Film Review: Beginning of the End (1957)

Release Date: June 28th, 1957
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Fred Freiberger, Lester Gorn
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Peter Graves, Peggie Castle, Morris Ankrum

AB-PT Pictures Corp., Republic Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“Where do I get off asking the Regular Army for help with a bunch of oversize grasshoppers?” – Col. Tom Sturgeon

Since I only have two more Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies to review after this one, I guess it is safe to assume that this is the last of the Bert I. Gordon films that I have to suffer through. But since I’ve already reviewed roughly a dozen Bert I. Gordon schlocksterpieces, maybe there is still one I missed.

If I’m being honest, this wasn’t one I had to suffer through. In fact, it’s one of the more entertaining Gordon movies I’ve seen. This is, of course, due to its schlockiness but it’s definitely on a level that most of Gordon’s films aren’t.

The real highlight of this picture is the special effects where the giant killer locusts are concerned. The movie uses stock footage of grasshoppers and then superimposes humans and vehicles in front of them to give these tiny creatures a gigantic presence. The best shots, however, are where they took grasshoppers and filmed them crawling over photographs of buildings in an effort to generate the illusion that they are scaling massive structures. In reality, they look like they’re just chilling on a page from an oversized architecture book.

Apart from the awfully bad yet awesome effects, the film is littered with terrible acting, a wonky script and insane situations. They do kind of create a perfect storm of cheesiness that comes across as well aged with sharp, robust notes and a creamy, boldness most cheeses can’t achieve despite proper aging and temperature.

Beginning of the End is a weirdly wonderful piece of cinematic gimcrack that somehow comes across as fun and goofy while inadvertently seeing its faults turn into positives. Well, at least for those of us who love shoddy sci-fi pictures of the atomic age.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Bert I. Gordon schlock, especially the stuff featured on MST3K.

Film Review: Tormented (1960)

Also known as: Eye of the Dead (TV title)
Release Date: September 22nd, 1960
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Bert I. Gordon, George Worthington Yates
Music by: Albert Glasser, Calvin Jackson
Cast: Richard Carlson, Susan Gordon, Lugene Sanders, Joe Turkel

Cheviot Productions, Allied Artists, 75 Minutes

Review:

“Tom Stewart killed me! Tom Stewart killed me!” – Vi Mason

How many Bert I. Gordon movies were riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000? I’ve already watched and reviewed a half dozen yet here’s one more.

This one is kind of cool. Well, I guess most of his movies are cool but this one has a bit of an extra edge, simply because I love the scenes with the disembodied head yelling at her killer.

Tormented is a ghost story and one of revenge but that’s not to say that the ghost is an innocent victim, as the film starts with her trying to blackmail her ex-lover before he is set to marry another woman. Now the blackmailer falls off of a lighthouse and while there is a chance for the blackmailed ex to save her, he doesn’t and the woman falls to her death, only to haunt him for the rest of the film.

As the plot develops and time rolls on, the man does turn out to be evil and so, I guess you’re rooting for the ghost, even though she’s a shitty person too. But this is a Bert I. Gordon movie, which means you’re supposed to turn off your brain and just let this thing roll on and try to entertain you.

And it is entertaining, even if it is a bad movie and pretty drab at points.

There’s nothing special here but for fans of special effects, especially early, primitive effects that have a certain level of cheesiness to them, Tormented is worth checking out.

This is a mostly decent, late night C-movie that no one should expect to be good but some should still find palatable enough to watch in the dark with some lukewarm beer and room temperature pizza left over from dinner.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Bert I. Gordon movies featured on MST3K.

Film Review: Invasion U.S.A. (1952)

Release Date: December 10th, 1952
Directed by: Alfred E. Green
Written by: Robert Smith, Franz Schulz
Based on: a story by Robert Smith, Franz Spencer
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Gerald Mohr, Peggie Castle, Dan O’Herlihy, Edward G. Robinson Jr.

