It was a dark, foreboding night, and as the ancient grandfather clock dolefully struck the witching hour, the credits rolled on my ‘Village of the Damned’ DVD. I retired to the library with a stiff Scotch and pipe with my usual rough shag, and settled down with my faithful copy of ‘Keep Watching The Skies’ - to read all about that most singular village of Midwich… Henceforth, I discovered that Letchmore Heath near Elstree Film Studios was the location for the film - and a quick look on the map revealed that Letchmore Heath is only 7.6 miles from my house! “Darling” I said to my wife “How would you like a nice drive in the country this week-end? Perhaps stopping off for a bite to eat at...oh, I dunno…say, Letchmore Heath?” “What are you planning this time you idiot?” My wife asked, rather unkindly I thought. “Nothing at all darling.... nothing at all!” She looked directly at me for several seconds... “You’re thinking of…A BRICK WALL!” “Okay, okay you got me!” I said “Letchmore Heath is where they filmed Village of the Damned you know that film with the spooky little blonde kids... ... and so I want to go and see if I can recognise all the places in the film.” “You’re paying for lunch.” She said and walked out the door.
Which is why, later that week, I found myself spending an enjoyable afternoon wandering around Letchmore Heath, camera in hand. It’s a beautiful spot, basically (just) a small green, pub and pond. It doesn’t even have a shop – the store featured in the film is up for sale! It dates back to 1500 according to the Estate Agents. Unfortunately at £850,000 it’s out of my price range. Would make a nice piece of movie memorabilia though.
Anyway, here are the results of my sojourn, with the corresponding shots of the film (taken with the same camera, by sitting in front of the TV. Which explains why 'PAUSE' appears on a few shots. Apologies for my lack of technical know-how).
This film gets more and more Corman-esque as it goes on. Culminating in some great lines "They're eating the guests!" It's a lot of fun, as it straddles the line between horror/horror-comedy. Kevin McCarthy appears, as do several Corman stalwarts. The story? Well, a couple of hitchikers find a disused army base with a swimming pool. get naked/get wet/ get eaten. Missing person hunter goes to find them, picks up an alcoholic whatsisname from Falcon Crest (DOESN'T he look like Charlton Heston?). Anyway, said missing person hunter commits a slight faux pas and empties a pool of mutated piranhas into the river. Making her, IMHO one of the biggest mass-murderers that we're expected to sympathise with in the history of movie making. The chase down-river ensues. Look out kids! Look out bathers at the opening gala of an Amity Island-esque resort (a lot smaller. Well, it's a lot smaller budget)! Eventually Blake saves the day... or does he? That would be telling... I'm gonna get me that poster, it's wonderful.
I think the 'monster' in this is pretty effective - okay, it's basically just a big guy in armour, but the fact that the film is in black and white lets us imagine the ghastly colour the creature must be - sickly green? A horrible deathly grey perhaps? Who knows?There are pleasing performances from all the main characters, and pretty inept ones from the supporting cast, which is actually something that I usually enjoy in 50's Sci-fi. The performance of 'Indian Joe' alone is worth the cost of the DVD.The story itself is standard monster movie fare - the residents of Pine Ridge are up in arms about some mysterious animal mutilations - which of course turns out to be the work of the Giant From The Unkown - who we see resurrected later on - so how come he managed to kill all the animals beforehand? Hmmmm.Anyway, the young scientist/hero Wayne Brooks (Edward Kremmer, who played the teacher in Earth vs The Spider) is under suspicion by the local policeman.Cue the appearance of eminent archaeologist Prof. Cleveland (Morris Ankrum of Earth vs Flying Saucers - and I think he was in Invaders Fron Mars as well?)and his beautiful daughter Janet. To cut a long story short the Giant From The Unknown kills Wayne and the professor, and marries Janet - okay, sorry, we know that sort of thing never happens in these sort of affairs, not when we have a hero like Wayne Brooks to appear and bash the giant about a bit before he falls off a bridge to his certain (because there hasn't been a sequel) death. Wayne and Janet then get together and - we hope - fall in love.My fave moment in the film that you might like to look out for is when a policeman sneaks up behind the giant with his rifle raised - and instead of shooting him proceeds to use it as a rather ineffective club - great stuff!In sumary then - 10/10, obviously!
Let’s meet the hero of the piece, ‘Chase’ - a mechanic who is happy to spend a lot of time doing gratis work for the local sheriff who, in return, seems happy for Chase to go around nicking spare parts from car crashes and destroying valuable evidence. Chase’s girlfriend is a bit of an enigma - she’s either French or acting French. I hope it’s the latter, because she’s got a really bad French accent.
There’s a Giant Gila Monster on the loose (I don’t think I’m spoiling the plot for anyone by saying this am I?) and a couple of kids have gone missing. Their friends – Chase and ‘The Gang’ (mostly 35 year old teenagers) seem blissfully unconcerned about this until the Sherrif has them go out and hunt for them.
Oh, I forgot to say – before this we say Chase putting 4 jars of Nitro-glycerine into his shed. Hmmm, something tells me that won’t be the last we see of those highly explosive little objects...
