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Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension


 

"The Eyes Man Commeth," or...

The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)

Directed by David Kramarsky, Lou Place, and Roger Corman (uncredited)
Written by Tom Filer
Information at the IMDB, US.IMDB

Now walking there was one more fair--
A slight girl, lily-pale;
And she had unseen company
To make the spirit quail—
Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)

Originally, this movie was going to be called The Unseen.  There’s irony in that title for two reasons.  First, unless you live in one of the rare broadcast markets that has a copy of this property, you’re not likely to see it.  The second reason regards eleventh hour changes to the product, but that’s another story…
 

Contents

  • The Plot
  • It's a Normal Life
  • If I Knew You Were a Comin', I'd a Baked a Cake
  • Some Animals are Just Plain Revolting
  • The Seen
  • The Good Stuff
  • Not the Usual Threat
  • Not the Usual Heroes
  • Not the Usual Solution
  • The Bad Stuff
  • Hardware Woes and Special Defects
  • No Lock on the Film Stock
  • Animal Demagnitism
  • Cut to Confusion
  • The Big Showdown Letdown
  • The Who Cares Stuff
  • Notes on the Cast and Crew
  • The Unseen Becomes Visible
  • Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares
  • Alien Head Games of the Fifties
  • And Three More for the Road
  • The Bottom Line
  • The Plot

    It's a Normal Life

    We open with a prologue.  While the Earth drifts in space (well, among some clouds), an alien (voice of Bruce Whitmore) tells the audience he needs this world.  A space ship flies over the Earth and water ripples are superimposed over the shot.  (Hereafter, we'll be calling this effect the Cosmic Water Ripples.)  The alien announces that he's coming to our world.  After explaining that he lives on hate, he begins to describe the details of his plan, and for visual aids he shows us footage from later in the move.  He says he'll begin with the unthinking, using animals and humans with weak wills as his eyes and ears.  (Nowadays, he'd also have a legion of MTV viewers at his disposal.)

    A single eyeball superimposed into the shot visits the superimposed Cosmic Water Ripples.  (We'd refer to this as the Cosmic Sammy Davis Jr. Prosthetic, but that might make the Sandy Duncan fans feel left out, so we won't be doing that.)  He finishes his presentation by bridging his secondary use of senses to what people will call him: The Beast with a Million Eyes!  Thanks, Mr. Alien.  It's not as impressive as Iago at the beginning of Othello, but it will have to do.  Go to opening credits, with artwork of trees and rocks with eyes.  (No, sorry.  Making a reference to The Hills have Eyes is too derivative, so we won't be doing that, either.)

    Fade to panning shots of date trees.  Alan Kelly (Paul Birch) talks to the audience in a voice-over about how they're having another bad season.  They've been losing money for three years.  His wife is not taking it well.  The solitude is no fun, either.  His thoughts turn to things out in the relatively lifeless desert around his date ranch.  He thinks, maybe the hate started out there.  (Perhaps if he spent less of his quality thinking time in the bare sun...)

    Alan goes inside to talk to his wife, Carol (Lorna Thayer).  He tries to convince her to let their daughter go to college in the fall.  Outside, their teenage daughter Sandy (Dana Cole) is listening to the conversation about her.  Carol says she doesn't want her to go, and bitterly admits she's jealous.  Then she freaks out.  Alan is a spiritually inclined gentleman at heart, so he doesn't make any trite cracks about the time of the month; instead, he steps outside.  Sandy enters the house with her German shepherd, Duke.  Since Carol is still a bit worked up, she chases dog out of the house.  While outside, Carol calms down and admits to Alan that without Sandy, she'd go crazy.  (OK, crazier.)  With him working the groves all day, she'd be alone with the desert -- with "him."  She glances at the window of the shack next to the house.  A face looks out.  The curtains close.

    Alan leaves to flood a grove.  (You see, he'd been drinking a lot of coffee that morning, and…aw, skip it.)  Carol stares at the shack.  Inside, their handy man Him (Leonard Traver) is lying on a cot with a magazine.  He's a large fellow, looking a bit like Lon Chaney Jr. in Of Mice and Men.  He also seems to be a patron of the photographic arts, because his wall is covered with pictures.  OK, they're cheesecake shots of women from magazines, but at least he has a hobby.
     
     

     
    Fortunately, the beast needs no corrective lenses. ("Hmm... 'Help Wanted: Large silent man.  Apply at Liberace's.'")

    Hey, why are there white lines on these pictures?

    Well, it's like this.  This movie is not commonly available.  It has not been released on videotape or DVD.  Since it's that much of a rarity, we're taking a step toward assuring fair use by subtly mutilating the pictures.  Of course, if anyone decides to release this thing on tape or disk (and maybe digitally fix it up while they're at it.), I'll be happy to buy a copy, replace these images from it, and encourage others to buy or rent their own copy  Until that day, the lines stay.

    In the meantime, please enjoy our own little White Line Fever.  We now return to our regularly scheduled plot description.

