The Mole People (1956)

The Mole People

Directed by Virgil Vogel

Written by Laszlo Gorog

Tagline: “Terrifying monsters from a lost age!”

Run Time: 77 min

This snoozer is another in a long line of 1950’s sci-fi flicks that seem to be merely going through the motions of being a sci-fi film. The plot unwinds in a perfunctory manner: people say things, people do things, all on cue, but with no real conviction. Despite the relatively short run time, there are sequences of excruciatingly boring padding. For example, there is a detailed scene showing a mountain climber tying a knot in a rope! Maybe that’s why director Virgil Vogel only directed 2 films before falling back into directing television shows for the rest of his career. (Besides The Mole People, Virgil directed the horrible last ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’ film in 1957 entitled The Kettles on Old MacDonald’s Farm.)

The Mole People stars sci-fi icon John Agar, star of over 60 films during his career, including the 1966 bomb Zontar the Thing from Venus (a remake of Roger Corman’s It Conquered The World made 10 years earlier in 1956), Bert I. Gordon’s delightfully awful Attack of the Puppet People (1958), the atrocious The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) , and a goofy 1966 flick called Women of the Prehistoric Planet. Agar seems to be sleep-walking through his role as Dr. Bently. Needless to say, Agar’s lack of conviction is astounding.

The mole people themselves are almost minor characters, merely slaves to their subterranean overlords who rule over them in a gigantic underground city. Despite the plodding pace, stiff acting, and strange mole people costumes, some of the matte shots are quite interesting and rather well done. In an interesting note, shots of the mole people, including the giant underground city were, *ahem*, borrowed and inserted into the 1966 crap-heap The Wild World of Batwoman.

So, buckle up, drink some coffee (or whatever you need to get you through this) and get ready for….The Mole People!

The movie opens in the office of a college professor, namely Dr. Frank Baxter, Professor of English. The hair on the back of your neck should begin to rise at this point, namely because you are about to watch an English professor lecture you. Yes, this is a sci-fi movie that opens with a lecture on the various "hollow Earth" myths. Does this sound exciting? Well, believe me it’s not. Oh yeah, and why the hell is an English professor telling us about hollow Earth theories? Wouldn’t this be the job of a geologist? (Or at least somebody who can act…)

Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. What a great start. If you want to hear about all the different types of myths regarding the possibility of people living under the surface of the Earth, well, buddy, look no further.

Oh and by the way. This opening lecture lasts over 4 minutes!

4 freakin’ minutes! What were they thinking?!

Finally, the credits begin. It’s a bad sign when I have a migraine before the credits start.

The Mole PeopleWe open in Asia. How do I know? Because of the word "Asia" superimposed over a group of Asians. Said Asians are silently slaving away at what appears to be an excavation site. Dr. Bentley (John Agar) and Dr. Stuart are busily looking over papers and acting very scientific, when all of a sudden one of the workers calls them over to take a look at something. The item of interest is a stone tablet. Stuart notices that the tablet is engraved a language "not possible for these parts".

"You mean ‘not probable’," Bentley corrects him, "In archaeology all things are possible."

Whew! This is going to be an exciting ride, I tell ya!

Later that evening, Stuart studies the tablet and estimates its age at over 5000 years. I have no idea how he arrived at that conclusion, but hey, let’s just go with it. Bentley translates the "Sumerian" symbols for our edification. Something about a city or people that just "disappeared from the face of the Earth." Watch it yourself if you want the details.

Imagine John Agar translating Sumerian runes out loud.

Really. Imagine that.

That’s what I’m watching right now.

Without warning, the camera starts to shake indicating an "earthquake" is taking place. The actors pretend to be alarmed and run outside as the stone tablet falls to the ground and smashes into pieces. I don’t know if that is supposed to be a bad thing or not, but the camera zooms in on the crumbled remains of the Sumerian tablet, so your guess is as good as mine.

The Mole PeopleThe next day, Bentley, Stuart, and Dr. Bellamin (played by Hugh "Leave it to Beaver" Beaumont!) are discussing the damage caused by the previous day’s earthquake. Light banter is exchanged including Agar’s wonderfully wooden delivery of "Archeologists are the underpaid publicity agents for deceased royalty." What wit!

Man, I need another beer. This really isn’t going very well.

