Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Aye, there's the rub!"

Get ready for some boffo-socko British b-movie sweetness tonight kiddies!

The Crawling Eye
(The Trollenberg Terror, The Creeping Eye, The Flying Eye, Creature from Another World)

Tempean Productions Limited, Allience Film Studios, Middlesex, England; 1958; 84 minutes; NR

actors: Forrest Tucker, Janet Munro, Jennifer Jayne, Warren Mitchell

director: Quentin Lawrence
writers: Peter Kay, Jimmy Sangster
producers: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman

Taxonomy: Brit Sci-Fi; alien invasion flick; opthamologists

Plot: Strange doins' abound near the Swiss village of Trollenberg. The Hook: Them's aliens I tells ya!

Trollenberg Switzerland is a small village near the base of a famed mountain that attracts many climbers. Is the mountain called "Trollen?" I don't know. The name of the mountain is never mentioned. It seems that lately this mountain has earned a bad reputation. You see, several climbers have had accidents and died. Some are never seen again. Some just lose their heads completely. Literally! The opening shot is of the members of an English climbing party who are resting on a ledge while their leader climbs to the next way point. The 'mountain ledge' is an appallingly cheap looking studio set with a curtain painting backdrop. The leader notes something odd, screams and then falls down past the other two climbers - without his head! The funny thing about this scene is that we hear him scream as he falls! Well all this death and decapitatin' spooks the locals, many of whom leave town.

Then our heroes arrive! The story revolves around three groups of characters: 1. Alan Brooks (Tucker), who is "from the UN." and Professor Crevett (Mitchell), who studies cosmic rays in an avalanche proof observatory high on the mountain. In fact Crevett has called Alan in to help him with a little mystery. It seems there is an odd cloud, that glows with radioactivity and never moves from the south side of the mountain despite the wind. Most of the climbing accidents have occurred on the south side of the mountain. Hmmm...

2. Ann and Sarah Pilgrim (Munro and Jayne), who are performers in a mentalist act that regularly plays at The Palladium in London. They were on their way to Geneva, but once Ann saw the mountain, she insisted that they stop in Trollenberg and stay at the Hotel Europa, the only hotel in the village it seems as all the characters are staying there! Ann has odd feelings about the town and mountain, as if she had been here before ... Hmmm...

3. Everybody Else, including Dr. Dewhurst, a geologist and his guide Brett and the assorted villagers and die hard climbers still hanging around. Two words: alien chow!

Okay well, as this is a Brit flick, there is plenty of atmosphere and dialog and character interaction which is actually well done and helps flesh out the characters and move the story along, but is not very exciting to write about. So, I'll just give you some highlights and we can move on to the thrilling climax, mmm'kay?

Well! Alan, Crevett and Ann all have secrets that are eventually revealed. Ann is not just a 'mentalist', she is an honest to goodness telepath! She is very sensitive and can pick up the thoughts of others, but apparently she cannot transmit her own thoughts. This turns out to be a very bad thing. You see, Alan and Crevett have worked together before, in the Andes, and there was a radioactive cloud, and a clairvoyant old woman, who was killed! Seems Alan is a member of a special UN team that investigates "phenomena." Yep! That's right, Alan is Fox Mulder's father! Alan and Crevett know that aliens are responsible for the cloud; it is a reproduction of their atmosphere. The aliens are highly telepathic, and they kill human telepaths because they know too much! The implication is that the aliens are trying to take over the Earth by slowly replacing our atmosphere with theirs! They can control the cloud and telepathically control dead humans! Got all that?

Now remember group 3? Well, they start getting killed left and right! People have "accidents", a couple of guys get a climbing pick to the head, decapitations happen! The aliens try a using their zombie slaves to off Ann, but Alan - who has developed a thing for her of course - comes to the rescue. Then the aliens mentally compel Ann to come up to them, but that don't work either. Finally the aliens decide to close in for the kill. The cloud moves down the mountain and surrounds the village. The only place to run to is the observatory. B-movie moment! As everybody is escaping up to the observatory in the cable car, a little girl goes back to the hotel for her ball! Damn kids! Just as she retrieves her ball, an alien pops open the door and grabs her! Well, thanks to the stupid American title and poster, we already know what the alien looks like! It is a big giant eyeball with tentacles! Alan chops off a tentacle, frees the stupid little girl and makes it up to the observatory! He should have let the alien eat the girl, it might have bought the rest of them more time!

Once everybody is in the observatory, the aliens surround it with clouds and attack! They send another zombie to kill Ann, but studboy Alan shoots it. Yeah, he shoots and kills the dead guy, don't think about it too much! Then the aliens start busting through the walls to get to Ann! Frankly, I can't blame them; Janet Munro was dang purrdy! At this point Alan theorises that the aliens need a cold environment and apparently calls in a big favor because he has the RAF firebomb the mountainside and observatory! That's right, the UN guy has the British Air Force bomb a Swiss mountain! Holy crap! This guy has pull! The British bombers appear to be

Up until this point the special effects have been mostly okay, with some good miniature shots, but the scene of the aliens getting napalmed is just too good to miss! I'll just say that Ray Harryhausen had nothing to worry about if this was his competition! Well, since the observatory was made to withstand Alpine avalanches, the rather heavy looking firebombs don't penetrate the roof (sure!). The aliens get turned into eyeball 'que and Alan and Ann get all misty eyed over each other. The End?


