Saturday, 21 March 2015

March Monsters: The Cyclops (1957)

The Cyclops (1957)
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Starring: James Craig, Gloria Talbott, and Lon Chaney Jr.
Running Time: 66 min

  I've wanted to see this for a while now but I didn't realize there are couple of key features of this film that will probably make this film great.  For one, it's directed by one of the best known low budget, big creature film makers Bert I. Gordon, who is known for such films as "Food of the Gods", "The Amazing Colossal Man" and "Earth vs the Spider". And then, I find out that Lon Chaney Jr., who is best known for the Universal classic "The Wolfman" but more well known for his low budget shlockers like "Spider Baby", "Hillbilly's in a Haunted Mansion" or the Corman classic, "The Haunted Palace" is in this as well.  So, I know what to expect with this one and it should be a big gulp of fun.

  Susan Winter is begging the Mexican government to let her and her scientist friends explore the jungles of Mexico to find her missing boyfriend, test pilot Bruce Barton.  The Mexican government doesn't like the idea of this group of "explorers" snooping around and agreed to let her search in a specific area but only if she brings along a Mexican soldier with her to keep them out of restricted areas.  She tries to explain that their plane only carries four and they would have to leave a member of their team behind, but the official will not budge on this term and eventually she agrees.
  Susan returns to the bar, where her expedition team is waiting for the results of the meeting.  Her good friend, Russ Bradford and mining expert, Marty Melville are discussing the whereabouts of Barton, while the PILOT, Lee Brand is getting drunk on Tequila.  She tells them the bad news about the soldier but Marty tells her not to worry and he has a plan so cunning to get rid of this Mexican soldier that "you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel."  So, just before they are ready to take off in the plane, Marty punches the soldier and then they fly away.  Brilliant. Bravo.
  While in the air, the Mexican government are demanding that they turn their plane around but they refuse and head into the dark forest area where Susan's boyfriend was lost.  Unfortunately, Marty gets jumpy in the plane because he wants to land and look for uranium deposits and ends up knocking out the pilot and almost crashing the plane.  Luckily, Susan is able to revive the pilot in time but the end of having to make an emergency landing.  The group discovers that this area is a goldmine for uranium and has they explore the forest, they discover that with some much concentrated uranium here, that it is mutating the creatures that live there into these enormously frightening beasts.  Not only are the animals large, but Susan eventually comes face to face with the largest one-eyed monster that she has ever seen and can't escape it's large shape.  It's the cyclops, grow up.  Anyway, can this group find Susan's lost boyfriend and get out of this crazy jungle or will they be trapped there and perish from either the grotesquely large creatures or of radiation poisoning?  

  All things considered and for it's time, this very enjoyable film.  You have to give Bert I. Gordon credit for what he's done here and the impact that the had on all the future B-movie film makers everywhere.  He was in his garage creating these effects with the most rudimentary matte work and a limited back screen projection to create these enormous creatures.  Sure they weren't perfect but he got it done and people loved it. 
  Also, this was Gordons' second film, the first being King Dinosaur, and this was the first time he turned a person gigantic.  I think overall the cyclops works well and the make up team does a decent job with the face, again considering the budget restraints of the picture.

  After watching this, I can see why this film is so popular with fans of low-budget cinema and it's mostly because of the flaws.  The story itself is interesting and simple, a woman is looking for her lost husband but as Gordon adds more characters, it starts getting a little mixed up and sometimes the focus gets a little lost.
  Also, some of the dialogue and acting isn't very good, which only adds to the humour.  There are some lines in this that only a veteran B-movie actor like Lon Chaney Jr. (Face of the Screaming Werewolf, Dracula vs Frankenstein) who plays the conniving tough guy, Marty Melville could deliver and still make sense.  As well as the never ending joke about the pilot being part Indian and getting them lost all the time, get old but still made me chuckle every time.  It's just so bad, that you have to other options but to laugh.

  This may be a ridiculous film but it's ridiculous in a good way. Sure, there is a scene where the Cyclops grabs Susan and as well as the background, revealing the black colour behind it or that some/most/all of the motivations and actions of these characters are dangerous and sometimes don't make sense but if you can get past all that, logic stuff, you can relax and just enjoy the nonsensical ride.  So, if you're looking for a classic B-movie that has massive creatures in it, including an enormous one-eyed monster, and will have you chuckling all the way through, then may be the monster madness, you've been looking for.

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