Beast from Haunted Cave
Screaming young girls sucked into a labyrinth of horror by a blood-starved ghoul from Hell.
Year of Release: 1959
Running Time: 72 minutes (1:12)
Director: Monte Hellman
Michael Forest ... Gil Jackson
Sheila Noonan ... Gypsy Boulet
Frank Wolff ... Alexander Ward
Wally Campo ... Byron Smith
Richard Sinatra ... Marty Jones
Linne Ahlstrand ... Natalie
Chris Robinson ... Bartender/The Beast
A group of thieves arrive in the snowbound town of Deadwood, South Dakota and they have no intention of vacationing... they're planning a giant gold heist. Exploding a bomb in a nearby mine to create a diversion, they successfully rob the local bank... and unknowingly unleash a creature from the bowels of Hell itself! The group hires a ski instructor to take them to an isolated cabin and, as night falls, they fight for their lives as the foul creature hunts them down... kidnapping and sucking all the blood from its victims in the mysterious haunted cave.
Beast from Haunted Cave... the English utilized for that title just fills you with confidence regardin' the caliber of film you're about to watch, don't it? They don't make titles like this anymore, that's for sure. Course, optin' to watch this one instead of Jurassic World over at the Prime Creek theater pretty well sums up my feelins on modern cinema. But anyway, what I figure musta happened with the title on this one was, Roger an Gene Corman called a meetin' of their board of directors to discuss the title of this upcomin' picture, cept nobody could come up with anything an so they finally asked Tor Johnson (third seat from the head of the table on the left side near the water cooler) what he thought the title aughta be. Tor tended to leave out little snippets of sentence from time to time, but that's only cause there're parrots over at the Of Mice and Zen pet shop in the Japanese district with bigger vocabularies than Tor, but the Cormans figured what's good enough for Tor is good enough for America. So Tor, if you're listenin' up there, we miss ya buddy. An make sure to keep the big guy in good spirits so he don't decide to smite us into squashed cabbage for finally retirin' the Dean Martin Christmas Album from the holiday rotation at Rite Aid.
An speakin' of guys in foul moods, Cleave Furguson called me up from the storage room at Furry Mountain Stuffing Thursday night sayin' he'd locked 'imself in there an needed help. Course, the part he neglected to mention was that he'd done so on purpose after Aesop Marlin brought in this bobcat that he wanted stuffed to stick beside the cash register at The Rural Mural, an that Aesop's masterful marksmanship'd only knocked the thing goofy. I discovered this right about the time I was attacked while tryin' to jimmy open the storage room door an when it was all over Cleave an I were both hidin' in there with a P.O.'d puss snarlin' at us on the other side of the door. So several hours an cans of emergency Van de Kamp Pork and Bean rations later, I finally come up with an escape plan. See, Cleave's been workin' on these fur suits for the weirdos organizin' the annual "Do You Even Yiff, Bro?" furry convention in Grabbadonk, Arkansas, so I figure all we gotta do is slip on a coupla those suckers an go show that cat who's boss since they're made of authentic Jersey cow keister an the hides're thicker'n the arterial cloggage in Michael Moore's heart valves. Generally speakin' I was right, cept we forgot to zip up the groin areas, an when we stepped outside that little hairy hellion stuffed his face in there an tried eatin' my tube steak an taters. I got nobody to blame but myself for that, cause I seen Critters 2 about a half dozen times an I know better'n to leave an openin' down there. Fortunately, the wangdoodle region of the suit comes standard with this canine fold-out schlonker sheath that kept the booger at bay long enough for me to get over to Cleave's incinerator an roast the little jerk's hinder off like an embedded tick. After that he decided he didn't wanna fight no more cause he hadda park his rear end in the toilet bowl for awhile. So once we'd gone an beat the crap outta Aesop, we called Shanghai Muttley in to corral the beast an haul it off to Rin Tin Minh's Crossbar Hotel for Wayward Housepets and Fine Vietnamese Cuisine, where the bobcat's diagnosis has been upgraded from critical to just P.O.'d an they're sayin' he'll be fine after a couple more skin grafts. But man alive, that whole situation was just a little too close for comfort. I'd like to get some new friends, cept the ones I got're about as sane as this place has to offer an I ain't movin' to no big city just to gain access to a Wal Mart an a larger gene pool.
