Monsters are lurking behind the scenes of the Journal today, in varying shapes and sizes. 31 Days of Spooky Stuff continues with a look at Robert Florey’s THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS and Roger Corman’s IT CONQUERED THE WORLD.
The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time.
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time.
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.
What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?
FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 78
(31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 16 – OCT. 16, 2013)
THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946) – A brilliant pianist has been the toast of an Italian village. Though he has lost the use of one of his hands, he has overcome his disability and written fantastic compositions to be played one-handed. He has been aided in this by his live-in nurse, whom he has developed an attachment towards. But she is planning on leaving the pianist’s house, something both the pianist and his most trusted people do not support. The pianist dies mysteriously and his greedy relatives swoop in to divide his fortune. One by one, they are strangled to death. And the culprit may be the dead pianist’s severed hand.
Curt Siodmak co-wrote the screenplay to this one, and it shows. Siodmak is one of the great screenwriters of sci-fi and horror from the age of the silver screen. He also was a damn fine novelist in his own right. Robert Florey directs this film towards the end of his most prolific period and he does an exemplary job as always. Performances are good throughout, particularly by Andrea King and Peter Lorre.
Unfortunately, the film goes for a saddening conventional route and the mystery isn’t that hard to figure out. It’s one of those rare cases in older cinema where the requirements to make everyone in the audience feel better may have hurt the film as a whole. Recommended.
IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956) – An alien creature crash lands on Earth and starts communicating with Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef). The alien convinces the scientist that it will lead the world into a new age of peace, precisely because free will is to be taken out of the occasion. The alien dispatches bat-like creatures who attach themselves to people’s necks and take over their minds. Dr. Anderon’s wife (Beverly Garland) makes her disgust plain. As more and more people lose their free will, it is up to Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves) to convince his friend of the error of his ways and save the world.
If you’re talking about the best films Roger Corman ever directed, you’d have to go to the Poe films and perhaps even THE INTRUDER. But Corman is also known for his share of sci-fi/horror quickies from the mid-1950s. And if I were to pick one film from that crop to be my favorite Corman sci-fi shocker, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD would win, hands down. It’s surreal and creepy, with better characters than you typically get from the age of white bred heroes and barefoot women. Garland is a fighter, perhaps the biggest fighter in this whole film, telling her own husband that she will fight the alien takeover and even the mans he loves to her dying breath.
This film came just out just a few months after INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Like that film, there are cold war parallels, though not as pronounced as in Don Siegel’s film. This one is more fanciful and the limited shooting schedule and resources have led to one of the most iconically funny-looking monsters in B-movie history.
And let’s not forget that closing monologue. Often ridiculed, even by my favorite show MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. But man, it’s great:
“He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature… and because of it, the greatest in the universe. He learned too late for himself that men have to find their own way, to make their own mistakes. There can’t be any gift of perfection from outside ourselves. And when men seek such perfection… they find only death… fire… loss… disillusionment… the end of everything that’s gone forward. Men have always sought an end to the toil and misery, but it can’t be given, it has to be achieved. There is hope, but it has to come from inside, from Man himself.”
Well said, Peter Graves. Well said. The Best.
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 323
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