AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCIENTIST!
Strikes Back /
The Reel World /
It's A Disaster!
Etc., Etc. /
Dialogue / Links
THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES (1955)
|“I feed on fear; live on human hatred. I, a strong mind without flesh or blood – want your world!”|
Director: David Kramarsky,
Starring: Paul Birch, Lorna Thayer, Dona Cole, Leonard Tarver, Richard Sargent,
Screenplay: Tom Filer
An alien force
approaches Earth, declaring its need for a new world, one where hatred
and violence prevail, and planning to use the animals and the weakest of
humans as weapons in its attack.... On a date-ranch on the edge of the
Comments: When Roger Corman completed his first film as producer, Monster From The Ocean Floor, in 1954, he shopped it around to a number of potential exhibitors, the newly partnered-up James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff amongst them. However, Corman didn’t care for the terms that the pair were offering, and instead sold the rights to his mini-opus to Robert Lippert, who proceeded to rake in a (proportionally) ridiculous profit; a fact that certainly did not go unnoticed by interested parties. Nor indeed did Corman’s way with a dollar; Monster had cost – at least officially – only $12,000 to make. So it was that when Roger Corman brought his next film, The Fast And The Furious, to Nicholson and Arkoff, they were more in a mood to negotiate. So was Corman: he had turned a profit on Monster From The Ocean Floor, granted, but the money was trickling in too slowly to suit his ambitions. A deal was therefore struck between the three, one that would both put The Fast And The Furious into cinemas and finance Corman’s next cinematic ventures, but under conditions that vastly favoured the executive producers. In short, the newly formed American Releasing Corporation would distribute The Fast And The Furious and Corman’s next two films, which were to be produced via the profits of the first; Corman would be reimbursed after the event. (That Roger Corman agreed to such deal is illustrative of just how early in the game all this happened.) The next film into production was Five Guns West; westerns were always popular, and always cost-effective. However, another of the terms of the arrangement was that at least one of Corman’s next two films was to be shot in colour, something that automatically escalated costs. This fact, balanced against Corman’s need to split his finances, brought him to a fateful decision: he would save a director’s salary for Five Guns West by directing the film himself. After all, how hard could it be?
He was to find out soon enough. From the moment cast and crew arrived on the set, it rained. Mud was everywhere. Shooting outside was impossible. Corman spent his first day as director throwing up, sick to his stomach with nerves and worry. Somehow, everyone – including the rookie director – muddled through. Five Guns West was finished on time, but it went over-budget, taking about two-thirds of Corman’s available cash. Somehow, on less than $30,000, he had to make another movie or forfeit his distribution deal.
The next film would be in black and white, that went without saying. And it would have to be shot non-union, as far as they could get away with it; take your production a sufficient distance from Hollywood, and you could still get away with it; although that meant that Corman, now a member of the DGA, couldn’t direct it himself, at least not officially. Corman tapped his own assistant director, Lou Place, for the job of directing. However, screen credit would ultimately go to David Kramansky, the producer’s PA on his previous two films, who acted as Place’s assistant on this one (you following this?). Charles Hannawalt, formerly (and subsequently) Corman’s key grip, found himself an associate producer; and Everett Baker, a novice, was handed the cinematography.
But what to film?
Only 999,998 short. For ARC, that's practically truth in advertising.
It was at this point that Roger Corman became aware of a screenplay for a science fiction film called The Unseen. It was about an alien attempting an invasion of Earth by controlling the animals and weak-minded human beings. That was all to the good, but not really relevant. What mattered was....the alien was invisible. Beautifully, gloriously, cost-effectively invisible.
And so Roger Corman’s next film went into
production, with shooting taking place on the outskirts of
But not all of the hurdles had yet been cleared. When Nicholson and Arkoff showed their film to potential exhibitors, the response was an appalled silence. It was Joseph E. Levene who stood up and spoke for his fellow distributors – and, indeed, for all of us:
“Where’s the monster?”