American Pictures, Mutual Productions of the West, Columbia Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“For every atom bomb dropped on our country, we have taken three to the enemy’s heartland and we have huge stocks of atomic weapons in reserve.” – The President

I already reviewed a film called Invasion U.S.A., but that one was a far superior ’80s Chuck Norris film put out by the best action studio of all-time The Cannon Group. I think that one is really a remake in name only of this film but they have the same general premise of the United States being invaded by a foreign power.

Mostly, this is a crappy film. But in its defense, it’s actually not that boring and some of it is interesting.

I like the premise and these sort of stories are always intriguing to me, as the United States, generally, feels like a place that is safe from foreign harm. The idea of the whole country being invaded seems insane and it is but that doesn’t mean it’s not an intriguing concept. It’s just that no one has made a great film about it.

The best parts of this film aren’t the bits that show actual invasion, instead, they are the simple scenes, like the ones in the bar with patrons having conversations about communism and war. While the dialogue isn’t good and the acting and directing leave a lot to be desired, it’s interesting to hear different viewpoints from the time, expressed and discussed.

Invasion U.S.A. sort of exists as a time capsule in how it captures the sentiment of different Americans from the 1950s, post-World War II and just as communism was becoming the enemy of the day.

There were a lot of paranoia films in this decade and this one is no different. Just instead of giant atomic monsters and science run amok, this channels fear around the idea that your safe haven might not be as safe as you perceive it. That’s unsettling however you want to present it.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the far superior sort of remake, 1985’s Invasion U.S.A., also another film with a similar plot, 1984’s Red Dawn.

Film Review: Last of the Wild Horses (1948)

Release Date: December 27th, 1948
Directed by: Robert L. Lippert
Written by: Jack Harvey
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: James Ellison, Mary Beth Hughes, Jane Frazee

Robert L. Lippert Productions, Grestwood Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“There oughta be a law against a man carrying concealed weapons. You boys get tempted too easy.” – Duke Barnum

It’s possible that this is the worst western film I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a ton of terrible ones.

It’s drab, uninteresting and the plot is disjointed and quite a mess. Granted, my issues with the plot could also be due to being so bored to tears that my brain kept tuning out. And really, the only thing that got me through this picture was the commentary provided by the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The story is about a rancher who is accused of trying to force smaller ranchers out of business. Even for 1940s standards, there are a lot of interesting directions this plot could go. But it just moves along at a snail’s pace and doesn’t throw anything compelling at the viewer.

If there are any positives to speak about, it’s the scenery. This was primarily shot in the wilderness of Oregon and the actors are immersed in natural beauty. However, that being said, for the most part, the natural world isn’t well shot. You get wide vistas but the angles and general cinematography are pretty amateurish.

The biggest thing working against this movie is that a lot of it takes place in a courtroom. I’ve never seen a trial cowboy movie. Now I have seen cowboys in courtrooms but it’s usually a quick scene to give context to a plot. I’m not interested in Perry Mason Meets Bonanza brought to us by a cast and crew with ten percent of the talent.

The Last of the Wild Horses should probably only be watched by the hardcore MST3K completist.

Rating: 1/10
Pairs well with: watching a GIF of a tumbleweed for 84 minutes.

Film Review: Viking Women Vs. The Sea Serpent (1957)

Also known as: The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (complete title), Viking Women (UK)
Release Date: December, 1957
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Lawrence L. Goldman, Irving Block
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Abby Dalton, Susan Cabot

American International Pictures, 66 Minutes

Review:

“Get your filthy hands off her, you big slobbering dog!” – Ottar

This is one of a few Roger Corman films that has eluded me for years. It’s also one of the few movies that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I hadn’t seen until now. But I missed it when it aired, back in the day, and it’s not one that has been all that accessible on streaming services. Maybe that’s due to the broadcasting rights contract they had back in the early ’90s for this film.

Having seen it now, I can say that I didn’t miss out on much.

For the most part, the film is slow and goofy. It’s enjoyable in that hokey Roger Corman way but for a film promising a sea serpent, the monster’s time on screen is pretty minute.