So – back to (the) Chase, and on his travels he finds a very drunk driver rambling on about seeing a giant black and pink thing on the road. "Nonsense" thinks Chase and takes the drunk into his garage to cool off, only to discover when the drunk wakes up that it is none other than top K.I.L.T D.J ‘Steamroller Smith’!
Chase also has time in between hunting down the monster and robbing cars, to rather touchingly watch his little sister ‘Missy’ try to walk with a new pair of leg braces. She doesn’t quite manage to walk across the floor to Chase and is rather upset, but cheers up when Chase sings the most excruciating song ever – this scene is worth the money you paid for the DVD alone. Altogether now! – “AND THE LORD SAID, LAUGH CHILDREN LAUGH! LAUGH CHILDREN LAUGH! LAUGH CHILDREN LAUGH, AND THE LORD SAID……” (REPEAT x 24 TIMES).
This cheers Missy up so much that she apparently forgets she can’t walk and we see here in the next scene standing holding a suitcase on the way to stay over night somewhere that isn't relevant to the plot.
We eventually get to the exposition scene where the sheriff explains to Chase about the possibility of a giant lizard stalking the local populace. Unfortunately it's one of the most unconvincing exposition scenes ever: “Chase – I’ve seen a Zoologist” he says, as if he’s admitting to an affair. He goes on to explain slowly and with an obvious lack of interest that there’s probably a giant lizard roaming about. But he ends with some great advice. “But don’t worry about that” he says “you go out and enjoy yourself tonight.”
Cut to the local rock and roll barn shindig where ‘Steamroller Smith’ repays the favour and plays an impromptu set ! And the hot new mystery disc that has the kids dancing turns out to be written and performed by none other than our very own Chase! But for some reason Chase deliberately sabotages his blossoming musical career by then getting out that bloody ukelele again and – sorry about this - starts singing ” AND THE LORD SAID, LAUGH CHILDREN LAUGH! LAUGH CHILDREN LAUGH! LAUGH CHI~LDREN LAUGH, AND THE LORD SAID……” (REPEAT x 48 TIMES).
Unsurprisingly, The Giant Gila Monster has had enough and decides to attack. Chase remembers about the nitro-glycerine, and gives them to his 'French' girlfriend to hold safely before picking the bumpiest looking field and driving straight across it. “Keep that stuff still - do you want to blow us all up !? “ he says to her rather unfairly. We’re almost at the end now - Chase unselfishly drives his new hot-rod straight at the Giant Gila Monster and blows it to smithereens. Everbody is saved and there’s a happy ending. “Well, now that the owner of your garage has been killed I guess that there’s a job there for you!” says the sherrif with a smile – and everybody laughs!
Great film. Recommended. I'll never get that song out of my head though – ALTOGETHER NOW! "AND THE LORD SAID…" repeat to fade...
This is the VERY first film I remember seeing., and being pretty badly traumatised by the cat scenes. So it was with some anticipation that I sat down last night to check how the reality fares against my memory.I’m glad to report that the cat scenes that made me scream so much as kid are STILL bloody frightening, and extremely well done. During other parts of the movie though, I’m afraid I did feel myself guiltily laughing – at our heroes setbacks unfortunately, like when he spends ages freeing the cheese from the mousetrap only to see it fall down the drain – and the scene where the newsreader announces he’s been eaten by the pet cat – like I said, I had to laugh, but did feel a pang of remorse.Unintentional comedy aside this goes straight to the top of my all time fave films list. From the great opening credits with the shrinking man & growing cloud of radiation, it’s just so imaginative, daring, ambitious and completely different from the run of the mill sci-fi/monster movie. Turning every day objects - and the family cat - into alien obstacles and monsters is a completely inspired and effortlessly accomplished piece of film-making. Grant Williams as Scott Carey is superb in what looked to be a real physically demanding role. And I have now forgiven the cat for traumatising me. In return, it inspired in me an interest in all things 50s sci-fi. A fair swap, I reckon.
I was pretty much blown away by how good this is. For it’s time the ‘horror’ aspect of the whole thing is very subtle which leads to some genuinely chilling moments - for example when a corpse suddenly opens its eyes in one scene – but my favourite is the shot of the deserted town square at quarter to eight in the morning when suddenly throngs of people appear from all directions walking slowly towards it (probably have to watch it to see what I mean). The acting is uniformly good, Kevin McCarthy in particular puts in an amazing performance as the ‘last man standing’ - and doesn’t stop running for most of the film which I take my hat off to. I actually lost a couple of pounds just watching him. The extras on my DVD were confined to a mere 6 minute interview with the great man McCarthy, which nevertheless revealed some interesting snippets – Sam Peckinpah actually appears in a very small role (and was the dialogue director for the movie) and also that the original ending changed – it was originally going to end at what is undoubtedly the movies stand out scene, where McCarthy is stood in traffic shouting “THEY’RE HERE ALREADY” and we get a close-up shot of him looking into the camera. I can imagine that watching that particular moment in a cinema in the 50s must have had some effect – especially with the threat of the cold war and communism that the film obviously (or does it?) refer to – and I just wish that the studio had the guts to go with that orginal ending – unfortunately we get the tagged on standard happy ending that just diminishes this great film ever so slightly.Wouldn’t those pods be a great bit of movie memorabilia to have?