    Back in the house, Carol chases Duke out the back door in the kitchen, but the determined dog goes around to the front door, opens it, and comes inside.  Carol is not as upset as she was earlier, and Sandy apologizes for teaching the dog how to open the screen door.  Carol tries to talk reasonably to Sandy and explain what's been bothering her.  Sandy is still hurt from earlier and doesn't want to talk to her mother, so she gets a towel and leaves.  She walks to a swimming hole in a date grove.  Him follows her quietly.  When she gets to the water, she strips down to her bathing suit.  Him silently climbs a ladder next to a tree for a better view.  Ah, the simple, wholesome, uncomplicated life of a farm family.
     
     

    If I Knew You Were Comin', I'd a Baked a Cake

    Carol continues her work in the kitchen.  While carrying a half-full coffee carafe, she hears a single high-pitched tone.  Either The Outer Limits is on in the next room, or something weird is about to happen.  (We'll be referring to this sound as the Cosmic Monotone.)  The room darkens, as if a cloud is passing overhead.  The sound intensifies.  Carol screams as the carafe breaks and coffee spills.  (The horror.  Don'cha really hate it when good coffee goes to waste?)  Then the sound fades off and the darkness passes.  She runs to the window to look for whatever caused this.

    Cut to back to Sandy in the water. "Crazy pilots," she mumbles.  "Always showing off."  She gets out of water and notices Duke is shivering.  As they walk, the dog looks up, stops, and barks at a threat.  Sandy looks up and tells Him to come down from the tree.  After he has done so, she yells at him, but backs off when she realizes she's yelling a simple minded mute.  (Although we feel badly for Him's mental disability, we count it as a bonus that he can't speak.  It eliminates the possibility that he'll slip into a bad Warner Brothers cartoon parody.  For example, he won't be talking about hugging and squeezing Sandy and calling her George.)  She tells him to move along back to the ranch.  Then she notices Duke has wandered off.

    Carol calls the sheriff to file a complaint and report the damage.  All of her glassware is broken.  She's having trouble convincing the sheriff it's important.  After the call, she goes over to the shattered china cabinet and picks out a broken goblet.  She stares at it for a while.  The sadness of her loss is interrupted when she runs into the kitchen and pulls her smoldering baking from the oven.  We would not envy any man that walked in just now, so it only stands to reason that Him enters.  Carol yells at him to get out.

    Cut to Alan driving.  A bird hits his windshield.  He stops to look at it.  While he's out of his car, he's attacked by footage of a flock of birds flying at the camera.  He jumps back into his car and rolls up the window, staring up at the sky.

    Later, Alan arrives at the farm of their elderly comedy relief neighbor Ben (Chester Conklin).  While Ben prepares to milk his cow, Alan asks him if he'd every heard of a bird attacking a car.  Ben says things have been weird ever since a plane flew over earlier.  He's about to describe that event when his thoughts are interrupted by a pain in his leg, which means he's compelled to tangent off to the time he was charging up a hill with Teddy Roosevelt.  Alan interrupts and asks about the plane.  Ben starts milking the cow while saying he didn't see it, but it sounded like a plane.  Then he resumes telling his war story, but the cow kicks the bucket about ten feet behind her.  (Apparently she's heard this story one time too many as well.)  Ben observes that's the second time she's done that today.
     
     

     
    It's worse than the time those Brady kids were playing in her house with that basketball. "C'mon Alan, quit messing with me.  I know this is not a bull."

    Alan's on the road again.  He stops to pick up Sandy.  She tells him about Him's behavior.  Alan tells her Him is as harmless as Duke.  Elsewhere, Duke is in the desert following the Cosmic Monotone.  He eventually finds out what's causing it.  It's hard to tell what it is because the picture is superimposed with the Cosmic Water Ripples, but it looks like streamlined slot machine with a spinning aerometer on top.  (Hereafter, we will be referring to it as the Cosmic Whirly Thingie.)

    Alan and Sandy return to the house.  Carol is still picking up and understandably upset about the broken glassware.  Him comes in looking for lunch.  She freaks on him again and tells Alan she doesn't want Him in the house anymore.  While Him leaves, Alan reminds her that Him can hear and understand.  Sandy talks to Carol and tries to openly sympathize with her grief about what has happened to the prize glassware.

    Outside, Deputy Larry (Richard Sargent) arrives.  He asks Alan about the damage and goes looking for Sandy.  Him overhears this, and the deputy's interest in Sandy seems to upset him.  Larry finds Sandy and they make cutesy small talk.  They walk back to the house and run into Him, who is carrying an axe in a hand and a displeased look on his face.  After they pass him, Sandy says, "Poor old Him."  Larry asks why she calls him that.  Doesn't he have a name?  She explains that he doesn't talk and they don't know his name, and that Alan keeps him around.  (So much for the small town peace officer that knows everybody.)