Also, the creature looks exactly like you’d expect being that it’s a simple sea serpent and showcased in a Corman film of the ’50s. It’s basically just a rubber tube with some fins glued to it and a dead, gnarly face. But I love this sort of shit so I can’t hate it. I just wish there was more monster and less pointless conversation throughout the movie.

The majority of the movie is just viking chicks paddling a boat and walking around on an island. This has some action but it’s nothing to write home about.

This is far from the worst Corman picture but it is also far from the best.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other late ’50s and early ’60s Roger Corman pictures.

Film Review: Earth Vs. The Spider (1958)

Also known as: The Spider, Earth Vs. The Giant Spider (Germany), Vengeance of the Black Spider (Italy)
Release Date: September, 1958
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: László Görög, George Worthing Yates
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Ed Kemmer, June Kenney, Eugene Persson, Gene Roth, Hal Torey, Sally Fraser, June Jocelyn

Santa Rosa Productions, American International Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Well, speaking of spiders – are you sure rifles are just the thing? Insects have a pretty simple nervous system, sheriff. You could plug holes in one all day and never hit a vital spot. If you want to be on the safe side, call the pest control people in Springdale and have ’em send out all the DDT they can find.” – Mr. Kingman

As bad as Bert I. Gordon movies can be, they get a much worse wrap than they probably deserve. Reason being, they all have some sort of charm to them and even if they are a clinic on how not to make a film, they are still pretty entertaining for what they are.

Earth Vs. The Spider is no different.

This is not a good film. It’s riddled with bad effects, bad acting, bad direction and a bad script. But if you love giant insect, reptile, amphibian or atomic disaster movies from the early Cold War era, then you’ll probably enjoy this on some level.

The sets in this actually weren’t bad for the time. The stuff in the cave actually looks good, even if the giant spider’s web looks like rope netting from a playground. The setting within the spider’s lair does come off pretty well for a ’50s low budget sci-fi picture.

A problem with this film, which is a problem with all the films within this weird but popular subgenre, is that it’s predictable and there aren’t any real curveballs thrown. But no one watches these flicks for intelligent storytelling.

This was one of many Bert I. Gordon movies that was riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact, MST3K is how I originally learned of Gordon and came to have an appreciation for the poorer man’s Roger Corman.

I’d say that this is one of the better films in Gordon’s oeuvre. It might not seem like it has any merit at first glance but there is something about it that brings me back to it every now and again. But I also have a deep appreciation for old school schlock films.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other low budget, giant animal movies from the 1950s.

Film Review: Teenage Caveman (1958)

Also known as: I Was a Teenage Caveman, Prehistoric World, Out of the Darkness
Release Date: July, 1958
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: R. Wright Campbell
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Robert Vaughn, Darah Marshall

Malibu Productions, American International Pictures, 65 Minutes

Review:

“In a wonderful and strange world, before women knew shame.” – marketing tagline

Being that I am a big Roger Corman fan, I’ve seen most of his ’50s and ’60s stuff multiple times over. This film, however, I have only seen in the form of it’s riffed version, courtesy of Mystery Science Theater 3000,

I probably should buy this for my Corman collection and actually give it a watch without the riffing of Joel and the ‘Bots.

But anyway, I just revisited this, as I’m trying to work through all the MST3K featured films for review purposes.

The only real highlight is the terrible dinosaur battles that is comprised of stock footage of lizards fighting. And they’re scenes you’ve probably seen in similar films already, as Corman tends to recycle stuff that doesn’t cost money or is very cheap to obtain.

I guess the fact that Robert Vaughn is in this is also a highlight. He’s fairly charming but this is a production that his presence can’t save.

Now while I love a lot of these bad Corman cheapies, this one lacks the magic of some of the others and it isn’t as endearing in its weirdness.

Still, it’s not terrible and if you have the right kind of mind and stomach for Corman cheese, it’s worth a glance.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Roger Corman sci-fi movies of the later 1950s.