Roger Corman had gone ahead with the screenplay’s notion of an invisible alien force; the only evidence of an invasion was a metal object that looked rather an avant-garde coffee percolator (and may well have been). Levene – who, the following year, would bring to America a certain Japanese monster movie, and make a bundle with it – had come to the screening based upon what is, perhaps, the greatest advertising lie ever told by Nicholson and Arkoff (contemplate that for a moment, people), a poster promising an eight-eyed, fanged, tentacled, bat-like creature, menacing a girl wearing only her undies and a flimsy négligée. Levene was not the least bit impressed by James Nicholson’s subsequent arguments about the metaphorical intentions of the film’s title (arguments that, amusingly enough, exactly prefigure those used by Roger Corman himself, five years later, when he wanted to make House Of Usher). He wanted a monster, goddammit! – and he was prepared to pay for one. He offered Nicholson $100,000 dollars to destroy the film and start over; $200,000 if he’d make it in colour. Incredibly, Nicholson refused.
The artistic high point of the film.
What happened next depends very much upon who you listen to, and what you want to believe. Legend has it that Nicholson added “alien” touches to the film by scratching it with scissors and filling in the gaps with ink. The distributors remained unmoved. Rebuffed, Nicholson went to Corman and told him shortly to clean up the mess he’d made – and out of his own pocket. Corman, desperate, telephoned Nicholson’s old high school buddy, Forrest Ackerman, explained the dilemma, and told him what he could afford to spend on the obligatory monster. Ackerman laughed at him, then finally relented and recommended a young acquaintance of his, Paul Blaisdell, who was then working in the art department of a science fiction magazine, but had ambitions of moving into special effects work. Blaisdell took the job for the princely sum of $200 – plus costs.
The induction of Paul Blaisdell into the ARC/AIP fold was, in its own way, an event as important as the first deal struck between the embryo company and Roger Corman. In a decade that would give B-movie fans almost more monster movies than they could handle, at a time when a distributor could react to the product he was offered with a plaintive, “Where’s the monster?”, the arrival of Paul Blaisdell was a landmark moment. Hampered all his career by ludicrous budgets, Blaisdell responded by creating some of the most memorable monsters of all time. Not that they were ever the least bit convincing; but what they had was personality. You only have to look at one of Blaisdell’s efforts next to any of its equally low-budget competitors – let’s say, just for the sake of argument, the monster from The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues – to see the difference. There is no mistaking a Paul Blaisdell creation; nor is there any forgetting one.
But most of Blaisdell’s real triumphs were still in the future. What he came up with for The Beast With A Million Eyes was a bi-ocular hand-puppet that went by the nickname “Little Hercules”. Although Blaisdell’s plans for his creation were grandiose, either through on-set disaster (according to Blaisdell) or the incapacity of the puppet (according to everyone else), Little Hercules’ ultimate participation in the re-shot footage was fleeting. No matter. The Beast With A Million Eyes finally had a monster and, as far as everyone was concerned, that was all that mattered....
Just don't expect to see him this clearly in the film.
The Beast With A Million Eyes is a film I have a lot of trouble dealing with fairly. On one hand, the film is cheap and tacky to a point that makes it hard to enjoy, and wearisome in its execution. There would come a time, just a few years distant, when Roger Corman would learn the trick of turning cheapness into an absolute virtue, and how to fill the dead spots in his films with odd little bits of business that distracted the viewer from the fact that these scenes were filler just as much as footage of people wandering back and forth across a desert. But in these very early days, when cutting costs and finishing the job were the only priorities, The Beast With A Million Eyes stands naked and embarrassed in its cheapness; the impulse is to look politely away.