But more on point, Beast from Haunted Cave is one of those crime capers that turns into a horror flick about halfway through when the director remembers nobody's been interested in crime capers since 1937. So not only is it probably the finest movie ever produced in Deadwood, South Dakota, but it was also likely the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn. And if you believe that, I've got some beach front property I'd like to sell you in Cornchute, Nebraska; but just the same, around these parts we take every movie as seriously as the screenwriters'll allow, an if Gene Corman took the time to produce it, I'm not gonna act like I'm too learned to indulge in Gene's wisdom. First thing I learned from this one was that abandoned mines always have a security guard on duty. So if you plan on blowin' one up, at least have the courtesy to check out the guy's patrol schedule to avoid any unnecessary skull cave-ins. Second, the karmically acceptable number of gold bars to steal in any given heist is two per person. Any more than that an people start to think you're greedy. An third, only a pansy needs a tent when campin' in subzero temperatures. For those of us with a REAL sense of adventure, a soggy sleepin' bag is our bed, and the frigid winds of the high mountains our blanket. Now I don't wanna move on so quick that those notable potables get lost in the shuffle, but I think I may've uncovered a nefarious plot by unscrupulous tycoon types durin' the course of this flick an I think it's time to name names. Now I'd never deride our capitalistic way of life in this country without havin' irrefutable proof of somebody's wrong doin', cause I ain't no Commie sympathizer, but I feel like this has to be said. See, I was just enjoyin' the flick, mindin' my own business, when I started thinkin' about what a nice place Michael Forest has for 'imself out in the middle of his namesake, but couldn't help noticin' what a heckuva long time it takes to get out there. I also noticed how he's got fully functional electrical power, an the fact that you never hear a generator runnin' in the background, an it was at this moment that it hit me like a Tyson poultry truck; Mike has invented a solar panel efficient enough to power his entire huntin' shack, in 1959. So, why do you suppose that while in possession of this great technology, Mike relegates himself to a piddly-ass ski instructor's job, an holes up in an isolated cabin in Deadwood, South Dakota? Only one possible reason; Texaco, Shell, an BP all have a bounty on his head for threatenin' the security of their profit margin. Makes you wanna barf on the first guy you run into wearin' a three piece suit, don't it? All this time we coulda been energy dependent an off the grid, only these cash grabbin' cancers on society wanna keep us dependent on 'em so they can stay rich an make sure their airheaded Stepford Wives won't ditch 'em for guys who wear leather jackets an slap 'em around just the right amount. An to think, people refer to us as "America the Free", yeah, sure, more like "America the Fleeced." Next time I go into the 76 station I'ma give the guy workin' the counter some serious four letter word fu.
The movie begins with these two goobs (Marty an Byron) takin' snapshots of their bargain basement vacation package in South Dakota that conspicuously excludes Mount Rushmore, til they show up at a ski resort to rendezvous with this chick that looks like Ellen Muth after a ten year battle against heroine addiction (Gypsy) an this poor man's Oliver Reed (Alex). Gypsy an Alex're arrangin' some skiin' instruction (from Gil "Nature Boy" Jackson) for Marty an Byron cause they've got a long trip to make tomorrow an the two of 'em have about as much coordination as a lazy-eyed Sonny Bono with vertigo. So later that evenin' at the lodge, Gypsy's drinkin' a bathtub fulla wood alcohol an singin' the fight song from 'er exotic dancin' college's graduation ceremony, while Alex explains the order of operations for the impendin' heist he's got set up to his two mooks. It's a solid plan, but not one you should try beyond about 1975, cause it hinges upon an entire town's populace livin' such remarkably unfulfilled lives that every single one of 'em's supposed to head out to this old mine to investigate the explosion Marty's gonna set off, leavin' the bank more vulnerable'n the scrotum of a guy teachin' his 4 year old how to play tee ball. Gypsy'll be tasked with keepin' the jet-flyin', limousine-ridin', kiss-stealin', wheelin'-dealin', 16 time heavyweight champion of the world occupied with 'er jigglers, or lacking that, makin' sure he does the chivalrous thing an holds 'er hair while she blows the remnants of 'er Chinese takeout/Wild Turkey gourmet dinner into the snowbank, before meetin' up with the other goofs an headin' for The Natch's cabin. Then everybody goes down to the bar an Gypsy's heart skips a beat when Sunrise starts playin' an Gil makes his big entrance an she just hasta dance with 'im even though Alex's fumin' like a radiator with a dead fan motor. While that's goin' on, Marty takes the waitress (Natalie) out to the mine to set up his explosive charges but first he hasta get the dynamite in place, an once that's done the two of 'em start doin' tongue aerobics, til Natalie gets grabbed by a leg so hairy that the field of suspects is instantly narrowed down to either Tom Selleck or Joanie Laurer. Back at the bar, Alex's P.O.'d about Gypsy's floozery, cept before he can threaten to dump 'er off at the Denny's where he found 'er, Marty walks in more shook up than the beer in Steve Austin's glove box an explains that somethin' grabbed ahold of Whoreville Readycocker an sucked all the juice out before he could jiffy pop 'er. Alex has no recourse but to punch Marty out an lament havin' to settle for 'im on account of his pick in the flunkie draft comin' so far down the line.
