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.