Cinema Monolith

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

The Mole People

Cinema Monolith: 5/10 The MonolithThis movie was watched on Svengoolie!
IMDb: 4.8/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ** out of 4
The Motion Pictures: 3/5

Released on November 21, 1956
Not rated
77 minutes

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 those goats and sheep came from.  (5/10)


26 comments on “The Mole People

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve visited these underground caverns. This was one of those titles that took me years to see after discovering its existence at an early age thanks to monster mags like Famous Monsters. Another of those titles that Universal still makes some cash off by marketing some models for to the classic collectors. And isn’t Alfred the Butler in this as that high priest with the pancake make up?

    • Todd B

      Yes, that is ol’ Alfred, flapjacks and all, and he’s quite the jerk in this one. In fact, ALL the Sumerians are jerks, except for that hot blonde one! And I never was a reader of those monster mags as a kid, but I kinda wish I was; I concentrated more on Sports Illustrated, Baseball Digest, and Model Railroader.

      • Speaking of hot blondes…… I’ll admit I wanted to get my hands on another kind of magazine as a youngster but dad never had them lying around or maybe he just had them too well hid.

      • Todd B

        When I was a kid, my supply could be found at our local barber shop…or as part of a tall stack I found discarded at our apartment complex trash shed.

  2. Lindsey

    Our scores were close on this one! I actually originally had mine at 2.5/5, but changed it when editing my review. The more I thought about the film, the more I appreciated its surprising lack of corn. I didn’t find the Sumerians quite as boring as you did, but I credit that to the fact that in my youth I wanted to live in a cave, haha! Thanks for another fabulous, though less cheesy cheese-athon!

    • Todd B

      You bet, Lindsey, and thank you for a fun Cheeser! Coincidentally, I originally had a score of 6 for my review, but dropped it to 5 during a re-watch this past week; I just couldn’t get past that Sumerian mentality. But yeah, I can see where the ‘cave-liking’ factor would raise your score a notch or two. By the way, what did you think about that wrap-up? It kinda pissed me off, actually, and when I found out afterwards that it was studio imposed, and then read the reasoning behind it, it really pissed me off. So what’s next on our list…Curse of Bigfoot? Attack of the 50-Foot Woman? The Apple? Hmmm…

  3. geelw

    Hey, Mister Mole! Let me know if you’re doing this cheese-fest again, as I may want to ‘accidentally’ kick over a stack of discs and add a post. I actually need to scour my old posts and see what’s already been done, as I didn’t realize I’d written over 6100 posts since the Blogspot days (eek!) and I still have something like 1000+ of those to reformat to my WP site.

    • Todd B

      Hi Greg! (And please, call me Morocco!) Good lord, 6100 posts…I thought I was doing pretty good with my measly 200+! It looks like I have a TON of catching up to do.

      And thanks for the interest in taking part in our cheese-athon, but Lindsey and I have always wanted to keep this a two-person deal…kind of a tradition of ours for the past few years. But I like the idea of you and I joining forces on movie reviews, so I have an idea: how about the two of us create our own mini-blogathon, and invite Mike over at Mike’s Take and Mikey over at Wolfman’s Cult Film Club along for the ride? I think it’s safe to assume that the four of us all enjoy ‘video store’ films of the ’80s, so we could concentrate on action films from that decade, good and/or bad: Stallone, Norris, Bronson, Arnold, Eastwood, Andy Sidaris, etc. Or we could cover sci-fi and horror of the ’70s and ’80s as well, again for better or worse. Let me know what you think! If you like the idea, I’ll ask Mike and Mikey if they’re interested, too.

      • geelw

        Well, that sounds like a plan, Morocco, so sure, sign me up. I may as well get to the backlog here, as I have a few 80’s films in that stack I’ve either not seen in decades, or have seen but haven’t got around to reviewing. I’m trying to figure out who’s going to be Secret Squirrel as well, because I think I’m either Quick Draw McGraw or Snaggletooth, depending on how I feel each morning.

      • Todd B

        I’ll inform the two Mikes of the ‘action ’80s’ idea and see what they think. And considering our apparent knowledge of obscure Saturday morning cartoon characters, perhaps we should consider a blogathon devoted to them! Who knows, if the four of us do get together for this endeavor, maybe we should be known as the Banana Splits.

      • geelw

        Hmmm… I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pass out in some smelly old costume while trying to type out a blog post. Then again, it’s head protection for all four of us if we all keel over at the same time in front of our respective computing devices (sings: “One banana, two banana, three banana, four…”)

      • Todd B

        Tra la la, la la la…BONK!

  4. Dracula

    I didn’t know Hugh Beaumont was an Indiana Jones type of guy. Always pictured him with his suit and tie lounging around on a Saturday afternoon. Did the Beav and Larry get to play with the lizard guys?

    • Todd B

      While watching the movie, I started thinking about how fun it would be to take an episode or two of Leave it to Beaver and edit scenes from The Mole People into it: the Cleavers think Ward is heading off to a business office every morning, when he’s actually spanning the globe as an adventurer, hunting down mole creatures. And no, Larry and the Beav didn’t play with the lizard guys…they were eaten by them.

  5. Sorry for the late appearance, I missed this one first time round. Just did a flick through the reader and saw it pop up. Cheese-athon haha that’s brilliant. I don’t know this one but it does sound like they missed a trick not coming out the starting grid all guns blazing with that short run-time. You would expect an action pack sci-fi fest with a tagline like “Deep beneath the Earth’s surface the darkness breeds TERROR!” I do fancy this seeing this film one day though 🙂

    • Todd B

      Late appearance? I’m still trying to get caught up with your reviews and posts from March! And yeah, this film really needed a shot of adrenaline (or an appearance from Duke Snider); I’d say still check it out, though…it’s fun, and it’ll cost you just 77 minutes. And that tag line is a good one…you had me hooked at ‘breeds’.

      And in case you haven’t seen it yet, I sent you an e-mail to your site’s e-mail address….a blogathon proposition. Let me know what you think. And if you HAVE seen it, and don’t wish to become involved, well, we’ll do our best to stumble along without you. (sniff, sniff)

      • Thanks for the heads up on the message, I would of missed it. Haven’t been checking my mail there but have now linked that address to my main email, so I should get notifications. Todd that’s an awesome idea and I would very much love to be involved. I have replied to your mail. Thanks for adding me to the group. I’m very much looking forward to it 🙂

      • Todd B

        Glad you’re taking part in the fun! I’m working on an e-mail right now that I’m sending to the three of you, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

      • I got it and replied. I’m all set up for notifications now so I should be right on the case now. Very much looking forward to the action 🙂

      • Todd B

        Cool, Mikey…I received your reply, as well as those from Mike and Gary, so I’ll get another e-mail out this week with a list of our preferences for our blogathon team. It seems everyone but me wants to concentrate on reviewing independent romance dramas filmed in Thailand from 1910 to 1929, so I guess that’s what we’ll go with. Looking forward to it!

      • Pss myself laughing hehe “on reviewing independent romance dramas filmed in Thailand from 1910 to 1929” 🙂

      • Todd B

        I’m just hoping that Chok Sorng Chan and Khrai Di Khrai Dai fit the bill!

      • LOL you actually found a few titles! I just had to do google those names. Heheh brilliant 🙂

      • Todd B

        C’mon, you KNEW I wouldn’t put fake names up there!

      • geelw

        And somewhere out there on the internet, there’s ONE fan of those films and that genre composing an epic response that will take you an hour to read. 😀

      • Todd B

        Ha, yes…and it’ll be Mike over at Mike’s Take, because he’ll have both of those films in his collection!

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