Monday, October 04, 2010

DR. SHOCK'S HALLOWEENIE MOVIE OF THE DAY: THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON (1959). Tom Selleck loves this film. He says it's neat. I wouldn't go that far. However, I wouldn't go as far as those who condemn it as totally inept and unwatchable. In fact, it's quite watchable with practically no draggy places in it. It is inept, however. But hey, at least it's more entertaining and a lot less draggy than IRON MAN 2! This was the brainchild/labour of love of minor character actor Robert Clarke who produced it, directed it, co-wrote it, starred in it and, for all I know, cooked lunch for the craft service table! He also filled the cast with sisters-in-law (TWO of them), his mother-in-law and countless other friends and family. This is truly what my late friend Peg used to call "a lunchtime production": that is, a group of people had a lunch hour free so they made a movie. Literally, THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON was shot on weekends while Robert Clarke was working on other pictures during the week. The camera equipment was cleverly rented on Friday so they got the use of it for an entire weekend but only had to pay for one day. Having said all this, THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON is actually a helluva lot better than it has a right to be. Oh yeah, and besides that it's got a terrific movie trailer (which in the tradition of most low budget horror movies is much better than watching the whole movie itself) with bombastically beautiful narration by "The Man With 1,000 Voices": Paul Frees!
Robert Clarke plays an atomic scientist (is their any better fifties occupation?!?) named Gil (this name will become amusing once one sees his appearance as the hideous sun demon) who gets zapped with radioactivity. While in hospital, he discovers that exposure to direct sunlight causes him to transform into a scaly reptilian creature who likes to rampage like it's nineteen fifty-nine. The sky was NOT all purple, however. Gil's rather understanding girlfriend Ann (Patricia Manning) handles all this a lot better than some might. However, Gil decides that turning into a lizard-like freak gives him a mahhhhhhhhhhhhty thirst so he heads down to the local bar for a drink. It's ok, it's nighttime. He'll be alright. There he encounters a busty bar singer named Trudy (Nan Peterson: my favourite person in the film for some reason) who sings (in dubbed voice) the song "Strange Pursuit". And she must sing the hell out of it because Gil goes away but comes back again the next night to take Trudy in his little sports car (complete with built-in booze cabinet) cruising down the Pacific Ghost Highway. They eventually come to a beach and Gil suggests they take off their shoesies and run down to the water. Gil grabs her and makes a quite violently animalistic pass at Trudy. She slaps his face, he pushes her into the water, she gets up and laughs. This apparently is the tried and true correct response to attempted rape. Before too much more time goes by, Trudy is out of her dress and wrapped in a blanket, then wrapped in Gil's coat, then minus the blanket. A discreet fade out indicates Gil and Trudy are engaging in a roll in the hay. Er....sand. Gil awakes to find the sun is up. He runs up to his car and races away before the effects of the sun make him go all funny. Yes, he has abandoned Trudy miles from nowhere. But she's a tramp, it's the best she deserves. Remember, it's 1959. Gil goes back home and Ann finds him hiding in a closet. Crouched down cowering, if you wanna know the truth. You know, Gil doesn't come across as the most likeable person in this movie. In fact, as atomic scientists go, Gil is about on par with the nutty medico in THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE in the likeability department . . . especially in his attitude towards women! The hell with him, I say. Tie him down under a sun lamp. Well, being the incredibly brainy atomic scientist he is, Gil goes back to the same bar where he picked up Trudy and Trudy just HAPPENS to be there with her gangster boyfriend George and his thug pals who naturally beat the snot out of him. YAY for them! Of course, after this episode Trudy (who has just angrily thrown her drink in Gil's face and watched at least 4 guys beat the guy up) promptly brings Gil back to her apartment in puts him into bed. The next morning Gil wakes up, Trudy gets frisky, her gangster boyfriend shows up, there's another fight, George pulls a gun and attempts to take Gil "for a ride". Outside Gil transforms into the hideous sun demon and kills George while Trudy (and her bust) hang out the nearby window screaming. I mean to say Trudy screams. I don't know WHAT her bust is doing. You be the judge. Have I mentioned that Nan Peterson is my favourite person in the movie??? Anyway, a bunch more stuff happens. Gil hides in an old shack near an oil rig and is offered cookies by a little girl (no, NOT Marilyn Harris!). The little girl's mom calls the cops, cops chase hideous sun demon, cop shoots hideous sun demon, hideous sun demon dies. Not exactly the most powerful or implacable monster if one shot from a gun pretty much does it for him.
Kudos much be given to Richard Cassarino (billed as Gianbatista Cassarino -- a much more fun name) who created the wonderful Sun Demon mask for a measly 400 bucks! When one looks at the monster make-up in a lot of low budget movies of this time period, the Sun Demon mask is rather impressive. And it's iconic -- see -- it made the cover of "Famous Monsters", didn't it?!? The acting of Robert Clarke a little less so. Never that much of an actor, Clarke several times resorts to shrieking histrionics reminding me of Michael Landon's "you've gotta help me doctor please help me" tirade in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF. A little bit much. But you've got to hand it to him; Robert Clarke gave this movie his all. His goal was to cheaply make a monster movie that may not be too good but will hopefully make a lot of money. Sadly, a series of circumstances led to Clarke losing ownership of the film but he still proudly trumpeted the film until his death. Oh yes, and as for that Tom Selleck comment. . .I wasn't making it up. In 1997, Tom Selleck told "Entertainment Weekly" THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON was "my guilty pleasure. It's a great '50s horror movie about nuclear radiation and mutation. It's about this guy who turns into a lizard if he goes out in the sun. And that was really neat." So c'mon Tom . . . how about doing a remake????

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