on April 5, 2004
The Crawling Eye (1958) had numerous monikers like The Creeping Eye, The Flying Eye, and even Creature from Another World, but started out as a British television serial titled The Trollenberg Terror (this is the title that appears in the beginning of this version of the film). Apparently the series was popular enough to warrant the making of film versions for European and American distribution.
The film stars Forrest Tucker, who, while not an original member of the series, was brought in by the British studios in order to better promote the film in America. Original series actors that transferred from the television version to the film version were Janet Munro and Laurence Payne.
The film starts off with three climbers on the side of a mountain, and one of the climbers suffers a serious case of death from the loss of his head (off-screen). The other two freak out and then we cut to three characters on a train, two being the Pilgrim sisters Sarah (Jennifer Jayne) and Anne (Janet Munro) while the third being Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker). All three get off at the same stop, and make for a hotel near the base of the Swiss Alps. Brooks arrived at the request of a friend, Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell), who works in a nearby observatory and has disturbing news. The two sisters, one with telepathic abilities (Munro's character), are inexplicably drawn to the mountain. We soon learn that something is stealing mountain climber's heads, leading some villagers to believe an abominable snowman with a guillotine is on the loose, aptly called 'The De-Nogginizer' (okay, no one said it, but I thought it).
Brooks makes his way to the observatory and meets with his friend Professor Crevett. Crevett gives Brooks the ten cent tour, bragging on and on about his wonderfully amazing, technologically advanced and highly fortified observatory to which Brooks cuts it shorts and asks why he was dragged out here. Dr. Crevett shows Brooks a cloud on the mountain, and makes a reference to a shared past experience and believes there is a link to the cloud and the recent spate of deaths on the mountain. Turns out there is...
Not much point in going into the story too much more, spoiling the fun for everyone, but I will tell you this, there are more deaths by beheading, giant eyeball creatures, zombies, mysterious ice clouds, and some other cool surprises. As silly as all this sounds, the overall sense of the film is serious...even though the viewer will break out into laughter, especially at the special effects. The tentacled eyeball creatures various appearances just do not allow for the keeping of a straight face. I couldn't help wonder if they had kept the mystique of the fog, revealing less about what was inside, if that would have made the film much more scary than it was...the tension was certainly there up until the point when the creatures were revealed, as the cloud hid its' secrets well, prowling the mountain, signaling death was coming. Well, being the 50's, you needed some fantastic creature, be it giant eyeballs, flying brains, or disembodied hands. If you didn't, you were pretty much cheating the audience.
I really enjoyed the number of elements involved in the story, and how nicely these things were tied together. That's not to say everything works and there are no plot holes, but the film is tight, and any missing plot points are minor and not very detectable. This film is just all out 50' sci-fi fun, much in the vein of another movie that came out in the same year, Fiend Without a Face. Cornball? Maybe, but certainly worth watching. Forrest Tucker is great taking time off from his usual westerner/action films to star here. He certainly doesn't seem to fit the part in the beginning; at least to me, but as the film progresses, he makes it work, like pounding a square peg into a round hole. Janet Munro is attractive, and I had just recently saw her in The day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), but the real eye catcher was the actress who played the character of her sister, Sarah Pilgrim, Jennifer Jayne. Yowsa! Along with being an actress, I found out she is also a writer, and is responsible for (as Jay Fairbanks) the comedy/horror/musical Son of Dracula (1974) starring Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, and a slew of other musical talents.
Image and Wade Williams present a really nice looking wide screen print here. The picture is crisp and clear, and suffers little deterioration. Also, this is the European edition; hence the beginning credits stating The Trollenberg Terror as the title. A trailer is available on the disc, but it certainly suffered the ravages of time, looking very worn and damaged. There is also liner notes written by journalist, columnist, film historian, radio and television commentator David Del Valle, who is considered to be one of the leading authorities on the horror/science-fiction/cult and fantasy film genres. If you can find a better giant, killer eyeballs from space movie I'd like to see it.
on March 16, 2004
I'm not going to rehash the fairly well known the plot. The other reviews have already covered that pretty well. The story is gripping and the acting is exemplary. The special effects were done on a shoe string budget and show it, but still pull it off marginally (if you suspend your disbelief a bit).
So why the five stars? The DVD film-to-video transfer was made from pristine source materials resulting in a viewing experience I've not had with this movie since I saw it's theatrical release in 1958. Presented in its original 1.66:1 widescreen aspect ratio, it offers a completely restored version totally lacking any scratches or bad cuts. In addition, this version is the European edition with the main title reading "The Trollenberg Terror". The sound is still mono, but the fidelity is rather good. Nice crisp highs, good bass response, and no hiss.
Even with extra material consisting of just the trailer, this DVD is well worth it. Especially to a fan of the film. I also found the liner notes to be emtertaining and very interesting. They include a lot of backgroud to the film, the genre, and I was especially amused at an anecdote about Forrest Tucker.
If you're a fan of the film (or not), I recommend this DVD release.
on November 15, 2003
4.5 stars for acting story and atmosphere.
-1.5 for mostly poor special effects.
"His head it was torn off"
This line scared the heck out of me as a kid - along with a number of decapataions and idea of an eye monster. I could not sleep alone for weeks. Seeing it now - what is scarey about this film is not the creatures - but more everything that leads up to them.
A very good mysterious plot - spooky, and atmospheric - good acting and an actress, Janet Monroe - who with a bad haircut, worse teeth, funny eyes and a crooked mouth is also very cute in a wholesome sister-ish sort of way. She is very believable and projects all her fears onto the viewer.
I took the eye monsters as realistic and a total terror as a kid. Especially - their exelerated hyper breathing along with a little bell that sounds when they are up to their evil tricks.
Up close the eye creatures are menacing, large, and gross.
But from a distance the monsters look more like marshmellows with pipe cleaner legs. - Infact most of the minitures are shoddy, cheap and not at all believable. Utlra low flying aircraft is slung through the air on strings and the paper cut out people are obvious. A roaring fire appears more like someone burning a cigerette package.
That said - TCE is still a good, fun movie.
TCE will probably entertain and even scare kids. While many adults will enjoy TCE for the atmosphere story they will also cringe when they see the terrible special effects.
on April 22, 2004
Mountain-climbers are having more than their fair share of fatal "accidents" on mount Trollenberg. Heads are popping off their shoulders like dandelions in weed-whacker country! Something in a strange, mobile cloud is killing people. Enter Alan Brookes (Forrest Tucker), a UN investigator sent to, yep, investigate. A geologist and his companion climb the mountain. The geologist is decapitated and his friend is zombified by whatever is creeping about inside the mysterious cloud. Anne and Sarah Pilgrim (Janet Munro and Jennifer Jayne) are staying at the Trollenberg hotel. Ann is a psychic who has tapped into the alien consciousness within the fog. The zombie-guy is sent to kill her, but fails. Hans the barkeep is also zombified and sent after Ann. Everyone ends up in a fortress-like observatory on the mountainside for a last stand against the hideous monsters. TCE is a good movie. It would have been a great movie if they hadn't shown so much of the wobbly, pitiful creatures, or the doll that we're supposed to believe is a man. The shots of the beasts through the doorway / wall are awesome, and would have been plenty. It's still well worth owning...