Right on schedule, a local youth delivers some sort of relic he found on "Kuwitara…[boy points to painted backdrop of a mountain]…high…high!"

"The epicenter of the earthquake!" Dr. Stuart notes. Gee, what a coincidence, eh? I wonder if anything was revealed as a result of the quake?

Later that evening, Bentley and the others are joined by yet another archeologist, Dr. Lafarge. We now spend a few moments watching Bentley scraping mud from the artifact the boy delivered earlier that day. Oh, do you think it can get even more dull? Yes, it can. Watch Dr. Lafarge look through a microscope! This is so exciting!

The Mole PeopleBentley remarks that the artifact is in fact "an oil lamp shaped like a boat." Inscribed on the lamp are more Sumerian symbols. Oh God. Please no. Agar is going to translate them. Ayeeiiieee!!!

"A man…a woman…lots of different animals…a lion…a bear…"

"The Sumerian version of Noah’s ark," Bellamin conjectures.

"Exactly," Bentley lifelessly agrees, "The flood has been proven to be a historical fact. Why not a Sumerian version? According to the inscription, they got wet, too." (Excuse me? They got ‘wet’)

Imagine one of the most exciting experiences you’ve ever had. This movie is the exact opposite.

Excuse me, I dozed off. For some reason Bentley decides to take a trip up Kuwitara and "look for human beings." Well, I guess if they didn’t do that, there would be no movie, and my life would be a lot happier at this juncture.

Punish me, John, punish me! I run a ‘Bad-Movie’ web site! Give me your best shot, Agar!

OK. Let me fast forward in time a bit here. For your sake. What I mean is, I will be a human ‘fast-forward button’ for you: I will watch the movie and then just tell you the hi-lites because the next 6 minutes are boring as hell! No, that’s not a typo. Six full minutes of stock-footage mountain climbing action.

I’m sorry to lose my head. I’ve had a long day with my kids. I worked my butt off in the back yard…and then I come in and start working on a review of The Mole People. Now I’m convinced that I need psychological help.

A slew of stock-footage combined with occasional shots of Agar and the others in front of back-projected "mountains" contrive to fool the viewer into thinking that something exciting is happening. It’s not.

Oh, wait.

A storm rages through the night. More stock-footage mountain climbing. There is a stock-footage avalanche that crashes down upon stock-footage mountain climbers. Cool.

The Mole PeopleDo you see what I’m getting at?

Finally, and I know I say that a lot, but finally they reach the summit of Kuwitara where they discover an ancient matte painting of a Sumerian temple.

"The ruins of a Sumerian temple," Bentley remarks upon spotting the ruins of a Sumerian temple. Bentley and his fellow archeologists walk across the plateau towards the ruins. The large group of Sherpa porters and guides have now been cleverly written out of the script, as you may have noticed by their sudden absence for the rest of the film.

One item of "importance" is Lafarge’s chance discovery of small carved head buried in the styrofoam shavings, I mean ‘snow’. "The goddess Ishtar!" Lafarge says as Bentley picks up the statue. I don’t know if that is supposed to be of any importance, but there you go: It’s Ishtar. No more questions, please.

Seeing that it’s about time for some ‘excitement’, Dr. Stuart happens to step upon a weak spot in the snowy plateau which gives way, creating a large crack directly under his feet. As the others look on in horror, Stuart plunges into the depths below. "We have to get down!" Bentley shouts. Oh boy. (I hope you have the "Jungle Boogie" song stuck in your head now. "…Get down! Get down!…Jungle boogie!")

Next comes the infamous "Climbing Down The Dark Chasm" scene which has haunted me ever since I first saw this movie. If you want to watch Agar and the others climb down a bunch of rocks with a rope, then this is your day. What was the director thinking here? Is this ‘suspenseful’ for anybody with a functioning brain? There’s even a scene showing Bentley tie a knot for cripes sake!

Down and down and down they go…when will this scene end? Nobody freakin’ knows!

I’m not kidding, this scene is going over the 3 minute mark.

Oh yes. Thank you. That was a nice shot of Hugh Beaumont threading a rope between his legs. I really, really, didn’t need to see that.