    Larry checks out the damage and says he'll do what he can.  He leaves with Sandy for town. (He's also got the siren running on his squad car.  Such a Casanova!)  Alan also leaves to go to town, and Carol reminds him to pick up a package.  Him goes back to his shack, locks the door, and settles in with a magazine.  (If anyone should consider remaking this, please don't let it be Gus Van Sant, who recently remade Psycho.  A silly sound effect is not going to enhance this scene, either)

    Duke returns from the desert.  Carol sees him returning and comes outside to call for him.  For a change, Duke freaks out on her.  (Well, that's the idea, anyway.  Although the dog goes through his paces for this sequence, he looks just too damn congenial to be considered threatening.)  She runs inside.  He goes to the other door, the one Sandy taught him to open.  She grabs a rifle while he opens door.  She shoots and misses, then drops the empty rifle on the floor, running out of house the other way.  Outside, Carol begs Him to let her in his shack, but he's not answering.  She grabs Him's axe and runs into the woodshed.  Duke follows and bares his fangs for a close-up.  (OK, he's finally found his motivation for the scene.)  Him comes out, decides he wants none of this, and runs off.  Carol screams and screams.  Him wanders off into the desert.
     
     
     
    Sandy and Larry are less than amused by Him shouting, "Heeeeeere's Johnny!"
    In the earlier days, a woman used to have to keep dirty feet out her kitchen with lead.

    That evening, Alan and Sandy return from town.  One of the packages has a dress, a surprise present for Sandy from Carol, and Sandy's quite excited about it.  The lights are out.  (Of course, all the light bulbs were broken earlier.)  Alan enters and Carol, sitting placidly on the couch, turns on a light.  (Uh, never mind.)  She says she doesn't want Sandy to see Duke, who's in the woodshed.  Alan goes out to see.  Sandy enters and realizes her mother is acting strangely.  (OK, strangely-er.)  Carol tries to keep her there, but Sandy sees the gun on the floor and knows something has happened.  The girl runs out, and after a pause, screams.  She returns and cries, who'd do a thing like that?  Carol tells her about how Duke was acting.  Sandy (who probably hasn't seen Old Yeller) doesn't believe Duke could go vicious.  She runs off.  Later, Carol starts to question her own sanity, and Alan tries to help her get it together.  They decide something odd is going on, and they've got to stay close.  Carol says to Alan, "We haven't been close in a long time."

    Later, we see Him walking in the desert and hear the Cosmic Monotone.  (He could be in a trance, but this may be a normal state.)  He bumps into Sandy, who was walking ahead of him.  She shrugs off her own trance, grabs him, and asks out loud what they were doing there.  Then she takes him by the hand and leads him back to the ranch.  When they return, supper is ready, but Him refuses to come inside to eat.  (Would you feel comfortable eating a meal prepared by someone who'd just done a Lizzie Borden on the dog?)  Sandy goes inside and tells Alan about the trance.

    Carol and Sandy forgive each other (again).  They hug and make up.  After supper, they're having family time in the living room.  (Uh, I may have to explain this setting for our younger readers.  You see, back in the mid-Fifties, not everyone had a TV set nor lived within broadcast range of a TV station, and although there were cable systems back then, they weren't as ubiquitous as they are today.  Without this, families would comfortably sit together in the evening and [gasp!] read books and [double gasp!] talked to each other.)  Anyway, Sandy gets up to go to bed, and Alan tells her to sleep with the shutters locked.  (I'm not going to bother with telling our younger readers about how people could sleep peacefully at night in an unlocked house.)  Carol notices that Alan is contemplating something.  He suggests that Sandy and Him together were stronger than the ongoing weirdness.
     

    Some Animals are Just Plain Revolting

    Next morning, neighbor Ben does an inoffensive old man schtick for comic relief.  He goes to the barn with a pail.  His cow freaks out on him.  A lot.  She charges him while he's on the ground.  Back at the ranch, Alan is brazing a pipe joint while Carol goes to feed the chickens.  They freak out on her, too.  Alan goes in with his brazing torch and holds the fearsome fowls at bay.  (Insert obligatory roast chicken comments here.)  Afterwards, Carol is referring to the chickens' weird behavior as the animal revolution.  Alan suggests revolutions have their leaders.  (They don't seem to keep any talking pigs, so they're not in George Orwell country.)  Carol realizes the shocks of the past day have helped to snap her back to normal.  Sandy notices the change, too.

    Outside, Him is chopping some wood.  He looks distracted and begins to wander off.  Alan stops him and tells him to finish up.  Him continues his job, and although he looks more focused, it's not what you'd call a pleasant focus.  (Sorry, but it has to be said.  Him's plenty hacked off.)  Later, Alan picks up his rifle and calls for Him, who brings his axe.  They get into the car and head out to the field.

    Alan drops off Him at a grove and tells him he'll be back in a few hours.  Him goes to work driving some stakes into the ground with the backside of his axe, but he's distracted again.  He looks up and sees a bird, and the Cosmic Monotone can be heard again.  He staggers off.  Meanwhile, Alan arrives at Ben's place and sees the damage caused by the crazed cow, particularly what she did to Ben.  Alan leans over the dead man and realizes that the weirdness wasn't over; it's just beginning.  Elsewhere, Him finds the Cosmic Whirly Thingie.  He's surrounded by a Cosmic Light Show.

