Thursday, December 19, 2019

rowdy mole.

Ended up watching this after getting home from The Rise of Skywalker this morning as someone had emailed me to say that there's way to much Star Wars on this blog at the moment and far too little John Agar.

Which is fair enough.

The Mole People (1956).
Dir: Virgil W. Vogel.
Cast:  John Agar, Cynthia Patrick, Hugh Beaumont, Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva, Phil Chambers, Rodd Redwing, Robin Hughes and Dr Frank Baxter.


"Archeologists are the underpaid publicity agents for deceased royalty."





Let's be honest, any film that opens with a video essay from the late, great American TV personality, educator and former professor of English at the University of Southern California Dr. Frank Baxter, has to be worth a look.

As regular readers (just regular readers in general, not of this blog obviously) will already know, Baxter was famous for his appearances as "Dr. Research" in the Bell System Science Series of television specials that ran from 1956–1962 becoming a staple of American classrooms right thru' to the 80s.

Which kinda explains a lot if you think about it.

With Baxter acting as a genial and affable host, the specials combined scientific footage, live action and animation to explain complicated concepts (like space travel, radiation and why you shouldn't elected tangerines to the office of President) in a lively, entertaining and simple way and to thousands of Americans young and old these programmes became the 'go to' for all science minded folk, making a star of its trusted host.

So when Baxter rocks up in the prologue to the film chatting about various hollow Earth myths and theories you have to sit up and listen, for what follows must be true.

And so must the film we're about to see.

Spooky.

Patrick Stewart shooting hoops with one of Mark Shannon's genital warts yesterday.



After what seems like hours of flipcharts and children's drawings we're into the movie good and proper with a title card that informs us that we're in Asia, although to be honest it looks like Egypt from the stock footage tho' the painted backdrops features snow covered mountains so we could actually be anywhere.

I'm going for South Wales.

Anyway, geography aside it's time to meet our heroes for the next 70 odd minutes and they are the dashing  Dr. Wes Bentley (Rhythm Ace and former Mr Shirley Temple, Agar) and the slightly less dashing  Dr. Paul Stuart (Chambers) who are busily digging up bits of stone whilst attempting to look intelligent.

And interested.

Suddenly one of the local workers appears with a stone tablet which Stuart notices is engraved in a language "not of these parts".

Bentley excitedly grabs the ancient artifact and, after blowing the dust away (which makes a change from blowing his agent for roles) announces that the text is Sumerian and tells the tale of a city that disappeared from the face from the Earth.

And with that the camera starts to shake whilst the actors pretend to be slightly concerned as the stone tablet falls to the ground and smashes into pieces.

Bloody hell how exciting is this?


"Is it in yet?"


As a new day breaks (fuck they're clumsy) Bentley and Stuart decide a conference is in order so invite Doctors Jud Bellamin (Beaumont) and Geordi Lafarge (Paiva) over for beer, crisps and a quick chat regarding the broken tabley before rounding the day off with a quick game of soggy biscuit.

LaFarge, as ever, wins.

As they're cleaning up a wee native boy approaches them carrying a bit of market tat cunningly disguised as an ancient artifact whilst motioning toward a crudely painted mountain.
"The mountain was the epicenter of the earthquake!" exclaims Dr. Stuart and with that our fabulous foursome decide to go and explore it.

Cue endless stock footage of snow-covered mountain climbing which I'm pretty sure is exactly the same as the stuff used in The Abominable Snowman.

No really, I'm gonna cut it all together and upload it so you can see for yourselves.

Probably.

After what seems like days of scratchy out of focus snow trudging our merry band finally arrive at the ruins of a Sumerian temple, cunningly disguised a an old set left over from a local pantomime, where Bentley is excited (some would say too excited) to find an old shop window dummy head lying in a pile of polystyrene snow.

"It's the goddess Ishtar!" he exclaims!

And as he does poor Dr. Stuart steps on a cracked bit of concrete and falls thru' a hole into a deep, dark chasm.

Obviously he has the team wallet as Bentley a co. decide to climb after him, giving the viewer the exciting prospect of watching the cast carefully tie ropes, hammer hooks into walls and slide down a spooky shaft all very, very slowly.

Seriously the scene seems to go on for days, the only relief being a long lingering shot of Hugh Beaumont gently easing a rope between his thighs.

One tearful wank and cold shower later and the group are finally at the bottom - tho' not rock bottom, not yet - and crouched over Stuart's corpse, riffling thru' his pockets for photos of his wife in the nude.

