Fiend without a Face

1958 B-movie

Rating: 7/20

Plot: See that woman in the towel on the movie poster to the left? It's funny how they put that on the poster because although she is in a towel very briefly during one of the many pointless scenes that don't make any sense in this movie, it's not anywhere near to being integral to the plot and she's not, as the poster shows, being startled by one of the ultra-scary title fiends or in front of tough-looking guys.

Oh, the plot. You could probably make an educated guess and get 90% of it right. Radioactive stuff causes the thoughts a formulaic character (in this case, a crazy eccentric reclusive scientist) to materialize as these monster things that are at first slurping invisible things but later shown as brains with antennae and tails. These "mental vampires" start causing problems in the farming community, jumping on people's backs and sucking out their brains and somehow their spines and leaving them dead on the floor with shocked expressions on their faces. They even get the mayor! The formulaic townspeople tire of this eventually. An army base is blamed, and the captain from It! The Terror from Beyond Space, here playing a formulaic military major, tries to solve the mystery, at one point getting to see the formulaic woman in the towel and at another point getting in one of the worst fistfights ever captured on film. Can the captain from It! The Terror from Beyond Space get the radiation machine turned off before the mental vampires kill his screaming woman formerly in the towel and the other people? Or, will it be too late?

Other than some nice stop animation (used nicely during a brief scene when the monsters are invisible and later when they're not), there wasn't anything I liked about this. It was very typical--bad acting, bad story with an abysmal climax, cliches piled on cliches, cardboard characters. It also had that typical B-movie convenience where everything just clicks together so nicely and flashlights on chests in living rooms are necessities, not clutter. And I swear that flashlight is used in two different scenes as two different flashlights in two different characters' hands within five minutes. But, of course, it's a small town. Maybe there's not that much of a flashlight selection at the local hardware store. Anyway, look at these monsters:

Inexplicably, they're not shown for the first 3/4 of the movie. It looks pretty stupid seeing people grabbing at their throats and dying while ostensibly invisible beings slurp their central nervous systems from the backs of their heads. You almost think the director is trying to build suspense by not showing the antagonist, saving the horror of what the beings look like for just the right moment in the movie. If that were the case, there should be some payoff. The creatures should at least be somewhat frightening. Nope. They're human brains with antennae and a tail (spinal cord?) that either slowly squirm disgustedly on the floor or somehow fly through the air. Oh, well. If I wasn't entertained or scared by the proceedings, I at least learned all about the dangers of radioactivity. It can be bad, you know, if in the wrong hands.

Here I am wondering if this would have terrified me in 1958:


winter rates said...

jesus! look at the face on that fiend.

i saw this movie and it made me lose faith in the criterion collection.

but i like singing it to the billy idol meloody

Shane said...

Are you referring to my face?

Yeah, I watched the Criterion and was wondering why they bothered with this one. I kept assuming that I was missing something.