The Creeping Terror (1964)
Directed by Arthur Nelson
Written by Robert Silliphant
Run Time: 75 min
Other Titles: "Dangerous Charter"
"The vastness of the universe is incredible."
- Dr. Bradford's dying words
It's not everyday that we come across a film comparable to Manos: The Hands of Fate or Monster A-Go Go in terms of sheer ineptitude and laziness, not to mention that elusive quality that is often referred to as "badness". One has to wonder what was going through the mind of "Creeping Terror" director/producer/editor/star Arthur Nelson on that fateful night when the seeds of this monstrous film germinated in his head.
Could it be true that only one man is responsible for this abomination? Should we place the blame fully on Arthur Nelson's shoulders? We have no choice. Granted the, er, story was written by Robert Silliphant (also responsible for The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies), but the interpretation, that is, the crucial step of taking the story and adapting it to one's on twisted vision, this responsibility (blame?) lies squarely on the shoulders of Arthur Nelson.
To finance the film, Nelson convinced investors that the final product was to be a block-buster production. In addition to the promise of a share of the box-office returns, the investors were also given bit parts in the film. (These small roles almost always resulting in being devoured by the monster...with not a few gratuitous rear-end shots of the ladies as they crawl into the beast's maw...)
In what I consider a bitter-sweet blunder, Nelson destroyed the sound recording equipment while filming around Lake Tahoe. This tragic loss forced him to add the bizarre Beast-of-Yucca-Flats-esque narration to cover for the missing dialog. Of course, this soundtrack never entirely matches the actors lips, sometimes not even the action that's occurring on screen. This lack of synchronization between the narration and the action on the screen is both humorous and disconcerting.
Regarding our star, the 'Creeping Terror' itself, rumor has it that Nelson had a more elaborate design constructed for the movie, but it was stolen before filming began. Running out of time and money, Nelson had no choice but to throw together the legendary "walking pile of carpets" that bad-movie buffs have come to know and love.
In a nutshell, the creature's long "end", trailing behind the upraised "head", is propelled by what must be several heat-exhausted stage hands dragging the carpeted framework across the ground. I imagine that they intended to shuffle in unison to give the monster a semblance of mobility, however it was probably all they could do not to be overcome by heat stroke.
The mouth of the beast is more-or-less just an opening in the front carpet (but it does allow the creature emit lion roars). Since the "terror" has no appendages and moves at a speed slower than a normal walking pace, the victims are required to stand still as it approaches, crawl into the monster's mouth, and then wriggle down into its stomach.
The actor in charge of manipulating the upright "head" section could at least stand while moving forward, occasionally resulting in his shoes peeking out from under the fuzzy girdle dragging on the ground. Crowning the head is an array of vacuum-cleaner hoses, each tipped with some sort of ball representing an eye. I guess. Who really knows.
Unfortunately for Nelson, the film was not a financial success. With the angry investors hot on his tail (with pending lawsuits and similar such threats), Arthur Nelson left for a promotional tour and was not heard from again for over 30 years.
I now present to you "The Creeping Terror"!
This delightful film opens with a nauseating shot of two newlyweds driving down a lonely, dark road. We discover via narration that the 2 love birds are Martin and Brett. Two wonderful people you will come to know and love through this film. Not.
The narrator informs us that Martin's uncle, Ben (yes, I know, 'Uncle Ben'...I didn't write this crap) is the Sheriff of Angel County, and Martin is his "senior deputy." Oh yeah, how about a bit of characterization: "Martin has high hopes of succeeding his uncle when Ben retires." Boy, the characters are really coming to life.
As Brett snuggles up to Martin, they drive down the road: "...for now, Martin has only the thoughts, the emotions and pride of a very happy newly-married [sic] young man. Brett is his, and he feels no man can ask for more."
To give you a quick idea of the overall quality of this movie, imagine that you are a film maker and need a shot of a 'UFO' flying through a star field. Now, to make things interesting, imagine that you have a pretty strict special effects budget, say $20. How would you accomplish this task?