    Back at the ranch, the girls are distracted from some domestic chores when they see Ben's cow trotting by.  Sandy decides to hijack a little milk from the peaceful beast of the field.  She gets a rope, but as she approaches, the belligerent bovine freaks on her.  Carol grabs a rake to fend off the prototypical mad cow while Sandy runs inside.  However, Carol trips while trying to get away.  While she's on the ground looking up at onrushing homicidal heifer, there's the sound of a gunshot.  Cut to Alan leaning over Carol, telling her it's all over.  (No, we're not shown the permanently tipped cow.)

    Alan calls the sheriff's office to talk to Deputy Larry.  Elsewhere, a flock of birds fly into a transformer.  It explodes.  The call is interrupted when the phone goes dead, and the power drops out as well.  Alan exclaims, "This thing's closing in on us."  He goes out to get Him.

    The girls talk about the recent weirdness.  Alan returns without Him and tells them to go to town and get help.  Carol refuses to go.  She believes her place is with Alan.  He talks her into leaving.  After they've gone, Alan sets out on foot to find Him.  While he's searching, he sees the number the birds did on the transformer, and then some more lively birds attack him.  A rifle (as opposed to a shotgun or, say, a brazing torch) is a poor choice for shooting birds; he ends up trying to fend them off with the butt.  (The butt of the rifle, dammit!)  Suddenly, the birds stop attacking.  A black bird is watching him.

    Alan gets back to the ranch at dusk.  He checks the shack, but Him's not there.  Inside the house, he's surprised to see Carol, who is lighting some lanterns and acting as if there was no crisis.  Alan's upset they're not getting help in town.  She takes him outside to see the car.  The windshield is messed up.  She tells him a black bird, possibly a crow, was leading the birds that attacked the car.  Alan wonders if they were the same birds that attacked him.  She explains that she and Sandy were forced back.  Alan and Carol recount what's happened so far, including the plane.  After she suggests it could have been a plane from another world, the birds attack.

    While they're trapped in the house by bellicose birds, Sandy is feeling particularly uneasy.  The constant sound of the frenzied flyers is getting to her.  The family tries to do normal things to take their minds off of it.  It's Alan's birthday.  They dress up for the occasion.  Carol keeps Sandy busy with making Alan a cake.  And the band plays on.

    Over at the sheriff's office, Deputy Larry gets the partial message from Alan.  There was no information about the sender, but Larry is able to figure it out.  He takes a squad car to the ranch.  Along the way, he nearly runs over Him.  Larry stops and offers him a ride, but Him wants to ride in the back.  After Larry resumes his drive, Him knocks him over the head.  (COPS in Palm Springs is filmed exactly as it happens.)  The car runs off the road and stops.  Him gets out and continues on foot.  Later, he arrives at the ranch and kneals down next to one of the car's tires.  Inside the house, the Kellys are disrtacted by the birds.  Him heads back out into the desert.

    Back at the ranch, the bird attack has stopped.  The Kellys decide to make a break for it.  They run out to the car.  It has four flat tires.

    [Ladies and gentlemen, as many of you know, it is one of my guidelines to complete the plot in inverse proportion to my respect for the movie.  I actually have a lot of respcet for what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish up to this point, and had the rest of the movie been like this, I would not give away the ending.  However, after this point in the movie, my respect diminishes.  So, here for your entertainment, is the rest of the story.]

    Deputy Larry wakes up.  Rather than start his cruiser, he continues on foot.  (Why?  We're not sure.)  Him goes back to the Cosmic Whirly Thingie and its attendant Cosmic Light Show.  Larry arrives too.  Him wrestles him to the ground.  After a struggle, Larry pistol whips Him on the head and walks away.  After Larry's gone, Him gets up.

    Sandy crawls out the shutters of the ranch house and hits the ground running.  (We're not told why this action happened, either.)  She calls for Larry, but runs into Him.  (We'd assumed the Cosmic Whirly Thingie was some distance from the house, so we're a trifle confused by how he got near the house so quickly.)  She tries to talk Him into going back to the house, but he grabs her and carries her away.  Meanwhile, Larry gets to the house (and we get more confused) and tells Alan that Him's gone crazy.  They realize Sandy is gone.  Alan grabs a rifle, and he and Larry take off.

    Him carries an unconscious Sandy into the desert.  They arrive at the Cosmic Light Show.  Alan and Larry are following their tracks (without the benefit of light) and deduce that Him is carrying Sandy.  They hear the sound of angry avians and look for cover.  Him puts down Sandy.  She's awake and begins to struggle in the Cosmic Light Show and Cosmic Water Ripples.  Alan and Larry arrive and see the Him dragging Sandy to the Cosmic Whirly Thingie.  Alan tries to shoot, but holds off because he may hit Sandy.  Then he calls to "Carl," persuading him to bring Sandy to him.  Him responds by taking Sandy to Alan, and then he writhes in pain until he drops over dead.  The others walk away from the Cosmic Light Show.  Carol arrives; she'd been forced out of the house by the birds.  Larry runs out to distract the feathered fiends.
     

