezing noted and a survivor who is Hell-bent on killing the younger mind-reading lady whilst suffering from a lack of co-ordination and an intolerance to temperatures above freezing.  Eventually the nub of the matter is exposed, there is a monster from outer-space on the rampage and the big reveal soon comes.  A tentacled tension arises, suddenly we are in a fight for life with all local residents gathered in the observatory and relying on Brooks to save the day - can you guess the outcome?

With some cheap effects and some wooden acting one wonders how this film gets by but get by it does and along the way intrigues the inner child and the lover of B-movie madness.   The alternative name of this film is 'The Crawling Eye' which gives a greater insight into what the viewer will be treated to.  This isn't a classic by any means but I will be tuning in again, I just can't help myself and this type of escapism is pure and unaffected - we all need to indulge a little more.

   

THE MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL

1958. Directed by Kenneth G. Crane

Bilgewater can run in many ways and emanate a variety of essences that some may enjoy, some may be polluted by.  Here we have a foul downpour of directorial misdirection featuring scientific testsd and resultant freaks - why am I so intrigued by these offering?

The film revolves around Dr Quent Brady and Dan Morgan who are 2 scientists responsible for send a variety of animals into space.  After a wasp-carrying rocket goes awry and lands in Africa where Dr Lorentz and his daughter perform an autopsy on a man who died of paralysis - it comes to light his body is laden with venom, the link one makes is rather obvious.  We move on several months, Brady finds out that some gigantic monsters are creating havoc in Central Africa which leads our main man to the conclusion that cosmic radiation mat be to blame (oh what a ruddy surprise).  The pace of the film stays steady, we reach a final showdown, the final scenes are ridiculously bad as are the monsters themselves, a duff film ends on an even duffer note.

Heard about it, watched it, couldn't believe the madness before my eyes, what can one say.  This is a poor do, the film stays within its £5 budget (surely not more), knocks out a formulated plan and does so with a flimsy script and some rather awkward acting.  This is one of those rare occasions when I won't be revisiting this one anytime soon - a resounding turkey with little cluck.

   

THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE

1967.  Directed by Freddie Francis

Pure sub-sci-fi balderdash with yet another scientist trying to save the world from an extra-terrestrial invasion and in the process using a great deal of ham acting and an overspill of good fortune.  This is an Amicus production and for all its shortcomings is an entertaining jaunt with a groovy backdrop of music.

The film revolves around Dr Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton) who is an investigator into life on other planets.   He finds out about a recent fall of in-formation meteorites and wants to investigate but, due to having a metal plate fitted in his skull, is deemed unfit for the job by his physician.  He hands over the task to his assistant Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne) who, along with a group of other scientists and geologists, is taken over by a flash of energy housed in the strange meteorites.  Temple soon smells something awry going on after Mason has severed contact with him and he learns that she has been trying to obtain millions of pounds of equipment and weaponry.  Our hero investigates, finds a high security base that he his duly warned away from by Mason and many gun-toting thugs.  Temple is not a man to be easily deterred and frequently tries to gain access to the zoned-off area.  The mystery deepens, a strange 'Crimson Plague' is killing people, a rocket is seen to be taking off from the site and Temple finds that he can trust no-one.  Thrown in for good measure is a good dust-up, some cheapo-effects and a corny safety net for our unstoppable lead man and before we know it the finale is upon us.  Will the emotion-free alien force win the day or are we to be eternally grateful to the all-conquering Temple for saving the world for undoubted disaster?  I am, stupidily, absorbed!

The appearance and cinematography, the low-budget atmosphere and the outlandish premise may be too much for some but for me there is something charming in the cheap throwaway nonsense and something entirely escapist.  It isn't a classic, it is a cut-price offering but it has it appeal and I am left, asking for nothing more.

   

THE RETURN OF THE SWAMP THING

1989.  Directed by Jim Wynorksi

Surely one of the worst films I have ever seen.  A complete mockery and laden with dubious acting and pointless scenes.   The plot is paper thin, the tongue-in-cheek approach doesn't really work and it leaves one wondering what the point of the whole escapade really was.

The film revolves around Abigail Arcane (Heather Locklear) who, after her mother's death, travels to the swamps of Florida to confront who sinister stepfather Dr Arcane (Louis Jourdan). Dr Arcane dies in the previous film, here he his resurrected and seen trying to fight off the aging process by combining the genes of various swamp animals and humans.  With his assistant Dr Lana Zunell (Sarah Douglas) he has created a small gathering of Un-men which seem a poor excuse to throw in some cheapo effects and give the Swamp Thing (Dick Durock) something to brawl with.  Dr Arcane eventually tries to use his stepdaughter in his experiments whereupon the Swamp Thing comes to play savior for the day.  Unbelievably Abigail falls in love with the plant-based man and we all live happily ever after - all that is, except the viewer.

This is utter codswallop of the lowest kind, a pure waste of good time and a mockery of what the Swamp Thing should be.  I am not a lover of comedy-horror at the best of times, when it dilutes a creation such as this I feel as though a blasphemy has taken place.   I am going to seek out any follow-up films next and put myself through some real torture – please let my searching be fruitless! 

   

THE REVENGE OF THE CREATURE

1955.  Directed by Jack Arnold

A follow up to the superb original Gill-Man film, this time still with 3D touches and still with the main monster looking as impressive as ever.  To add to the intrigue, Clint Eastwood makes his film debut albeit in a short and quite wooden way - how did he go so far?

