Thursday, August 20, 2015


I remember reading about TROG (1970) in the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS when I was in junior high school. The article was accompanied by b&w stills and the film looked intriguing. But for reasons unknown, I never got around to seeing the film until a couple of days ago when I recorded it off of TCM.

Three British spelunkers find an undiscovered cave while exploring and decide to check it out. One of the cavers is attacked and killed by a strange half-human, half-ape creature. A second explorer only gets a glimpse of the monster but it's enough to drive him mad. The third man is unscathed but he believes his friend's story.

The two survivors end up at a clinic run by Dr. Brockton (Joan Crawford). She also believes the story and urges Malcolm (David Griffin), the sane survivor, to take her into the cave. While exploring, Brockton snaps a photograph of the creature they dub "Trog" (short for troglodyte). A media circus is soon in full swing outside of the cave and when Trog emerges, he goes on a rampage. Everyone runs off but Brockton stands her ground and shoots several tranquilizer darts in to the beast.

She takes Trog to her clinic and begins to study him, convinced she can communicate with him and teach him. Sam Murdock (genre vet Michael Gough), wants none of this. He argues for the destruction of Trog, fearing that he can't be controlled and is threatening the economic welfare of the town.

Brockton makes progress with Trog but Murdock breaks into the lab, wrecks it and lets Trog loose. Trog grabs a young girl and heads back to his cave. Brockton goes into the cave and rescues the girl. The British army then goes into the cave and shoots and kills Trog. And remember kids, when the monster is dead, the movie is over.

TROG is not a very good film. In fact, it's pretty bad. The screenplay by Peter Bryan, John Gilling and Aben Kandel plays heavily on the classic trope found in so many 1950s science fiction films of science wanting to study a monster of some kind while the military wants to destroy it. The Trog make-up is good and director Freddie Francis tries hard with what he's given but the end result is a failure. TROG isn't a strict horror film, nor is it a strict science-fiction film. It's a half baked mess that generates more interest because of the leading lady and the producers' curriculum vitae.

Joan Crawford was quite attractive when she was very young but her looks quickly hardened. She was a terrific actress but by the early 1960s, the only parts available to her were in low budget horror films. Crawford, along with Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Joan Fontaine and Tallulah Bankhead, became not affectionately known as "horror hags" for the films they made. Consider Crawford's filmography here: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962), STRAIT-JACKET (1964), I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965), THE KARATE KILLERS (1967) (two episodes of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. edited together for theatrical release), BERSERK! (1968) and TROG (1970), which sadly, was her last film appearance.

The producer of TROG was Herman Cohen who made his mark with such low budget horror films as I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957), I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1957), BLOOD OF DRACULA (1957), HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958), HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959), THE HEADLESS GHOST (1959), KONGA (1961), THE BLACK ZOO (1963), A STUDY IN TERROR (1965) and BERSERK! (1968).

For both Cohen and Crawford, their better days were behind them by the time they made TROG. I can't recommend this film unless you're a die hard fan of either Crawford or of the films produced by Cohen. Everyone else should avoid it.

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