|FIEND WITHOUT A FACE
|Copyright 1958 Amalgamated Productions
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 2 May 2009 (updated)
- Major Jeff Cummings - He is a workaholic who never sleeps and seems to subsist on a diet of nicotine and caffeine. As you can tell, Jeff's lifestyle is not healthy. He is going to die from a stroke if he does not start eating right and getting some sleep.
- Barbara Griselle - Well now, this is a quintessential woman of the 1950s: perky, pert, and an expert typist. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: available.
- Professor Walgate - This aging genius subjects his brain to electric shock experiments that create the Fiends Without Faces. When Maj. Cummings asks about the monsters, you had better hold on to your stitches, because it's mad scientist confession time. Dies of massive brain loss.
- Captain Chester - He is trying to figure out how the Major can work so much, yet still have the time to find a new girlfriend.
- Gibbons - The local constable who hates Americans. Half his brain is sucked out.
- The Nurse - Please, somebody tell me that this woman left acting to do something that she was good at.
- Colonel Butler - Give this man an M1911 service pistol and he will defend America and her allies from any foe, be they spineless Commies, or faceless, but definitely not spineless, monsters.
- The Fiends Without Faces - Invisible at first, these repulsive hopping horrors look like brains with antenna and spinal column tails (oh, that is just delightfully gross) that they use to push themselves along, or to jump through the air. First, they strangle their victims with the spinal column tail, and then they suck the brain out! The slurping and sucking sounds that accompany feeding are absolutely disgusting. I love it! When shot, and quite a few get shot, Fiends squirt raspberry preserves everywhere.
|Strange things are afoot around a USAF base somewhere in the backwaters of Canada. Barbara's brother is killed while he is snooping around the outer fence, recording takeoff and landings of American jet aircraft. You might be thinking that a sentry shot the possible Canadian spy, but that is not the case. Something killed the young man, and it was not an excited airman with a rifle. Even stranger is that the reason the dead man was keeping a logbook of air traffic was not espionage in any way, shape, or form. It was all about cows. Yes, cows.
Look, I am not joking. Barbara's brother was studying how the noise created by the jets affected the local herd. Colonel Butler thought that the memo book filled with secret data was a dead giveaway, until Barbara deflated his red-blooded American ego by explaining the cow connection. So, take this advice to bed with you: if the CIA ever arrests you, just tell them that you were doing it for the cows. It sounds crazy, but if enough people use the cow explanation, pretty soon some CIA director is going to have an inbox full of statements connecting the cows to espionage, terrorism, and what have you. That guy is going to go nuts, because all of the data is going to point to one common denominator: the cows. I wonder if somebody already did this. That would explain all of the black helicopters and cattle mutilations that the UFO freaks are forever going on about.
To get back on subject, the Air Force is testing an experimental radar system at the base. By using atomic energy, they are able to boost the range of their radar so that they can peer all the way into Siberia (this was before Google Earth, for you whippersnappers out there). However, there is a mysterious problem affecting the radar. Every time that the nuclear reactor cranks up the fission, the power is mysteriously drained away - no extended range, no looking in Khrushchev's backyard. Major Cummings almost tears his hair out in frustration. Even worse, the Canadian townsfolk all believe that radiation is evil. Eeeevviillllll!
Fortunately, Barbara is not an uneducated local who believes atomic power killed her brother. I am not saying that radiation can not kill a person. It can. It can kill you almost instantly, or it can take years, but kill you it will. The "fast, but not fast enough" type of radiation poisoning is my personal devil. That is when you receive such a high dose of radiation that you die of massive bloody diarrhea. Anyway, enough about Canadians and death by diarrhea. Jeff is quite interested in the young Miss Griselle. He stops in to see her one day just as she is stepping out of the shower. It is a racy scene, considering when the movie was made (and I do think Barbara is attractive), but just as the young woman is about to give us an eyeful of perky Canadian bacon, the film chickens out. No naked Griselle for you. Instead, Barbara puts on a thick robe so that she and the Major can have a friendly chat, nice and "Leave It to Beaver" style.
Darn you, 1950s, and darn your moral values!