OK. We have now passed the 4 minute mark. Let that sink in…4 solid minutes of watching guys scale a dark, rocky cliff. Oh yeah, it’s not like we have John Agar’s stimulating dialog to break up the monotony. Oh no. That would be too entertaining. There are 5 lines of dialog in the last 4 minutes of rock-climbing footage. I never thought that I would want to hear Agar deliver a line, but boy, I sure wouldn’t mind it right now.

Bentley FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY reaches the bottom and discovers Stuart’s crumpled, lifeless body at the bottom of the rocky shaft. (Big surprise.) The last of the climbers (I don’t know who…it’s dark, and I frankly don’t give a damn right now.) notices one of the tie-off pegs has come loose in the crack it was pounded into. Taking a hammer, he pounds the pin back into place and, of course, sets off a giant cave in.

The Mole PeopleBlah blah. Bentley looks around a bit with his flashlight and notices that the cavern is not "natural", rather it’s been excavated. Lafarge doesn’t look too excited about that information, since he seems to be the only one to realize that they are trapped underground without food or water.

The Mole People"There’s another tunnel," Bentley notes with absolutely zero enthusiasm. You’d think he’d be a bit more excited about not having to perish of thirst and hunger 500 feet underground, but there you go. (Man, Agar was really giving 100% here. Sheesh.) As Bentley and the others make their way down the tunnel, a pair of clawed fingers poke through the wall behind them, revealing a pair of gleaming eyes from beyond.

Lafarge begins to weaken and has to be helped down the pitch black tunnel. Well, pitch black except for Bentley’s flashlight. Now this is exciting! Gee, what will happen next? Batteries go dead? Mole person gets them? My computer’s hard drive will explode and I won’t have to finish this review?

Nope. Hard drive still working.


The tunnel eventually opens into an absolutely gigantic (and unexplainably well lit) underground cavern housing an entire city. (This is the scene that was appropriated in "The Wild, Wild World of Batwoman".)

The Mole PeopleOh wait. Bentley explains away the light as "probably some chemical in the rocks." Well, I’m glad we covered that plot hole!

Bentley finds an identical statue head in a pile of coffee grounds, sorry, I mean dirt. "This city must have been built on a thick crust of earth over a volcanic bubble," Bentley conjectures, even though he’s an archeologist, not a geologists, "Strong enough to support the city until and earthquake came along." Ahhh yes. Another plot hole filled. Boy, now I’ll be able to sleep at night.

Bellamin pokes around a bit and finds a wall engraved with Sumerian symbols. I hope you know what that means. Yes. Agar is going to translate out loud what the symbols mean. Something about the "Sharu dynasty." I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to capture all the details of that stimulating ‘translation’ scene for you. Really. I truly am.

As the exhausted archaeologists lay down on the cavern floor to get some sleep, a Mole Person (MP) begins to dig its way up from the under the ground a mere 3 feet from their heads without anybody noticing. Well, Lafarge noticed something, but Bentley dismissed it as cave bats. Idiot. Later that night some Mole People wrap sacks over the shocked archeologists’ heads and drag them underground. (In a few of these shots where the actors are struggling with the Mole People, you can easily see that the MP’s hands are just rubber gloves. Ouch.)

We cut to see Bentley, Bellamin, and Lafarge sitting against a rock wall, still with sacks over their heads. Since their hands aren’t tied, I’m not sure why they didn’t just, you know, take off the sacks, but never mind.

"What were they?" Bellamin asks. "I couldn’t see a thing!" (Well, that was probably because you still had a sack on your head, you moron.) At this point they notice that Lafarge has 4 large scratch marks on his chest. "Well whoever it was, they sure need a manicure," Bentley quips. Yeah. That’s something a person would probably say in a situation like that.

The Mole PeopleBentley’s turns on his flashlight and quickly discovers a pair of skeletons standing up against the wall. Not just any skeletons, but skeletons with oversized hands and skulls "large enough to house a brain with associative areas." (Who wrote this dialog?! Ah yes, Laszlo "Earth Vs. The Spider" Gorog. It’s all so clear now.)

Lafarge calls Bentley and Bellamin over to point out that a secret door has opened up in the adjoining wall and a pair of, *ahem*, Sumerian warriors are standing at the ready. With a wave of a sword, one warrior indicates that the scientists are to follow them into the crevice. The archeologists go through the secret door and are escorted to a giant matte painting, I mean, to an underground Sumerian temple.