You could, say, buy a bed sheet, paint it black, and stick lights through it. There is your star field. Now, you could buy a cheap model space ship, put it on top of a stick (also painted black), and then "fly" it across the stars.
Such a spartan solution was far too much to ask from Nelson and the gang. His solution was to film a road, but film it out of focus so the street lights would appear "fuzzy", ala, sort of, star-like, I guess. No. Not really. Then to top it off, the UFO is a truck that drives by (also out of focus). The gall required to conceive, execute, and then approve of such a contemptuously cheap 'special' effect is breathtaking.
To simulate the UFO landing on Earth, stock footage of a V-1 rocket launch is inserted into the film, but played in reverse, thus creating the illusion of the ship 'landing'. (The believability of the illusion is hampered somewhat when the flames and smoke are seen going back into the space craft as it 'lands'.)
A local forest ranger, Jeff, reports the landing to the Sheriff's office. Sheriff Ben is shown receiving the report in a sparsely decorated 'sheriff's office'. (Well, they did go to the effort of hanging some "Wanted" posters on the wall in order to create 'atmosphere'.) Ben sends out Deputy Barney to fetch medical aid and try to "rouse somebody" at the Air Authority (?) in San Francisco.
Note that all this information is relayed via narration while we see the characters talking. The actual dialog in the scene was of course lost before final production. Rather unnerving at times.
We now cut to the crash site itself. Needless to say, the space craft shown here has absolutely no relation to the space ship shown, *ahem*, landing, earlier in the film. (The fact that they tried to hide the craft behind trees and branches does not completely hide the fact that this ship is in no shape, way, or form the same ship we saw.)
A hatch in the side of the space ship opens to reveal darkness beyond. Suddenly, we pull back to see, yes, the Creeping Terror itself, shambling into the open from the dark confines of the ship. (The monster is always accompanied by lion roars and strange craawwwwww sounds.) In an unusual shot, the monster is filmed by a camera perched in a tree. This point of view might have been slightly more effective if the leaves and branches had not obscured the view 90% of the time.
As the monster makes its way deeper into the country side, Uncle Ben is racing down the highway, siren blaring and lights flashing. He just happens to drive past Martin and Brett returning from their honey-moon. Ben stops and tells Martin and Brett to get in his car.
Cut to see the monster creeping along its merry way. (Try not to notice the feet which pop out from under the 'terror' while it 'creeps'.)
OK, let's see what's happening here. As Ben, Martin, and Brett (!!) arrive at the crash scene. Missing dialog is compensated for by a little extra narration. Jeff's truck is parked at the crash site, but no Jeff. The trio approach the alien ship and try to convey "utter amazement" to the best of their acting abilities. (It would have helped if they hadn't have been looking in 3 separate directions!)
While Ben's lips move, the narrator informs us that he is in fact asking Martin what he thinks of the crash. Martin replies that it's "no airplane". Ben agrees and suggests that it could be "one of our missiles". ("Or one of theirs"...remarks Brett.) Yes. This is TERROR!
"Ben could not understand why the craft was not severely damaged", the narrator tells us while Ben silently talks to Martin. They approach the ship and Ben notices a hat on the ground which he soon confirms as belonging to Ranger Jeff. Ben shouts out Jeff's name but to no avail. Sensing that danger is afoot, Ben sends Martin back to fetch his flashlight from the patrol car while Brett (what the hell is she doing there = WTHISDT) stares silently at the rocket trying her best to 'act' amazed.
Martin scurries back with the flashlight and gives it to Ben, at which time he crawls under the craft and enters it.
First, a note on this space ship. To enter the craft, actors are required to get down on the ground and crawl under it then up through an (unseen) hatchway. Yet when we first saw the monster, it exited the ship via a door in the side. This technique of having actors enter the 'ship' via an out-of-view doorway certainly saved them money on having to actually, you know, 'create' a door. I mean, this is the quality of movie we are seeing here, folks.