Yet it cannot be denied that Tom Filer’s screenplay has....ambitions. Like so many science fiction films, and particularly science fiction films of the fifties, The Beast With A Million Eyes is a rumination on what it means to be human (specifically, a white American human). The nice thing about this film is that it centres on a very ordinary family. Furthermore, the young lovers are here given short shrift; it is the middle-aged married couple upon whom the story focuses, two people who must defeat their adversary with no other weapon available to them but their own human natures; and to make this possible, and credible, the story first ventures into some surprisingly dark territory. The down-side of all this, however, is that in the absence of any scientific gizmos or military hardware, all that’s left is conversation. If you think TV shows like Star Trek pioneered the whole “out-debating the enemy” trope, think again. The Beast With A Million Eyes serves up a painfully bald example of this kind of story resolution, a gambit that my esteemed colleague, El Santo, likes to call “talking the monster to death”. But before this, I contend, it offers the viewer enough material of philosophical, if not quite dramatic, interest, that the film deserves to be treated with at least a modicum of respect.
If the concluding sequence of The Beast With A Million Eyes is hard to take, so too is its opening. (Hey, it’s a bell-curve! – the perfect Jabootuian movie!) It begins with our chatty little alien telling us all about himself, a “strong mind without flesh or blood” – which makes this another of the era’s anti-intellectual eee-vil brain films – and why he has come to Earth. “I feed on fear, live on human hatred!” (Um, hardly human hatred, at least not up until now.) The alien goes on to explain that he will control various denizens of our planet – “First the unthinking!” – the birds and animals – and then “The weaker of men!”; that he will see through their eyes, hear through their ears; and because of this ability (which the alien describes as, “The power to see your most secret acts!”, a phrase that seems to promise some racy material that of course never materialises), we will know him as – THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES!!
And yet, they never land here. Why not? We've got desert. Bad cooks. Animals that'll do you as soon as look at you....
While the film-makers’ desire to spell out the metaphorical aspects of their title is all well and good, this spiel goes much too far, not just telling us exactly what’s going to happen, but using footage from later in the film to show us. So much for suspense. The alien is voiced by a gentleman of the name of Bruce Whitmore, whose only screen credit this is. He sounds very much like a regional commercial voiceover guy, and may well have been so. In fact, he puts me rather in mind of the narrator from The Power-Puff Girls. “Threatening”, he is not. Nor are the sweetly low-cost visual effects that accompany his bombastic speechifying: a tin-foil rocket, a rotating globe, lightning strikes (is this Jim Nicholson’s work??), an ominously looming eyeball, and some superimposed water ripples, the latter of which will recur throughout the film, presumably to imply the all-encompassing nature of the alien’s power.
However, these various artistic misfires are followed by one of the film’s real strengths, its opening credits, which are accompanied by the kind of abstract artwork that would become over the following years an AIP trademark. These stark, powerful images, featuring eyes lurking within the landscape, convey a real sense of foreboding, and undo some of the damage of that ill-judged and rather goofy opening sequence.
And then we’re back in the world of voiceovers,
this time courtesy of Alan Kelley, who gazes about his property, sitting
on the edge of a
Now – this is the point at which I part company
with other reviewers of this film, most of whom seem content to tag
leave it at that. To my mind, the character of Carol is the screenplay’s
major achievement, particularly for a film written at a time when
uncomplaining, limitlessly supportive little wives were legion in movies
and on TV. It’s hardly surprising that Carol is miserable, not when you
take a good look at her life; and that she takes it out on the people
around her is the most natural thing in the world. After all, the ranch
may be failing, but at least Alan gets to go out and do some work; to
visit with the neighbours; to drive into town.
You and me both, sister.
Another unpleasantly realistic touch here is that
In the midst of all this, we learn that there is
one thing that Alan and Carol
agree on, and that is that the desert surrounding them is at least
partially responsible for their woes. It’s not just the loneliness, and
isolation; there’s something more, something actively malignant working
to bring out the worst in them.... Later, a contrite Carol will confess
real reason that she doesn’t want
Of course, Alan and Carol are more right than they know about the malignancy of the desert. Inevitably, it is Carol who first feels the effects of the alien’s presence. A high-pitched whine is heard at the house, growing louder and closer until it shatters every window, every bit of glass and china in the house – and, in a moment that always makes me shriek with sympathetic horror, a pot of coffee, which spills all over the kitchen floor. The noise is attributed by the various characters to a jet-plane with a show-off pilot, but thanks to Mr Mouthy Alien, the audience is in no doubt of the truth. Carol reports the destruction at the house to the sheriff in town, who obligingly adds to her misery by declining to take the incident seriously. Carol is contemplating the shattered remains of her house-wares, her last reminder of a time pre-war – and perhaps pre-Sandy – when everything was right between her and Alan, when the ranch’s fourth occupant walks in. This is “Him”, the brain-damaged mute who Alan insists on employing as a handyman, and who has a knack for wandering into the house looking for food at the worst possible moments – like now. Carol vents her anger and misery on the bewildered “Him”, who scuttles away, then sits down to have a good cry.
