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The Cyclops

1957

By Tom BakerPublished 16 days ago 3 min read

The Cyclops is a black-and-white giant mutant monster flick from 1957. It stars a raspy-throated Lon Chaney Junior, grinding out the last of his unfortunate, drunken days, and Gloria Talbott, as "Susan Winters," who heads off into the jungles of Mexico to find her lost boyfriend, whose plane went down over an island.

Chaney ("Melville") and a couple of other dudes (Tom Drake, Dunkin Parkin) go off to the Mexican jungle with Talbot, who is looking for her husband who disappeared. The jungle is the scene of atomic experiments (by who? The Mexicans? The gringos across the Rio Grande? Who?) which has caused the animals to all become giant-sized monster movie mutants. Giant hawks, giant lizards, that sort of thing. We see the giant animals devour each other, but nothing else really happens.

Not a lot of memorable peaks in this pic, which is more like one long (really short) desolate valley of monster moviedom. The intrepid explorers go into a cave, where the overgrown and thoroughly mad Glenn from The Amazing Colossal Man puts in an appearance as the hideously half-skull-faced freakazoid from the sequel, War of the Colossal Beast. Let you in on a secret: actor Duncan Parkin played the same character in both films. It's the same monster. Just, this film is less good than that stellar example of cinematic artistry War.

The monster mutant in this film does look pretty cool, though. Taken completely out of context, and placed in the pages of some old monster movie mag like Famous Monsters of the Films (not a Famous Monsters of Filmland rip-off, mind you, not at all!), it's a gnarly and indelible (albeit phony) image from our collective nightmare unconscious. Or some such. Legions of teenage horror enthusiasts probably doodled the skull-faced, one-eyed creep in the margins of their math homework as they dreamed of a world where all the women looked like Gloria Talbot (who, indeed, looked curiously like a young Winona Ryder looked in maybe 1997, post-Dracula but pre felony shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue).

Chaney, Lon, doesn't end up in a very good way (his karma, even in the celluloid half-life of misbegotten fantasy worlds, whatever that means, was never stellar), and we get a whole King Kong scene at the end. You know, "'Twas Beauty killed the Beast," and all that tommy-rot. Everyone in the audience was thinking, "Man, that giant, half-skull-faced bald creep was running around in a diaper! Can you imagine what it must have smelled like?" True, the United States Federal Bureau of Bald Mutant Monster Diaper-Wearers has precisely calculated the olfactory effects of the fecal droppings of said half-skull-faced freakazoid, determining in a peer-reviewed study that the smell of that particular dump would be enough to depopulate a small island nation. Be that as it may, it is hardly the point.

The point is, is that: this picture doesn't feature enough of anything to write much about. Oh, it's passable entertainment as a mindless, Saturday afternoon matinee-style affair. But I detect nothing deeper, no subtext (unless it's warning white American test pilots that if they go into the radium-contaminated jungles of Mexico, they might grow to twenty-five feet and run around like Sean Connery in Zardoz, wearing only the aforementioned diaper). Fair enough.

The giant jungle this-and-thats that devour each other and menace our "heroes" are cheap bluescreened special effects that could have been borrowed from an old Flash Gordon serial from twenty years earlier. The acting is as much as can be expected. Chaney is an old drunk here, so he didn't have to stretch much (Wikipedia reports the famed alcoholic famously was rip-roaring soused every day, day in and day out, during the filming of this forgettable cheapo). In a way, he's the most horrifying of all monsters (as well as the most pitiable). I'll leave the individual viewer to pass judgment on his movie characterization.

Chaney, by the way, once did a televised stage production of Frankenstein where he was so drunk he completely and utterly ruined the scene, which was being broadcast live. And not just a little: he destroyed it so badly that most of the audience that tuned in must have recognized that the old Hollywood horror heavy was dead drunk. (The spate of horrible Grade-Z pics he ended up doing at the tail end of his life pays testimony to the fact that, much like Bela Lugosi, his flame had faded and burned out long before).

I can't remember how this film ends, but it's mercifully short, and I don't give a flying one-eyed, half-skull-faced, nuclear mutant in a diaper just how it ended. I'm just thankful it's over.

And so is this review.

***

monstervintagemovie review

About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.: http://tombakerbooks.weebly.com

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    Tom BakerWritten by Tom Baker

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