Babeage: Janet Munro! Oh my goodness, is she a cutie! Janet Munro started in several films and TV shows from the 50s to the 70s. She would be most recognizable to Americans from her Disney flicks: Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), Third Man on the Mountain (1959) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). She was liked by critics, but some did not approve her attempt to change her good girl image with nude scenes in the sci-fi film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). Feel free to learn a bit more about Ms. Munro, but be warned - there is no happy ending.

Sleazeploitation: None. The few scenes with Janet Munro and Jennifer Jayne in nighties are rather funny now a days.
Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Zombies, intelligent clouds, gigantic tentacled eyeball creatures!

Violence: A couple of fist fights, attempted stabbing, climbing pick attack, gun shots, Molotov cocktails, hatchet, decapitations, firebombs. Sounds worse (or better depending on your point of view) than it actually plays out.

Gore & FX: Some blood, a very quick look at a decapitated torso, decent miniature sets, nice cloud effects that supposedly influenced John Carpenter to make The Fog (1980), and some very silly eyeball monsters!

Hey! That's what's his name!: Forest tucker was in a ton of movies and TV shows, including doing his own time with Disney. He may be best remembered by Boomers as Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke on the 60s TV show F Troop.

Great Lines:

British climbing team at start of flick, "Didn't you see him?!" "What are you talking about?" "His head - it was torn off!" This line is repeated later in the flick - just in case you were not paying attention.

Dr. Dewhurst keeps his resume short and sweet, "I'm a geologist. I know all about rock formations, that sort of thing."

When Professor Crevett learns of Ann's telepathy, he advises Sarah to get her away from Trollenberg, "It's not good for her here." But I do enjoy leering at her, oh yesss!

While sleeping Ann calls out a warning for the investigators, "Keep them away from the hut!" They cannot hear her, being way up on the mountain and all, but hey, she tried!

Alan to a Crevett, "I'm going to throw a bomb at that one. You watch on the screen and see what happens." Let me get this straight, you are going outside to throw a Molotov cocktail at one of the giant telepathic pissed off eyeball monsters, and you want me to stay here in the nice safe observatory and watch what happens over the video camera? Will do Chief!

Moral: Don't play with that! You'll poke your eye out!
Conclusion: The Crawling Eye is actually a better flick than this review makes it seem. The actors play their characters well, especially Janet Munro who makes Ann come across as shy, sweet, sad and a little spooky all at once! These days the actors in many sci-fi / horror flicks play their roles too knowingly campy which spoils the mood and is simply annoying. The ideas involved - that aliens would try to take over the earth simply by changing the atmosphere to suit them and not us is intriguing. The telepathy stuff is done in a straight forward manner much more subtly than in later sci-fi films. The special effects are hokey, but this was not a huge budget flick in the first place. Additionally, prior to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), special effects in sci-fi, fantasy or horror movies were not really expected to be all that spectacular. My biggest complaint is that the American title, The Crawling Eye, and the posters used to advertise the flick spoil the surprise! The English title, The Trollenberg Terror, gives no hint at what the aliens are, of if there are aliens. This approach would have made the first sight of the eyeball monsters a bit more shocking.

This is me at age nine baby!: Yeah, yeah, who cares! Blah, blah, blah! (first 3/4 of the flick). Decapitated head in a bag! Cool! Let them eat her! Hahaha! Yeah that looks real! Vulcan bombers! Cool!

Brit B-Movie Checklist:

a Dialog a bit more complex than American b-movies
a very polite English folks
a the gruff American
a the money grubbing Swiss
a Imperial gallons of booze
a the pretty girl who faints often
a the staunch male heroes who disapprove of the girls being there
a British stock footage
a classic miniature special effects

How about a Swiss weisse? Sure! As long as it is German!

Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen

Brauerei G. Schneider & Sohn
Munchen, Bavaria, Germany

Hefe-Weisse is "wheat - white" beer. It is made with a large proportion of wheat malt to barley and usually does not incorporate a a large amount of hops. The result is a light in color and taste. These beers are often drunk in the summer and are often supplemented with flavored syrups or liquors.

ABV: 4.90% IBU: 14

Color: A light honey amber color, cloudy from the wheat proteins.

Aroma: Very soft and clean, no hops, slight malted wheat predominates, hint of citrus.

Head: Persistent full high creamy tan colored head. Note: The glass should be very clean or it will result in the head "flattening."

Taste: Very smooth light and slightly sweet start moves to a clean sweet slightly fruity middle and then to a brief hint of bitterness during the finish and a short aftertaste.

Recommendation: This is perhaps the arch typical Hefe-Weizen. Just as Guinness is the baseline for stouts, Schneider is the baseline for Hefe-Weizen. Any self respecting Hefe-Weizen needs to be at least as good as Schneider's. This beer is light and refreshing with a hint of citrus - less than in Belgian wit beers. Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen is produced in accordance with the German Beer Purity Law of 1516 and is bottle conditioned - so be careful of the little blob of yeast at the bottom of the bottle. A fine summer beer that is mild enough that it may win over some converts from the mass market American brews. Recommended for those willing to try something new, but not ready for any radical departure from what they are used to drinking.

Hope everyone has had a great summer vacation! Back soon!


Remember: comments, suggestions, questions and submissions always welcome!