    The Seen

    Sandy wakes up.  Alan tells her about the thing controlling minds, but they can beat it if they stick together.  He realizes that if it preys on minds, then it's more likely to take over weak minds.  A voice-over tells him he's right.  It's a telepathic message.  The voice offers to cut a deal with Alan and Carol: their lives for the girl.  Then it turns up the noise, and Sandy struggles.  (Lordy, this thing is into hardsell.)  The voice explains life on its world is dying out.  They have no material form, so they use other life forms for substance while feeding on their brains.  They need to move onto grayer pastures, and this bothersome brainiac is an advanced scout.  Hate works for them.  But it can't control them, and it lost control of Him.  It wants to know why.

    Alan explains to Carol about Carl.  They'd served together in the military.  Alan was his leader and made a bad snap judgement in the field, and Carl became a casualty.  He'd been looking out for him ever since.  Since Carl had become mentally weak, he was easy to control.  Carol's state of mind at the time of the arrival also made her easy.

    The interstellar interloper is getting none of this.  It says it wants the girl to take back to its world so they can figure out why humans are hard to dominate.  Alan tells it their strength is in love.  The voice says they had love once, but they got rid of it.  (Yeah, corporate cutbacks can be a bitch in any universe.)  Then it says its ship (which we suppose is the Cosmic Whirly Thingie) is set to leave at first hour of light.  "Bring the girl," demands the telepathic troublemaker.

    Alan and Carol talk.  Alan figures, somewhere along the way, the visitor's race had lost their souls.  They walk into the crater with Sandy for a showdown, stopping inside the Cosmic Water Ripples near the Cosmic Whirly Thingie.  Alan tells it they can't have the girl.  The maladjusted mentalist turns up the Cosmic Monotone again, which has the same painful effect on Sandy as earlier.  Alan proclaims they're not afraid.  A hatch opens, and a superimposed eye grows within the frame. Alan reminds Carol they can beat it together.  A big brained bug-eyed monster (BEM) with long sharp pointy nasty teeth creeps into view.  Alan, with Carol at his side, stares it down (The Force is strong with this one…), and the befuddled BEM falls over dead.  The Cosmic Monotone and Cosmic Water Ripples vanish.  The Cosmic Whirly Thingie starts making noises.  The humans beat feet out of the crater, and the Cosmic Whirly Thingie takes off like a refurbished rocket.
     
     
     
    As they approach the Cosmic Whirly Thingie, Alan asks Carol if she has any quarters. After getting a break into show business, the alien became a spokesman for Visine.

    Larry catches up with the others.  Carol asks Alan if it was an intellect with no body, then what was that thing?  Alan figures it was just something the immaterial invader was using to control the ship.  But if the physical creature died, where did the missing mind go?  They see a mouse and realize the alien's loose marbles must have rolled over there.  Alan aims his rifle for a shot, but he's interrupted when an eagle drops in and scoops up the mouse.  Alan tries to get a shot off before the eagle carries it too far away, but Carol stops him.

    Carol points out that they don't normally see eagles in these parts.  Where did it come from?  Then she asks what killed the creature in the ship.  Those sort of cosmic, mystical, spiritual questions can't have straight answers in movies like this, so Alan echoes the questions by saying, "Where did the eagle come from?  What killed the creature?" and answers by asking, "Why do men have souls?"  The End.
     

    The Good Stuff

    Not the Usual Threat

    Sometimes necessity can be a real mother.  The challenge for any group of film makers doing science fiction and horror, particularly those on a limited budget, is to meet the vision of the story with what they can put on film.  As a bad example, consider Ed Wood, Jr.  He had some pretty good (albeit, unoriginal) ideas, but there were miles of difference between what he wanted to put on the screen and what he was capable of doing.  Not that a better budget would've helped him, because the man was about as good a cinematic artist as Caligula was a good civil administrator.

    Therefore, a good tactic for B grade horror and science fiction would be to circumvent your lack of creature budget by showing a monster you can afford yet still doesn't look silly.  An invisible monster that doesn't pick anything up (requiring either strings or special film processing) would be ideal.  The only trick, of course, is getting the audience to believe it's there.

    A story about fighting an absentee monster is going to need plenty of things to occupy the audience.  When the budget is a concern, wowing the audience with fantastic images isn't an option.  One of the things it should not do is pad out the runtime.  Padding in any movie is bad enough, but it would've been fatal to this one.  Some may count long stretches of dialogue with character development as padding, but at least they don't annoy the audience with long static shots of someone walking between points A to B when just showing him at point B would do.  Aside from the dialogue, this movie doesn't really pad anything.
     

