Thursday, October 31, 2019


Three young men are climbing the Trollenberg mountain in the Swiss Alps when they are overcome by a thick fog. One of them falls and the other two try to save him but discover as they try to pull him to safety that his head has been torn off. This is only the latest in a series of strange climbing disasters on the mountain which have coincided with a huge unmoving, radioactive cloud surrounding the peak, and Prof. Crevett, who runs a small research observatory near the mountain, has called in his former colleague Alan Brooks, now an investigator for the United Nations. Brooks stays at a hotel in the small Swiss village along with two sisters, Anne and Sarah Pilgrim, who perform a mind-reading act, and Philip Truscott, a reporter. It develops that Anne is actually gifted with powers of extrasensory perception, and she begins to sense a strong force of some kind coming from the mountain. Two more climbers run into trouble that night and don't return to the hotel. A search party finds one of them dead and decapitated. The other climber, Brett, returns that evening, disoriented, and later tries to kill Anne. He is subdued, gets a gash in his forehead which doesn't bleed, and eventually has to shot to stop him from attacking Anne. A doctor determines that Brett has been clinically dead for 24 hours, and Brooks and Crevett make a connection to a similar case in the Andes some years ago which involved a mountain, a mysterious cloud, a woman with psychic powers, and a killer who was already dead. What's going on? Well, it turns out that there are alien creatures in the cloud in the shape of gigantic eyeballs with tentacles, and they consider Anne an enemy. Soon, the cloud moves down the mountain and the entire village is evacuated by cable car to the observatory, which is considered safe. But the eyes manage to converge and attack anyway. Can anything stop them?

This was the first movie I ever saw on Chiller Theater (on Friday nights on WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio), in January of 1964 when I was 7. I was already a monster movie fan, and after some pestering on my part, my parents let me stay up until 11:30 at night to watch Chiller Theater. In the beginning, it was a family affair, with Mom and Dad making popcorn and staying up with me. Eventually, they must have decided that I could handle these movies alone, but the memory of this first one remains strong, both for it being scary and for the family bonding. Seen now, it feels awfully talky in the beginning, but the last half-hour works pretty well, with the eyes threatening a little girl and eventually crawling all over the observatory—pretty good use of miniatures. The full-sized tentacles, however, are less effective, slow moving and obviously operated by wires. Forrest Tucker (as Brooks) and Janet Munro (Anne) are fine and the only real standouts in the cast. The film is based on a British TV mini-series called The Trollenberg Terror, and the movie does feel a little overstuffed with plot details that may have come from the original TV show but weren't given room to be developed here (Anne’s ESP powers, the earlier Andean incident with the aliens). But even to my sixty-something eyes, this still works as an archetypal Chiller Theater movie, and a climactic entry for my Chiller Theater month. [DVD]

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