I hope everyone’s been enjoying Terror Dave Albaugh’s retrospective on ’50s Science fiction films. I know he’s got a lot more in the works and has been doing a great job at highlighting those old classics many of us grew up watching via Creature Features or horror hosted shows. The hope is that the series will either inspire you to watch them again or, if you’re unfamiliar, discover these gems for the very first time.
Today I’d like to spotlight an old sci-fi film too but, unlike the previous entries, one that proves not everything in the fabulous ’50s was stellar. The other night I was scrolling through the latest offerings on Netflix stream when I came across a film I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. The movie is Beast with a Million Eyes but, after I re-watched it, was ready to the curse the two I had!
This 1955 feature takes place in the California desert where we’re provided definitive proof that dysfunctional families really did exist “back in the day.” Barrel-chested Allan Kelley (played by the original Marlboro Man, Paul Birch) lives on a secluded farm with his teen daughter, Sandra (Dona Cole), and wretched wife Carol (played by Lorna Thayer). Carol hates virtually everyone and everything in her life and clearly lives by the mantra, “Dammit, if I’m miserable, then everyone else around me should be too!”
This should not suggest, however, that her overall disdain for humanity isn’t occasionally justified. She’s pretty spot-on with regards to their mute ranch hand, Carl (Leonard Tarver), a.k.a. the biggest pervert in the desert! When he’s not alone in his room staring at half naked pin-ups, he’s ogling the teen daughter instead – even going so far as to climb trees in an effort to get a better view of her taking a dip in the pond.
And what does “Father of the Year,” Allan think of this disturbing behavior? Well he doesn’t seem to mind at all! In fact, his response to his daughter’s complaints can pretty much be summed up with, “Oh, quit fussing! What’s wrong with a middle-aged, chronic masturbator with no friends and bulging eyes stalking you!?”
Yes, there’s no question that this family is a fright-fest in and of themselves but things get even worse when a small spaceship carrying a malevolent alien lands nearby. It no sooner arrives before wreaking havoc on the locals with its high pitched sound waves and mastery over the local wildlife. The ship itself is laughable but its lone occupant provides even more chuckles via its melodramatic narration while boasting control over lesser life forms (thereby justifying the “million eyes” mentioned in the title).
Ironically, while the animals are all turning evil, Carol starts becoming nicer. Apparently all she needed was to get her frustrations out by axing the family dog to go from the Wicked Witch of the West in pearls to Mary Poppins in mere seconds!
With unexplained animal attacks on the rise, Allan comes to the only logical explanation…there must be an alien in the dessert making them do it. He also figures out that the best way to stop it is for everyone to stick together (which for this family ain’t easy). So to sum up his theory – if everyone joins hands and stays together the bad guy won’t be able to harm them i.e. what could possibly be the solution to virtually every movie thriller. Regardless, his kumbaya approach not only works it leads us to the dramatic ending that’s so trite it’s funny. It’s also where we finally get a glimpse of the Beast who, despite the misleading poster art, is basically a goblin suffering from “short alien” syndrome. One look at this pint-size gremlin and you’ll totally understand why he hates the world so much.
While my Terror on Tequila podcasts may be on hiatus these days, this one would have been an ideal selection. Yes, it’s bad but certainly fun if you’re with the right crowd. The editing is terrible and this is never more evident than during the “animal attack” scenes which consist of an innocent animal walking or flying by before quick cuts to horrified victims are supposed to convince you of violence. I didn’t notice any disclaimer stating that “No animals were harmed during production” but I think it’s safe to say that none were lest they became bored to death.
The film is directed by David Kramarsky along with Roger Corman (uncredited). I love Corman films and, like many of them, I do realize that they’re often created on a shoestring budget, this one reportedly a scant $23,000 ( small by even his standards)! Fans of the TV show, Bewitched, will also get a kick out of seeing a pre-Darrin, Dick Sargent.
Though far from Corman’s finest hour, it’s still good for laughs and absolutely entertaining if you’re in the right (or wrong) frame of mind. It’s also available on DVD (a double feature along with another oldie but crappy, Phantom of 10,000 Leagues) courtesy of Midnight Movies should you want to own it….and who wouldn’t? Sometimes a little mindless entertainment is just what you need. Like Sandra says after the Beast starts mucking with her head, sometimes it hurts to think!