    Not the Usual Heroes

    The Kellys are simple folk.  Nobody here is a hero with chiseled features, a scientist, a showgirl, or a scientist that looks like a showgirl.  The army doesn't arrive with tanks and flame-throwers.  The nearby town is not shown.  Add it all up, and an accountant should be thankful, because this saves some big bucks on production.

    On the other hand, that means very the few actors are going to have to carry a big chunk of the production.  Fortunately, the actors in this feature do a pretty good job.  This isn't Lawrence Olivier doing Hamlet, but at least the actors are competent, deliver their lines well, and play their characters credibly.  They portray common country people without slipping into caricature.  I suspect that they were able to pull this off because most of the production company had been making westerns.  The trip from standard western characters to these people would not have been a very long journey.  All that's missing is a hotshot gunfighter, and given the nature of the threat, he'd be out of his element.

    Therefore, the acting here is better than many other B grade creature features from the time.  Yeah, that's not saying much, but there it is. I wouldn't recommend making this one into a stage play, but it could be done, and that's because this is more of an actor's movie than one for the director or special effects crew.

    Whether or not this works depends on viewer expectations.  If it's a given that a science fiction story with an alien must be flashy and gadgety, then this show is a failure.  However, not all science fiction needs to be so showy, and, frankly, a lot of the flamboyant ones from the '50's were pretty darn pretentious.  For good or bad, this is not a pretentious movie.  Well, at least it's not pretentious between the end of the prologue and the last eight minutes of the story; those are the parts where the alien has some dialogue.
     

    Not the Usual Solution

    How do you beat a space alien?  Easy, you call out the military.  If the military fails, you design and build a gadget to beat them.  You'll also want a photogenic individual leading either of these efforts.  Maybe you'll get lucky and it will be revealed that the aliens have a lousy inoculation program, so a common cold will do the trick; of course, you may still have to field the military and the new gadgets until the out-of-towners sneeze themselves to death.

    I can't think of many movies where love was the correct final answer.  Shoot, aside from I Married a Monster from Outer Space, I can't think of any from the '50's where that worked as even a personal solution.  Rather than trying to beat the invader by out shooting or out gadgeting him, the Kellys beat him with a natural, positive human trait.  It almost makes this a fable.

    Since many Alien Menaces in American movies of the period tended to be about a notch or two from the common Red Menace, it would be easy to call this a Cold War artifact.  A soulless, Godless invader sneaks in, controls some weak minds, and uses them as spies and operatives to revolt and wage a campaign of terror.  It's finally eliminated in the last scene by the most powerful symbol of Americana, the eagle. However, most of the story plays like a supernatural possession tale, with the alien subbing in for a ghost or the Devil.  Rather than beating it through superior arms and vigilance, the alien loses to positive spiritual traits.

    Come to think of it, you can find similar arguments regarding the message in Invasion of the Body Snatchers; is it pro-Communist or pro-McArthy?  The best answer is to say it's anti-possession.  (That is, of course, not technically correct for the story, but the end result is pretty much the same.)  Likewise, The Beast with a Million Eyes is really an anti-possession story, but the filmmakers put in the Cold War symbolism as well.  It's only in the last scenes that the alien can be associated with the Red Menace.  That's not a very far stretch, since the common enemy of the God fearing American was the Godless Commie.
     

    The Bad Stuff

    Hardware Woes and Special Defects

    This movie has only one alien device, and that would be the Cosmic Whirly Thingie.  To the movie's credit, it does look unusual; however, the words "threatening" and "advanced" do not come to mind.  Of course, it's difficult for us, knowing what we know now, to judge it on its merits at the time it was made.  Obscuring it with the Cosmic Water Ripples was probably a good choice.

    While on the subject, the Cosmic Water Ripples are, well, water ripples.  They're good for conveying the idea of wave propagation from the Cosmic Whirly Thingie, but there is no disguising their humble origins.  However, I suppose if this had been made by a production company with more money, they would have put in Cosmic Cartoon Waves.  Despite their shortcoming, Cosmic Water Ripples are more convincing.

    And then there are the two scenes (prologue and showdown) with the superimposed eyeball.  It's a gutsy, sort of artsy move, but it doesn't pay off.  Rather than feeling a sense of threat from a hideous, ethereal eye, the average viewer is more likely to sense goofiness.
     

    No Lock on the Film Stock

    It looks like different grades of film were used during the production, or possibly some of the shots were processed better than others were.  That becomes distracting when they're spliced together.  Also, although the night scenes are well lit (or they knew what they were doing when they did "day for night" shots), some of the daylight scenes are washed out.
     

    Animal Demagnitism

    The animal attack scenes should've been better.  Showing the bird footage and then showing a flailing human conveys some of the bird attacks, and that footage is used more than once.  You do get a sense of human interaction with the birds during one of these attacks, but there isn't enough there to make it look threatening.  There are plenty of scenes where the attacking birds are talked about but not shown.  Although this improves the economy of the movie, it happens too many times to let it go.