Ben enters the ship and we immediately hear a lion's roar, a pistol shot, an explosion (??), and finally more monster 'yells' and 'craaawwwwsss'. Martin attempts to enter the ship to help Ben, but Brett pulls him back. While his uncle cries for help, Martin retreats to the relatively safety of the patrol car and reports the incident to the police station.
"Within an hour", the narrator informs us, a "Special Unit" of soldiers arrives to investigate. This, *ahem*, "Special Unit", arrives in a ramshackle pickup accompanied by the "ratta-tat-tat" of a snare drum on the sound track in an effort to convey an atmosphere of military might. The Special Unit is immediately put to the test when their truck is blocked by a fallen tree. (Terror!) The soldiers move the tree, pile back into the truck, and drive on. (ratta-tat-tat! ratta-tat-tat!)
At the space ship (Martin and Brett are nowhere to be seen even though it's only been an hour since his Uncle was killed!), the soldiers jump out of the truck and move in to investigate. The leader of the Special Unit, Colonel Caldwell orders two of his men to crawl into the ship.
Note that at this point, the soldiers climb into the craft where there is clearly a door cut into the side of the ship. In the scene where Ben climbed into the ship, there was no door visible at all. I can only assume that the scene where Ben enters the ship was filmed before the scene where the monster left the ship (thus requiring a door to be made to facilitate its egress). I tell you, these are the small things that make all these bad movies worthwhile for me.
Inside the ship, a flashlight plays over bank after bank of instruments. In a most amazing coincidence, the instruments and dials are labeled and numbered in English. What are the odds! But I must admit I'm more than a little curious how the "creeping terror" manipulated all the buttons and dials since it has no arms (or appendages of any sort).
The flashlight suddenly comes across a second 'creeping terror' that is restrained against a wall in what looks like strips of aluminum siding. (Which makes me wonder what it was that actually ate Uncle Ben since of the only two monsters we ever see, one is bound to the wall and the other is roaming the countryside, but nevermind...)
The two soldiers return from exploring the craft and report the presence of the second beast to Colonel Caldwell. (The beast is described as being able to "move around somewhat"...thus tenuously providing an explanation for how Jeff and Ben were eaten inside the craft. However, noting the motor problems that a completely unrestrained 'terror' must cope with, the thought of a less-than-fully mobile 'creeping terror' is far from what I would consider a threat.)
Seeing that the latest events require some sort of military response, Colonel Edwards decides to set up a "perimeter" around the ship and a temporary local HQ at the Sheriff's station.
Back at headquarters, the narrator continues by informing us that Colonel Caldwell has received his orders from "the highest possible authority" (now that's high!) and is to maintain security and wait for a one Dr. Bradford to arrive. Apparently Bradford is some sort of hot shot because upon arrival he will take over "complete" control of the operation. He is after all "the leading authority on space emissions.." (Fill in your own joke there...I'm too tired.)
The narration continues: "Martin was outraged by the government's intellectual approach to a monster that had already killed and caused the disappearance (??) of his two close friends." Wow! Killed and caused the disappearance? Now that's bad!
To compensate for the loss of Sheriff Ben, Martin is made temporary sheriff. In an effort to quell public suspicion, all news "for public consumption" will come from the Sheriff's office. (Yeah, that will minimize suspicion all right!)
Well anyway, "In a remote section of the county" we see 2 teenagers making out on a blanket. The female half of this couple is decked out in a bikini, of course, as to maximize jiggling when she hops into the monster's mouth. (Ooops! I hope I didn't give anything away!)
The romantic afternoon is interrupted by a lion's roar (!!), and we see the monster shambling over towards the pair. The monster somehow moves much faster when we see things in "Monster POV Cam", allowing it to cross ground at speeds approaching a slow walk, as opposed to its normal crippled-snail pace.
