Friday, October 09, 2009


College professor Arthur Franz is excited when student Troy Donahue delivers an ancient fossilized fish from Madagascar, a coelacanth, to his lab. No one notices that Donahue's dog laps up a little bit of bloody water from the crate, but moments later everyone notices that the dog has grown extra fangs and gone vicious. Franz declares it a "throwback" and cages it for the night, but the next day, it's just a sweet friendly pup again. The same thing happens to a dragonfly that sups on the fish; it becomes a gigantic buzzing prehistoric-looking creature. When Franz cuts his hand on a fish tooth, he too becomes a snarling "throwback" and kills a young woman, not realizing when he reverts to normal that he's done so. (Technically, that's a spoiler, as they don't reveal for sure who the monster is until the end, but there is virtually no one else it could be, not even a cheap red herring character.) Another violent attack happens after Franz has, get this, smoked some of the fish blood which came from the giant dragonfly and dripped into his pipe. The cops think there's a killer after Franz, but Franz soon realizes that he's the killer.

This is about par for the course for a late 50's sci-fi horror flick: pedestrian story, acting, sets, and direction, and just enough juice now and then to keep you from falling asleep. The coelacanth is a pretty good prop, grotesque and a little scary, though the monster insect is fairly laughable (pictured above, you can kinda see the wires). There is a startling shot showing Franz's first victim hanging by her hair from a tree, but as far as shocks and thrills, it's mostly downhill from there. Donahue is a large wooden pole, though an attractive one; Franz is OK, as is Joanna Moore as his main squeeze. The movie's lesson: "Man is only one generation from savagery!" Or maybe it's something about the beast triumphing over the seeker; I was in a popcorn/Coke coma by the end. [DVD]

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