The Air Force officer's interest in Barbara creates some hard feelings between Jeff and Gibbons. Not that Gibbons is particularly friendly to Americans in any situation; he seems to blame Major Cummings for everything that is going on in the area, including an old couple that is discovered dead. Gibbons thinks that the murderer is an American from the base. You and I know that a rogue airman did not kill the old folks. We see them killed by...something. Something invisible that creeps along the straw-covered floor of the couple's barn, until it leaps up and grabs them around the neck. Gibbons did not see that, so he organizes the local farmers into a search party to scour the woods around the base. That does not work. The only thing that happens is that Gibbons disappears during the search. He turns up later, suffering from a near fatal case of the morons.
The Colonel and Major are starting to get the idea that something very screwy is afoot in Canada (besides the predilection to end every sentence with "Eh?"). An autopsy of one of the unfortunate victims reveals that their brain and spinal column are missing! Jeff thinks that the local eccentric genius, Professor Walgate, knows something about the mysterious deaths. Attempting to interrogate the old man does not do anything besides making Barbara angry, because she is the scientist's assistant and thinks the world of the kind old man. Not to be denied his intuition, Major Cummings makes a trip to the local cemetery to check the mausoleum. A shadowy figure slams the door shut, trapping Jeff inside! He is almost out of air when Captain Chester and Barbara find him.
I think that Major Cummings needs to spend less time smoking and drinking coffee, and more time at the gym. Captain Chester was able to easily open the mausoleum door by pulling on it.
Confronted once again by the Major, Professor Walgate spills the beans: he is indirectly responsible for everything! He accidentally trapped Jeff in the mausoleum. He has been stealing energy from the base's atomic power plant, and he created invisible monsters that eat human brains! Wait, what was that last part? Invisible, brain-eating monsters! Holy COW!
See that? Another cow connection. I tell you, there is something to this whole cow business that smells of a cover-up.
The question you should be asking yourself is why any normal, well-adjusted scientist would want to spawn invisible brain-slurping monstrosities. The answer is that Professor Walgate didn't do it on purpose. All he wanted to do was to harness the full power of the human mind to turn the page of a book. So, he built an apparatus to siphon off the energy created by the American nuclear reactor. With that unlimited power, the scientist was able to use his mind to turn the page of a book. Unfortunately, he wanted more. He wanted to create a living being made of pure thought. So he imagined that he was staring at an invisible brain. Presto, instant brain-eating brain monsters!
Look, this all started because Professor Walgate wanted his pages turned for him. Why couldn't he just buy a trained monkey? If I wanted my pages turned, I would buy a trained monkey, but not this guy. Oh no, he has to invent faceless fiends that strangle people and suck out their brains. Even worse, the invisible monsters do not simply strangle you to death, then eat the brains. They start sucking out the inside of your skull while you are still alive.
That just sounds painful.
By this point in the film, everybody is at the professor's house, listening to him confess his epic failure. The Fiends pick this exact moment to attack! The Air Force officers immediately barricade the windows, but the personnel at the base are caught completely off-guard. The engineer manning the atomic reactor is killed (more like turned into an unwilling brain slurpee); the resulting overload in the power plant causes the Fiends to become visible. The stop motion used to animate the outrageous monsters is a bit jerky, but it works well with their appearance. Even better is what happens when the hopping brains tear down the barricade blocking one of the windows. Fiends jump into the room! The USAF men draw their service pistols and open fire, and the Fiends shoot sticky gore everywhere when they are hit!
The sound effects that accompany the Fiends are almost as much fun as their ghastly manifestations. Immediately following the *BANG* of a .45 pistol comes the inevitable *PLOP* *PLOP* *PLOP* as the slain hopping brain monster gushes lumpy black ichor from the bullet hole.
Major Cummings makes a run for the base, in hopes that he can destroy the reactor and thereby deny the Fiends Without Faces the atomic energy that they need to survive. The base is a charnel house! Brainless Air Force personnel (meaning they are dead - I'm not trying to insult the Air Force; for once) are all over the place, and every one of them is slumped over a railing. Ah, those were the days. Not only could a man die with his boots on, he could do it and slump over a railing. And if he did not get killed by the terrifying creatures created by a scientist's misguided experiments, then he was sure to get the girl.
I hope that you noticed that back then "the girl" was always smart and attractive, but hopelessly devoted to her man. Oh, and she could cook. That is why we men did not mind risking our necks to battle horrific monsters. We knew that when we got home the little lady would be waiting with a smile on her face and a delicious casserole in the oven. Do all of you single ladies understand what I am telling you? You wonder what happened to all of the heroes. It is not that they are gone, but that you need to learn how to cook.