Respect is due to the actors in ‘Giant Claw’. They do a fine job with the script that they’ve been been given. Stevie – the divine Mara Corday ('Tarantula', 'The Black Scorpion') is reliably sassy as ever...
...and then there's the wonderful Jeff Morrow ('This Island Earth', 'The Creature Walks Amongst Us', 'Kronos') as craggy hero pilot ‘Mitch Macafee’.
A truly great name, and it's also good to see that he's not afraid to try for a snog with Mara even though he's a good few years too old for her. Go Mitch!
Apart from ol' Gianty itself, the most enjoyable element of this film is the dialogue:
The General. “Three men reported they saw something. Two of them are now dead.”
Mitch. “That makes me Chief Cook and Bottle Washer in a one-man Bird Watcher's Society!”
Or what about:
Mitch. “Keep your shirt on while I go get my pants.”
Then there's the obligatory scientific explanation that ends with, “You’re both right…but wrong!”
This is a film that deserves to be watched many times. Why not make it part of your yearly Thanksgiving celebrations?
Next time I think I’ll try and count the number of times the word ‘Battleship’ is mentioned – or the number of times a member of the military makes a snidy comment to Mitch for absolutely no reason.
First of all, the good bits - Yvette Vickers। All 5 foot 3 inches of her (35-22-35 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)). What a little cutey.And another tidbit from those good folks at imdb.com - In his book, Stephen King: On Writing, King cited her as one of his movie matinee idols.Anyway, I'm afraid I was a little disappointed by this movie. The scenes of the 50 foot woman didn't do it for me. In fact, in most shots she just looked to be normal size. Rather than super-imposing her on scenes, I reckon much the same effect could have been got by shooting her from a low angle. But hey, I'm no film director.The highlights for me were the more laughable aspects.That giant hand's a cracker, innit? And when the doc rushes in and shouts 'astounding growth!' - it made me chuckle, and I do recall that line being mentioned somewhere in a previous post.But that was about the extent of my enjoyment. I'm going to have to file this under 'not as good as attack of the giant leeches'.
Suggested tagline: "John Agar and friends go pot-holing and inadvertantly wipe out an entire civilisation. Oops!"This film is poor, poor, poor, but worth watching because, in my un-biased opinion, John Agar is always worth watching. The sight of him running around in circles, waving his 'Sword of Ishtar' and trying to get off with the only available female....well, I enjoyed it.The story is perfectly simple - archaeologists discover an ancient mushroom eating albino civilisation and because of their torch are worshipped as emissaries from the goddess Ishtar for a while until they meddle with the albinos enslaving the mole-people and escape with a girl for a sure-fire happy ending, just as long as nobody panics and runs under a wobbly pillar.Most memorable quote by a mile is Agar's "Has anyone ever tried smoking dried mushrooms?"
"You'll come out of that laboratory looking just fine, Paul!" Says Jane to her troubled husband.
Sometimes people say things in these movies that are just tempting fate, don't they?And it’s not longer after Jane has come out with that line, that Dr Mark Sinclair explains to Jane that the radiation experiment can’t go on for ONE SECOND longer than is planned. Or Paul will be in big trouble. ‘NOT ONE SECOND!’ he repeats, just in case we don’t get it.The fact that Paul is so keen to get a massive dose of radiation from the same Doc that basically turned him into a walking handbag is also a little silly – hasn’t he seen any sci-fi flicks? Radiation is bad, and so it proves in this case unfortunately.But I’m getting ahead of myself. The story, told in flashback, is a cracker – Jane’s wife Paul does a runner on their honeymoon. Her search takes her deep into swamp territory where she meets a manic Lon Chaney with a hook for a hand – worth the price of the DVD alone.The story that unfolds is probably THE most ridiculous even amongst the cheesiest of monster movies - and the ending is just the best. From the moment Jane and the Doc start tempting fate with the phrases I mentioned above, and a drunk Lon Chaney storms into the lab, the film becomes jaw-droppingly, awesomely, hilariously, erm, stupid. And completely unmissable.In summary, probably THE best alligator-themed monster movie featuring Lon Chaney available. It gets my thumbs up.
June Kenney was gorgeous in this, and Earth vs Spider in the same year. A quick search on IMDB.COM doesn't list her in anything after 1962. Any ideas what became of her?...in one scene they're watching another Bert I Gordon movie 'The Amazing Collosal Man'. Any other examples of this kind of 'product placement' in 50s sci-fi? What was the film the kids were watching in The Blob....?I thought that John Hoyt played the part of the doll-maker as being too nice. Maybe it was a subtle sympathetic performance that went over my head, but I'd have preferred Karloff as a mad puppet maker.And the ending was a let down - hit him Agar! Call the police! STICK HIM IN THE MACHINE!!! But oh no, they just walk out the office whistling a merry tune.I really enjoyed this movie actually. John Agar, my fave genre actor does a great job despite being turned into a puppet. The aforementioned June Kenney is gorgeous. The special effects are pretty good, and the plot is ridiculous. 10/10