"Trog", the last film in the illustrous career of film legend Joan Crawford has gone done into cinematic history as one of the biggest and most embarrassing "monster", movies ever to be conceived. Joan Crawford of course nowadays is sadly fair game for any type of attack and "Trog", is a favourite target by her many detractors. Harsh summaries of it run to the fact that Crawford was supposedly drunk all the way through production, that it had one of the lowest budgets of any horror film made in England and that it made Crawford totally unemployable after its release thus becoming the sad final note in a brilliant career. Certainly no masterpiece, "Trog", despite some laughable moments is far from the worst horror film ever made and for Joan Crawford's as always totally committed performance despite the material she has to work with, alone is worth seeing. It marked the second time in two years that movie offers from producer Herman Cohen had brought Joan Crawford to England for filming, (Berserk! in 1968 being the other), and she fitted in excellently with the often gifted British performers, like Michael Gough, Diana Dors and Robert Hardy who supported her in these productions. Despite comments to the contrary Joan Crawford is well and truly in control of her character in this little horror effort and certainly makes "Trog", far more entertaining viewing than it probably deserves to be considering its budget.
Crawford plays Anthropologist Dr. Brockton who works at a rural research centre in England and is involved in the study of early man's development from the Apes. While hiking in the neighbouring moors some local students discover a fisher has opened up and they climb down to investigate the caverns below. Unfortunately they also disturb a very primitive form of life in the caves who is half man, half prehistoric ape. The creature attacks and kills one of the boys and drives one of the others into hysteria. Recuperating at the clinic after their ordeal the incident arouses the interest of Dr. Brockton who's student Malcolm Travers (David Griffin)was part of the group. Taken on board for the summer by Dr. Brockton as her assistant the two go back to investigate the caves and manage to photograph the creature which she believes could possibly be the missing link. However Dr. Brockton however has a hard time convincing the authorities about the significance of her find with local opinion fuelled by the hostile reaction in particular of local resident Sam Murdock (Michael Gough). He firmly advocates destroying the creature before it causes trouble in the community. Aroused from its liar by a camera crew the troglodite, or cave dweller comes to the surface and Dr. Brockton succeeds in tranquilising the creature long enough to get it safely back to the lab. Once there she begins a program with the assistance of Malcolm and her daughter Anne (Kim Braden), to "civilize" Trog and orient it with the present world. The publicity arouses the further anger of Sam Murdock who after an unsuccessful hearing to try and get the creature destroyed, decides to take matters into his own hands. One evening he breaks into the lab and releases Trog however he pays for the foolish action with his life. Trog then proceeds to go on a rampage in the local town, killing shopkeepers, overturning cars and abducting a small child from a playground and taking the unconsious child back to the caves. Now bent on the creatures destruction the police close in and against their orders Dr. Brockton climbs down into the cavern and manages to get Trog to surrender the child. However Trog's fate is sealed as the police despite Dr. Brockton's pleas for more time to calm him, move in and shoot him upon which Trog falls on a wooden stake and dies.
"B" movie nonsense perhaps but there are far worse stories that have been turned into horror stories. "Trog", despite being such a small production boasts very worthy credits in direction by skilled Hammer horror veteran Freddie Francis and a writing team that includes Peter Bryan and John Gilling who was also a most capable director of horror with the celebrated "Plague of the Zombies", to his credit. "Trog", certainly has a number of laughable moments in particular the doctor's absurb "orientation" program involving Trog playing with wind up dolls and the long flashback sequence where through the wonders of technology Trog can see back to the dinosaur age. No reason is ever given for why these experiements on Trog are such breakthrough measures and especially funny is when all the world wide "experts" gather and marvel about Trog's progress and uttering of one word "blue". That aside the film is an enjoyable horror effort. Actor Joe Cornelius who played Trog had an original and interesting monster garb and Joan Crawford brings a seriousness and determination to her role as the crusading doctor that belies the films "B" story. Certainly it is not "Mildred Pierce", or even "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", but it is not a total disgrace either. Crawford's last scene in the movie which of course became her last moments on the cinematic screen after a 50 year career sees her walking away sadly from the camera into the distance and I feel that is in some ways a fitting end to a brilliant Hollywood career.
Laughed at by the critics and now a "cult" favourite with those that like camp movies "Trog", is worth a look. No great cinema art it has a basic story that depite some absurd moments is quite interesting and even with it's low budget like alot of "B" efforts still manages to have an outward polish to it that makes it fun to watch. As the last film in Joan Crawford's career it has it's own curiosity value and no collection of her work is complete without this infamous little horror effort. Enjoy!