Saturday, November 3, 2012

El Professore Movie Reviews: Fiend Without a Face

Director: Arthur Crabtree
Starring: Marshall Thompson, Kynaston Reeves, Kim Parker
* * * 1/2
One of the most vivid T.V. experiences of my young life (at the tender age of 8, I think) was when I hankered down in front of my pre-cable Boob Tube one Friday night and witnessed one of the most ghastly things I could possibly imagine at that stage of my life. The film was 'Fiend Without a Face' and it introduced me to the world of gore and did so in the most spectacular way possible.

Full review after the jump:

Based on a 1930 short story, 'The Thought Monster', 'Fiend Without a Face is a British lensed film set around an American airbase in rural Canada (a place chosen because it would appeal to both British and American viewers). A series of mysterious deaths begin occuring by an invisible murderer. Autopsy's reveal that the brains and spinal chords of the victims were mysteriously missing. Suspicions begin to fall on British scientist, Professor Walgate who has been experimenting with telekinetics. Using radiation to power these transmitted thoughts, they take on the form of invisible killers that survive on human brains. Ultimately after generating further energy from the local power plant, the creatures become visible. They take the form of enlarged brains and spinal chords that were previously removed from their victims.

For the first 60-odd minutes, the film plays like a sci fi tinged murder mystery. Not a bad one, but not a particularly distinguished one, either. The entire draw of the film lay in it's final twenty minutes when the 'Fiends' are finally made visible and begin their assault on our heroes. Simply put, they are the most horrifying criiters seen in '50s cinema. Surprisingly stop motion animated, these 'brains' can move about using their elongated spinal chords which when curled, can also cause them to fly about and with tiny antenae perched atop, they take on a life and personality that rivaled anything that Ray Harryhausen was performing at the time. When they are shot, they bleed to death and it cannot be stated strongly enough the effect of bleeding, oozing animated brain monsters had on an unsuspecting youngin' way back when. The amazing effects were performed by German animators, Florenz Von Nordoff and K. L. Lupel. Incredibly, neither appear to have made another picture either before or since and have seemingly fallen off the face of the earth so to speak. That's really a shame, given the unbelieveable work they put in here.

"Fiend Without a Face' is all about it's finale, but my God what a finale! This and this alone makes it one of the most memorable sci fi films of the decade and an obvious must-see.

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