THE CLASSIC SCI-FI ULTIMATE COLLECTION Volumes 1 and 2, six discs.
This collection of 10 1950’s Universal creature features is definitely worth picking up. I was salivating when I got it in the mail from Amazon.
Tarantula. John Agar, Mara Corday, and a doomed Leo G. Carrol confront a growing tarantula, injected with nuclear-powered growth formula. After scarfing up a herd of cattle and a few lone people, the tarantula heads towards the nearest small town, unfazed by rifle fire, dynamite, or bad breath in dogs. Clint Eastwood in a flight helmet leads a jet squadron in to nail him at the edge of town with napalm. The tarantula sings a heart-rending song from Phantom of the Opera and expires. The town creates Tarantula Days and a theme park with some rather disgusting rides and enjoys incredible prosperity. The effects work with the tarantula is actually quite good. Look for Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbillies as a scientist.
The Mole People. John Agar again along with Hugh (Leave It to Beaver) Beaumont, trapped in a cave and discovering far below a subsurface civiliation of ancient people where the pasty-faced leaders dominate subterranean creatures (wherever the heck they came from). Alfred from TV’s Batman is in charge. There’s a lot of film shot for a climbing scene as the trapped scientists continue down into the chasm. It came in handy when they came up short on time and were able to restore some of the climbing footage before release.
The Incredible Shrinking Man. A classic from Richard (I Am Legend) Mathseon, based on his book, in which Grant Williams is guy caught in a radioative cloud whose shrinkage is triggered by a faulty spin cycle and another exposure, this time to insecticide. His fight in the basement with a tarantula supposedly inspired the movie Tarantula, although that seems a no-brainer considering a large percentage go into seizure at the mere thought of a tarantula. They’re actually pretty mild creatures if you aren’t the size of a fly or the Incredible Shrinking Man. I used to have one named Richard M. Nixon. (I know, it’s insulting. But what would he know from Richard M. Nixon.)
The Monolith Monsters. A 1950’s monster movie with a clever twist. A silicon-based life form brought to earth by meteorite turns everybody it comes into contact with stone. To make it worse, Grant Williams discovers, it grows when exposed to rain and, guess what, it’s getting cloudy.
Monster On the Campus. Not my favorite although watchable. Arthur Franz turns into as throwback when exposed to the blood of a coelecanth that has been exposed to radiation. The make-up was also used for Boris Karloff in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jeklyll. The giant dragonfly is cool. Reminds me of the scene in Caveman with Ringo Starr where it lands on the other guy’s face and Ringo helpfully mooshes it. Troy Donahue in a minor role.
Dr. Cyclops. This one actually goes all the way back to 1940 and is in color. Albert Dekker is Dr. Cyclops, a researcher at a remote lab in the South American jungle, who turns a handful of visitors into tiny people, then realizes they are starting to grow again so he’s going to kill them before they can become a threat. As with the shrinking man story, this was decades before computer effects made such mismatches of relative size a snap to arrange. You needed oversize props and creative photography to make it work. Good actors were a help too, but two out of three ain’t bad.
Cult of the Cobra. A bunch of GI’s interrupt a cult based on the concept that some of their people can turn into a cobra at will. Faith Domergue demonstrates the folly of their actions. Among the stars are a young Jack (Maverick) Kelly and David (The Fugitive) Janssen. Light on special effects with a minor transformation scene at the end where a dead snake fades into the dead girl. Largely routine although it has a few moments of interest.
The Land Unknown. Stunt man Jock Mahoney stars in this lost world story set in a bizarrely warm valley well below land level in the midst of Antarctica, warmed by volcanoes, untouched by modern times, with a T. rex who unwisely walks into a helicopter’s whirling blades, pterosaurs, a sea monster in a studio pond, and other stuff. The director indicated he wanted wierd plantlife and when presented a bunch of potter trees said, “No, this is what I want.” He yanked a tree from the pot, shook loose the dirt, turned it upside down, and jammed the top of the tree into the pot, exposibng the root. And that’s what they used. Mahoney, father of Sally Field, did his own stunts including the dive from the chopper into the water.
The Deadly Mantis. A giant preying mantis is thawed out in the Arctic, like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and likewise heads in stages to New York to take part in the St Patrick’s Day parade. (He thinks the green hat is a great disguise.) Lots of stock footage which is standard with such movies (tarantula has some good spider footage), with this round of footage focusing on military air spotters because apparently spotting a preying mantis the size of a tank zipping by requires experts. Personnaly, I preferred the Mystery Science Theater 3000 send-up. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, hie thee to Hulu right now and check out MST3K offerings.
The Leech Woman. Interesting title, but easily the bow-wow of the bunch. Very straight forward predictable story, no special effects, little of interest. Treacherous aging woman gets hands on an African woman’s rejuvenating cream, but it requires a guy get killed for it to work. A black widow story with face cream. Even Eve Longoria doesn’t look that good. Jessica Alba…maybe.
Overall, a superlative collection of some of the big classics of the era. Any fan of that 1950’s stuff needs to have this. Heck, I just got the thing and I’ve already watched Tarantula twice.