Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on June 8, 1962
Directed by Nicholas Merriwether (Arch Hall Sr)
Written by Bob Wehling, from a story by Arch Hall Sr
Cast: Arch Hall Jr, Marilyn Manning, Richard Kiel, William Watters (Arch Hall Sr), Bob Davis, Addalyn Pollitt, Ron Shane, Ray Dennis Steckler, Carolyn Brandt, William Lloyd, Bill Rice
Before I sat down to watch, for the second time in my life, the bad-but-masochistically-fun Eegah, I wondered if there were any caveman films out there that were ever considered exceptional by fans and critics alike. I thought about this throughout the entire movie, but in the end I couldn’t come up with an answer: Caveman, Teenage Cave Man, Cavegirl, One Million B.C., One Million Years B.C., Encino Man, and The Man Called Flintstone were all indeed caveman-themed, but not one would ever be considered anything but silly, campy, and/or dumb. And after mulling it over for all of two seconds, I decided to add Eegah to that same list.
This 1962 sci-fi/horror/fantasy/drama/musical was written and directed by former bit actor Arch Hall Sr, apparently as a springboard to greatness for his son, Arch Hall Jr, a budding actor/singer who one year earlier had made his debut in the teen delinquency film The Choppers, which was written and produced by—no surprise here—Arch Hall Sr. Now, father and son were back in action and ready to make schlock cinema history, in what is probably the most well-known and ‘appreciated’ of their six collaborative drive-in efforts together.
The film opens with a young girl named Roxy wrapping up a night of shopping in Palm Springs, then heading off in her sporty yellow convertible to a pool party a short drive away. After a quick stop to trade romantic quips with her gas attendant boyfriend Tom (played with equal parts Elvis and backwater nerd by Arch Jr), she nearly runs over a jaywalking, seven-foot-tall ‘prehistoric giant’ named Eegah, who wears traditional animal pelt garb and carries a club the size of a dinosaur leg. Tom arrives on the scene moments later, but by this time the towering Neanderthal is gone, and Roxy must convince both her boyfriend and her father that she wasn’t hallucinating.
And then things get goofy, and perhaps just a little bit…well, uncomfortable. Roxy’s father is captured by Eegah and taken to his rock canyon hideaway, and when Roxy and Tom go looking for him, Roxy is taken hostage, too. Now it’s up to our well-coiffed teenage hero to save the day…but not before Dad, Roxy, and Eegah settle in for some domestic bliss: Roxy is introduced to Eegah’s mummified family, she fawns over his cave etchings, and in the movie’s most discussed and bewildering scene, she shaves both Eegah and her incapacitated father! (In fact, the hosts of Mystery Science Theater 3000 called this sequence one of the most disgusting they’d ever seen on their show).
From there, things unravel for our simple-minded, love-hungry lunk (and I’m talking about Eegah here, not Tom), as Roxy spurns his dress-ripping advances and escapes captivity along with her father. Tom high-tails them back to civilization in his dune buggy, and a bloody and beaten Eegah is left behind as Roxy takes a last look at her dejected friend, no doubt wondering if she made a mistake sticking with Tom. At this point, you’d think the story was wrapping up, but Eegah’s not ready to part with his new squeeze just yet; instead, he heads into town with his trusty club and tracks Roxy down to yet another poolside bash, where he’s shot for his efforts of romantic redemption by two overzealous policemen, bringing a sudden end to our sad little saga.
Even though this was supposed to be a showcase for Arch Jr, I found myself more captivated by Marilyn Manning, who played Roxy, and by Richard Kiel, playing the title character; contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere, I thought Marilyn was quite ingratiating, and I enjoyed her portrayal of Roxy more than I expected. Kiel would later make his mark as the Bond villain Jaws, but here, with no real cavemen around to make comparisons with, I’d say he damn well nailed his portrayal, even though it consisted of nothing but grunts and cave gibberish. And as you might expect, this was the first and only directorial effort for Arch Sr, who did triple duty for Eegah by also writing the original story and playing the part of Roxy’s father; the results were adequate, but not worth writing home about.
It’s interesting, too, to hear how Eegah’s presence in modern-day Palm Springs was explained away; was he finally thawed from a block of ice, after spending centuries frozen in time, or was he somehow transported across time, thanks to some temporal rift in the space-time continuum? No, it was nothing as complex as that; as it was explained by Roxy’s father, it was the abundance of sulfur in the walls of Eegah’s cave that has kept him alive for a million years. Dad also estimated that the last of Eegah’s family died just a hundred years earlier, which prompted a more intriguing title and story idea to suddenly pop into my head: Civil War Cavemen.
Obviously, this wasn’t the greatest film ever made, nor was it the greatest caveman film ever made, but I still had fun with it, in a demented, I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing kind of way, which translates to success as far as its two-point rating is concerned. And even though there was much here to ridicule, such as the screenplay, the acting, the three plot-stopping songs by Arch Jr, the extended and pointless dune buggy sequence, and yes, the infamous “Watch out for snakes!” line, in the end it was all as harmless as a saber-toothed kitten, and at the very least offered a smidgen of entertainment for fans of low-grade cinema like me. (2/10)