how far back do you remember?
enough back that current technology seems like science fiction? Far
enough back that the only oven in the house was huge and ran on natural
gas? Far enough back that there were only three networks? Cars had fins?
The "night air" was bad for you?
been on something of a movie-watching roller coaster of late; I started
the year actually liking Albert Pyun;
backed 60's-foolish sci-fi with sedate British science fiction, and
then followed that up with a Lucio Fulci "chunk blower". Then came the scuba diving through sleaze: Women in
Prison, a "roughie" and the once (but never again) hardcore
After that deep, dark dive, we finally arrived at the soft-focus light
at the end, the marvelous Daimajin.
it is only natural that I next go to From Hell It Came, for it
is so goddamned wretched.
how far back do you remember?
still carry with me a few memories from three years of age, mainly watching
Mark Wilson's TV show Magic Circus. The others consist of my
mom giving my toy greyhound bus to charity (and I loved that
bus!) and finally conquering bedwetting. But that's far too much
information, so let's move on.
little later than that I recall being allowed to stay up late on a couple
of Saturday nights - probably, I had been in my grandparents' care while
my parents went to a movie (in 3-D too - I got the glasses afterwards)
- which meant I got to see the late-night TV horror movie out of Corpus
Christi, Nightmare Theater. At least, I think that was
the name; I recall seeing what I thought was The Horrors of
Spider Island on that show, until Something Weird put out their
copy of it, so I still have no idea what it was I saw. But I
do know that I saw From Hell It Came. It's rather hard
off, we are treated to a teaser. TV had gained a very strong foothold
in the American household by 1957, and there were more than a few instances
of movies aping some of the devices of TV shows, the most obvious (and
worthless) being a snippet of the movie proper before the titles rolled.
Unfortunately, in the case of FHIC, the teaser is a dialogue
scene lifted from almost a half-hour into the movie, with no action
or drama, just discussion of events that we have not yet seen - more
than anything, it gives the impression that the projectionist started
the movie on the wrong reel.
the titles, we find ourselves at the tail end of a tribal kangaroo court
on some unnamed South Pacific island, where the former Chief's son,
Kimo (Gregg Palmer) is staked to the ground while
the evil witch doctor (is there any other kind?), Tano (Robert Swan),
dispenses some down-home mumbo jumbo. The new Chief, Maranka (Baynes
Barron) fills us in on Kimo's crime; he's been consorting with those
damned pesky Americans, who theoretically killed the old chief while
treating him for The Plague. Kimo claims Tano and Maranka poisoned his
father, but even Kimo's wife, Korey (Suzanne Ridgeway) weighs in against
Kimo, because she's doing the horizontal hula with Maranka. Long story
short: Kimo gets a sacrifical dagger hammered through his heart and
a one-way trip to the local graveyard in an upright coffin. All this
is witnessed by a white woman in hiding, Mrs. Kilgore (Linda Watkins).
the two Damned Pesky American Scientists, Arnold (Tod Andrews) and Clark
(John McNamara) are having a very helpful expository discussion. It
seems they are were originally there because an H-bomb test went awry
and showered fallout on the island, thanks to a freak typhoon; since
their arrival, they've found negligible radiation levels, but stayed
to fight a form of plague that has been decimating the native populace.
Into this cozy backstory-relation comes Mrs. Kilgore, screaming her
head off while a native attempts to silence her. Arnold and Clark chase
him off. Almost immediately afterward, we hate them for this, as we
discover that not only is Mrs. Kilgore this picture's Odious Comic Relief,
but she is a Cockney Odious Comic Relief, which somehow makes
doctor arrives to help with the plague, and as luck would have it, it
is Terry Mason (Tina Carver), the very same doc that Arnold longs to
marry and take back to America, where he can force her to stay at home
and do the housework. As the local Army guy, Eddie (Mark Sheeler) drives
her to the compound, they run over something which is growing
from Kimo's grave....
the scenes where the Jeep bounces over the Thing Which Is Growing From
Kimo's Grave scared the little kid watching it like few things ever
had. The only thing these scenes elicited in the adult was, "No
wonder the natives are pissed if Uncle Sugar keeps driving through their
sets about to treating the natives with "Formula X-37" - at
least, the natives who are brave enough to risk the wrath of Tano and
Maranka. Speaking of Maranka, he's tossed the treacherous Korey
out of his bed in favor of the more toothsome Naomi (Tani Marsh). Korey
tells the scientists that Maranka plans to kill them all, a message
the scientists proceed to do nothing about. Clark, for one thing, is
busy fending off the romantic advances of the twice-widowed Mrs. Kilgore
(ah, God, my sides ache even thinking about the rampant hilarity),
while Arnold is trying to woo the extremely uncooperative Terry (in
1957, "no" still meant "yes").
is during one of these unsucessful mash sessions that Terry notices
the misshapen tree growing from Kimo's grave - it's rather hard to miss,
as it has a human face and a sacrifical dagger stuck where a heart should
be. The US Government, ever mindful of local taboos, urges the scientists
to uproot the weird thing and study it. One of the more friendly natives
identifies the wooden thingie as the Tabonga, a creature of vengeance
animated by Kimo's spirit.