The Mole PeopleAt the temple, a ceremony of sorts is taking place. The Sumerian High Priest holds aloft what looks like a giant wishbone crowned with one of those Star Trek badges. Oh wait a minute. It’s not a giant wishbone, it’s the "Magic Eye of Ishtar" (according to the priest.) Bentley and the others watch the strange happenings with little or no interest. Oh yes, I’m sure the script called for "Interest", but Agar and Beaumont just don’t seem to give a damn.

The High Priest concludes the ceremony with some more gibberish and then proceeds to walk over to the King. The King sits on his throne, wearing a crown of what looks like asparagus stalks, while the Priest informs him of the "intruders".

The King has the archeologists brought forward for questioning. "Who are you?" he asks in perfect English.

"We are friends," Bentley replies, also in English, "We are different than you. But we are friends."

Ahh yes. You see, this is not English. Bentley is actually speaking ancient Sumerian because he has studied it on "ancient stone tablets." I just don’t know if that would cut it. I mean, I could learn to read a foreign language, but that’s a hell of a long way from learning to actually speak it. Furthermore, all the so-called Sumerian text that I’ve seen in the movie so far has been hyroglyphics…so how in the hell did Bentley learn to speak the language from just reading symbols? Stupid movie. Anyway, just remember that anytime Bentley is speaking to the Sumerians it’s actually ancient Sumerian he’s speaking, not English. Well, you know what I mean.

The Mole PeopleAnyhoo, the King sentences the archeologists to death via the "Fire of Ishtar". This turn of events isn’t exactly what Bentley had hoped for, so with a couple quick punches, Bentley and Bellamin overpower a pair of guards and take their swords. The two archeologists are apparently trained in both swordplay and archeology for they quickly dispatch numerous armed guards and flee from the room via a convenient tunnel. Lafarge, being the oldest, quickly falls behind, stumbles to the ground, and cries for help. Bentley hears Lafarge’s calls, spins around, and shines his flashlight into the faces of the pursuing guards. Since the Sumerians live in the "dark", the light is excruciatingly painful to their eyes, and they fall back in agony. Odd that this happens seeing as the light is almost as bright as the light which they already live in. Oh well.

Bentley and the others return to the underground city and chase away the Sumarians with his flashlight. (Oh brother. Now that was an exciting scene.) Examining a dead Sumerian (struck down by Bellamin in the initial struggle), Bentley notes that their "optic nerve must be hyper-sensitive to the light." (Boy, this guy must be a blast at parties.) As Bentley blabs on and on and on, a MP burrows up from under the corpse and drags it underground. Lafarge freaks out (really, what does this guy contribute to the story?) and runs back into the caves. Bentley and Bellamin give chase, catch up to the elderly archeologist and calm him down.

Now we are treated to even more Walking In A Dark Cave footage. Boy, between that and hearing Agar deliver his lines…Anyway, a strange cry pierces the silence, and Bentley and Bellamin go off to investigate, leaving Lafarge along, limp with exhaustion, leaning against a cave wall. (Thanks guys!)

The Mole PeopleFollowing the sound of the cries, Bentley and Bellamin eventually reach the slave quarters. Sumarians walk back and forth on the tops of walls, whipping the cringing, moaning Mole People in the darkness below. Another Sumarian soldier walks around tossing scraps of food into the murky chambers where desperate hands reach up to receive the meager rations. To be honest, this scene has quite a "Dantean" feel to it, quite well done considering the overall quality of the film. (When one of the guards breaks up a fight between 2 Mole People, we see that the food is actually mushrooms.) After awhile, one of the Mole People spots the scientists and attacks them. The ruckus alerts the Sumarian guards to the intruders’ presence, and an alarm is raised.

Bentley tries to flash his light into their eyes but, magically, the "button is jammed", rendering them defenseless. (But not "light-less"…these caves are curiously well lit) With no other choice, Bentley and Bellamin scurry back, pick up Lafarge, and run deeper into the caves. Lafarge panics, runs off, and is attacked by a Mole Person. Running after Lafarge, Bentley spots the Mole Person pounding on Lafarge, and knocks the beast in the noggin with his flashlight. In another incredibly coincidence, the blow to the Mole Person’s head "unjams" the button, and the flashlight works again. Huh.

