BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE (1959)
ALIEN meets KEY LARGO in this ultra-cheapie horror film which was co-produced by an uncredited Roger Corman and directed by Monte Hellman, who went on to become a cult figure (TWO-LANE BLACKTOP). A band of crooks show up at a ski lodge in South Dakota to pull off a gold bar robbery, planning to set off a mine explosion to cover up their deed. Turns out that a monster lives in a place the locals call Haunted Cave. It snatches a sexy local girl first and a witness, one of the crooks (Richard Sinatra—yes, a relative of Frank's), goes a little nutty over what he saw, though no one believes him, thinking instead that a rampaging cougar is the problem. The explosion goes off as planned, though a young couple is accidentally killed, and the gang's leader (Frank Woolf) gets a hunky ski instructor (Michael Forest) to take the group to a remote cabin where they plan to hide out until the gold is helicoptered in. However, Forest figures out what's going on, with some help from sexy moll Sheila Carol; the two fall in love (sort of) and she decides she'd like to stay behind with Forest when the gang splits. But the course of true love, as they say in The Philadelphia Story, gathers no moss, and when a blizzard approaches, everyone winds up in the haunted cave, lining up to be the monster's dinner.
The Key Largo part of the movie consists of the melodramatic interactions between the gang members and Forest at the isolated cabin; the more interesting Alien part has to do with how the beast kills its prey: it wraps the victims in a sticky web and leaves them in the cave so it can suck their blood later. The beast itself is just a guy in a laughably bad costume (occasionally effective when kept in the shadows), but the webbed folks in the cave are creepy--the picture above is of a victim in the midst of being webbed up. Because the characters are drawn with a little more depth than is usual for a sub-B horror film, the acting is not bad, with Forest and Carol working up some chemistry, and Woolf making a good stab at a love-to-hate villain. I miss the touches of humor than Corman often stuck in the films of this era that he directed; here, there is little to no comic relief. Watchable but not one of Corman’s classics. [TCM]