After using 'Monster Cam', the monster suddenly appears right beside the couple. As the boy takes off running (men may be cowards, but they are smart), the girl screams and lays on the blanket, patiently waiting for the 'terror' to close the last few feet so it can eat her. When the monster gets within 'eating range', it bends over so the girl can obligingly hop into its mouth and jiggle her way down its throat. (The girl's 'scream' is looped over and over throughout the entire attack, even when only her feet are sticking out of the beast's mouth.)
Back at the space ship, Martin, Brett (WTHISDT), and Deputy Barney are discussing how to cover up the disappearance of Sheriff Ben and Ranger Jeff. Colonel Caldwell has ordered them to place a story in the paper stating that they are on a fishing trip in British Columbia. (!!!) Yeah, that story won't raise any eyebrows!
Barney scurries away to place the bogus story in the local paper when Colonel Caldwell and Dr. Bradford arrive. Introductions are made via dubbed in dialog that does not match the characters lips. (Did they not have access to the script when they dubbed in the dialog?) The sense of unreality is increased when not only is the dialog out of sync with the actor's lips, but it doesn't even agree with who is actually talking, e.g., we hear Brett speaking while Dr. Bradford's lips are moving, or Dr. Bradford is speaking when nobody's lips are moving, and so on. It's like some sort of ventriloquism show from Hell.
Apparently Editor-Nelson gave up and simply resumed with the narration. Bradford speaks to Martin while Colonel Edwards walks off-scene with Brett.
Although Bradford considers this contact with an alien race to be "a magnificent opportunity for mankind", he chooses to wait for "certain equipment" (?) to arrive before entering the ship. Martin asks Bradford (the narrator tells us) how he intends to protect himself from the creature. Bradford replies (via the narrator) that "he hadn't come here to be victimized either by his own or the creature's fears [sic]." (How one could be victimized by the creature's fears is unexplained.)
Later that night, we see Brett washing dishes at home while Martin and Barney sneak into his house in order to surprise her. Barney quietly sits on the sofa as Martin tip-toes into the kitchen and sneaks up behind Brett. Grabbing Brett, Martin gives her a playful scare, then they commence making out.
It's good to see that Martin is taking the day's events in stride: A UFO crash-lands, an alien eats two of his "closest friends", including his uncle (right in front of his eyes), and Martin can still play 'peek-a-boo' with Brett. Well, at least he doesn't take his work home with him.
After waiting on the sofa while Martin and Brett kiss in the kitchen, Barney loses patience and gives a loud "AHEM!". Breaking off the kiss, Brett greets Barney and makes him a drink.
In a totally ludicrous attempt at characterization, Martin joins Barney on the sofa for a drink as the narrator tells us about how the two friends have begun to drift apart after Martin's recent marriage. In other words: Who cares! It's not like these zombies are characters in the first place.
The three friends engage in a conversation, rather, as usual we see their lips move as the narration picks up:
"Barney and Martin had been bachelor buddies for years. But now that Martin was settling down to marriage they were slowly drifting apart. Barney, naturally [?], was still dating all the girls in town. He couldn't understand why Brett and Martin didn't pal around with him more than they did. He couldn't comprehend that married life brought with it not only new problems and duties, but the necessary togetherness [sic] of a husband and wife as well."
"Since time began, this change in relationship has probably happened to all buddies in similar circumstances. Life has its way of making boys grow up. And with marriage Martin's time had come. His life was now Brett. A life that he thoroughly enjoyed."
To emphasize this aforementioned "drifting apart" between Barney and Martin, Brett comes over to the sofa and sits down beside Martin. The newlyweds then commence making out again, while Barney sits uncomfortably and waits for them to come up for air.
As noted before, these clumsy attempts at characterization are so awkwardly executed that instead of making us feel sympathy for the characters, the viewer feels further removed because of the total lack of believability of these scenes. (The surreal narration certainly doesn't help the film's cause either..."Life has its way of making boys grow up," give me a break!)
Barney eventually sets his drink on the table and leaves with neither Brett nor Martin saying good-bye, let alone acknowledging that he's leaving. Wow! The pathos! Such characterization! Auteur! Auteur!
