War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

A spiritual sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man — with a different cast — this movie starts with Joyce Manning believing that her gigantic brother Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning survived his fall from Hoover Dam in the last movie.

He does live, except that his face is disfigured and he’s lost his mind as it tries to deal with the traumatic fall that he took. This facial damage was because there was a new star — and also a stagehand on the film — Dean Parkin and this would disguise the fact that they changed up who would play the lead. Stranger still, the dream sequence in the movie shows original actor Glenn Lanagan.

War of the Colossal Beast was produced, directed and written by Bert I. Gordon — the king of these kinds of movies — and co-produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff. The last scene of the movie was shot in color and then made into black and white to match the rest of the film.

You can watch this on Tubi.

 

The Crawling Eye (1958)

Known as The Trollenberg Terror in England, where it was made, The Crawling Eye has exactly what you want to see: a giant eyeball. If we didn’t have this, we wouldn’t have The Fog, as this movie directly inspired John Carpenter. See, great things can come out of a movie whose special effects consist of cotton balls stapled to mountain photography.

Originally a six-episode TV miniseries, this was remade with American Forest Tucker placed into the lead so that audiences in the states would have someone to root for. Or maybe they’d be like me, excited to see gigantic eyeballs come rolling along at the camera.

He plays UN troubleshooter Alan Brooks, who has traveled to the Swiss mountain of Trollenberg to learn why the heads of climbers are being torn off their body and why a mysterious cloud is seen in the wake of the bloody destruction.

Do you know how you defeat a giant eyeball? A Molotov cocktail. Horror movies make you smart, right?

Santo vs. the Evil Brain (1958)

Five years before this movie was released, wrestler and actor Fernando Osés asked Santo to be in a movie with him. Santo had already turned down Rene Cardona’s El Enmascarado de Plata as he wanted to strictly be a wrestler and thought that the films would fail. Somehow, Oses was able to get the Mexican wrestling star to play his sidekick — Osés plays a masked cop named El Icognito — in this film and Santo contra Los Hombres Infernales. Of course, that wasn’t the title of either film as Santo was meant to just be the second banana. But after Santo contra Los Zombis became a success in 1962, both of these movies were rushed back out with Santo’s name in the title.

Strangely enough, both were filmed in Cuba with production ending literally the exact day before Fidel Castro entered Havana and declared that the revolution was a success. This seems like William Castle kayfabe BS, but who are we to deny Santo (or El Dandy, for that matter).

In the first fight of his film career, Santo loses to a trio of crooks who beat him down to the point that an evil doctor named Doctor Campos brainwashes the man in the silver mask and gets him to commit crimes. Luckily, El Icognito saves Santo, who is called El Enmascarado throughout the movie. By the end, Santo gets his revenge and El Icognito gets a bullet, even if he comes back for Santo contra Los Hombres Infernales.

This film does not fit into the crazed form of the later Santo films, but trust me, things will get much more interesting.

Also: Do not be confused with 1961’s Santo vs. the Diabolical Brain.

Giants and Toys (1958)

This film is all about the war over caramel sales, with the hunt for a new female mascot to get the public to keep buying candy. One company, World, hires a working class girl with bad teeth, dresses her up in a spacesuit and hopes to win the battle. She ends up becoming a popular idol singer and dancer before she leaves the candy world behind. Meanwhile, the ad man who discovered her spits up blood and makes his assistant sleep with other company’s advertising ladies. Anything goes, because there is a smaller and smaller share left after the market is increasingly dominated by imported U.S. candy.

You know, I’ve worked in advertising my entire life and this movie really feels like something I’ve lived through. This movie’s maverick director Yasuzô Masumura bucked the norm of Japanese society and made films that promoted the value of the individual. He was also the first Japanese filmmaker to study at Italy’s Centro Sperimentale Di Cinematografia, which led him to say, “In Japanese society, which is essentially regimented, freedom and the individual do not exist. The theme of Japanese film is the emotions of the Japanese people, who have no choice but to live according to the norms of that society. After experiencing Europe for two years, I wanted to portray the type of beautifully vital, strong people I came to know there.”

