Monday, March 16, 2015

An Unspeakable Horror!

The Beast With 1,000,000 Eyes! is an absolute train wreck of a movie, but like the proverbial train wreck it's a disaster you somehow weirdly cannot take your eyes off. The film making here is amazingly bad, with scene after scene clearly shot sans sound and sometimes random dialogue added later to latch the scene into the greater narrative (such as it is), The actors are both professional and seemingly amateur but all are desperately over the top chewing on overwritten lines which showcase the lack of experience of the script writer.

The scenario is a pretty simple one. An amorphous alien descends to Earth in a remote desert in the United States and begins to annoy a local farmer and his fragmented family by infecting the animals with irrational behavior. The birds, the pet dog, and a even a milk cow all go on rampages (of a sort) until finally the alien is able to grab the mind of the mute handyman called "Him" (Leonard Tarver) through out most of the movie but whose real name is revealed to be Carl. His shambling bulk is what passes for a threat in many moments of this movie as he seems fascinated with the teenage daughter of his benefactor and employer. The early scene where he climbs a tree to watch her swim tops out the creep meter despite the farmer's constant retort that "Him" is harmless.

Actually this movie feels more assembled than written, as if they shot a bunch of random scenes and then looked at them and attempted to derive a story from them. Given the microscopic budget this flick seems to have had that's not surprising.

This is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but what it is is weirdly fascinating in its bizzare tumbling along fashion. Paul Birch as the dad is at times thoughtful and at times royally dickish. His wife played by Lorna Thayer is an absolute shrew in the beginning but grows more sympathetic as the story unfolds and she learns to not be jealous of her pretty young daughter. The daughter played by Donna Cole is a pretty basic actress, delivering lines with limited skill but wandering in and out of scenes with harmless agility. Her boyfriend played by a very young Dick Sargent serves as a foil in the movie showing when needed and then disappearing when not. Chester Conklin, a vintage silent screen actor shows up as a friendly neighbor with cow troubles and adds a bit of color to a movie which seems relentless in its trudge to the end.

The "Beast" itself does not actually show up until the final moments but thanks to the skills of Paul Blaisdell brought in at the last moment for tiny money we do get an actual beastie, though a pretty pitiful one after all. The original notion was that the alien was "unseen", the first title of the movie, but while that's clever film making, it's also rather unsatisfying. Monster movies need monsters in the end, no matter how lame. 

The word that came to mind watching this movie was "hapless". It is a harmless diversion graced with an above average poster which fulfills its pledge of being a science fiction movie...barely. 

The Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes shared a Midnite Movies Double Feature dvd with The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. I'll have a look at that flick next time.

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  1. You've probably heard this before, but A.I,P., who produced this film, are known for devoting much of their energy to coming up with wild titles and sensationalistic posters, which they used to sell movies that had not even been scripted yet, let alone shot. Once they'd lined up enough theaters, they spent a few weeks throwing something together as cheaply as possible, and then bombarded the airwaves with hysterical advertising that seemed to compel kids to buy tickets. There's a documentary about the studio called "It Conquered Hollywood" that is worth seeing, just to understand how audacious and savvy these guys were. Samuel Z. Arkoff is the perfect caricature of an exploitation film producer, like a cross between Charles Foster Kane and The Kingpin.

    1. I'm not familiar with that documentary. Sounds like something I'd love to watch. Thanks.

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