Published Jan 28, 2014If there's one thing that Shout Factory is good at doing, it's rescuing movies and TV shows from disappearing into the memory void. Such is the case with this latest double bill of creature features.
The Beast Of Hollow Mountain is a strange film that was apparently the first to put cowboys and dinosaurs on the screen together. Made in 1956, it looks surprisingly sharp and colourful on Blu-ray thanks to being filmed in Cinemascope. It starts off with some mysteriously killed cows and some occasional mysterious background roars, but it's more of a Western than Sci-Fi, and it takes an eternity for the beast to actually show up. The first hour is spent dwelling on a rivalry based on both cattle and women in a small Mexican village with hardly a mention of any kind of beast, but then, almost out of nowhere, a Tyrannosaurus Rex appears and the last 20 minutes (d)evolve quickly into a classic '50s monster movie.
The problem is that the monster looks so unconvincing, both as a stop motion dinosaur and as a rubber one as it stomps around in the mud, so no matter how tense the final chase is supposed to be, it's hard to suspend one's disbelief. Interestingly, it was special effects wizard Willis O'Brien (King Kong) who came up with the original idea for the story, but for some unknown reason, it didn't work for this movie, which is a shame; it could have used some of his magic.
The Neanderthal Man is definitely the stronger of the two movies, thanks to a much more interesting plot and some scenery-chewing performances. It's a classic tale of a scientist whose theories are so ridiculed by his peers that he tries to prove them all wrong by experimenting on himself. In a more sinister turn, he also experiments on some cats and his maid, both of whom (like himself) turn into savage primitive animals: a sabre-toothed tiger on the rampage and a murderous Neanderthal.
Naturally, it ends badly in oh so many ways, with some really earnest, and unintentionally hilarious, dialogue. It doesn't really help that the Neanderthal makeup was done by Harry Thomas, who worked regularly with Ed Wood, and it stops this from ever being completely convincing.
The downside is that this is a bare bones release — just the movies and nothing else — so don't expect anything extra. Both movies veer dangerously close to Mystery Science Theater 3000 territory, but could never be classed as terrible films. Instead, they make for an entertaining double bill of '50s horror that time could quite easily have forgotten and nobody would have noticed. (Shout! Factory)