Such medicine, of course, is bad. Arnold sides with the natives,
wanting to throw the driftwood demon into "the quicksand at the
edge of the forest". "What kind of a scientist are you?"
counters Terry, which pretty much seems to end the discussion.
heartbeat she detected in the Tabonga growing weaker, Terry injects
it with the handy "Formula 447", then leaves it, as "Formula
447" takes 8 hours to take effect. But not when nuclear fallout
is involved, and faster than you can say "Aieee! Tabonga come!"
The wily woodman is out terrorizing the countryside.
an attempt to liven up the proceedings, Korey attacks her rival, the
younger Naomi, giving us a fairly lackluster catfight that is interrupted
by the arrival of the Tabonga, who tosses his former mate into that
"Quicksand at the edge of the forest" that everybody keeps
talking about. Naomi runs crying to Maranka, who sends the men out to
kill the Tabonga. Fat chance, as the leafy lurker crops up and slamdances
Maranka repeatedly into another tree until he dies. The rather more
clever Tano lures the Tabonga into a pit trap and tosses a bunch of
fiery branches down on it. Tabonga is unimpressed by these hi-jinks,
digs itself out and kills Tano by rolling him down a hill. Really.
this point, enough is enough, and the natives realize they need good
old American know-how (read: guns) to get rid of the Tabonga. You see,
to the Tabonga, killing people is like eating M&M's - it just can't
stop (just ask that other purveyor of vengeance, Daimajin).
So off the white men go, armed to the teeth, and sadly accompanied by
Mrs. Kilgore. Sadly, because once again we will frutilessly hope that
Tabonga will appear and cut off her constant badly-accented prattle.
no, it is Terry who will stop to adjust her bootlaces or some damned
thing (without telling anybody,
so she is left behind), only to discover that the tree she is leaning
against is... the Tabonga! Eek! Shriek! She is only saved by
the rain of gunfire our heroes direct at it, finally hitting the dagger
still stuck in it's chest, driving the blade deep into its heart (?).
The Tabonga keels over backwards into our old pal, the Quicksand at
the Edge of the Forest, and Terry falls into Arnold's arms, apparently
more than ready to condemn herself to a lifetime of preparing tuna cassaroles
and knitting baby booties. The end.
this almost sounds like a compelling monster movie, doesn't it? <BUZZER>
I'm sorry, that's WRONG!!!! Let's move on to Double Jeopardy,
where the scores can really change! From Hell It Came
is viciously slow going, with long chunks of uninteresting dialogue,
uninteresting characters, a romantic subplot that borders uncomfortably
on harassment, and worst of all, a strolling monster.
of you who suffered with me through Octaman
will recall that the Strolling Monster subgenre substitutes footage
of the monster wandering aimlessly about in lieu of actually advancing
the story. Once the Tabonga actually gets on its...er... feet... it
seems to wander aimlessly, first from left to right, then from right
to left, apparently happening on its victims at random. Sure, its a
small island and all, but what should be a suspenseful quest for revenge
becomes a tedious mosey for happenstance.
Tabonga itself is fairly famous - it seems to keep cropping up on record
covers and the like. Created
by Paul Blaisdell, it's not as good as his best, the beast in It!
The Terror from Beyond Space nor as laughable as the Cosmic Carrot
in It Conquered the World (and not as
creepy as the talking trees in The Wizard of Oz, which severely
traumatized me as a child). Tabonga is nicely imaginative, in fact,
until it is called upon to move, and then it... well, it looks like
somebody wearing a sheet of sculpted foam. Whoever's inside the suit
is forced to move very stiffly (only fair if you're supposed
to be made of wood, I guess) and the few times when he attempts to bend
over to pick up a victim are truly pathetic. We must rely instead on
the quick cutaway, during which the victim magically flies into the
the acting, it's tempting to say the cast gives Tabonga a run for the
title of Most Wooden, but that would be false; Hero Tod Andrews had
quite a career, and the only odd note about him here is his line delivery
- in a halting, oddly disjointed fashion, almost like John Wayne. McNamara,
with his cravats and scientific homilies, seems much too effete to be
a government-funded scientist; and while Tina Carver is a perfectly
capable actress, her scenes with the Tabonga reveal her to be one of
the worst screamers in film history - Faye Wray she ain't.
rest of the cast is saddled with so much stereotypical Native Speak
that it would unfair to judge
them by this alone - suffice to say that today, the fact that almost
the entire tribe is obviously played by caucasians wearing "native"
costumes and no makeup sticks out like a thumb so sore it must surely
how far back do you remember? Me, I wish I remembered back far
enough that I recalled how dreary From Hell It Came had actually
been, and used the time to do something more entertaining - say, washing
dishes or fertilizing the lawn.