THE CYCLOPS (1957) – The Dungeon Review!
Bert I. Gordon aka Mr. B.I.G.; nicknamed on account of his initials and his penchants for featuring large critters and people in his films. Mr. Gordon, who is in his 80’s recently wrote a book about his life and career in the world of filmmaking. The Amazing Colossal Worlds of Mr. B.I.G.: An Autobiographical Journey sounds like something I should have on my bookshelf! The Cyclops was written, produced and directed by Mr. Gordon who also handles the film’s technical effects. Bert I. Gordon knows how to multi-task! His techniques are not always flawless by any means; but speaking for myself, I have yet to see a Bert I. Gordon film that didn’t entertain me. The Cyclops, I’m happy to say, is no exception.
Susan Winters is financing a trip to Mexico to search for her fiancé Bruce whose plane went down three years previous. She arranges a small four seat plane and hires pilot Lee Brand. Accompanying Susan is Bruce’s closest friend Russ Bradford and Martin Melville who hopes to find uranium. The quartet finds more than they bargain for when they discover the area is inhabited by giant animals. And that is not the only surprise that awaits the group…
There is of course a bit more to the story than that, but not a whole lot more. Bruce’s best friend Russ is in love with Susan and is hoping this trip will allow her to move on. Lee Brand the pilot they hire is a heavy drinker but it doesn’t effect his flying at all. The biggest threat in the film is the impossibly sweaty and obnoxious Marty Melville! In one hilarious awkward scene Melville punches Brand and knocks him out while he is flying the freaking plane! Boy oh boy is this a scene! Marty remains a thorn in everyone’s side right up to the bitter end! The story isn’t exactly mind-blowing and the twist is painfully obvious! I don’t think anyone could watch this film and not figure out the twist well before it happens. Gordon lets us in on the secret way too early! That said, there is still plenty here to entertain.
The film is insanely short and Gordon packs a fair amount of activity into the runtime. Gordon’s creatures are all real critters and he uses tricks of the trade to make them large. Who doesn’t love a 20 foot tall bird preying on a mouse the size of a dog?! Unfortunately the quality of the effects ranges quite a bit. The bird and mouse scene actually looked pretty good but another scene that features some type of lizard looked like my grade four art class collage project. The effects are occasionally iffy but I will take these delightful practical effects any day over CGI. This is one of the few if not the only giant creature flick I’ve watched during this Eisenhower feature that was entirely filmed in the daylight. A bold move really, but I liked it! The night would have added to the mood but who goes exploring some isolated canyon at night after seeing giant critters?! The Cyclops does not feature the one-eyed giant of Greek Mythology. Gordon’s cyclops is actually a giant man with a bad-ass eye injury. While some might be disappointed by this news, I assure you this guy is quite unforgettable. One side of “the cyclops” face is badly deformed and he has one mean freaking harelip complimented by some gnarly looking teeth. His mangled skin has grown over one of his eyes leaving him with only one huge bulging eyeball exposed. It is a face only a mother could love! Just have a look at this bad boy!
The cast do a decent job and it was particularly nice to see a dame in a 50s flick not portrayed as a wilting flower. Mind you Ms. Winter does have her screaming moments too. The ridiculously pretty Gloria Talbott, plays the personable and determined Susan Winters with plenty of heart. James Craig who plays Russ Bradford is fairly typical as far as leading men goes but does a fine job of it. Tom Drake who plays our hard drinking pilot never seems drunk at all. I felt he needed to work harder on his alcoholism, but he was a likable bloke really. And finally we have Lon Chaney Jr. who plays Marty Melville. Chaney has played more than his share of unsavoury characters over the years. As Melville he is nervous, self-involved, sweaty and cowardly. I wouldn’t call this Chaney’s finest hour but I think at least some of that can be attributed to the writing of the character.
Attack of the Puppet People will always be my personal favourite Gordon film. I had intended to make Attack of the Puppet People and The Cyclops a double shot video review but time and technical difficulties with the new camera put a damper on that. Despite its flaws I got a real kick out of The Cyclops. A short but sweet creature feature worth checking out. Recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3/5
Directed By: Bert I. Gordon
Starring: James Craig, Gloria Talbott, Lon Chaney Jr., Tom Drake, Duncan Parkin, Vicente Padula