Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I watched THE COSMIC MONSTER last night, a 1958 British science fiction film that I had recently recorded off of TCM. At least, that's the title that was on my DVR and on the print of the film that I saw. But this schizo movie has more personalities than Sybil, having been released in both the U.K. and the U.S. as COSMIC MONSTERS, THE CRAWLING TERROR, THE COSMIC MONSTER and THE CRAWLING HORROR. Whatever you want to call it, it's a stinker.

In addition to having various titles, COSMIC MONSTER has a number of plot elements, none of which are ever fully developed into a satisfying narrative. I will admit that I nodded off a couple of times watching this snoozer but here's what I was able to make out of this mess while I was awake.

A British scientist and his American assistant (Forrest Tucker), are conducting some sort of experiment involving magnetic fields. They inadvertently cause a series of strange, world wide phenomena to occur including freak storms and UFO sightings (!). Turns out they've burned a hole in the ionosphere allowing those oh-so-pesky cosmic rays (and we all remember what those things did to humans in the first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR) to bombard the earth. A mysterious vagrant gets half of his face burned by the radiation and goes on a killing spree. Is this the titular "cosmic monster"? Maybe. Maybe not.

At the same time, a mysterious Mr. Smith (Martin Benson) shows up in the British countryside. It's quite obvious that he's an alien and is somehow related to those UFO sightings. Again, is he the "cosmic monster"? "Probably not as, only minutes later, yet another plot development is thrown in, this time involving insects that have been mutated to giant size, well, pretty big, okay, about the size of a large dog, by the cosmic radiation.

If this was an American science fiction film, you'd expect stalwart scientist Forrest Tucker to cobble up some method of defeating the big bugs but he does nothing. He's the most ineffectual scientific man of action I've ever seen in a '50s sci-fi film. Instead, it's up to Mr. Smith, the alien, to blast the bugs with a ray gun, deliver a lecture to humans about messing around with things unknown and then leave in his space ship. That's the end of the film because, remember kids, when the monster is dead, the movie is over.

COSMIC MONSTER borrows liberally from both 1951's THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (a far superior film) and 1957's THE BEGINNING OF THE END (not a very good movie but a masterpiece compared to COSMIC MONSTER). Six-foot, four inch Forrest Tucker is horribly and hopelessly miscast here. He's unbelievable as both a scientist and a love interest for co-star Gaby Andre (who is badly dubbed). Tucker made three British sf films over the course of two years, this one, THE TROLLENBERG TERROR aka THE CRAWLING EYE (1958) and the Hammer Films production of THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957), which is far and away the best of the three. Tucker is best known for his starring role on the ABC-TV sitcom F-TROOP, which ran from 1965 to 1967.

And is just me or does Forrest Tucker

look like this guy?

Bandleader Phil Harris

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