Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

From Hell It Came

From Hell It Came - posterCinema Monolith: 3/10
IMDb: 3.4/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *½ out of 4

Released on August 25, 1957
Not rated
71 minutes

Directed by Dan Milner

Written by Richard Bernstein and Jack Milner

Cast: Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Robert Swan, Baynes Barron, Gregg Palmer, Suzanne Ridgeway, Mark Sheeler, Lee Rhodes, Grace Mathews, Tani Marsh, Lenmana Guerin, and Chester Hayes as the Tabanga

Back at the dawn of the 1980s, when I became truly interested in film, I not only began watching more and more movies, but I began reading more about them as well. Two books I specifically remember buying at the time were a pair of film guides, one spotlighting Clint Eastwood, the other focusing on Alfred Hitchcock. It was a third purchase, however, that had the biggest impact on me: The Golden Turkey Awards, a book by Harry and Michael Medved celebrating the worst and corniest films of all time. And the one line I’ve always remembered from that book was a remark made by critic Ed Naha about the film From Hell It Came: “And to hell it can go!”

I absolutely loved that line—as did many other reviewers, it seems—and for thirty-five years I waited to see for myself what exactly Mr. Naha saw in From Hell It Came that warranted such a caustic statement. Well, thanks to a friend of mine who’d seen the film as a youngster in the 1960s and recently purchased the disc, I was finally able to watch this certified B-movie classic, which featured a cursed tree terrorizing a South Seas island, hell-bent on inflicting some slow-moving vengeance on those who had wronged it.

Or him, I should say. On a tiny Pacific atoll, an island native is accused of a crime and sentenced to death, but he vows to return as a spirit and make three tribal members—the new chief, the tribe’s witch doctor, and the man’s two-timing wife—pay for their diabolical actions against him. Well, return he does, in the form of a…tree. Yes, and not just any tree, but one with arms, legs, and a face…a face straight from the Disney nightmare factory, replete with fried-egg eyes, a hacked-off nose, and a frown so massive it could put a damper on even the most festive of Polynesian shindigs.

This creature is the legendary Tabanga, and its existence is soon blamed on the American scientists stationed on the island, there to do research on—of course—fallout from an atomic bomb. But is it radiation that has spawned this sapling from hell, or is it something else…like voodoo maybe, or a kind of plague? Trust me, in the long run it doesn’t really matter; whatever the cause, this reincarnate is real and it’s on the loose, frightening the natives, arousing the scientific curiosity of the Americans, and no doubt puzzling the many birds and squirrels who are trying to build nests in it.

Directed by editor Dan Milner and co-written by his brother Jack, From Hell It Came would be the second and last film made by their Milner Brothers Productions, a few years after their equally eye-rolling The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues was released in 1955. There’s really not much to discuss about the technical side of things; the acting was competent, the direction was what it was, and B-movie monster maker Paul Blaisdell’s tree creature was one of the most ugly and disturbing sights you’ll ever see in cinema. But for me, somehow, the film was oddly entertaining, and at a mere 71 minutes in length was easy to digest. But one inescapable fact remains: it’s still a freaking tree.

So there you have it, along with voodoo dolls, devil dust, security chickens at the execution ceremony, tribal members straight out of a Chicago casting office, and a pretty, bikini-clad native gal Friday named Orchid. I mean, seriously, what more could you ask for in a haunted tree movie? If you’re a fan of such things, it’s more than worthy of a look, if only to marvel at how calmly and earnestly the scientists study this creature, and how comically it lumbers (!) around the island in search of its human prey. And no matter how easy From Hell It Came is to ridicule, you have to give it this: it is a fresh and unexpected take on your typical revenge story.  (3/10)

From Hell It Came

12 comments on “From Hell It Came

  1. dracula
    12/10/16

    Looks like Tabanga has a good landscaper to keep him neat and trimmed. Even his beard is well maintained. The eyes spot on, two eggs sunny side up please. The review was probably more entertaining than the movie! But then when do you ever get to see a tree carry a bikini clad beauty. By the way I thought there are only tall slim coconut trees on those pacific atolls. Tabanga must be an outcast! Or an old stump.

    • Todd B
      12/10/16

      Tabanga was actually a newborn stump…about a day or two old. And the reason you didn’t see any coconut trees is because this particular atoll was located somewhere in the vicinity of either Santa Monica or West Covina.

      • Dracula
        12/10/16

        Yes the cheap back drop of Southern California, seen in many tv shows and movies. Not to be confused with the desert southwest, rocky mountains, pacific islands, South Korea or even the North Carolina fishing hole on The Andy Griffith Show.

      • Todd B
        12/10/16

        And don’t forget the Swiss Alps, Sherwood Forest, and any number of planet surfaces on Star Trek!

  2. Sun City Doug
    12/11/16

    Your review of this movie was great. Your description was very good without you having to go out on a limb. I think Tabanga had coconuts, two of them. Well hidden. Also, I think Tabanga had one redeeming quality about him for this time of year. The natives could string lights, ornaments, and tinsel on him. How festive ! He would have to stand in one place for almost an entire month. Merry Christmas to all !!

    • Todd B
      12/11/16

      Hey, thanks Doug, and thanks for lending me the movie! (Or should I say, ‘leaving’ me the movie). I found three tree jokes in your comment…some sort of record for tree jokes, I think. And I’m sure somewhere on this planet, somebody has a Tabanga tree in their home decorated for the holidays.

  3. I too have that Golden Turkey book and have been meaning to feature it somehow in a post. Thanks for the reminder. As for this flick, haven’t seen it. Have to rectify that.

    • Todd B
      12/12/16

      I think I know you well enough to say: Mike, it’s a must-see. And I’d love to see a post on the Golden Turkey Awards…maybe your topic could be your Top 5 favorite ‘best-worst’ movies from the book. (Actually, that would make for a fun blogathon!)

  4. grandrapidsgirl
    12/18/16

    “Tabanga” – more great password material! Love these 3 of 10s you review – lol! This one looks especially bizarre and another great find. Scary horticulture! Sorry to be late to the party here. Something to do with the season and lots of snow. Waiting patiently for the next great evaluation!!

    • Todd B
      12/18/16

      Yeah, ‘Tabanga’ kinda rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And what a great new sub-genre of movies: scary horticulture! Day of the Triffids, The Little Shop of Horrors, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes…the list goes on and on (I think). And speaking of sexy horticulture, here’s a shot of Orchid:

  5. grandrapidsgirl
    12/18/16

    One of the Monolithic hotties you follow no doubt!! 🙂

    • Todd B
      12/18/16

      Well, she was only in two other movies after From Hell It Came, and they’re quite obscure, so I’m not sure if I can officially ‘follow’ her based on one film alone. But trust me, if I ever find those other two, look out!

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