    On the other hand, the chicken attack scene is more convincing, because you get the chickens jumping (actually, thrown) into the face of the actress.  (Take it from someone who walked into chicken pen at the age of five; a rooster can be down right intimidating.)  The possessed cow is, well, a cow.  You get no shots of animal-human interaction when the cow attacks someone, and you don't even get a hint of something that looks like a dying or dead cow when she's been shot within a few feet of her final intended victim.  I don't look forward to dead cows in movies, but something like that would've really helped to suspend the old incredulity in that scene.

    Duke is not scary.  As noted in the plot, he goes through his paces during his scene, so his handler accomplished that much of the job.  But the final effect on the screen is not a possessed German shepherd trying to kill a human; it's this big, sappy animal trotting through the set  They added barking to the sound mix, but instead of making him look more fierce, it just makes him look more placid.  Once again, the actors are left to carry the scene.  The actors are also required for revealing Duke's demise, but that part works because you're not immediately shown who won (which allows for some suspense) nor the resulting mess.  It's one of those things that can (and should) be left to the imagination.
     

    Cut to Confusion

    At a point in the last fifth of the movie, they tried to increase the story's momentum by jumping from location to location.  Although it's true that this movie doesn't pad it's running time, a few quick establishing shots or snippets of dialogue might've helped.

    In particular, there's the sequence after Him knocks Larry on the head.  Him gets out of the car and continues on foot.  Fine, we don't know where he's headed but we know we'll find out.  Cut back to the ranch for a scene, and then, for the sake of some time passage, cut back to Larry waking up.  No problem.

    Now, Larry gets out of the car and runs.  We don't know why, and it's kind of important because not knowing why he's not driving anywhere is pretty darn distracting.  Cut to Him at the Cosmic Light Show, which we assume is at the crater with the Cosmic Whirly Thingie.  Fine, we know where he went.  Cut to Larry, arriving at the crater.  OK, now we know where Larry went, but this is awfully bumpy for an action sequence, especially if missing details distracts you.  For example, how did Larry know Him was there?  It looks like he just found him by blind luck.  Did Larry go to the crater voluntarily or was he drawn there?  And while you're puzzling over those questions, the movie cuts to a shot of Sandy climbing through the shutters and running.  Why?  Was she possessed?  Did she sense something was wrong with Larry?

    The whole effect is very disorienting, and I don't think that was the filmmakers' goal for that sequence.  Maybe I'll just throw up my hands like they do over in the dimension of Jabootu and shout, "Why?  It's in the script!"
     

    The Big Showdown Letdown

    In the grand finale, the confrontation with the alien is disappointing.  The dialogue is a philosophical diatribe.  This is appropriate, but since they're discussing Great Truths, the level of the conversation feels inadequate.  Also, the actor they selected for the voice of the alien is not convincing anyone he's a being from a mentally superior race.  I know they weren't going to get a high powered actor for this part, but c'mon, this guy should be selling used cars instead of dominating a planet.  Of course, if you do it right, there may not be a world of difference…
     

    The Who Cares Stuff

    Notes on the Cast and Crew

    David Kramarsky (director, producer) had previously worked as a producer with newcomer Roger Corman on things like Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954).

    Lou Place (director) would later direct the legendary Daddy-O (1959).

    Tom Filer (writer) would later write The Space Children (1958).

    Stocky Paul Birch (Alan) had been playing in westerns and on TV by the time he got to this one.  He'd later appear in several other westerns, but he also continued doing B science fiction in things like Not of this Earth (1957) and The Queen of Outer Space (1958).  He'll probably be best remembered as the authority figure at the end of civilization in The Day the World Ended (1956).

    Lorna Thayer (Carol) shows some potential here as the taut, neurotic wife who becomes better adjusted by the end of the story.  In just about any movie, her character would get whacked without getting a chance to change.  She was mostly relegated to bit parts both before and after this one, which is a real shame; she shows a lot of good screen presence here.  However, she did get one of the most famous bit parts in the history of movies: the waitress in Five Easy Pieces.

    This was probably the first screen appearance for Richard Sargent (Larry).  He later did a variety of bit parts on TV and in movies, but he never really hit it big until, a few year after shortening his name to Dick Sargent, (oh, you see where this is going now) he was given the part of the second Darrin Stevens in Bewitched.  Born Richard Cox, he, unlike Peter O'Toole, had the foresight to change his name to something that wasn't a double phallic.

    Chester Conklin (Ben) was a vaudevillian who'd started doing movies, like, forever ago.  He was one of the Keystone Cops and, later, appeared in several movies with Charlie Chaplin.  In this movie, he displays some comedic talent that's several cuts above the comic relief in similar movies.

    Floyd Crosby (cinematographer) won the Academy Award for his work in Tabu (1931), and much later earned a Golden Globe for High Noon (1952).  And then he went almost exclusively into B movies.  (Why he made this transition, I have no idea.  The only thing I can figure is he was granted a lot more creative control for what he was doing.)  Oh, yeah, and his son David was a rock star.

