Saturday 3 February 2007

The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) Arnold Laven

Some sailor parachutes into the Salton Sea in California and promptly disappears. The two sailors who go to pick him up are soon dead, one of sheer terror and the other completely drained of blood and water with his skin turned to leather. Soon there are other victims too, a local couple out swimming even though the Navy has put all the beaches into quarantine. The scientists investigating find plenty of evidence of radioactivity and so send down divers, but one of those is killed by a huge caterpillar monster in a deep ravine that they weren't previously aware of.

This isn't a particularly great monster movie but it isn't bad either, just a run of the mill exploration of the genre. What makes it at least a little special is its cast. The lead scientist, Dr Jess Rogers, is played by Hans Conreid, a veteran actor whose work spanned almost every genre. He played the title character in the Dr Seuss extravaganza The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T along with completely different appearance in films like Hitler's Children or Journey into Fear, bit parts in Capra movies and a voice acting stint as Wally Walrus, suggesting a serious versatility. The leading lady is Audrey Dalton but she does nothing more than show up and look pretty, like most leading ladies in monster movies. There's a scream or two as well, naturally.

The lead is the man who also played the lead in Hitler's Children with Conreid: Tim Holt, best known for being the third man in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre alongside heavyweights Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. Unfortunately Holt obviously doesn't want to be there and does little more than stand on camera and speak his lines. There's no acting at all, just presence and even then not one he wanted anyone to notice. I honestly don't believe that he could seriously hide all emotion accidentally when being menaced by a completely unexpected giant caterpillar monster looming ominously over the side of his boat. I think he just didn't care and made it very obvious. Maybe we should too.

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