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Trollenberg Terror (The Crawling Eye), The
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by Mel Valentin

"Fifties sci-fi-horror for the nostalgically minded."
3 stars

Released in the United States in 1958 as "The Crawling Eye" to capitalize on the success of "The Quatermass Experiment" (released as "The Creeping Unknown" stateside) several years earlier, "The Trollenberg Terror" is a low-budget, science-fiction programmer that’s best remembered for its risible cyclopean, tentacled monsters, Forrest Tucker (of "F-Troop" fame) in a rare lead role, the presence of genre stalwart Janet Munro in a secondary role, and, as the inspiration for Stephen King’s novella, "The Mist," adapted for the big screen last year by Frank Darabont ("The Green Mile," "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Blob" remake). Justifiably spoofed on "Mystery Science Theatre 3000," "The Trollenberg Terror" won’t, contrary to the title, stir feelings of terror or revulsion in viewers (quite the opposite, actually). For the nostalgic, however, "The Trollenberg Terror" is a fond reminder of the "Creature Features" program that aired Saturday mornings on local television stations long ago.

Two climbers return from scaling the Trollenberg Mountain with a story almost impossible to believe: someone or something hiding in the mist killed the third member of their party. One climber claims he even saw the decapitated body of their friend before the body fell hundreds of feet below. No one believes them, of course, but the arrival of Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker), a United Nations investigator, suggests there’s something to their story after all. Brooks and a research scientist working in Trollenberg, Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell), experienced something similar in the Andes Mountains: a radioactive cloud that moves on its own, contrary to weather conditions, and inexplicable violence by numbed-out villagers who return, seemingly unscathed, from encounters with the radioactive cloud.

Philip Truscott (Laurence Payne), a newspaperman angling for an exclusive on the radioactive cloud and the deaths of the climbers, and two sisters on holiday, Sarah (Jennifer Jayne) and Anne Pilgrim (Janet Munro), are in Trollenberg just as activity within the radioactive cloud intensifies. Truscott recognizes the sisters from advertisements for their popular stage act: Anne reads minds and Sarah serves as her “straight” woman. Through her telepathy, Anne comes into contact with the "things" inside the radioactive cloud, but they don't want to communicate with her or, presumably, other humans. The aliens send mind-controlled men (and corpses) to neutralize Anne. In short order, the radioactive cloud begins to descend the mountain toward the village and cutting off access to the main road in and out of Trollenberg. With apparently no other alternative Brooks, Crevett, and Truscott, prepare to battle the aliens.

Not surprisingly, there’s nothing particularly deep or engaging about The Trollenberg Terror. The small-scale conflict between the villagers and the aliens reflects a potentially larger conflict that could affect the entire world. Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, (Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein) adapting Peter Key’s teleplay (The Trollenberg Terror was first a six-episode serial before it was a film) does nothing to flesh out the aliens’ motives or backstory. Why are they here? What do they want? What kind of society do they have? And given their obvious physical limitations, how did they get to Earth? Instead, Sangster and the director, Quentin Lawrence (who also directed the serial), are content with sketching out the conflict and then setting it into motion. The characters don’t have arcs, redemptive or otherwise, just mechanical roles that have to be carried out. With the exception of the inevitable pairing between the male and female leads before the end credits roll, the characters remain unchanged.

To save money (money the producers obviously didn’t have), "The Trollenberg Terror" was shot primarily on soundstages and unfortunately, it shows. Lawrence used backscreen projections for most of the “external” shots (e.g., mountain-climbing scenes) or avoided them altogether. As for the visual effects, they’re few and far between and what we do see are on the wrong side of impressive. Working with a low budget, Lawrence and his producers were smart to keep the aliens hidden until the last reel, but once the aliens show up in all their rubber glory, "The Trollenberg Terror" slips into the realm of the laughable and never returns. Still, there are far worse ways to spend an evening than revisiting a childhood favorite and finding it sadly lacking in almost every respect. Sometimes it really is better not to go back (to your childhood) again.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18332&reviewer=402
originally posted: 12/28/08 09:00:00
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USA
  12-Dec-1958 (PG)
  DVD: 07-Jan-2011

UK
  N/A (PG)

Australia
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