Meanwhile, or the next day, or sometime, I don't know, Dr. Bradford enters the ship. (I can only assume that the "certain equipment" has arrived.)
Whoa. Wait. Cut to "the next morning." Is this the same morning that Bradford was just in? Which morning is this?
Regardless, it's morning. A woman, Betty Johnson (Wow! I wonder how many seconds it took to come up with that name!), is waving good-bye to her husband, "but for the last time", the narrator adds with an ominous tone.
Betty goes into a baby's room complete with a crying baby. Taking the baby's temperature (which may have been easier with the diaper removed), Betty does her best to act concerned. After a few seconds, she removes the thermometer and checks the temperature. (Is all this really necessary?)
In a rare line of actual dialog, she says, "Poor baby, you'll feel better soon." How sweet it is to actually hear an actor speaking.
Cut to see the terror approaching the home. Cut back to see Betty hanging up laundry. Suddenly the bushes begin to shake and rustle. This can only indicate 'terror' will soon be experienced.
Sure enough, the monster comes out from behind the bushes and begins its laborious approach. Upon seeing the creature, Betty screams (silently...missing soundtrack, you know), and stands still long enough for the monster to eat her. In a poignant moment, we see the baby crying in its bed, then cut back outside to see the laundry line, sans mama. (If you look carefully you can see a puff of smoke come from the right-hand side of the shot, obviously from a careless off-camera cigarette smoker...Incredible!)
Back at the ship, Dr. Bradford continues his examination of the alien controls. He turns knobs and flips switches, while acting scientific. A needle on a dial sways violently back and forth, yet slowly, slowly, comes to a halt. Bradford smiles. Wow. Science.
Somewhere else, sometime else, a boy, Bobby, and his portly grandfather are fishing in a creek. The boy wanders off while soft string quartet (!) music plays in the background. Bobby ends up chasing a lizard through a stand of bushes, running deeper and deeper into the underbrush. I hope I'm describing this in a manner which conveys as much boredom to you as possible. Misery loves company.
Grandpa continues to fish, while shots of the monster are occasionally interjected in order to foster a sense of foreboding. I think. Somehow realizing that danger is about, Grandpa calls out to Bobby who is busy whipping a bush with a stick (!).
As Grandpa waddles through the underbrush, Bobby catches sight of the monster (implied by taking a 'scared' look on his face as he comes out of the brush). After Bobby is eaten by the beast (off camera), Grandpa also sees it. Using "Monster-Cam!", the 'creeping terror' catches Grandpa and devours him. Unfortunately, we don't get to see this guy wiggle his way into the monster's mouth. On second thought, maybe that's a good thing.
Wouldn't it be ironic if the alien chocked to death when Grandpa got stuck in its throat? Man, I've seen too many of these movies.
We now see a conversation between Bradford and Martin. I stress that we see a conversation, as opposed to hearing it. As usual, the narrator fills us in one what the actors may actually be talking about.
"Within forty-eight hours, Dr. Bradford had closely examined the creature and the space ship...and reached a number of conclusions. He was sure the creature had come from beyond our solar system [Gee, you think?], because it adapted to our environment so quickly...and no planet or dead star [??] near us has conditions similar to Earth."
I can't overemphasize how bizarre it is to see people talking while a narrator drones on about something that appears totally unrelated to the facial expressions of the people talking. For example, when discussing the 'planet or dead star' theory, we see Bradford light up a cigarette, then chuckle and smile. Unnerving really.
Back at the ship, we are informed that Barney has received a frantic call from "Mrs. Brown" who has not heard from her husband or grandson. The last she saw of them was when they went to go fishing at "Willow Creek". Martin orders Barney to organize a search party, but don't search near the space ship "because of security reasons". There you have it.
Time for some more teenagers to be eaten. According to our narrator:
"That afternoon...a group of neighbors got together for a hootenanny [!!!]."
We now see this hootenanny in full swing: teens necking, somebody playing a guitar and singing (looped in), somebody playing the bongos, well, we hear bongo drums on the soundtrack but nobody at the hootenanny has any drums, so go figure.