The sheer excitement of seeing something so hot raises the temperature in the cave causing the shaft to collapse leaving Bentley, Bellamin and Lafarge no other choice but to press on ever deeper into the dark tunnel ahead.

But as they do a sinister pair of clawed hands appear in the dirt behind them.

That's your Nan that is.


After much walking and waving a torch around he tunnel eventually opens into an underground cavern housing an entire city.

Or at least a painted approximation of one.

Which would probably be OK if the matte artist in question hadn't decided to illustrate the whole thing in really thick Sharpie.

You drew this.

Deciding that they've had enough adventuring for one day the tired time team lie down on the cavern floor to get some sleep.

As you do.

As the trio snore and fart away their troubles a group of the mysterious Mole People (I'm assuming) begins to dig their way up from the under the ground, popping canvas sacks over the shocked archeologists’ heads and dragging them kicking and screaming underground.

Tho' seeing as they're already underground surely that should be underground the underground?

Or more undergrounder?

John Agar is coming for tea? Aaah Lovely!


Waking in a makeshift dungeon resplendent with creepy cobwebs and hanging Halloween style skeleton decorations, Bentley, Bellamin and Lafarge sit around twiddling their thumbs and spouty psuedo-science bollocks till a wall opens and they're motioned to walk forward by a couple of visibly embarrassed extras covered in greasepaint and decked out in children's nativity costumes carrying plastic swords.

Sorry, I meant to type they're motioned to walk forward by a couple of scary  Sumerian warriors.

My bad.

The archeologists are escorted to an ancient - is there any other kind? -  Sumerian temple where a mysterious ceremony, which seems to involve Elinu, the high priest (Alfred the butler himself, Napier looking visibly embarrassed even under a 6 inch layer of white face) shaking a giant cardboard Star Trek badge at a group of 'sexy' dancers, is taking place.

It appears that this is the dance of Ishtar.

Fair enough.

Concluding the ceremony Elinu approaches King Rollo (you can tell he's the king because he appears to be wearing a cardboard hedgehog on his head) and announces that there are 'intruders among them!"

Tho' to be honest from the look of them I'd be less worried about intruders and more concerned about latent arse banditry.

The fucking state of this.


Eyeing them up (and down) with a suspicious gaze the King stands erect and regal before pronouncing that the archeologists are to be put to death via the "Fire of Ishtar" so Bentley and Bellamin, not waiting to wait to find out what this entails,  punches the guards and steals their swords before fleeing into a convenient tunnel with resident oldster Lafarge lagging behind.

As the guards draw ever closer the poor old guy falls to the ground calling on his buddies for help and when Bentley hears Lafarge’s calls he spins around, shining his flashlight into the faces of their pursuers which not only temporarily blinds them but scares them into submission as they shout about Ishtar's light.

Bizarrely tho' the torch isn't actually as bright as the  lights in the city they live in.

Maybe it's actually circles that they're scared of.

Or it might just be shit film-making.

Who knows?

Leaving Lafarge leaning against a cardboard wall (he's tired the poor lamb), Bentley and Bellamin continue to explore the cave eventually reaching the slave quarters where the skirted Sumarian guards spend their days whipping the poor Mole People for some reason or another.

Realizing that nothing exciting has happened for a few minutes one of the mole folk attacks the archeologists and attacks them, alerting the Sumarian guards to their presence.

Cue more pointless running around in the dark till  Lafarge is killed by one of the beasts due to the torch jamming.

No really.

The surviving pair just shrug their shoulders and move on.

Confession time: This scene gave me strange feelings in my tummy as a child.


As the pair continue into the cave system who should pop out from behind a wall but the high priest, it seems that the king has changed his mind about the strangers and wants to invite them around for tea to say sorry.

Sounds legit.

All that hot torch action has convinced the king that the archeologists are actually holy messengers rather than B-movie actors trying to earn a buck and to this end he's organised a party for them that includes fizzy pop, music and scantily clad maidens serving paper plates full of mushrooms.

Standing out from the sexy slaves tho' is the wistful Adele (Patrick strangely credited as Adad in the titles) who is constantly beaten and abuse because unlike everyone else she has normal skin colour and blonde hair.

Obviously she will become Bentley love interest for the remainder of the film.

Meanwhile, whilst all this scoffin' 'n' romancin' is going down the high priest is busily plotting behind the scenes to overthrow the king.