Brace yourself. Lafarge was killed. Try not to get too upset about his death. I know he played a central part in the film.

Bentley and Bellamin somehow make it back to the underground city (because the script writer couldn’t think of anything more interesting, I’m sure). Out of a cave pops the High Priest who says that the Sumerians have changed their view point and now regard Bentley and Bellamin as friends.

"I wouldn’t count on that," murmurs Bellamin to Bentley.

Wait a minute. You mean Bellamin speaks ancient Sumarian as well? Wow. What are the odds that two people working on the same dig both speak ancient Sumarian? Great stuff!

The Priest, speaking on behalf of the King, says that they are now considered "Holy Messengers", and in fact, are invited to a "royal feast." Why? Because we have to introduce the female love interest, of course. This is a 1950’s sci-fi film, you know. Whatever. Bentley and Bellamin play along and pretend to be messengers from the Goddess Ishtar. (Man, this is painful stuff. John Agar playing a Holy Messenger from Ishtar! Ouch!)

After some chit-chat with the King and the High Priest, some scantily clad maidens enter with trays of mushrooms. One of the hand maidens, a young woman named Adel (credited as "Adad" for some reason), who looks pretty tan for living in a cave, drops her tray and is promptly whipped upon the King’s orders. Bentley grabs the guard’s arm and stops the beating.

The Mole People"The King’s will is the law!" says the High Priest.

"The Fire of Ishtar is the law!" Bentley replies while holding up his flash light. (Am I really seeing this?)

"You have fondness for her, don’t you?" asks the King when he sees Bentley help the attractive maiden up from the floor.

"Yes," Bentley flatly answers.

"She’s yours," says the King.

Wow. Now that’s an advanced civilization!

Anyway, the King informs Bentley that the girl is one of the "marked ones", that is, the ones actually born with the "curse of darkness". Oh gee. I see. Because she is tan and all the others are albino. Wow. That’s pretty deep, dude.

The conversation continues. (Um, where are the Mole People? That is the title of the film, isn’t it?) Bentley asks the King how many people live in the city.

"Twice and a half times sixty," says the High Priest, confirming the fact that the Sumarians have lost their mathematical abilities in addition to their skin pigment. To make a long story short, that’s the most people their food supply can support. And when the population exceeds this limit? They are sacrificed in "The Fire of Ishtar". (Oh brother!)

The Mole PeopleLater that evening, Bentley and Bellamin mull over possible ways to escape the underground city. Wouldn’t you know it. In comes Adel with refreshments and something that looks like a long, thin, banjo (!). Bellaminleaves the room under some totally bogus pretext so that Bentley and Adel "Can Be Alone". Blah blah. Adel and Bentley exchange amorous banter which rings so totally passionless that it’s painful to watch. Talk about oil and water.

Could this movie get any more boring?


Bentley tells Adel of the "World of Light" above ground, while she plucks on the banjo. Wowee. This is awful!

To add to the pain, we next see Bentley and Bellamin touring the underground city. Bentley explains everything to us, I mean to Bellamin: how they heat the water, how they weave their clothes…you know…things that the viewer would really freakin’ care about!

Meanwhile, the High Priest is plotting to overthrow the King. (Oh great. Just what we need. Another dull plot thread.) What it all boils down to is that the High Priest orders his co-conspirators to steal the flash light, I mean, "Fire of Ishtar".

More shots of Bentley and Bellamin wandering through the caves looking for a way out.

"Why don’t we give up and just apply for Sumarian citizenship?" Bellamin quips.

"Because I don’t like mushrooms," Bentley jests in return.


More "romance" between Bentley and Adel. Bad. Bad. Bad. Could Agar really be this wooden? Just as they are about to kiss, a guard informs Bentley that the King wishes to speak with him at once. Oh great. More talking.

The problem is that one of the guards has been murdered by a Mole Person. (Gee. Big surprise. You’d think they’d be best friends, wouldn’t you?) The King suspects a Mole Person uprising may be in the making. The High Priest suggests that Agar, with his "Cylinder of Fire" (He’s referring to his flash light, you perverts!) could control the Mole People and quash any unrest. Bentley, being an Archeologist with Morals, refuses to take part. The Priest suggests to the King that they take the "Cylinder of Fire" in order to prove that Bentley and Bellamin are mere mortals. The King objects, and instead orders 3 of the Mole People beaten to death as an example to the others.

