Monday, October 15, 2007


Like HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, this is a movie that I first "experienced" by way of a photo comic book which used movie stills with dialogue balloons. When I finally got around to seeing HORROR, I enjoyed it more than the comic. I can't say the same about this one, although it does have its (campy) pleasures, among which is the amusing opening, as Dr. Frank Baxter, a professor of English at USC, gives us a short, eccentric lecture about Hollow Earth theories over the centuries, even namechecking Gilgamesh in the process. Then we follow the adventures of a group of archeologists, including the beefy and sometimes obnoxious John Agar, the father-figure-ish Hugh Beaumont, and the fade-into-the-background Nestor Paiva. They are camped out somewhere in Asia (as a title card tells us) digging in the mountains. After an earthquake, they discover an oil lamp inscribed with a Sumerian version of the Noah's Ark story. We endure several minutes of rock climbing (shades of MST3K) before the men find some temple ruins. Paiva falls through a crevice into the apparently hollow mountain and when Agar and Beaumont go to rescue him, they all wind up trapped in a huge underground city inhabited by a race of remnant Sumerians who have mostly turned albino from lack of exposure to the sun. In a plot point out of H.G. Wells's "The Time Machine," it turns out that there are other survivors who have evolved (or devolved) into brutish Morlock-type creatures, the Mole People of the title, who live underground and do the Sumerians' dirty work. Because the scientists have a flashlight, the King of the albinos thinks they are gods, but the wily high priest (Alan Napier, Alfred on TV’s "Batman") thinks differently. Agar develops the hots for a non-Albino Sumerian woman (Cynthia Patrick, looking like she spends a lot of time in an above-ground beauty salon), and there's some torturing of the mole people, a human sacrifice ritual, and a last twist right out of "Lost Horizon." The background matte paintings look nice but the sets are fairly cheap. Agar is supposed to be the hero, but he's irritating, and frankly it's hard to care much about the fate of anyone, even the abused Mole People, who are basically background characters in the movie named after them. The premise is fun, but the short movie runs out of steam before the climax. [DVD]

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