The next mornin', Alex sends Gil an Gypsy to wait for 'im at the top of the ski lift just before his explosives blow up this old watchman who's checkin' out the mine cause he thinks the Japs're still plannin' to take us over, at which point the entire town clears out like a public pool on two for one taco day an the three brusqueteers knock over the Wells Fargo. Then they head up to the lift where Gypsy's whinin' to Gil about how 'er life's been tankin' ever since she got kicked off the cheerleadin' squad for showin' a little too much team spirit in the boys' locker room, til the guys show up an Gil starts leadin' 'em towards his cabin in hopes that all the blubberin' snot drippin' down from Gypsy's nose'll freeze 'er mouth shut. Unfortunately Gil's cabin's a two day trip, an since it's startin' to push 2 in the PM an they've gone about as far as Gypsy can go without another carafe of Jim Beam to perk 'er up, they hafta stop an make camp. It's just as well, cause Junior Gorg's been stickin' his head up in front of the camera lens at random for the last few minutes an Gene Corman needed to take five an find 'imself a good sized stick to chase 'im off with. Marty takes the first watch an ends up wanderin' off, when he hears this noise like a wild boar havin' an orgasm an follows it til he finds Natalie cocooned in a tree like Thorin Oakenshield. This is not good, bein' that Marty's got a psyche more delicate than a Faberge egg in a meat locker, an by the time he gets back to camp he's showin' signs of early onset dementia an decides to tell everybody that he's just fine, he didn't see no waitresses in cocoons, an that there's no reason to look into one of those long term care facilities where you dump your parents once they start crampin' your lifestyle. The next mornin', Gil finds some strange tracks in the snow, but Marty maintains that he dunno nothin' about no Shelob, an the group presses on like a set of cheap nails from the pre-teen beauty aisle at Wal Mart. Eventually they make it to Gil's cabin, cept Byron freaks out when he runs into this Indian lady (Small Dove) who's doin' the dishes cause he learned everything he knows about Indians from John Wayne movies an thinks she's gonna give 'im a sunroof an turn his scalp into a pair of moccasins. Then they all have dinner while the radio talks about the heist an the fact that they're all about to get snowed in like The Donner Party, til Gypsy gets stinko on firewater an jams 'er tongue down Gil's throat so far that he gets alcohol poisonin'. Alex is P.O.'d an tries punchin' Gil's clock, only Gil's got those ropey cross country skiin' muscles an knocks out five or six fillins between the collective dentition of Alex an his perpetually flummoxed lummoxes, til Byron can get his gun pointed at Gil.
