6/14/13

The Cyclops


I don't know if this counts as a disclaimer, but I watched the Thriller Video version of 1957's The Cyclops hosted by Elvira.  Honestly, the busty lorelei's punchline-ridden segments colored my viewing experience.  They made the film more entertaining than it probably was (that was the express purpose, I suppose).  I can't hold Elvira's curvilinear charm against The Cyclops, though.  Hell, she makes everything better, and knowing my questionable taste, I would have enjoyed this nutty sci-fi reel anyway.  It was written and directed by b-movie chieftain Bert I. Gordon, the resourceful lad behind Earth vs. the Spider and Empire of the Ants.  The latter is an unheralded "nature runs amok" classic.  You seriously need to watch it.  Just thought I'd throw that out there.

If you haven't grappled with one of Gordon's rear-projection pageants, his divertissements usually flaunted low-rent creature effects and somewhat talky scripts.  I'm not doing a good job selling The Cyclops as an ideal time-waster, am I?  Perhaps I should move on to the synopsis.  Susan charters a plane to search for her missing fianc√© in a mountainous region of Mexico.  An eccentric millionaire funds half of the trip in the hopes of claiming uranium deposits.  The area at hand is rumored to be rich in the stuff.  I'm not sure what he wants with it, unless he plans on bolstering the pyrophoricity of high-density penetrators or building a ballast for a missile re-entry vehicle.  Know what I mean?

Anyway, her beau's plane crashed there three years ago.  She believes that he's still alive, so against the pilot's better judgment, the troupe (a motley bunch that also includes a lovelorn scientist) embarks on a safari of sorts.  What do they find?  Well, they find a giant bird, a giant rodent, a giant salamander and a giant...dude.  Said dude's face is horribly disfigured.  He only has one eye, hence the title.  Credit Jack Young for devising nifty make-up effects.  The ogre's countenance is so gruesome, it was later used in War of the Colossal Beast, the sequel to Gordon's own The Amazing Colossal Man.  The rest of the visuals are lousy, but hey, such blunders come with the territory.

If you can muscle through the exposition, your patience will be rewarded.  The Cyclops is actually pretty damn violent.  In fact, TCM airs a censored print that excises two minutes of gore.  We're not talking torrents of blood here, but the star heavy's demise is graphic nonetheless.  On the bronze end of the anal beads (hazel, terra-cotta, burnt sienna...take your pick), the storyline is profoundly dumb.  The reasons given for the land's genetic mutations are as hazy and vague as your teenaged sister's status updates on Facebook.  Plus, I found Susan to be an exasperating main character.  Surprisingly, Lon Chaney Jr. turns in the most inspired performance of the lot.  And this was during his "potted tippler" phase!

The Cyclops is on DVD via Warner's burn-on-demand service.  I'm sure it's cool, but I recommend hunting down the Thriller Video version.  Because, y'know, Elvira.

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