Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gough’

Movie Reviews 441 – Trog (1970)

July 10, 2020

Hollywood is renowned not only for creating larger than life movie stars but for setting some of them up for a  fall later when their shine has withered, and none of those demises have been as shocking as the precipitous drop that befell former Film Noir reigning queen Joan Crawford. Like some of her predecessors, she managed to resurrect her flailing career, first with Mildred Pierce, and even a second time with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? But all that fame and glamour vanished and at the end her final feature film was a low budget horror movie called Trog.

Before I delve into the film itself, I must impart my fascination with this film which I cultivated upon reading a detailed synopsis – with the requisite gory film stills  to go along – in one of those 70’s horror pulp magazines, probably an issue of Famous Monsters. I read that article over and over laying on a mattress in the cargo space of the family’s station wagon on one of our yearly 400 mile vacation treks to the US. While I recognize it now as a modest, even feeble story, my then 10 or 11 year old adventure oriented mind was captivated by it. But without the multitude of media resources available today, it took more than 30 years before I could watch it, resigned to viewing it as an objective adult while at the same time relishing in seeing what my former imagination envisioned.

The story has three young men exploring an underground cave network with internal tributaries that eventually lead two of the spelunkers into the lair of a feral troglodyte. This “Trog” kills one and injures another but the third man escapes and brings his injured colleague to the hospital-laboratory of esteemed anthropologist Dr. Brockton (Crawford). She immediately demands to visit the cave herself and manages to snap a picture of the creature which reveals to her its scientific significance.

With a skeptical police investigating the circumstances of the deceased man, Brockton brazenly lures Trog out and once she has him in her lab begins to study the creature. But having a wild animal within the confines of a small town irks one of the prominent business men (Michael Gough), a longtime nemesis of Brockton, and he has the local council effectively put Trog on trial. But the eventual fate of the beast rests not in any authoritative proclamation of guilt or innocence.

To be sure, while the script attempts to tackle a semi-serious plot of a ‘missing link’ in the human evolutionary progression, the story is rife with plot holes, implausibilities and outright silliness. Crawford puts on a brave face but is resigned to deliver long lifeless monologues urging that science prevail despite her own almost clownish application of ‘science’. While great effort was put into Trog’s facial appearance, the special effects end there, the rest of Trog clearly being a loin-clothed regular man.

There are conflicting claims regarding Crawford’s on set behaviour at the time, numerous claims being that she was persistently drunk and relying on ‘cue cards’ for her lines, others denying the levels of her intemperance. Regardless, she never made a film after this one and to add insult to injury, after she passed away her daughter penned her infamous biography Mommie Dearest, later adapted to film, chronicling her abusive child rearing among other faults.

Hammer alumni director Freddie Francis employed nearly ten minutes of claymation stock footage of dinosaurs created by legendary artists Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen for another project, but even that feels as shoehorned in as some of Crawford’s diatribes. To be sure, this is a train wreck of a film, but one can argue whether the wreck is the film itself, or that of Crawford’s swan song. But sometimes you just have to see the wreck for yourself and I for one enjoy being a passenger on this particular voyage, Time and Time again.

Movie Reviews 275 – Konga (1961)

October 23, 2016

konga

Konga! King Kong’s British cousin. Well immigrant British cousin anyway since he was brought to London from Uganda by his keeper, Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough who most will recognize as Alfred, Batman’s butler in the movies of the 80’s and 90’s). Decker has just returned from the remote jungle after surviving a plane crash and then living with a tribe there for another year. But Decker’s lengthy stay had more to do with research of a particular nature than being lost in the jungle. There he learned secrets from a medicine man that he hopes will put him at the top academia and nobody is going to stop him from fame and fortune. And the key to his secret lies in Konga the little cute chimp he brought back along with a few bizzare plants.

He immediately sets up his old laboratory at home a resumes teaching genetics at the university, but his focus remains primarily on the variety of oversized carnivorous plants that now grow in his greenhouse. Lucky for him his infatuated secretary Margaret (Margo Johns) kept up the lab all this time despite the rest of the world having given up on him when they first learned of the crash with no sign of survivors.

Decker explains to Margaret how he can produce an extract from his new plants to both increase the size of animals and make them subservient to suggestions and commands. He begins injecting Konga who starts to grow before our very eyes.  But Dr. Decker does have a few problems.

The first problem is that the university dean isn’t to happy with Dr. Deckers outlandish claims in a radio interview and no longer wants him around. Since Decker needed to ‘prove’ Konga’s subservience he decides it convenient to sick the now Gorilla sized ape on his ungrateful boss. As luck would have it, Decker suddenly finds himself in this kind of a situation on more than one occasion, each problem being ‘solved’ by Konga. Margaret isn’t to happy with all this but corners Decker into a promise of marriage and she seems to be OK with all the killing after that.

But despite pledging to marry Margaret, the lecherous  Decker also has his sights on a particularly buxom student of his who shows promise both as a future scientist and as bedmate half his age. Konga once again comes to the rescue, disposing of the jealous male student who also had his eyes set on the young wench. But when Margaret learns of Decker’s attempt at the tryst and his true feelings for her she gives Konga one last boost of the growth juice which leads to the inevitable final gargantuan rampage in London with Big Ben substituting for the Empire State Building.

The special effects are laughable, especially the filming of the Konga’s growth spurts, but you’ll get a kick out of the exotic cannibal plant life growing in Decker’s lab. The substitution of dolls in lieu of bodies in Konga’s gigantic hands are ridiculously evident. Couldn’t they have gotten  Barbie and Ken dolls instead of those cheap baby dolls with oversized heads? Seriously, it would have been an improvement. And someone please explain to me how Konga manages to change from a chimpanzee to a gorilla as he grows up.

Throughout all the rampaging and killing, nary a drop of visible blood is spilt as far as the viewing audience is concerned. No, the only bloody scene comes at the expense of Decker’s poor kitty in the most ruthless and ghastliest sequence in the movie.

So kitty lovers beware! Ape lovers only have to worry about lack of good taste.