In case you thought all that Daiei Film made was Gamera, Zatoichi and Yokai Monsters, remember that this film — and JokyoRashomon and Ugetsu were all made at this studio.

You can watch Giants and Toys on the Arrow Player. ARROW is available in the US, Canada and the UK on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

Head over to ARROW to start your 30 day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly.

You can also get this on blu ray from Arrow. That release features trailers and new audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar Irene González-López, a newly filmed introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns and a visual essay by Asian cinema scholar Earl Jackson.

Repost: Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

Editor’s Note: This review previously ran as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror tribute month on November, 25 2019. It also ran on November 22, 2020, as part of our Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion tribute month. It’s time to bring it back as part of our “Bernard Kowalski Week” of reviews in tribute to his directing career. Be sure to click the “Bernard L. Kowalski” tag at the bottom of this review to populate all of his films we reviewed this week into one easy-to-reference list.

It’s hard to believe this forgotten—and to be honest, not very good—62-minute Roger Corman quickie shot in 1958 for a mere $68,000 over the course of seven days wound up in WGA arbitration, but it did: Writer Martin Varno disputed the writing credit given to Roger’s brother, Gene. Even harder to believe: Harold Jacob Smith, who worked on the film’s rewrites/dialogue doctoring, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Defiant Ones (1958). But, hey, look at what happened to James Cameron (Galaxy of Terror) and Ron Howard (Grand Theft Auto). (By the way: Don’t forget to read my “October 2019 Scarecrow Challenge” review of Ice Cream Man starring Ron’s brother, Clint.)

Damn this 27th galaxy to hell!

Starting out as a screenplay “Creature from Galaxy 27” and influenced by the Howard Hawks box-office smash, The Thing from Another World (1951), Night of the Blood Beast tells the story of the return of the first deep space astronaut—implanted with an alien embryo. Although astronaut John Corcoran’s body seems “dead,” it maintains a blood pressure and harbors strange, alien seahorse-like cells his blood stream that grow into a lizard-like fetus. Then the film goes off into a weird, homosexual subtext with the alien and Corcoran “protecting” each other.

Ah, a human male as a walking alien-baby incubator? I’ve seen this before. Well, besides the homosexual subtext, it does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Well, doesn’t it Dan O’Bannon?

Sadly, while Night of the Blood Beast is clearly an Alien antecedent, the film—because of its low-budget quality further stymied by the amateurish acting of TV series bit-players—goes unmentioned alongside the more formidable Alien precursors of Forbidden Planet, It! The Terror of Beyond Space, Queen of Blood, and, especially, Mario Bava’s Planet of Vampires. Well, doesn’t it, Dan O’ Bannon?

During its initial success, literary critics noted Alien’s similarities to the Agatha Christie tale, And Then There Were None (1939), and the short stories “Discord in Scarlet” and “The Black Destroyer” in A.E van Vogt’s collection, The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950), which could have possibly influenced Martin Varno’s storytelling. It certainly did influence—although he flat out denied it—O’ Bannon’s storytelling: so much so that 20th Century Fox settled with van Vogt out of court.

Speaking of familiar: B&S readers are familiar with Corman’s house of recycling: Stunt footage from Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto turned up in several of his ‘70s hicksploitation films . . . and how many times did we see Battle Beyond the Stars SFX shots reused? Thus, you’ve seen Night of the Blood Beast’s alien costume before: In Teenage Caveman (1958), which wrapped two weeks before Blood Beast began shooting. Some film reviewers describe it as “a bear crossed with a moldy parrot”—and they’re right! Is the costume as bad as Richard “Jaws” Kiel’s The Solarite—with the light bulb eyes—in Phantom Planet (1961)? Yep. And since when does an alien, only by monitoring Earth’s radio broadcasts, develop a dialect worthy of a Royal Shakespearean Company actor? Book this parrot for the CBS Evening News. He should be holding a skull and crying out for Desdemona. “The parrot is ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille!”

