Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on November 21, 1956
Directed by Virgil Vogel
Written by Laszlo Gorog
Cast: John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, Cynthia Patrick, Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva, Phil Chambers, Rodd Redwing, Joe Abdullah, Yvonne De Lavallade, Dr Frank C. Baxter
Time to get back into the swing of things here at the Monolith, and what better way to kick-start my return than with another patented Mini Cheese-athon, where my blogging friend Lindsey at The Motion Pictures and I once again join forces in reviewing a cheesy sci-fi/horror film from our respective collections. This time around we take a look at The Mole People, the Universal International B-movie classic from 1956, starring John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, and the loveliest of all underground-dwelling mutants, Cynthia Patrick.
During an archaeological dig in Asia, Agar and Beaumont uncover a pair of 5,000-year-old artifacts and soon lead an expedition up a snow-capped mountain range in hopes of locating their source. Their journey takes them to a high plateau, where they discover the ruins of a long-abandoned stone temple; when one of the team stumbles down an abyss, Agar and Beaumont repel down to rescue him, only to find an ancient civilization whose pale-skinned denizens believe the two have descended from heaven, messengers of the goddess Ishtar. A skeptical high priest, however, thinks otherwise, and complicating matters are the slave-driven title characters, the mole people.
For a low-budget monster flick from the 1950s, this really wasn’t that bad, with Agar and Beaumont playing it straight and the mole people supplying some sufficient chills, especially when dragging unsuspecting humans through quicksand-like openings in the ground. But at a mere 77 minutes, the story sure took an awful long time to get to the good stuff, and the sluggish pace of the first half-hour didn’t help matters much. And though the title creatures got their share of screen time, it was the subterranean albino mutants, the Sumerians, that the film seemed to focus on more. Which was unfortunate, because they were boring as hell.
Who knows, maybe there were aspects of the Sumerian existence—libraries and carnivals and bowling alleys—that we viewers weren’t privy to, that perhaps offered some enjoyment and meaning to their lives. Instead, all I noticed were tunnels and caves and plenty of dirt, and a river that no one seemed to be frolicking in. And these people lived like this for thousands of years? No thanks! And with no contact with the modern world, and no hint of anything that might occupy their time, I started to ask myself a lot of questions, and the most pressing of them was this: what did these mutants do…and what would the mole people be doing if they weren’t incarcerated slaves?
Thankfully, the second half of the film proved to be more fast-paced and interesting than the first, as we finally got to see the ‘beasts of the dark’—bipedal, lizard-like beings with bulbous insect eyes and large clawed hands—in action, and the Sumerians do battle with them and the now-outcast archeologists. We were also introduced to the ‘marked one’, the mutant (of the mutants!) female named either Adad or Adel, played by the fetching Patrick, whose normal complexion and looks made her more suited for the outside world than the one she existed in. And as a gift from the Sumerian king, she gave Agar second thoughts about wanting to escape.
With a more serious tone and less cheese than I expected, and some nifty camerawork from first-time director Virgil Vogel, The Mole People wasn’t a bad watch, especially for fans of ’50s creature features. There was a heavier dose of science ‘fact’ than you’d expect from this sort of film (that is, if you believe everything a USC professor pondered during the short prologue), and its theme of a master-slave society and its consequences gave the narrative some weight. And with two decent performances from Agar and Beaumont, whose characters didn’t take crap from anyone, it was easy to get involved with them and their predicament. Just don’t ask where all the goats and sheep came from. (5/10)