In case you haven't seen enough necking for one film, one amorous couple sneaks away from the hootenanny to suck face. Unfortunately, the roars of the monster breach the romantic atmosphere and the two kids look up just in time to be eaten. Of course, I mean look up, sit still long enough for the monster to get them, then get eaten.
Not wanting the hootenanny to come to an end, Guitar Dude runs over and takes a couple of swings at the monster with his instrument. After a couple futile swings, Guitar Dude lays down on the ground and lets the monster devour him.
Needless to say, the remaining teens patiently sit on their blankets and scream as Guitar Dude is eaten, then become victims themselves.
In response to "multiple missing person calls. Martin and Barney are sent to investigate the scene of the Great Hootenanny Massacre of 1964.
With another wad of narration: "This wholesale disappearance of a large group of people, coupled with other missing person reports, led Martin to only one conclusion: there must be another monster and it was on the loose."
What about the first couple that was attacked? The man was clearly shown running away, so wouldn't he have made a "Monster On The Loose" report? Maybe he didn't report the monster attack because he would look like a coward for abandoning his girl-friend to the shambling beast.
After hearing Martin's theory, Bradford and Colonel Caldwell decide to call Washington. After a brief telephone discussion, Caldwell is told "to follow his own good judgment." Gee, thanks! Caldwell is also warned "that under no circumstances is he to alarm the populace." I would think it was a bit late for that seeing as within the last 72 hours at least 10 people have "disappeared". Well anyway, Martin is assigned the North end of the county to search, how they came to the conclusion that the monster is not in the South, East, or West ends is left unexplained.
We are dutifully informed that while Martin and Barney are searching, the monster is "making its way to the community dance hall." (!!) (Yeah, doesn't every community have one?) As you would expect, after nearly a dozen people are reported missing, the community has decided to hold a dance. In fact, there are at least 40 people attending the dance, apparently in the middle of the day. Ahhh, nothing like a early afternoon dance at the Community Dance Hall to help one forget the fact that people are dropping like flies.
Our eyes are now treated to some truly impressive jiggling scenes. Yes. We get the point. Dancing. Oh wait, humor! A drunk guy going around stealing people's drinks (in the middle of day?). Ha ha! Cut to roaring, screaming monster making its way across a field. (And they can't find this thing? Hell, can't anybody hear the lion roars?) More dancing. Good. Good. There is a point to this scene, right? I will say that the girl in the golden pants can jiggle.
Whoa! A girl just got mad at the drunk guy, because, well, I don't know. Wait, back dancing. Monster crawling, screaming. Haven't we seen this all before. Man, can one scene go on for this long? I mean, do you really need to have a 5 minute scene showing a 'creeping terror' making its way towards a dance hall?
Dancing. Dancing. Dancing.
Yes, suddenly, and boy do I mean suddenly, the monster is inside the dance hall and eating people. I don't mean it's suddenly pushing through the doorway into the room...I mean it's suddenly on the dance floor eating the terrified dancers. (You may also note that the monster is shown on the side of the room away from the entrance, so I guess it just magically teleported onto that spot.) To convey the sense of panic and terror, one party-goer, still sitting in her chair, exclaims "My God! What is it?"
I'm trying my best to be concerned for the people trying to escape the dance hall, except it's a little difficult when:
1) the people simply walk to the exit doors (still, it's fast enough to get away from the monster, but you think they'd be a little more enthusiastic about leaving...)
2) the monster has great difficulty pushing its way through card tables and fold-up chairs.
3) the people gathered at the exit doors aren't bothering to, you know, exit the building.
The monster eventually makes its way to the crowd of people gathered at the exit. We are then treated to several scenes of wiggling women's legs sliding down the monster's gullet. (Men on the other hand, are devoured with much less footage.)
This is a really absurd scene. There, I said it.