It's almost like that after so many boring scenes of endless cave wanderings and climbing that the writer has decided that what the film needs is an actual plot.

Unfortunately rather than anything remotely involving action this involves lots of forgettable characters in silly hats sitting around talking about stuff.

Case in point as to achieve control of the city the priest sits on a garden chair and slowly orders his co-conspirators to steal Bentley's torch.

The king however has other ideas and demands that Bentley and Bellamin use the magic fire to control the mole people and stop their plans to take over the city.

Bentley however is more interested in Adele and her skills at playing the banjo.

No really.


They look how I feel.


Anyway, more stuff happens, a few mole people get whipped and Bentley continues to gaze wistfully at Adele whilst all the time him and Bellamin are fed mushrooms by sexy albino chicks like the gods they've been mistaken for.

But the film is almost over so it's time to ramp up the action.

Or at least have the priest come across (who are we to judge? it might be a religious thing) LaFarge's corpse proving that our heroes are just mere mortals and deserve to die.

But first there's just time for a fucking terribly choreographed dance routine to accompany three 'sexy' maidens who, one by one disrobe and enter the sunlit room thru' a huge cardboard door and into Ishtar's Flame.
Yup that's right, the high priest is effectively threatening our heroes with death by sunroof.

I mean what if it's raining?

Or cloudy?

Or nighttime?

What your Mum, Nan and Auntie Jean get up to when they say they're at bingo.



Well the guards - after a few minutes waiting - go and retrieve the now burnt remains so their must be a scientific reason for it working.

Oh that's right, Bentley explains that because they've lived underground sunlight is deadly to them.

Well that's OK then.


Anyway some more stuff happens* that leads to Bentley and co. starting a mole man revolution that culminates in the titular beasts attacking the city.

Having stolen the torch the king waves it frantically at the mole men but the batteries are dead which allows the beasts to murder everyone in cold blood, opening the doors to fry the survivors in the blazing sunlight.

Which isn't at all extreme.

Luckily Adele - being a freak with normal skin - is immune to the sun and survives.

With the palace littered in corpses and drenched in blood Bentley, Bellamin and Adele leave the city via Ishtar's flame and climb up the rock face to freedom.

Your sister's wedding night.




"It’s warm…and beautiful," Adele exclaims as she limbs out of the hole and onto the studio set.

Bentley gazes at her lustfully and laughs.

For those of you who think they know how films of this ilk end the makers of The Mole People have an ace up their sleeve.

Or more accurately no idea what constitutes a satisfying ending because 
suddenly as the trio start their journey down the mountain to home an earthquake rocks the mountain causing  Adele to be crushed by a falling stone pillar.

No, really.







Amazingly for a film with such a short running time The Mole People seems to go on forever. 'Directed' (and I use that term in it's loosest possible sense) by Virgil Vogel - the man behind such classics as Space Invasion of Lapland and The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm - and 'starring' lug-headed 50s sci-fi icon (as in he was cheap) John (Zontar the Thing from Venus, Attack of the Puppet People, The Brain from Planet Arous, Women of the Prehistoric Planet - top quality one and all) Agar, The Mole People is the cinematic equivalent of a really unsatisfying toilet trip, you know what I mean - you settle down, trousers round your ankles with a good book ready to let slip the (poo) dogs of war and then nothing.

Just painful pushing and grunting followed by a wet fart (if your lucky) 25 minutes later and culminating in a streaky stain on the bowl glistening sadly in the harsh light of the naked bulb.

Just me then?

See that? That's  your film that is.
Ploddingly paced, stiffly acted (if you can call it acted) and as engaging as watching someone nail bent nails into an old piece of wood - which if anything would be a better use of it's cast - The Mole People is so inexcusably horrendous that its only redeeming feature and the only interesting thing about it is the fact that footage from it was reused in a film ever more shite than this one, Jerry Warren's 1966 shitfest The Wild World of Batwoman.

A film so arse-numbingly bad that it even managed to steal the non-sexy bits from a Swedish porn film.**

Avoid.

Unless you have trouble sleeping that is.



Not even with your Dad's.











































































*All of which is frankly way too boring to even consider typing, tho' it does involve poisoned mushrooms, beast beating and (even) more vaguely erotic dancing whilst John Agar looks on with that smug, punchable expression on his face.

Agar: Punchable.













**In certain establishing shots there's a sign reading "Livsmedel", the Swedish word for grocery store.

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