“Him” is one of those weaker humans that the alien was seeking, and he will turn violent in due course; but he’s also there to further illustrate the Carol/Alan discord. We are certainly supposed to view Carol’s nastiness to “Him” and her reluctance to have him around as further evidence of the depths she has reached, but it is doubtful that even the most stringent anti-Carol-ites will be able to avoid sympathising with her here, once we get a good look at how “Him” spends his spare time: either browsing girly magazines (there’s a shot of him locking his shack door and hunkering down on his bunk with one that is particularly icky), or spying on Sandy....when he’s not trying to fondle her. Both Carol and Sandy complain about “Him” to Alan, but to no avail. I’m sure that Alan’s repeated insistence that “Him” is completely harmless is supposed to make him look like a nice guy, but these days all we see is an incredibly irresponsible husband and father. The whole subplot of “Him” is certainly one of the film’s weakest aspects, being used primarily to set up a dramatic last-minute twist that really makes no sense at all.
"He's as harmless as Duke!" Well, you said it, Alan.
Meanwhile, out on the road, The Beast With A Million Eyes’ animal attacks begin....and the film stumbles and falls. The story puts a great emphasis upon the anti-human violence committed by the animals in thrall to the alien, a plot turn that was quite beyond the ability of the film-makers to realise in any convincing manner. As the film goes on, more and more of these will happen off-screen, with the characters telling us about them. Alan here has a run-in with a flock of blackbirds, and there is single shot of the flock that will be used again and again as the film progresses. To make things worse, that shot was taken using a lens with a broad scratch on it: it’s kind of hard to pretend that it isn’t the same footage, when that scratch reappears along with it. On this occasion, Alan locks himself in his car and makes his escape, as the birds dive-bomb his windows and windscreen.
(While they are never dramatically convincing, the bird attacks in this film are nevertheless a fascinating precursor to Alfred Hitchcock’s final word on the subject, which would not appear for another nine years – particularly when the birds lay siege to the house, causing Sandy to have hysterics.)
Alan drops in on a farming neighbour, Ben, whose
beloved cow, Sarah, supplies the Kelleys with milk. (Ben is played by
Chester Conklin, a veteran of silent film who had acted opposite Charlie
Chaplin, and was one of the Keystone Cops. Conklin is allowed a little
schtick later on that carries him perilously close to Odious Comic
Relief-dom, but thankfully, it’s brief.) Ben scoffs at the notion of
blackbirds attacking, but adds that he wouldn’t much be surprised at
anything, not with all the “mighty funny” things that have been
happening “since that plane went over”. Back home, Alan and
I can’t imagine why Carol gets pissy, can you?
Take that, Alfred Hitchcock!
Sandy and Larry do a bit of
aw-shucks-sideways-looking and hand-holding, before Sandy shyly invites
Larry to her birthday dinner (saying “Tonight” rather than “Tomorrow”,
which may not have been an error by Dona Cole: several bits in this film
were clearly shifted around in editing). Larry does get around to
glancing rather perfunctorily at the smashed glass in the house, but
he’s more intent on getting
The upshot of this is that Duke returns home entirely altered in nature, changing from a placid, friendly dog into a snarling, savage killer....although much of this we are required to take on faith. Duke is a lovely dog, but he’s one of the worst canine actors I’ve ever seen. He does once or twice manage a wrinkled-snout, teeth-bared bark; but most of the time he just ambles about with his tongue hanging out in a big wet doggy grin, his tail wagging furiously the while. His “brutal” attack upon Carol is therefore somewhat less than entirely convincing, with poor Lorna Thayer forced to feign terror and panic as this perfectly docile canine comes trotting up to her. Carol first tries to keep Duke out of the house by firing a rifle at him; but this cunning animal having learned to open the screen doors, he attacks from the rear and she is forced to abandon the house. Screaming, Carol runs outside, only to be cornered in a woodshed. She seizes an axe....