As the dancers are hurling themselves into the monster's maw, Martin and Brett are sitting in a patrol car making out (!!!). Our narrator tries to cover up this grievous breach of professionalism by saying, "While Martin and Brett are taking a break from the search..." (No kidding!!!) Anyway, after the attack on the dancers, the military has decided to destroy the monster and Martin is called in to help. (Brett comes along as well.)
Seeing as we have gone nearly 10 seconds without seeing people making out, we cut so a scene showing people making out.
This time, instead of a patrol car, it's in a convertible. We see (via the same, stale, recycled footage of the monster) that the 'terror' is approaching Lover's Lane (oddly quite populated in the middle of the day...). A glob of narration exclaims, "Anyone who experienced that catastrophe and survived would never go there again." (And those who did not survive will go there again?)
Well, ok. The monster eats a couple of kids, going completely unnoticed by the couples in the other cars. For some reason, a man in what must be his late 40's is sitting alone in his car smoking a pipe and watching the whole episode. I assume he is either the county pervert or a character from a lost sub-plot that wasn't fully edited from the final cut.
The monster unsuccessfully tries to devour another pair of kids who come upon an ingenious tactic: they get out of the car and run away.
Foiled, but not yet willing to call it a day, the monster heads over to a car with the words "23 Skidoo" pointed on the fender. The guy inside shoves his date into her door, knocking her unconscious (?) then tries to start the car. (The car doesn't start...who would've imagined that?) The monster puts the flat tip of it's head under the car, flips it like a pancake, and laboriously crawls over to eat the unconscious occupants. (How the beast actually got the people out of the car is not shown. Maybe it sucked them out of the window, in which case I'm glad I didn't have to watch that bit.)
"It was almost an hour," continues our unseen narrator, "before Caldwell learned of the monster's devastating new attack. Colonel Caldwell wasted no time into ordering his men into action. It was at this point that Bradford interceded. He demanded that the monster be taken alive at all costs. The Colonel's protests about the dead and missing made no impression on Bradford. Caldwell conceded to the point of assuring Bradford that they would not destroy the monster if they could avoid it."
Yep, no sci-fi movie would be complete without Science and Military butting heads at the cost of the innocent. That plot point successfully completed (Film Making 101), the story 'continues'.
The soldiers discover the monster's whereabouts and move in for the attack, all 7 of them. (ratta-tat-tat...ratta-tat-tat).
Martin, Barney, and Brett (!!! WTHISDT !!!) drive up and converse with Caldwell and Bradford. The narrator tells us that Martin and "his party" are to be "a second line of defense...to be used only if necessary [and if Martin and Brett are not busy making out]." (I feel safer already.)
The, *ahem*, second line of defense at the ready!
The soldiers approach the monster and fire wildly. It would appear that the film makers didn't have enough money to afford actual blanks, so the soldiers simply jerk their guns in their hands when the 'fire'. To simulate being struck by bullets, the monster has been dusted with talcum powder (or flour, whichever was cheapest, most likely). You can see that somebody tugs the monster via long cords whenever it is 'hit' resulting in a cloud of dust at the point of 'impact'. To say that these special effects are completely unconvincing would be an understatement.
I'm proud to say that I served 3 years in the United States infantry, so I was somewhat aghast when I saw the tactics displayed by this so called "Special Unit". Actually, it should be painfully obvious to anybody that when a group of soldiers bunch up and open fire the guys in the front will get hit. Still, it's just such a stupid, stupid scene I just had to comment.
The Army also taught us that it is possible to stand at a distance from the target when firing a rifle. This crack squad is obviously too advanced for such mundane tactics seeing that they instead choose to stand directly in front of the monster when firing. This tactic does however make it much easier to climb into the monster's mouth.
After losing 70% of his squad to the monster (i.e., 5 men, the majority of which tripped over each other and fell into a big pile so the monster could conveniently eat them in one gulp), the Sergeant, "a shaken man," reports back to Colonel Caldwell.
Upon hearing the Sergeant's recounting of the failed offensive, Caldwell decides he has only one choice left: grenades. (Why couldn't they have just done that in the first place? Stupid movie.)
