1957. 66 mins. B&W. AR: 1.85:1.
Writer/Director – Bert I. Gordon. Technical Effects Creator – BIG.
With: Lon Chaney Jr, Gloria Talbott, James Craig.
Bert I. Gordon started making movies in 16mm. when he was nine years old. [I wrote my first novel when I was nine, but I never
had much physical energy, aerobic typing was about all I could muster, so I’m impressed at what he was able to pull off at an early age.] What he pulled off later was less impressive, except in its chutzpa - B films (at the very most) about gigantic insects, rodents, and people, to the point where his initials became his nom de plume. Mr. B.I.G. As he churned out these cheaply made but generally fast-moving mellers, he also worked with interesting actors who’d seen better days and were willing to take the dive for a quick buck. Among them were: Guy Stockwell, Don Ameche, Martha Hyer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford, Basil Rathbone, Ida Lupino (who walked out on the production), Lon Chaney Jr., and (?) Orson Welles! Lest you think that Gordon was an unheralded Roger Corman…don’t! He deserves oodles of credit for just producing his large body of work, but…his aesthetic oeuvre lies somewhere between Corman and Ed Wood. As the film’s screenwriter, however – and not hampered by the low budget beyond making sure it was written for the dollar amount he raised, I found it to be a relatively good script, particularly for the first half, attending carefully to matters of inner logic.
The lovely and angular-faced Gloria Talbott, whose visage always struck me as being visually akin to a Picasso painting, plays a woman who refuses to accept that her husband is dead, and hires three people to accompany her into the Mexican jungle in search of him. What she finds at the end of her quest is the eponymous character, once her husband, now twenty feel tall and horribly disfigured, not to mention brain-damaged. He doesn’t really appear to know her, which is the final bummer, and she’s forced to help dispense with him before heading back to civilization and possible jail time, since they took the plane without permission (this is not addressed, and I don’t think filmgoers lost sleep over it.)
At 16:30+ there’s a shot of Chaney sitting in the front passenger seat of a four-passenger plane in flight. Suddenly, as he begins to flip out, he is squeezed in a headlock by the person sitting behind him, and damned if he doesn’t look exactly like his father. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the resemblance before. Of course he’s being choked and his face is completely contorted, but still…
Perhaps someone can tell me why Chaney is sweating so profusely in the flying shots. It’s obviously process work, so heat isn’t the answer. Maybe the script called for it, but more likely he was sweating alcohol through his pores. He was known to imbibe during shoots. Strange thing is, I find this to be his best late-career performance, more natural than his much heralded work in SPIDER BABY. I’m not saying this role is the real him; in fact he was known to be fun on the set and a bit of a crude practical joker. But for whatever reasons, he caught this one just right.
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