Then Alex slaps Gypsy around a little bit an once the Nature Boy realizes he's lost the "dirtiest player in the game" moniker, he heads outside after Gypsy to tell 'er he don't care how much coke she's done offa Alex's robber knobber an that he knows she's got a heart of gold. Gypsy just kinda sits in the snowbank with all the emotion of Kristen Stewart on Xanax an tells 'im Alex ain't so bad once you get to blow 'im. Then Marty hears a werewolf an runs outside to see if it's Katharine Isabelle, cept all he gets for his trouble is a whack on the gourd with this furry tent pole before blastin' the creepy crawly back to Mirkwood. Course, Gypsy hasta stitch up his gashes cause she's a woman an basic flesh wound dressin' procedure is a trait inherent to all women regardless of experience or trainin', an she tells Marty to go lay down before she hasta hurt 'im on a level that extends beyond 'er general nursin' skills. The next mornin', Gypsy's hangin' out with Gil watchin' 'im split wood while he auditions for the role of the Brawny Paper Towel Man, an figures the least she can do is let 'im know that 'er chromosomally challenged cohorts're gonna kill 'im an rifle through his underwear drawer. Gil's already considered this, an figures tonight he's gonna send Small Dove to hide out with Wild Eagle an Crazy Cat where she'll be safe, before gettin' his own butt back to a hot shower an a cheap date. So later that night, Gypsy whines at Alex some more about how he never takes 'er anyplace nice no more an that for 'er last birthday all he got 'er was a book of green stamps and an I Love Reno shot glass that he picked up at a yard sale for three cents. Alex is about as interested as a six year old watchin' Perry Mason reruns, so Gypsy goes "for a walk" that just happens to coincide with the location Gil's chosen to begin' stylin' an profilin' his way back to town, only Alex realizes what's goin' on an sends Byron out to follow 'er. But Gil's still one step ahead, an has stationed Small Dove to stand guard an tongue rape Byron when he tries catchin' up to Gypsy. Unfortunately, nobody expects the arachnid inquisition, an pretty quick this hairy fishin' rod reaches out an knocks Byron's pimp hat off an carries Small Dove off like a giant moth wearin' a flower-print muumuu. Now Marty gets to have his big "I told you so" moment, cept Alex don't give a flyin' Frito cause he's P.O.'d about his former squeeze runnin' off with somebody that appreciates 'er an enjoys 'er company. Alex figures the only place they coulda gone with the storm comin' in is this little cave up the hill a ways where Roger Corman's puttin' the finishin' touches on Teenage Caveman, an they begin preparations to locate their mittens an reclaim their lost den mother. Wouldn't wanna spill the beans about the only part of the movie with a moving plot, so you'll just have to go check it out for yourselves if you wanna see how this thing ends. Public domain an all that.
Alright, well, if it sounds like there's no plot to get in the way of the story in this one, that's cause there isn't. The strangest thing about it is just how many favorable reviews it has on the IMDB, despite the 4.1 rating. I actually watched it twice just to try seeing it through the eyes of the fans, but never could manage to share their vision. The biggest problem with Beast from Haunted Cave is that there's hardly anything goin' on throughout the entire movie, and the bulk of it is padded with lengthy dialog scenes that work hard to establish the identities of the characters, but achieve little else. Ultimately, the characters do end up pretty well defined, but there's so little action that the pacing manages to be slow even with a 72 minute runtime. You can see the actors doing their best to try combatin' an extremely boring script, but I don't think even Atlas could carry the weight of this drudgery on his shoulders. It's a real shame too, because most of the other aspects of the movie are reasonably well executed. You've got a few logistical flaws, like the ones I mentioned above in the educational portion of the review, and maybe the scene where there's absolutely no snow falling at 2pm in the afternoon and the camera pans up to show a mostly clear sky wasn't the best way to convince the audience of an impending blizzard, but these are fairly minor problems. That was kinda pitiful though, I mean, if they'd not gone out of their way to show the sky during that exchange it would have been perfectly believable. It's possible that what the cult fans of the movie enjoy about it is the very aspect that I believe ruins it, and that's simply that the monster is essentially an afterthought. Because if you were to look at it as a crime drama where the knight in shining flannel works diligently to convince the floozy to run away with him and bear his grizzled children because he can see that underneath the eight pounds of Mary Kay cosmetic products she's got a heart of gold, it sorta works on that level. That's what most of the plot actually revolves around; our monotone hero with Sam Malone hair getting more and more fed up with the treatment of the damsel, and eventually deciding he's gonna have to kick some hiney. If I didn't know better, I'd say the creature was added after the fact to try to perk up the story a little bit, but it still falls flat and delivers little in the way of thrills or justification for the "horror" designation.