Cut to see 3 Mole People shackled to a wall and being whipped to death. (Charming.) Thankfully, Bentley comes in with his, *ahem*, Cylinder of Fire, and chases off the guards. After the guards flee, the flash light batteries go dead. Doh! Well, they at least free the Mole People, who thank them, sort of. Hmmm, I wonder if the Mole People will prove to be a powerful ally in an upcoming struggle against the Sumerians…

Hmmm. OK. Back in the temple, some maidens are being readied for sacrifice in order to appease Ishtar, or reduce the population, or some crap. Who cares.

"In my hand I hold the golden rod," chants the High Priest. OK you sickos, he’s talking about that Star Trek looking thingee on top of the divining rod. As the 3 sacrificial maidens kneel in supplication, a dancer (!) enters the room and begins performing a terribly executed (and choreographed) dance number. I assume this performance pleases Ishtar in some manner. Look, I have no idea.

The High Priest puts on a black hood, opens the door under the Star Trek symbol, and bright sunlight fills the chamber. One by one, the maidens disrobe and enter the sunlit room, where they are incinerated (!).

First: Just because you are an albino doesn’t mean that sunlight incinerates you. Absolutely absurd.

Second: What if it happened to be a cloudy day on the surface?

Oh boy. That was an epic scene.

Later on, one of the guards discovers Lafarge’s dead body and shows it to the Priest. Delighted at having hard evidence of the intruders mortality, the High Priest summons the King and shows him the truth. Realizing that he’s been duped (duh), the King orders Bentley and Bellamin to be destroyed. The High Priest gleefully runs off and has the archeologists’ food drugged. (Adel unknowingly serves the tainted mushrooms to Bentley and Bellamin. Oh…the cruel irony!) Once Bentley and Bellamin are drugged, the High Priest rushes in and steals the flash light. As for Bentley and Bellamin, well, they’re tied up and tossed into the Sun Room, where they will presumably perish in the Fire of Ishtar. (Why didn’t they just cut their throats? I hate that crap where the heroes always have to be dispatched in some ludicrously complex fashion so that they can inevitably escape.)

The Mole PeopleAdel sees what’s happened and runs off into the caves. Somehow she ends up in the Mole People Whipping Room (for want of a better name), and is quickly pulled underground by a Mole Person. As if on cue (literally), all the Mole People burrow under ground leaving the confused guards standing around scratching their heads. (Hmm…if the Mole People are being whipped all the time, why didn’t they just burrow down before?)

At the temple, the Mole People burrow up en masse and attack the High Priest and his guards. When things are starting to look pretty bad for the Sumarians, the High Priest smugly assures the King that all is well as long as he has the Cylinder of Fire (er, flash light). I’m not sure how the weaponless Mole People manage to overpower and kill so many armed Royal Guards, but whatever. As expected, the High Priest tries to shine the flash light, but the batteries are dead.

Scratch one Sumarian King and High Priest.

Moving right along, some Mole People open the door to the Sun Room and retreat in pain when the flood of sunlight enters the temple. Adel, being a "Marked One", is unaffected by the sunlight and goes into the room where Bentley embraces her and begins yet another exposition session. Blah Blah. John, ok, we get it. Her people came from the surface, and are just like ours. Yes, thank you. I got that.

"It’s warm…and beautiful," Adel says of the sun.

"But deadly to our Friends of the Tunnel," Bellamin adds. ("Our Friends of the Tunnel"?! Who in the hell talks like that?!) Ugh.

Bentley, Bellamin, and Adel begin the long climb up the shaft to the surface. Oh great. Another climbing scene. Boy, can’t get enough of that excitement!

After climbing for a bit (Just how deep were they?), they reach the surface and pop out of hole in the rocks a mere 5 feet from their equipment that they left behind. I’m not kidding. These guys are explorers and they didn’t see that?! For some reason, Bentley just happened to have an extra set of clothes which perfectly fit Adel, and the happy trio begin descending the mountain.

Apparently the script writer couldn’t think of a better way to end the film, so for some totally inexplicable reason there is suddenly an earthquake that causes Adel to panic and lay down on the ground where she is crushed by a falling stone pillar.

