Monday, October 26, 2009


This comes off as a remake of Arch Oboler's FIVE with less interesting dialogue and more action and cliches. However, it's one of the first "monster movies" I remember seeing in my youth, so I still have a soft spot for it. Opening much like FIVE, just after a nuclear apocalypse (with the words "The End" emblazoned across the screen), a radioactive fog is sweeping the world and retired military man Paul Birch and his daughter (Lori Nelson) have stocked up provisions in their house in an isolated California valley (into which the fog doesn't descend). They have enough for three to live comfortably--Lori's fiancé was expected but doesn't show up--but they take in a larger group of stragglers who were caught near the valley at the time of the blasts. They include slick thug Mike Connors, his stripper girlfriend (Adele Jergens), a grizzled old prospector and his burro, a man who seems to be on the verge of death from radiation poisoning, and a hunky geologist (Richard Denning). Trapped in the house together for weeks, tensions soon develop, mostly between Connors and Denning who both fall for Nelson, though of course she only has eyes for Denning. The dying man doesn't die but instead begins mutating into a creature with scaly amour, fit for surviving in the contaminated environment. It turns out that there is at least one other fully mutated monster hanging around outside the house who is almost as much a threat to our group as the violent and unpleasant Connors.

This Roger Corman film has an ultra-cheap look; the house is ugly, the huge sliding glass door drapes are always shut (probably due to a limited budget, though it does add to the claustrophobic feel), and the monster makeup, quite effective at first glance, is not so effective when given too much exposure. There is a nice plot twist involving the inevitable rain which Birch is sure it will be poisonous, and the identity of the roaming mutant is fairly subtly revealed (I certainly didn't catch it when I was 10 years old). Blond bombshell Jergens gives the best performance here, partly because her character is a little more nuanced than the rest. Denning gives good chest, but is otherwise unremarkable. Connors, better looking than Denning (but not as blond), went on to fame and fortune as Mannix on TV in the 60's. This is available in a decent widescreen DVD, paired with the junky treat THE SHE-CREATURE. [DVD]

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