Time to cut to the chase and hope that said chase is a little faster paced than the plot of the movie. Really, the entire plot of this movie could be summed up like this: "criminals hole up in the remote cabin of a ski instructor whilst trying to fend off a monster until their transport plane arrives." I'm not knocking it, just making a point. After all, the plot of Night of the Living Dead is even less complex than that, and it's a pretty good movie. But a critical difference between those two titles is the part where Night of the Living Dead remembered to incorporate some excitement now and again, whereas Beast just kinda prays that the audience is being drawn into the riveting like triangle between Gil, Gypsy, and Alex, to the point that they don't care about things like thrills. Didn't really work, in my opinion. The acting is easily the high point, with the majority of the actors turning in enjoyable performances. Michael Forest is a little dull as the generic straight-edged protagonist, but the majority of the criminal masterminds are entertaining, particularly Frank Wolff as the meanie-head gang leader, Alex. That guy really makes you hate him at times, and easily inspires the greatest level of emotional response from the audience. Strangely, the actress who played Small Dove is never listed in the credits, which I'm only bringing up cause it's strange how the one non-Caucasian character that's actually named doesn't seem to be represented. She's got far more screen time than Michael Forest's sister, who's on screen for all of 80 seconds in only one scene, yet that character is credited while Small Dove is not. Maybe she decided she wanted her name removed when she went to a screening and heard that little "Why knock her off? I like that hefty ole squaw" line? Who knows. I only bring it up because everyone talks about William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols performing the first interracial kiss (or maybe just the first one in a TV show?), and the actress playin' Small Dove is all over the extremely white Wally Campo like smug on Donald Trump. It ain't exactly a well lit scene with the actors close to the camera, but it still predates that Star Trek episode by 9 years. In any event, here's who matters and why: Michael Forest (King Kong Lives, Don't Torture a Duckling, The Mysterians, The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, The Deadly Mantis), Sheila Noonan (The Incredible Petrified World, A Bucket of Blood 1959), Frank Wolff (When Women Had Tails 1 & 2, The Demon 1963, The Wasp Woman), Wally Campo (The Little Shop of Horrors 1960, Tales of Terror, The Strangler 1964), Richard Sinatra (Creature from the Haunted Sea), Chris Robinson (Stanley), Kay Jennings (Creature from the Haunted Sea). You social deviants out there might recognize Michael Forest as Khalid from The Message, even though mostly he just dubs anime these days. Frank Wolff might prefer you think of him as Sheriff Gideon Corbett in The Great Silence, and Chris Robinson would most assuredly prefer you remember him as Sgt. Sandy Komansky from 12 O' Clock High.
The special effects are hit and miss, with the majority being misses. One thing I will say for it, this might be the only movie I've ever seen where using that goofy fast-forwarding trick actually improves the way an effect comes off, because when that spider-thing kicks into high gear it's kinda creepy. The creature was actually a guy in a suit, the same guy who played the bartender, incidentally, and it becomes clear once you're actually seeing the entire creature that the limbs used in previous shots are way too long to match up with the scale of the suit. Essentially, the shots where you're only seeing the monster's body aren't bad, but anytime they include the limbs, things get hokey in a hurry. So for the most part, the effects aren't so great, but there are a few brief flashes of adequacy. The shooting locations are pretty good, with the bulk of the movie being shot on location in Deadwood, South Dakota. The cinematographer effectively captures a real sense of isolation during the trek to Mike Forest's cabin, and the cave/mine interiors look good as well. The cabin is equally authentic, and given the decor, was likely a real hunting lodge or some reasonable facsimile thereof. Which is kind of important given that so much of the movie takes place in and around said cabin, so a nice job on that front. The soundtrack is kinda hokey and shows its age terribly, but does manage to create a little tension now and again, despite sounding a bit spacey. That track is strictly used for the more tense sequences involving the monster, while the rest of the movie utilizes a lot of stock music from movies like Creature from the Haunted Sea, as well as some amusing big band stuff during the lighter shots. I do like that cheesy track that they use when the monster's around, but in general the soundtrack doesn't add a whole lot in the way of mood enhancement. Overall, Beast from Haunted Cave isn't completely unwatchable, but it's pretty unsatisfying as a horror movie, and rather slow in terms of pacing. I can really only recommend this one to fans of 1950's schlock, even though it is fairly proficient in every area but the special effects.