That should be enough dating advice for today.
Let me tell you about "Fiend Without a Face." This movie terrified me as a young boy, because the title creatures are invisible during most of the movie. All that we see is what they do to their victims, and it does not look (or sound) pleasant. Everyone killed by one of the Fiends is left with a hideous look on their face. My little nine or ten-year-old mind was going a mile a minute, coming up with all sorts of ideas as to what the fiends would look like. Astonishingly, because I do have a vivid imagination, the dreadful images that my mind came up with were less shocking than what the film actually put on the screen once the Fiends became visible. Animated brains, with creepy-crawly spinal columns and antenna! Those, my friends, are the products of a wonderfully sick mind. Mercifully, the brain-slurping Fiends Without Faces no longer cause me nightmares, but they are still among my favorite movie monsters.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Milk tasted better before the Wright Brothers.
- There are a lot of Irish people living in Canada.
- Brain-sucking monsters are not native to Canada.
- A tiny woman can easily break up a fight between two grown men.
- In Canada it is legal to carry at least nine loaded firearms in your vehicle.
- Mausoleums are airtight.
- Having half of your brain sucked out will make you retarded.
- Telekinesis requires at least 40 amps.
- The primary function of the human skull is soundproofing, because otherwise your brain would be so loud that you could not hear yourself think.
- "You are what you eat" also applies to monsters.
- Electricity created by atomic energy is better than other forms of electricity.
- The best way to shut down a nuclear reactor is with dynamite.
- 2 mins - Right now that sentry is saying to himself, "Thank God it's not another dead hooker."
- 13 mins - We have replaced Major Cummings' regular B-52 with a B-47. Let's see if he notices the difference.
- 19 mins - Where is this weird lighting coming from? Is the dead body glowing?
- 25 mins - Neither of you has so much as a bloody lip! Both of you punch like girls, girls with pillows instead of hands.
- 26 mins - Those do look like professionally bound-at-home books.
- 46 mins - It is the middle of the night. What if he is just getting some shut-eye? You know, for once.
- 57 mins - Why couldn't you imagine something cute and cuddly, like a Furby?
- 62 mins - Is that what my brain looks like? Disgusting! I need to get that awful thing out of my head right now.
- 66 mins - You could try feeding them a mad cow.
- 68 mins - Not a very secure place to store dynamite.
- 70 mins - Oh, that one was filled with marmalade! Yum!
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Maj. Cummings: "They'll probably blame the death on our atomic reactors." |
Military Doctor: "Mmmm, it's this fear of radioactive fallout."
Maj. Cummings: "We're not exploding atom bombs. We're just using atomic power for our radar experiments."
Military Doctor: "Sure, go out and tell them that. You know, we're a thousand miles from the nearest decent-sized city."
||Military Doctor: "On examination of the skull of Mr. Adams, I noticed two small holes in the base of the occipital region - here. They penetrated to the medulla oblongata, where the spinal cord meets the brain. I opened the skull to investigate, and found this." |
Capt. Chester: "The brain, it's gone!"
Military Doctor: "Yes, sucked out, like an egg, through those two holes."
||Col. Butler: "You can't shut down a whole atomic power plant on such a wild theory!" |
Maj. Cummings: "You can't deny the facts, sir: Griselle, the Adams couple, the Mayor. They all died a few minutes after the peak of our radar tests. Right after our atomic plant was operating under full power."
Col. Butler: "But it'll take months to get the plant operating again."
Maj. Cummings: "It's better than risking any more lives, or madmen like Gibbons."
Col. Butler: "OK, let's put it on ice."
||Maj. Cummings: "Supposing you're right, Professor. How does it live?" |
Prof. Walgate: "How else, but in the brains and nerve centers removed from these dead people."
Col. Butler: "Then where are they, and why can't we see them? This is nonsense!"
Prof. Walgate: "We are facing a new form of life that nobody understands. I believe that it feeds on the radiation from your atomic plant, and that it's evil!"
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|One of the Fiends has a light snack. |
*HOP* *SCRUNCH* *SLURP* *GULP* - that's got to tickle.
| ||Leave a comment||EXTRAS||Buy the movie|| |
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