If you need more fun-filled, Roger Corman sci-fi tomfoolery, check out Night of the Blood Beast’s John Baer in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and Ed Nelson in Attack of the Crab Monster (1957).

If you want to go deep into the Alien cottage “homage” industry with B&S Movies, then surf on over to Ten Movies that Rip-off Alien and A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip-offs All at Once.

It freaks me out that I’ve seen all these movies. I don’t know if that makes me cool or just a very sad excuse for a human being. Is my admitting that a trope or a cliche?

Hot Car Girl (1958)

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our first review in our three-day “Bernard Kowalski Week” tribute that takes us from 1959 to 1989. If you don’t know his film work, you know his TV work. Kowalski directed multiple episodes of the hit ’80s series Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I., Jake and the Fatman, and the epic (it was for me), Airwolf. Here’s his first movie for Roger Corman.

Oh, be sure to click that “Bernard L. Kowalksi” tag and the end of all of the reviews this week to popular the reviews in one easy-to-use list. Let’s get day one started, shall we!


“She’s hell on wheels . . . and up for any thrill!”

Seems Mr. Screenwriter dipped the pen into the Shakespearian ink; for this is Othello with hot rods.

Duke (Richard Bakalyan; you’ve seen him across his 150 TV credits into the early ’90s) and Freddie (John Brinkley, who’s traveled this rockin’ road before in Hot Rod Rumble, Teenage Doll, and T-Bird Gang) finance their hot roddin’ lifestyle by stealin’ cars n’ strippin’ auto parts for a fence. When they, along with Duke’s girl, Peg (June Kenney, also of Teenage Doll, but also of 1959’s Attack of the Puppet People and Roger Corman’s Sorority Girl), are goaded into a road race by the resident bad-girl, Janice (Jana Lund, also of High School Hellcats with Yvonne Lime, Elvis Presley’s Loving You, and the rock flick classic, Don’t Knock the Rock . . . but since this B&S About Movies: it’s all about Frankenstein 1970 for our Lundness), a motorcycle cop dies. Let the frames and double crosses, blackmailing and betrayals begin, Desdemona.

Oh, almost forgot: Bruno VeSota is in this as Joe Dobbie (seriously). What ’50s and ’60s film wasn’t the Big V in? Yep, there he is in Attack of the Giant Leeches, A Bucket of Blood, and The Wasp Woman . . . but also of the early rock flicks Daddy-O, Rock All Night, and Carnival Rock. It is actors like you that gives our lives at B&S meaning, Mr. VeSota. We bow to you, sir.

And it’s all brought to you by a man whose directing career we’re tributing this week: Bernard Kowalski, who followed this up with Night of the Blood Beast, then his third film, Attack of the Giant Leeches. Before going into business with Roger Corman, Kowalski got in start in television, directing episodes of the ’50s westerns Frontier and Broken Arrow, along with the David Janssen-starring cop drama, Richard Diamond: Private Detective, and the military drama, The Silent Service. Has anyone ever encountered his lost TV Movie pilot for the Peter Graves-starring Las Vegas Beat (1961)? We’d love to see it. You know us and TV Movies around here.

We previously featured Hot Car Girl as part of our weekly “Drive-In Friday” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Giant from the Unknown (1958)

You may have seen this movie as Giant from Devil’s Crag and The Diablo Giant. It’s directed by Richard E. Cunha, who also directed She Demons, Missile to the Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. It tells a story that started way before it became a big deal in the 70s — cattle mutation by alien forces!

It stars Buddy Baer — the man who nearly beat Joe Lewis and the brother of Max Bear — as the gigantic Vargas. And even better, it has makeup by Jack Pierce, the same man who did the effects for the Universal Monsters.

Just as interesting in light of UFO theories that also became more popular years later, the alien creatures in the film are thought to be demons or gods by the Native Americans that have encountered them for centuries.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Screaming Skull (1958)

Distributed by American International Pictures, The Screaming Skull was part of double features with Earth vs. the Spider or Terror from the Year 5000. It was the first movie that Alex Nicol directed, as he was tired of the roles he was being offered. He also made Three Came Back and Point of Terror.

