The Beast of Hollow Mountain / The Neanderthal Man Blu-ray Review
The Beast of Hollow Mountain
Directed by Edward Nassour and Ismael Rodriguez
Written by Robert Hill
1956, Region A, 79 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on January 28th, 2014
Guy Madison as Jimmy
Patricia Medina as Sarita
Carlos Rivas as Felipe
Pascual Garcia Peńa as Pancho
Mario Navarro as Panchito
Eduardo Noriega as Enrique
Julio Vilarreal as Don Pedro
Lupe Carriles as Margarita
Once upon a time in Mexico, legend has it that an evil monster lived inside the great Hollow Mountain and would occasionally emerge to eat cows and trespassers. That's about it for the legend (offered via cheesy 1950s educational film narration). Meanwhile, Jimmy, an American cowboy living south of the border, works a ranch with his partner Felipe, but they have fallen on hard times and are being pushed off their land by the power-hungry Enrique. Their cattle have started disappearing and the workers have fled in fear of the urban legend. The only people willing to stick around are Pancho the town drunk, and his young son Panchito, but they work for the beautiful Sarita, fiancee to Enrique. Jimmy convinces her that he is not trying to poach her employees and the two spend the day innocently flirting.
Enrique is threatened by Jimmy's studly American demeanor and plans to kill him. Jimmy decides he would rather leave town than force Sarita to become a widow, since her fiance is a lousy fighter and would likely be the one in the ground after any confrontation. Pancho takes it upon himself to search for the missing cattle within the swamps in the shadow of the mountain. Finally, an hour into the movie, The Beast arrives and all hell breaks loose. He stomps and clomps, but never generates a hint of terror. This living monster forces enemies to work together and lessons to be learned at the end of the day. It all feels very recycled and more than a bit sluggish.
The Beast of Hollow Mountain almost works as a straight drama, but really tanks as a monster movie. The creature is given the lamest entrance in schlock cinema history, as it is clearly a person wearing rubber monster leg pants stepping into frame before cutting away to the stop-motion beastie. As is the case with most of these types of films, the creature is added in optically in post production and consequently changes size depending on the surroundings, so there is never a true sense of scale. That being said, the monster does get to do some awesome stuff like eat a cow and people and stuff. Despite his huge figure, he is able to sneak up on a kid in the swamp. It is never made clear why the thing is coming around now or why it is there in the first place. It's not like anyone is threatening to level the mountain or anything.
Directors Edward Nassour and Ismael Rodriguez do a serviceable job telling the story, but there is no sense of danger or suspense even after the monster shows up. The best sequence of the picture is the cattle stampede through town, featuring a few impressive stunts. The screenplay by Robert Hill (Sex Kittens Go to College) is in no danger of being remembered once the credits roll, but somehow there are a few memorable performances throughout. Guy Madison (The Return of Django) and Patricia Medina (Snow White & The Three Stooges) have a nice chemistry as Jimmy and Sarita. Pascual Garcia Peńa (The Big Steal) as Pancho provides comic relief and I was surprised to learn while researching the cast that he is still alive at 104 years of age!
I don't believe anyone has been petitioning Scream Factory to get the rights to this film, or the companion title The Neanderthal Man. It is more likely that when the MGM vault was raided the company got access to just about anything inside, with this caveat, “...and in addition to a wealth of '80s slashers, don't forget these two 1950s stinkers!”
The Neanderthal Man
Directed by E.A. Dupont
Written by Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen
1953, Region A, 78 minutes,
Blu-ray released on January 28th, 2014
Robert Shayne as Prof. Cliff Groves
Joy Terry as Jan Groves
Richard Crane as Dr. Ross Harkness
Doris Merrick as Ruth Marshall
Jeanette Quinn as Celia
Robert Long as George Oakes
Dick Rich as Sheriff Andy Andrews
Beverly Garland as Nola Mason
Professor Cliff Groves is obsessed with the intelligence of early man and is conducting a series of unorthodox experiments in his home laboratory. When one of his subjects, a cat, escapes into the community, he feigns ignorance of the beast roaming the streets and berates anyone suggesting that a saber-toothed tiger may be on the loose. George Oakes, the local game warden, initially dismisses the monster stories from a resident hunter until he too spots the beast later that night. Oakes seeks the help of Dr. Ross Harkness (Assistant Director of Zoological Research), who reluctantly agrees to discuss the matter with the knowledgeable Prof. Groves.
Harkness waits for Groves to return from a conference and spends the evening with Ruth Marshall and Jan Groves, the professor's fiancee and daughter respectively. Groves' theories have been dismissed as asinine and the humiliated doctor returns to his lab and self-medicates. Within 20 minutes he is transformed into a Neanderthal and terrorizes the neighborhood. He returns home and reverts to his normal state but is even more of a jerk to his family and the visiting zoologist. Dr. Harkness suspects that Groves is more than just an asshole and searches his lab where he discovers evidence of the strange experiments. Meanwhile, the Neanderthal man returns and attacks more of the locals, causing terror in the community. The good doctor pairs up with Ruth and Jan in hopes of figuring out what is happening, but they are not prepared for what they discover.
The Neanderthal Man is a sloppy film that is only worth recommending for its unintentional comedic value. Screenwriters Aubrey Wisberg (Hercules in New York) and Jack Pollexfen (The Man from Planet X) present a by-the-numbers story of power-hungry mad scientists and the dangers of science. They borrow liberally from better films and specialize in sexist characters that deliver sanctimonious speeches. Women are pretty, intellectually inferior and weak, while deaf-mute Mexican women are only kept around for housework and subjecting them to medical experiments. Director E.A. Dupont (Return to Treasure Island) gets a fair share of the blame too, as the film limps along from one set piece to the next until the obligatory showdown in the last reel allows good to defeat evil.
Robert Shayne (Spook Chasers) stars as the prick Professor Groves, although his name is misspelled in the opening credits as Robert Shane. He is certainly dastardly, but you have to feel for him while he lumbers around in the silly Neanderthal makeup that is little more than an oversized pullover mask complete with painted-on eyes and a pair of hairy gloves. He looks like a teenage-werewolf knockoff. Richard Crane (House of the Damned) and Doris Merrick (The Counterfeiters) fare much better as the heroic Dr. Harkness and put-upon Ruth Marshall. The most bizarre performance comes courtesy of Joy Terry (The Beatniks) as daughter Jan, who never makes eye contact in close-ups but instead looks off camera (likely to a set of cue cards). Beverly Garland (Not of This Earth) turns up in a “blink and you'll miss it” cameo as the waitress in the cafe when Dr. Harkness arrives in town.
Scream Factory has elected to release The Beast of Hollow Mountain and The Neanderthal Man as a double bill that will certainly cater to fans of schlock cinema. Neither of these films is likely to stand the test of time, much less be singled out as quality examples of their specific subgenres. Nature can be scary and science threatening, but audiences have nothing to fear from these flicks. This is simply a fun double feature that is worth checking out for some goofy laughs at the films' expense.
Video and Audio:
The Beast of Hollow Mountain is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture is fairly sharp with strong colors, deep blacks and natural-looking flesh tones throughout. The most colorful sequence, the wedding festival, looks particularly nice.
The Neanderthal Man arrives in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and looks better than the prints I've seen on broadcast television.
Both films offer a single DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that preserves the original mono audio with an acceptable yet tinny mix. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion which is good considering that there are no subtitle options on this disc.
There are no special features on this disc.
A DVD copy of the films has been included in the packaging.