HE'S A KILLER, I TELL YOU!! A KILLER!!!!
It’s dark when Alan and Sandy finally get home.
And so things begin to look up for the Kelleys. At the same time, they’re not looking good for neighbour Ben, who learns the hard way that his beloved Sarah has had enough of his lovable old duffer schtick, and his tales about charging hills with Teddy Roosevelt.
seems that, even as my colleagues at
(On the other hand – that scratch on the lens is back.)
Yes, that scratch.
Back at the Kelleys’, Carol makes the mistake of
stepping outside the house, and is immediately set upon by her own
chickens; an attack that Alan deflects with help from a
(Yes, yes, I know: sometimes the jokes write themselves.) Alan at first
dismisses Carol’s suggestion of a pattern in the animal attacks –
telling her, “You’re imaging things”; is there a genre film of this era
where the female lead
“You’re imagining things”? And where she
in fact imagining things?? – but when she says
something about an “animal revolution”, he reflects that, “Revolutions
have to have leaders.” Carol persists in her new cheerful outlook,
Throughout this section of the film, there are bird noises dubbed in over all the action, twitters and clucks and chirps. This gallant if misguided effort to suggest a massing threat climaxes in an hilarious moment when “Him” glances up to find himself being watched....by a dove!! EEK!! It flies off into the desert, and “Him” downs axe and follows obediently, a passage oddly but effectively accompanied by some pastoral music, which segues into the percolator’s humming noise. Soon afterwards, Alan discovers Ben’s – trampled? gored? the film is reticent on this point – dead body. Paul Birch, often a quietly effective actor, has some nice moments here, but the script lets him down: “We thought it was all over. It’s only just beginning.” You thought it was all over!? And what exactly made you think that, Alan? Your wife being attacked by her chickens?
IT'S A KILLER, I TELL YOU!! A--- Oh, never mind.
Meanwhile, the wimminfolk are having a girls’
Man, they kill a lot of animals in this film! If any of this were explicit, or if the film-makers had had the budget (or, to give them their due, the inclination) to do any of this convincingly, this film would be highly distressing, even offensive.
Alan tries to report their new incident, and Ben’s death (he rings Larry; evidently he’s learnt the futility of ringing the sheriff), but the blackbirds dive-bomb a transformer, managing to take out the phone-line and the electricity. Alan decides its time to get out of Dodge, but when he finds that “Him” is not where he left him, stays behind to search for him while sending Carol and Sandy into town. “Him”, meanwhile, is out in the desert (where it’s dark....hmm) with the Alien Urn, which flashes lights into his face, and cranks up its humming noises until he clutches his head in pain.
Searching for “Him”, Alan is again attacked by the blackbirds; a shot of a crow is cut in to suggest that this bird is “commanding” the others. After they fly off, Alan returns to the house, where to his dismay he finds – Carol and Sandy. (Oh, come on! – you didn’t actually think that Carol was going to leave the house, did you!?) In a weirdly played scene, as Alan grows frantic over his family’s presence, Carol does a spaced-out-calm routine, lighting lamps and chatting about Sandy’s birthday, until she belatedly gets around to the reasonable explanation for their return: they were forced back, the blackbirds bombing the car (with their bodies, you sickos!) until they turned around. “And there was another bird – a crow!” The blackbirds then show up again – there can’t be that many left, surely!? – and after the family retreats into the house, some more clumsy editing drops us right into the middle of Sandy’s Tippi Hedren impression, with the girl shrieking and clutching her head as the birds lay siege to the house.