Bradford tries to stop Caldwell and in a rare line of actual dialog, Caldwell tells him to "Get out of my way!". Caldwell being "more concerned with saving human lives than the advancement of science" (yeah, because the advancement of science has never saved any lives before...), takes matters into his own hands and walks off to 'nade the monster himself, with the 2 surviving soldiers as backup.
Caldwell advances towards the monster, trips over something (nothing actually), puts his hands over his head and the grenade explodes. When the smoke clears, the monster lies motionless on the ground looking like, well, a pile of old carpets.
Bradford has a light-bulb moment and drives off in the truck. Martin and Brett (WTHISDT) hop into the squad car and, after nearly stalling the car when putting in the clutch, give chase.
Returning to the spaceship, Bradford crawls under the craft, and enters the main cabin. (There is still a guard at the ship even though all members of the "Special Unit" were shown in the previous attack. Where this extra guy come from is anybody's guess. Maybe he's just a friendly community volunteer.)
Anyway, inside the ship, Bradford walks over to a control panel, flips a switch, and the control panel explodes. (??) We next see him crawl back out of the spacecraft covered in fake-blood and 'burns'. (Don't you just hate when you accidentally push the "EXPLODE" button on the control panel?)
About time for some more narration, wouldn't you say?
"The explosion loosened the harness on the monster and allowed it to escape."
This exposition is confirmed by a shot of the monster attacking and killing the lone sentry guarding the space ship. (How did the monster get outside so fast? Did it crawl out from under the ship too?) Amazingly, Bradford manages to crawl away, which is more than fast enough to escape the monster.
Alas, the grievously wounded Bradford can't out-creep the 'creeping terror' and is eventually attacked. Somehow he manages to fend off the beast by pushing it away with his arms. That and by using the tried-and-true Not-Jumping-Into-Its-Mouth method.
Just as things are looking grim for Bradford, Martin races up in the patrol car and rams it...killing the second beast.
Martin and Brett (WTHISDT) jump out of the patrol car and cradle the dying scientist in their arms. This poignant scene is, of course, not complete without a little narration:
"Martin tried to help the doctor, but there was no time. [He didn't have time to help?] Bradford told Martin what he had just confirmed. [Was confirmation achieved by having a control panel explode in his face?] That these monsters were highly specialized test animals. [I'd hate to see the non-specialized version...] They were in fact mobile laboratories, that consumed human beings in order to analyze them chemically: undoubtedly to detect weaknesses in the human species. He told Martin that the information fed into the computer in the spacecraft [sic]. Now that both monsters were dead, the computer would activate a transmitter to send the results into outer space. Martin knew what he had to do."
Yes, Martin climbs into the space craft and "hears the transmitter generator kick-on." In a desperate effort to stop the information from being sent "into outer space", Martin begins pounding on the control panel with his pistol. Well, actually, he almost 'pounds' it. You can see him slow down and stop his arm just before making contact with the instruments.
Seeing that his service revolver is not doing the trick, Martin pulls off a pipe (!!) from the 'wall' of the ship and starts 'pounding' with that.
Believe me, watching somebody 'hitting' something for over a minute starts to get boring.
"As the transmitter stopped, Martin felt sick," drones the narrator, "Evidentially all the information had been transmitted." Yes, evidentially so. Actually, it wasn't so evident to me what was happening, but anyway...
"On Martin's return, he confessed his failure. He slowly [?] asked Bradford what was in store for humanity. Bradford was pessimistic, but implied that maybe all was not lost. 'After all,' he told them,'the vastness of the universe is incredible.' If these monsters had come from the outer limits, their home might no longer even exist. Or if they do come again, perhaps man will have advance enough to cope with them and those who made them. 'Only God knows for sure', were Bradford's last words to anyone on this Earth."
Yes, we might well have advanced enough to cope with them if they ever return.
Or we could just run our cars into them.
That works too.
Dennis Grisbeck (May 2005)