Old 02-01-2012, 04:54 PM
The Crawling Eye (1958)

Welcome everyone. It is time, once again, to step back in time and visit an earlier era. An era known as the 1950’s. It was a time when B-movies were made very differently compared to today. The special effects may be considered primitive nowadays, but they were an earlier stepping stone of today’s special effects. Hopefully, everyone here has an appreciation for the time period and will view today’s subject with an open mind. And today’s subject is “The Crawling Eye” from 1958.

After previous B-movies with giant monsters and alien invasions, this film is a wonderful change of pace. Although it features both a giant monster and aliens from outer space, it goes about its business very differently. It is set in Trollenberg, Germany. In fact, it was a British production originally titled “The Trollenberg Terror.” When it was released in the United States under the title “The Crawling Eye,” I can imagine disappointment from audiences. Upon viewing its eye-popping trailer, one might have gotten a good feeling from it and then found themselves waiting until the last twenty minutes to see the star villain. But I’m getting ahead of myself. With that said, its original title is more fitting than the altered one.

There are tourists visiting the mountain town of Trollenberg. They are Alan Brooks and sisters, Anne and Sarah Pilgrim. The sisters are famous for a mind-reading act. Unlike that hack, John Edwards, it seems to be legitimate. Anne is telepathic and Sarah works with her to impress audiences. However, it was unclear to me if it’s purely legitimate and never staged. Anne finds herself drawn to Trollenberg. She read a story about an ill-fated climb up the mountain, in which a climber was killed and somehow decapitated. I believe they are British, while Alan is definitely an American. He works for the United Nations and investigates strange phenomena. Phenomena such as a mysterious cloud at the base of the Trollenberg mountain. The decapitated climber is not the only incident. Other folks have been killed or have disappeared. Locals are terrified and leaving the area.

There is an observatory on the top of the mountain and Alan meets Professor Crevett who runs it. It is Crevett who informs Alan of what is going on. It is an unnaturally static and radioactive cloud. The characters stay at a hotel below the mountain. While there, Anne and Sarah entertain the guests with their mind-reading routine. Anne ends up receiving telepathic vibes from the mountain where two climbers are staying in a hut. They climbed up earlier that day and are now in danger. They, the guests, and all the locals are in danger from the mysterious cloud.

This is a B-movie that plays the waiting game. It begins with three men climbing the mountain and one of them somehow getting decapitated off-screen. There is a fair amount of human action in the second and third acts. And the multiple crawling eye monsters make their appearances in the third act. It never pretends to be another B-movie with consistent monster action. It helps that the on-screen title is “The Trollenberg Terror” rather than the altered one. With that in mind, and the off-screen horror in the beginning, you know not to expect the monsters to show up until later. The focus is on the characters and what keeps them interesting is a good sense of build-up. Sometimes, knowing that something big is coming around the corner helps. And what does come around the corner is worth the wait. What it doesn’t guarantee is strong re-watchability value.

There is slightly suspenseful human action in the second act. One climber, who had disappeared, returns from the mountain. He is under the mysterious cloud’s control and behaving strangely. This climber’s actions provide the thrills before it is time for the crawling eye monsters to do that. And as for the crawling eye monsters, they resemble giant brains with tentacles and one eye. They must be ten feet tall. They are aliens, but it is unclear if they are necessarily planning an invasion or simply trying to keep humans away from their new home. They seem to crave the cold weather and high altitudes of the mountains. With humans living nearby, the aliens do seek them out and enjoy decapitating them. The special effects behind these creations are far from perfect, but that didn’t bother me one bit. They are original and really cool monsters. The little action they provide is satisfying. These particular monsters are not believable at all and aren’t meant to be. They make this B-movie campier, and possibly funnier, than the previously reviewed monster movies. In turn, this film had the “honor” to be the first movie to appear on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Its premise is certainly not to be believed, but I find that to be a little unfair.

Compared to the previous monster movies, this is definitely a modest effort. It was lower-budgeted. In the other films, the efforts by the casts to make you believe that giant monsters were present were believable enough. No actors really stood out like sore thumbs. That is until now. The performances by the supporting cast were fine. But it is my responsibility to call out the main characters, and the actors portraying them, to the principal’s office. When they finally get a look at the monsters, their performances are a little off. They make sarcastic remarks and that’s it. They should have been more alarmed. This is a slight blunder, and their overall performances in the remainder of the film are fine.

This is one more B-movie that plays the waiting game, comes up with a creative monster, and features a solid cast to make you almost – okay, barely - believe it. It makes a good attempt to keep your interest before the late arrival of its absurd monsters. The characters don’t offer too much dimension, but they were interesting enough to follow. Anne, the telepathic drawn to the aliens, is sympathetic and a lovely lady as well. The film is a little talky, has some action to offer, has good build-up, and does feature entertaining monsters at the end. When considering the original title, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. I was very patient with it and was never bored. And it must also be said that it abandons the familiar formula from the other monster movies. Taking all of that into account, this is very much a modest effort compared to the previous monster movies. It may lack re-watch value, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end. It barely earns a positive rating, but it deserves it. It is one more B-movie with a giant monster, and it succeeds at trying something different.

*** out of 4

Bonus Feature:

The Dummy Talks (1943)

The premise in this oldie really sold me. A ventriloquist is murdered and a midget poses as a dummy to identify the killer. That much is true, but it is more of an after-thought. It is hardly centered on a ventriloquist dummy and said midget. It does focus on the ventriloquist before he is murdered and the mystery to follow. The title can be considered misleading. The ventriloquist act is one of many acts and performances at a theater. They are mildly diverting and take up half of the movie. The other half concerns the murder mystery. There are so many performers backstage with conflicted subplots, that I felt lost. I couldn’t begin to figure who the killer was, and I didn’t care who it was either. I have seen enough black-and-white talkies to appreciate the power they once held, and I have thoroughly enjoyed a number of them. This is one time capsule that simply did nothing for me.

** out of 4

Last edited by Duke Nukem; 02-14-2012 at 06:26 PM..
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