In town, Larry has traced Alan’s abortive phone-call, and sets out for the Kelleys’ (“Tell the sheriff where I’ve gone” – oh, like he cares). Outside the house, “Him” is squatting on a cactus, an act I act only take as evidence of the alien’s awesome powers. TREMBLE IN FEAR, PUNY EARTHLINGS!! Obeying his new master, “Him” first lets the air out of the Kelleys’ car tyres, then plants himself in the middle of the road, stopping Larry’s car. Larry gives “Him” a lift, and “Him” responds by clocking Larry in the head and then pulling his unconscious body into the road before running off into the desert. Some time later, Larry wakes and also staggers off. Whether he is searching for “Him”, or whether in his dazed state he is vulnerable to the alien, is entirely unclear.
Stiff upper lips all around, the Kelleys go ahead
"I don't suppose anyone wants some cake?"
And this is pretty much how the rest of the film plays out, with Larry searching for “Him”, the Kelleys looking for Larry, Alan looking for “Him”, Sandy looking for Larry, Larry and Alan looking for Sandy, and Carol looking for Sandy and Alan, all of it consisting of a great deal of tiresome wandering around in the dark. However, at least some of this is compensated for by some touches of high comedy – all of them unintentional, of course.
Larry does catch up with “Him” at the crater – there’s a wonderful bit here when the film-makers forgot to dub in some dialogue – and the two men fight, which sets up the film’s supreme moment when the victorious Larry subsequently makes it back to the house:
Larry: “That loony of yours has gone mad!”
In the midst of these assorted wanderings,
And it feels like forty years, too.
And then it’s time for pathos, as Alan cries out to “Him” – “Carl! Carl!”
Sure enough, “Him” wheels around, fighting the
alien’s power over him. He manages to deliver
The explanation, eventually delivered by Alan with voice a-tremble, is that “Him”, aka Carl, was under his command in the war. A snap judgement by Alan left Carl missing a chunk of his brain, and so Alan felt compelled to employ him and care for him. Which is all well and good, but hardly explains the whole unnecessary and demeaning “poor old “Him”’ business. Even if Alan “never talks about the war”, or didn’t want to cop to his culpability, surely, “This is Carl, he was in my unit” would have sufficed?
Oh, I know, I know. Dramatic climax. Humanity re-exerting itself. Weakest humans > strongest aliens. I know, I know....
About now, Carol starts searching for everybody else. Yes, that's right: she leaves the house! Successfully! She runs into the other three halfway back, and we learn that the blackbirds invaded the house. Alan sends Larry off, essentially to draw the alien’s fire, and starts voicing his conclusions about the alien: that it preys on minds; that its power is limited; that they are strong enough to fight it, and overcome it....
Carl's response to Alan remembering his name may have been just a tad sarcastic....
At this point, the alien itself chips in, “talking” inside the humans’ minds: Very well, Earthman!
And so it begins: Talkfest ’55.
The alien, a very chatty little guy, generously reveals his whole plan: that he and those like him have no material form; that they feed on brains, on the emotions stored there; that “hatred and madness” are the keys to their power. However, as the other life-forms on his planet are dying out, used up, new “hosts” are required. He and those like him are searching for new planets to invade. He was sent to Earth and – ooh, ouch – chose the Kelleys as his test subjects because of all the hate he felt, turning the birds, and animals, and “Him” against them. Only something went wrong.... Okay, again, credit where it’s due: there’s some really good stuff here, clunkily as it is delivered – and believe me, it’s clunky. (“‘Love’? Bah! A weakness, not a strength!”) If only Tom Filer been content to leave it at this point! – with the alien overcome by the Kelleys’ love for one another, and need of one another; by that perverse way Homo sapiens has of growing stronger, not weaker, when confronted by a crisis. But oh no, that wasn’t heavy-handed enough; not for 1955.
TREMBLE BEFORE OUR SUPERIOR ALIEN TECHNOLOGY, PUNY EARTHLINGS!!