In case you were worried about the contents of this movie, it starts with an open coffin and a narrator explaining that the end of this movie is so terrifying that it may kill you, while reassuring you that should you die of fright, your burial will be paid for by the film’s producers. I would assume that this contract is now null and void, so you should watch this movie with caution*.

Jenni and Eric are newly married, but this isn’t Eric’s first time at the altar. His first wife died when she slipped and hit her head on the edge of a decorative pond. If that doesn’t seem weird enough, Jenni has just gotten out of an asylum after the death of her parents. Her very rich parents.

Mickey (Nicol) the gardener was childhood friends with Eric’s first wife, whose ghost may haunt the home. Also, perhaps even more strange is the fact that she looks just like Jenni’s mother. Jenni demands that the portrait of the dead woman be burned and when that happens, it leaves behind a skull.

This would be a good time to leave if you were her, because that ghost — and the fact that her husband is gaslighting her — are both absolutely real.

The cast members for this movie were each paid $1000 as well as the promise that a share of the profits would be shared. As you can imagine, no one was paid any more than that first grand.

*When William Castle did the same publicity stunt for Macabre, he actually paid for this insurance. Nicol did not.

 

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Varan the Unbelievable (1958 and 1962)

How can a movie be made twice with the same footage and not be the same movie? Welcome to the world of kaiju cinema, where American producers only wanted the monster footage so that they could add in familiar Western faces and all monster kids wanted was more time for rubber suited destruction.

Originally made as Daikaijū Baran by Tomoyuki Tanaka, the creator of Godzilla, this was acquired by our friends Crown International Pictures — the company I love so much that I made a Letterboxd list to ensure that I see every one of the films they released — and put on a double feature with a re-edited, shortened and retitled East German/Polish science fiction movie they called First Spaceship on Venus.

Where the Toho film is filled with menace and an astounding close where Varan goes bonkers and destroys everything he possibly can, the American movie has Myron Healey* as Commander James Bradley (he was also a military man in The Incredible Melting Man) and as a kid, he would be the kind of leading man that I was instantly bored watching.

I mean, who would you rather watch? An embittered old army guy or a god monster who looks like a flying squirrel?

You know why I love Toho? Varan shows up briefly in Destroy All Monsters. Ah, if only we got to see more of him than this one film, which was originally a co-production with the ABC Network!

*This may be a made up story, but supposedly Healey believed he was going to shoot his scenes in Japan like Raymond Burr and not in Bronson Canyon. When Healy guested on Perry Mason, he shared the story with Burr, who told him that all of his scenes in Godzilla were shot on a Hollywood set.

Rocket Attack U.S.A. (1958)

While the majority of science fiction points toward liberal worries against groupthink — nearly every version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers — Rocket Attack U.S.A. is at once fantasy and propaganda. I have no idea if Barry Mahon believed in what he was selling — the man did fight for our country after all and spent time in a concentration camp — but I think he did know that he could make some money off of the worries that Sputnik was going to destroy America.

Secret agents John (John McKay, who is also in Mahon’s The Dead One and Cuban Rebel Girls) and Tanya (Monica Davis, She Shoulda Stayed In Bed1,000 Shapes of a Female) have learned that the aforementioned Russian satellite is being used to guide a nuke to New York City because our country’s ICBM defense system didn’t have enough funding. And the stinger is that the U.S. forces are barely able to fight back, meaning that we’re all going to be waiting in lines for borscht soon enough.

Art Metrano, who would play Mauser in the Police Academy movies, shows up here as a truck driver. You can’t miss him.

I guess the Red Menace was soundly defeated by the 1960’s, as Barry moved on to making movies where women sat around, smoked cigarettes and got naked instead of movies warning us about Russia. Maybe he got bought off. Or maybe, just maybe, it was more fun to hang out with Bunny Yeager in Las Vegas.

You can watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this movie on Tubi. The original version is on the Internet Archive. You can pick up your own copy — which we reviewed — as part of Mill Creek’s Sci-Fi Invasion 50-film box set that we unpacked back in November 2020.