    A young Albert Ruddy did the art direction.  Later, he would produce The Godfater and take home an Academy Award for Best Picture.  Perhaps he should've quit while he was a head.  He went on to write and produce stunningly bad things like Matilda (1978), Megaforce (1982), and Cannonball Run II (1984).

    Samuel Z. Arkoff (executive producer) and Roger Corman (producer, and director on some scenes) need no introduction here.  (It's a good bet that if you've bothered to dig this far into an analysis of a movie like this, you already know those names.)  This one was very early in their careers, shortly after Arkoff switched from lawyer to film producer.  At this time, their company was called The American Releasing Corporation.  Arkoff and a salesman associate his named James H. Nicholson were about to take the B movie world by storm with American International Pictures.

    Last but not least (except maybe in terms of physical height) was Paul Blaisdell (monster creator and effects).  He went on to build some of the most recognizable monsters in B movie history.  His creations include the crustacean She-Creature (1956), the carrotish Venusian in It Conquered the World (1956), and the Tabanga in From Hell it Came (1957).  It's easy to see some resemblance between his alien in this movie and his bug-eyed monsters in Invasion of the Saucermen (1957).  However, it should be noted that Blaisdell was tasked with making this monster on very short notice, and that story is the subject of our next section.
     

    The Unseen Becomes Visible

    [Note:  The facts in this section are from the book Faster and Furiouser by Mark Thomas McGee]

    As mentioned in this B-Note’s prologue, this movie was to be called The Unseen.   There was no visible monster in the script.  Nicholson decided the title needed more ooomph and it became The Beast with a Million Eyes.  Then he did the artwork for the advertising, which showed the head of a horrible monster with eyes trailing up its forehead.  (You can see a copy of the final poster art at Dr. Casey's.)  It was sent to the distributors to pique their interest.

    After finishing the movie (with some hellish complications), they showed it to some distributors, but none of them wanted anything to do with it.  Where was the monster in the advertising?  They weren't going to take it without a monster.

    Realizing they needed a monster, they contacted one of Nicholson's old friends, Forrest Ackerman.  No, they didn't need to use Ackerman for a monster, but at the time he was an agent for science fiction talent.  When he realized they needed this thing fast and on a tiny budget, he brought in Blaisdell.  (Ackerman is credited with being a string puller for the space ship; apparently he was pulling a few other strings as well.)

    Blaisdell built a pretty elaborate puppet, nicknamed Little Hercules, but in the rush to get the thing into the movie the quality of the puppet was lost in the translation to film.  Some people have also derisively noted that the alien had only two eyes, as opposed to a million.  You don’t need your third eye to see that it’s a dog eat dog world when metaphors are taken literally.

    As for the fate of Little Hercules, he took up residence in the Ackermansion (the house that Ack' built) until his body fell apart a few years later.  If you want to call him “The Beast in a Million Pieces,” that’s your business.
     

    Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares

    Alien Head Games of the Fifties

    Invaders from Mars (1953) – Sneaky alien with a big head sticks some people in the neck with a little mind control gadgets.

    It Came from Outer Space (1953) – Weird looking aliens on a pit stop disguise themselves as local humans so they can get some work done.

    Rocket Man (1954) – An alien ray gun forces others to tell the truth.

    It Conquered the World (1956) – Venusian carrotman does a little mind control by using bat like critters.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – Soulless plants duplicate and replace humans.

    Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) – In addition to knocking over a few landmarks, the aliens use a brainwashing device to extract information from their prisoners.

    Warning from Space (1956) – Alien disguises itself as a celebrity to act as their spokesperson.  (Title given here is the most popular English title.  You might know it better as "that Japanese one with the starfish aliens.")

    The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) – Dueling space brains!

    Plan 9 from Outer Space (1958) – Substandard aliens control corpses.

    I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) – Not only is this a variation of It Came from Outer Space, it's also a good example of how a bad titles can happen to reasonable movies.

    The Space Children (1958) – Giant brain from space takes control of the children of rocket scientists.

    The Brain Eaters (1958) – Fuzzy parasite bugs take over some locals.  Another reasonable movie with a bad title; it was good enough for Robert Heinlien to sue them for cribbing The Puppet Masters.
     

    And Three More for the Road

    The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) – Fritz Lang’s last movie about Germany’s most popular fictional über-villain

    The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967) – Swinging spy guys vs. female super-villain who doesn’t like guys

    Frogs (1972) – Another AIP feature about animal attacks on a father's birthday, but with a very different attitude and outcome.
     

    The Bottom Line

    Telepathic alien scout makes life eventful for a farm family. Plays more like a supernatural tale than a science fiction story.  Emphasis on character dynamics and dialogue instead of action.  Actors do a pretty good job in a rushed mess. Made by AIP when it was in its embryonic (ARC) state. Recommended for B movie enthusiasts only.  Period.  All others need not apply.

    Published 19 September 1999

     






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