Synopsis: Scripted by Hammer stalwart Jimmy Sangster and starring Forrest Tucker, this British chiller was based on a popular TV series. A scientist, Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker) arrives at the small alpine village of Trollenberg to investigate the decapitation of a mountaineer. His death, he suspects, has links to other gruesome murders in South America.
eyelights: its goofy premise.
eyesores: its cheap execution.
“Hey! Wait a minute. There’s someone coming.”
‘The Trollenberg Terror’ is a British motion picture that was adapted from a 1956 eponymous 6-part TV mini-series. Released in 1958, it is commonly known in North America in its truncated 75 minute edit, “The Crawling Eye”. This later version is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, and was the feature film of the inaugural episode of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000‘.
It tells the story of a Alan Brooks, an American UN specialist on his way to Switzerland to consult with a scientist friend of his. Along the way, he meets the two stars of a mind-reading sister act, who follow him to Trollenberg after the youngest, Anne, has visions of incidents taking place on the mountain there. Upon their arrival, they are joined by a British journalist.
In Trollenberg, there have been ghastly mountain-climbing accidents which have lead the locals to claim that something’s not quite right up there. Confirming this assessment is Professor Crevett, who’s established an observatory atop the mountain to study the radioactive cloud that’s settled around it. He thinks it’s akin to a crisis that he and Alan once encountered in the Andes.
Only, this time, they may be able to stop it.
The picture is an unusual mixture of horror and science fiction that, on the one hand, serves up slasher-type cheap thrills and then, on the other, peddles science fiction theories that defy belief. Essentially, as many such films of that era, it falls in the same category as ‘The Thing Came from Outer Space‘ and ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers‘, but without the vision nor the craft.
The direction is weak, the performances are frequently over-the top (especially Janet Munro, as Anne, and Warren Mitchell as Prof. Crevett), the special effects are low budget, and the creatures are absolutely laughable. It’s the kind of picture that would have given a bad name to science fiction or horror back in the day, finding its fans mostly in unsophisticated audiences.
And yet, it has a certain charm about it that makes it somewhat entertaining, akin to watching a kid playing with his/her figurines and coming up with all sorts of naive adventures for them (“Aw, Jimmy made a movie!”). It’s not great cinema by any means, but it has a decent pace and makes you curious enough to want to see what will come next – if only for the cheap laughs.
What’s great about it is that the hoakiness only builds as the picture unfolds, from Anne’s initially inexplicably weird reactions (we only find out who she and Sarah are later), to the poorly-staged killings, to the ridiculous way that people leave and come in the observatory unseen by a half-dozen people, to the outrageous finale that involves molotov cocktails and cyclops octopi.
It’s a wacky good time – if you’re into that sort of thing.
Frankly, it’s no wonder that ‘The Crawling Eye’ edit (which trimmed exposition) made it on ‘MST3K’ – not just because of its nonsensical title, but because of its kitschy quality. It’s one of those good bad films, not bad bad films, if you get what I mean. With the right frame of mind, some great company, and plenty of tasty snacks and beverages, it can make for a wicked fun movie night.
I look forward to watching Joel and the ‘bots poke fun at it.
(I might even dig up the original mini-series, if it can be found anywhere…)
Date of viewing: November 20, 2016