The End.

Yup. That’s it.

Don’t complain…it’s over.

Dennis Grisbeck (September 2005)

4 comments to The Mole People (1956)

  • Charles

    Agar is truly terrible in this film; his shortcomings as an actor are in full display here. I’ve seen him in a few movies and he’s intolerable in all of them. He’s humorless, condescending and obnoxious. I was just thinking that he really missed his calling as a William Atherton/Paul Gleason type. I think if he had gotten supporting roles in that vein, as the annoying, hardheaded, wrong-but-within-reason guy, he could have been a great actor. Playing the lead in earnest films like these were poison for him.

    And I think part of it is the fact that he’s the protagonist, the guy we’re supposed to latch onto and relate to, and yet he’s the authority who’s always explaining everything. Most movies have it where it’s a supporting character who plays that role, explaining necessary exposition to the protagonist we’re relating to. One good example is to try to imagine the original Star Wars with Obi Wan Kenobi as the protagonist, rather than Luke (or Han). It’d have been a disaster.

    But a better example, because the roles changed accordingly, were the Lord of the Rings films. Gandalf was never the main protagonist when he was in his “I’m going to reveal some important information” moments. Said protagonist was usually a hobbit, but occasionally Aragorn or another member of the Fellowship. Sometimes Aragorn played the role of protagonist, and sometimes he was the expository guy, but he never played the two roles simultaneously. I think by doing this, they avoided the whole sense that the movie was talking down to us, and that’s the killer response that I usually see from Agar films. You’re supposed to empathize with the protagonist, but by casting him as an authority, that throws up a wall between him and you.

    As for the movie itself, just to comment on one stupid thing: there’s an idiot plot here, and that’s when they decided that the entire expedition (once they lost all the Sherpas in an avalanche or something) needed to go into the hole and save the guy who undoubtedly plummeted to his death. It’s just ludicrous that they didn’t have someone still topside. And I can’t help but be amused beyond all reason at the plan of Nestor Pavia climbing back up that rope several hundred feet to get out of there, under his own power, with no one helping him, because they were all down at the bottom of the hole for no worthwhile reason whatsoever. It just violates every basic safety rule when you’re out on a trek like this.

    Anyway, I’ve heard that Cynthia Patrick had to die in the end because the studio warned the producers off the unintentional miscegenation between Sumerian-but-totally-white Patrick character and John Agar. They wouldn’t let a white guy get together with a woman who’s supposed to be ethnically Iranian. What do you think?

  • guts3d

    Good point, I never thought of that. I couldn’t climb several hundred feet up a rope with no way to rest, such as ledges and places to rest my arms, especially since they ate only mushrooms down below… I guess that their wildly optomistic plan was to discover an ancient elevator or pre-historic set of a thousand steps. Nice review, Dennis!

  • Night-Gaunt

    It was an interesting concept that probably looked good on paper. But they had no way of making a decent film out of it with the bare bones budget and lackadaisical star in it. I assume the death by rays of the sun was conceived to show how weakened the subterranean Sumerians are after staying so many thousands of years underground. Most people watching then and now have little knowledge of albinos or history or archeology for that matter. The best thing about the movie were the Mole people. (The implication is that they developed from humans. Only how could it happen so fast? They could have let drop about all the different kinds of mushrooms and other fungi some of which have amazing effects on them as a pseudo explanation.) Too bad they had no budget for a philologist to give them an idea of Sumerian except that no one has heard it in 2,000 years or more.

    I was disappointed that the giant cave system didn’t have a more varied ecosystem like fanciful mushroom trees and bats flying about etc. (I know, no budget for it.)
    They could have gotten over the language barrier by having them or some of them be telepathic would also have made it sort of realistic and add tension as they try to think about escaping and keeping it from the Sumerian leadership. Think of a brick wall!

    The shocking death of Cynthia Patrick’s character pissed me off. And to find out it was racially based is doubly pissifying. To a barely tolerable movie ti was a let down this movie didn’t need to leave at the end. Bad taste in poor movie doubles the flavor doubles the anger.

    Not a film I would watch too much, but I do enjoy it as light fare every few years. Give me the “Creature From the Black Lagoon” trilogy instead.

  • Sue

    The reference to dried mushrooms only refers to the fact that he is out of pipe tobacco.

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