Fiend Without a Face (The Criterion Collection)
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A scientist's thoughts materialize as an army of invisible brain-shaped monsters (complete with spinal-cord tails!) who terrorize an American military base in this nightmarish chiller, directed by Arthur Crabtree (Horrors of the Black Museum). This outstanding sci-fi/horror hybrid is a special effects bonanza, and a high-water mark in British genre filmmaking.
Fiend Without a Face contains one of the most indelible images to emerge from sci-fi/horror movies of the atomic age: malevolent human brains, creeping like caterpillars on spinal-cord tails, choking the life out of their helpless victims! If that weren't enough to make any genre enthusiast drool with sick delight, the movie's also got an above-average plot (as B-movies go) and made genre history as an international success, independently produced in England, set in Canada, starring an American (Marshall Thompson), with magnificently grotesque special effects created in Germany!
The mystery begins near an American Air Force base in Manitoba, where unexplainable deaths are somehow connected to the base's atomic reactor, which is being used to power an experiment in advanced long-distance radar. Thompson (who later starred in the TV series Daktari) plays Major Cummings, who discovers that the lethal monsters--slurping, unseen "mental vampires"--are actually the horrific byproduct of thought-control experiments conducted by hapless, retired professor (echoes of Forbidden Planet's "monster from the Id"). Once visible, the fiendish brains are everywhere, attacking our heroes from every angle (in a scene that may have inspired Night of the Living Dead), and sputtering puddles of blood when riddled by bullets. This climactic scene--a triumph of latex rubber fiends, eerie sound effects, and stop-motion animation--was a gory breakthrough in 1958, and it's still a worthy precursor to every gross-out monster movie that followed in its trendsetting wake. Beware the faceless fiends! --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
In this film, invisible monsters (which later become visible) shaped like human brains, are attacking people on and near an American military base in a rural area of Manitoba, Canada. The deaths are initially blamed on radition from the power reactor on the base but when an autopsy reveals the brain and spinal cords are missing from the victims, they look elsewhere.
The film, made entirely in the UK, looks convincingly like North America. The special effects, made with stop-motion photography are well done and the acting is also typical on 50's B horror flicks.
The Criterion DVD has plenty of special features. There is a theatrical trailer for the film plus four other films. "First Man into Space" "Haunted Strangler" "Corridors of Blood" and "Atomic Submarine." There are also images of lobby cards and newspaper ads for the film, an essay by Bruce Eder prodution photos, and a feature length conversation/commentary by Tom Weaver and the film's executive producer Richard Gordon.
So i put it on and to my suprise, i loved it! this isn't going to scare you. But thats ok, In fact, when the fiends became visible and attacked, i laughed myself silly! But the ideas were there. This could be re-made into a real chiller nowadays with the new technology. But it just wouldnt be the same.
So what happens? Invisible fiends attack citizens of a small town. The bodies are found missing their brain and spinal cord. What creatures could do such a thing! Whos responsible, dammit!
Lo, i shan't tell.
Gore-we get old school ketchup in this one. Back in the days, i can see this could have caused some controversy. Brains get shot, brains implode. Brains melt.
T&A- naked brains everywhere.
So how bout the transfer? Well i never saw this on Tv or vhs so i can't say for sure how good it was but for an old black and white film, it looked unusualy clear. Some specks and film lines from time to time but overall, the print looks good.
We even have special features on this one! someone was actualyl proud of this ditty and rightly so! We get a commentary from the producer. We also get some old ad pics and posters and some stills.
This film, which I first saw when I was about 8 (back when they actually had things like triple-features in theatres), is just about the creepiest thing I've seen TO DATE. I'm not talking gore here (which it has in abundance and works great in B&W): I'm talking 'nightmare quality' story and cinematography. I saw this available in Criterion format and knew it was time to buy.
Now you might think I'm squemish, going all sissy over a 50's B&W British horror film - almost a misnomer in and of itself!
But I'm here to tell you I found and continue to find this film more chilling than 'Dawn of the Dead', 'Maniac', 'The Thing' (both versions) or any Lucio Fulci gorefest. Why?
Everything was just right, from the stop-motion of the brains slithering across the lab floor to the diharettic sounds of blood burping from thier perforated corpses. Eeeeesh. I get chills just thinking about it.
Not that it will stop me from watching it again this weekend...
This was a film that gave me childhood nightmares after I first watched it one Saturday night on Chiller Theater in the early 60's. I didn't realize then, that this little low-budget film from the 50's was considered one of the best of the 50's british sci-fi's and compares to the best of the Quartermas films and easily out gores them. The Quartermas films (which were re-makes of the British t.v. series) starred Brian Donleavy and gave the fledgling Hammer Films its first taste of success. Hammer would later abandon science fiction for gothic horror and even greater success. Other independent British film-makers meanwhile were producing science fiction and horror films. Several were copy-cats of American films. The American, 'Beast from 20,000 Fathoms' was turned into the British film, 'The Giant Behemoth' a few years later. Giant Ants thrilled Americans in the classic THEM !, so why not use that idea in a low budget British film called 'The Cosmic Monsters' (with F. Troops Forest Tucker). Just as a flood of low budget horror films produced by AIP, Corman, Bert I Gordon (no relation) and others were being made, producer Richard Gordon was able to make a few films with Boris Karloff. First he made The Haunted Strangler and later he would make Corridors of Blood.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
a must for 1950's sci-fi fans.fiends are real creepy.don't see much of them until last 30 minutes.has kind of a british/canadian touch.Published 18 months ago by steve smith
This movie scared the hell out of me when I was at home one day watching tv by myself as a young boy! Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2003
Fiend Without a Face was made in the 50s when the threat of nuclear war was high and the fear of radio activity peaked. Read morePublished on July 19 2002 by Swederunner
What a trully fantastic little movie this is, a real SPFX shocker in its day, and a great story with some fantastic character acting. Read morePublished on April 24 2001 by mr_inferno
I had never heard of this film and seeing it as an adult mayhave taken away some of the fun of it but I fail to see the fuss orthe reason that Criterion spent their time on this. Read morePublished on April 5 2001 by Phillip O.
What really gets me about Fiend without a Face is the sound. The sound of the titular fiends sucking out the brains and spinal cords of their victims is delightfully disgusting. Read morePublished on March 31 2001 by A. Gammill
This movie caused severe damage to me as a child. I had nightmares for days afterwards; I still have some residual terror because of it. Read morePublished on March 25 2001 by Wil-n-Tally
This starts as a solid little b-movie programmer, with crisp direction, plotting and acting (especially by the fine Marshall Thompson), and ends with one of the most shocking... Read morePublished on March 6 2001 by William Kersten
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