Sunday, October 30, 2011
The Mole People!
This is the one! This is my favorite of Universal's 1950's monster flicks. It's as bizarre as movies of this era get. I can remember seeing this one on Saturdays or on Halloween Eve marathons and being pretty dang frightened of the Mole People.
The story is told in elaborate and brilliant detail here, but in brief, four archeologists find evidence of a lost Sumerian society high atop a forbidding mountain and seek it out, only to find themselves and the society itself lost in the depths of the Earth. The people have become albinos and live in extremely limited circumstances. They enslave the native Mole People, and see the surviving archeologists as gods. This lasts a while, but the High Priest wants power and plots to burn the men in the fire of Ishtar. But the Mole People revolt and the society crumbles. The surviving men find themselves with an opening to the sky and escape in the nick of time.
John Agar is ideal in the role of Dr.Roger Bentley, an idealistic man who is not afraid to stand up for what he believes to be right even at the cost of his own life. His friend Dr.Jud Bellamin played by Hugh Beaumont stands by him through all the trouble. Nestor Paiva is Professor Etinne LaFarge, a man who lets his fear tear away at him. Paiva's struggles really add an element of emotion to a story that unfolds pretty straightforwardly. Without LaFarge we'd have little to care about as our heroes seem to face trouble unabashed.
Cynthia Patrick plays Adad, a throwback in the Sumerian society who is taken in by our heroes after they release her from punishment. Her story almost becomes the center of this tragic saga toward the end. Alan Napier as the High Priest Elinu is delightfully conniving and gets his quite handily.
The movie though also has a peculiar prologue provided by Dr.Frank Baxter, an English professor who waxes on for many minutes about different theories of Earth and how it might be hollow. This is an odd way for the movie to begin, especially since it goes on so long, but it does seem to work for me. I note that the Warren Magazine fumetti of the movie dispenses with this prologue and gets right into the action.
The Mole People has lots of great touches. The way the opening titles seem to rise out of the Earth is fantastic. The great lair of the Mole People looks like something out of Dante's inferno. Get a glimpse in the trailer.
The movie has a relentless progression that takes you from the relatively mundane into the utterly fantastic, slowly raising the ante step by step. This is a well constructed story with a highly capable cast and crew, a truly professional effort all the way around.
I give this classic my highest recommendation!
If you want to read the great fumetti from Warren Publishing, check out this link.