Carrying on from the previous film the creature has seemingly recovered from being shot but is soon chased down and recaptured by yet more meddling morons.  He is taken to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida where he is studied by animal psychologist Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar) and his student in Ichthyology, Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson).  Of course Helen and Clete become enamored with one another which seems to upset the Gill-Man's keeper Joe Hayes (John Bromfield).  The creature is far from happy about being chained within an aquarium and being an attraction for visitors to ogle, his frustrations are vented on Hayes whom he kills with relative ease.  Whilst trapped our monster builds up an attraction to Ms Dobson which eventually drives him to frenzied despair.  In one fit of emotion the creature breaks his chains, goes on a mini-rampage and abducts Helen.  Suddenly the chase is on, the film is headed for the finale as the Gill-Man heads towards the open seas with his bounty in his arms – we are left to wonder, will he escape to star in a third film or will he be thwarted and his prized beauty rescued?

This is not a bad follow-up film with many quality touches and all underwater action as convincing as ever.  It is no match for the first offering though, it lacks the mystery and the script is fairly run of the mill but, for collectors and Universal nuts, it is the usual 'must see, must own' flick – this though, goes without saying.

   

THE LOST CONTINENT

1968.  Directed by Michael Carreras

If ever a film is to be set down as an example of utter balderdash and a waste of good time, then this utter turkey would be very much in the running.  The trailer, as per, set the curious juices flowing, it seemed we were going on a thrilling adventure, it turned out we were to be abandoned at destination 'shabby' without a hope of being rescued until the salvation of the end credits.

The opening sequences show Captain Lansen (Eric Porter), of the tramp steamer Corita, read some burial rites before a coffin is tipped overboard into the awaiting sea, we then get into the crux of the yarn proper.  The said Captain is smuggling dangerous explosives from Freetown to Caracas and has on board various discontented passengers who are striving to escape personal problems and various complexities of life.  On route they get marooned in a misty Sargasso Sea and trapped by great swathes of predatory seaweed.  If this isn't fantastic enough a strange tribe appears on the scene, descendant of previously marooned Spanish Conquistadores who cross the masses of seaweed with ludicrous footwear and balloon-like structures attached to their backs.  Thrown in for good measure are killer crustaceans, a child leader called 'El Supremo' and a weak attempt at a final twist that convinces one that throughout the making of this film, true direction was lacking.  I watched the final credits almost livid at having wasted so much precious time, and yet if there was a follow-up I would be tuning in with eagerness – what an easily-led fool I am!

A quite poor attempt at an all-action adventure this with the patchwork plot, dubious acting, lack of atmosphere and  laughable scenes not convincing that this one could even make the 'cult' status rating.  There are plenty of similar movies, all done with greater effect, this one, based on the novel 'Unchartered Seas' by Dennis Wheatley must have had the author cringing, and after one viewing, one can understand why!

   

DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS

1954.  Directed by David MacDonald

A remote Scottish Village, a strange saucer from outer-space and a mysterious visitor clad in black vinyl and with a robot escort to put the willies up the locals - these are the ingredients for this 1950's sci-fi fiasco and with added retro political angles as regards equality - what is all that about then!

The bar of the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the surrounding area is where most of the action takes place with residents and guests visited by a strange unearthly creature known as N'yah, a lady dressed in erotic black and a flowing cape who comes on the hunt for good male breeding stock after her Mars-based male population was made impotent after a battle of the sexes saw the women take power.  Throughout the film N'yah appears, brandishes her ray gun, shows off her bumbling but all powerful robot and picks out a chosen sperm donator with cold, icy authority.  Within the plot we have a brace of romantic entanglements with a fashion model, Miss Prestwick (Hazel Court) getting involved with newspaper reporter Michael Carter (Hugh McDermott), whilst an escaped convict, Robert Justin, alias Albert Simpson (Peter Reynolds), who accidentally killed his wife, has turned up at the Inn to renew his acquaintance with the barmaid, Doris (Adrienne Corri), whom he really loves. The film staggers through a repeat mode with indecision high until a self-sacrifice is made as an attempt is made to final thwart the Devil Girl's sex-based plans.  The final scenes hold no great degree of excitement which, in many ways, is in keeping with this 3rd rate offering.

Too predictable, too staged and with no real action high-points this is a lacklustre film and one of those sub-quirky escapades that leave you incredulous as to what the creators were thinking.  It may appeal to the perverse, the one's utterly beyond hope, crikey, I may even watch again just to be sure of my verdict.

   

THE UNCANNY

1977. Directed by Denis Heroux

Another anthology of horror from the 1970's that could be considered an Amicus offering but in fact came from the Rank Organisation.  The co-producer however was Milton Subotsky of the latter studio's fame, it goes without saying we get a decent jaunt with its tongue very much in-the-cheek.

We have 3 tales all connected together by Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) who is a writer wanting to persuade his publisher, Frank Richards (Ray Miland) to go to print.  the book deals with a theory that all cats are set to take over the world and to prove his point Gray relates 3 tales of feline-induced deaths.  The first sees a will rewritten and the snubbed try and exact a revenge with the flesh-eating end results quite horrific.   The second tale sees an orphaned girl gets treated without sympathy and in some ways bullied.  Her pet cat is taken away and apparently 'put down' but death is defied and payback given.  The final treat sees the actor Valentine D'eath (Donald Pleasance) see off his actress wife and try and get his new younger love Edina (Samantha Eggar) a chance in the lime-light.  D'eath is not a cat lover, his wife's moggy is not happy with how things have turned out - there be vengeance in the air.

I was of the opinion that this was something of a poor collection of tales, I came out the other end though quite entertained and happy to recommend it is a good addition to the collection.  It may lack the subtley of Amicus offerings but it has many winning aspects.

   

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