Long story short, the alien wants to take
ARE WE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE HERE!!!!!!??????
And it isn't just ideologically that this part of the film annoys me---well, okay, yes it is, but I'm talking about another kind of ideology. The ending of The Beast With A Million Eyes would have been much stronger if it had been Carol who figured out the alien's weakness. It is she, and not Alan, who has made the emotional journey, after all; it should have been her who, from her own experiences, realises that she has a weapon within herself. Even the alien recognises Carol's growth, commenting that while she was at first the weakest of all, now she is the strongest. It seems the only person who didn't have that moment of revelation was Tom Filer. I doubt it so much as occurred to him that he might have a woman defeat the invader. Instead, he reduces Carol to Alan's sounding-board, bleating, “Oh, Alan, what is it? Oh, Alan, what do you mean?” My only consolation here is that Carol is needed to overcome the alien; it takes Alan and her combined to keep Sandy safe. And at least she got to leave the house.
Alan and Carol carry Sandy to the crater, preparing for the final battle. The water ripples reappear and, as the spaceship slides open, so too does the ominous eyeball – behind which, for a few fleeting moments (actually, one shot, repeated about six times), we catch a glimpse of the cause of all the fuss, Paul Blaisdell’s “Little Hercules”.
Ladies and gentlemen - "Little Hercules".
Dawn breaks. The humans stand there, defying the alien threat. And the alien keels over, dead. So much for that. The spaceship, on auto-pilot, takes off.
At the edge of the crater, Larry has turned up. As he supports the still-dazed Sandy, Alan and Carol do some fancy dancing around the whole “no physical form/monster in the ship” thing, Alan suggesting that the monster was a life-form from the invader’s planet, necessary for the formless being to pilot the spaceship. Now, the life-form is dead; but what of its controller?
ARE WE ALL GETTING THE SUBTLE SYMBOLISM HERE!!!!!!??????
Evidently, Tom Filer, or someone, was afraid we might not: The Beast With A Million Eyes concludes with Carol and Alan kindly Spelling It All Out For Us In Big Block Letters:
Carol: “Alan – what killed the creature on the ship?”
Alan: “Where did the eagle come from? Why do men – have souls?”
Carol: “If I could answer that, I’d be more than human. I’d be....”
Wow, it’s lucky, isn’t it, that all these invading
aliens always lost their souls and forgot about love before they got
here, so that they were so easily defeated? Because of course, no-one on
Earth ever used fear and hatred as a
way of gaining power. Or if they did, they certainly didn’t do it in
Homo sapiens americana, triumphant as always.
The Beast With A Million Eyes snuck out into cinemas in June of 1955, garnering the critical response it pretty much deserved. Roger Corman, having met the terms of his contract with ARC – just – signed another one and returned to the desert, exercising his penchant for strong female characters by making a handful of gender-bending westerns and, with The Gunslinger, managing to create a film so cheap-looking, The Beast With A Million Eyes seems like a Joseph von Sternberg production in comparison. Jim Nicholson went back to designing outrageously misleading ad campaigns, and Sam Arkoff to juggling the company finances. In short, it seems doubtful that anyone involved with The Beast With A Million Eyes actually learned very much from the debacle of its production – except, perhaps, that when you promise a monster, you’d damn well better deliver a monster.
Footnote: There are a couple of other interesting names hidden in the credits for The Beast With A Million Eyes. One of them is the film’s production manager, one “Jack Haze” – rather better known as Jonathan. Meanwhile, the film’s art direction is credited to Albert Ruddy who, as “Albert S. Ruddy”, would go one to co-create both Hogan’s Heroes and Walker, Texas Ranger and, most importantly around these parts, to co-write and produce everyone’s favourite flying motorcycle epic, Megaforce. Truly, giants walked the earth in those days.
Click here for some Immortal Dialogue from this film!
Want a second opinion of The Beast With A Million Eyes? Visit 1000 Misspent Hours - And Counting.
This review is part of the B-Masters' tribute to American International Pictures:
Click the banner for more!