12/6/06

101 The Crawling Eye

(1958, SciFi/Horror, b&w)

I’m Popeye the sailor man / I’ve got a guy’s head in my hand.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

A psychic and a U.N. agent battle a race of giant alien eyeballs.

Summary:

She is a weird, spooky chick.Before secret agents needed to be sexy, or even physically fit, there was Forrest Tucker as Alan Brooks: agent of the United Nations. While traveling on a train through Switzerland he meets professional sideshow psychic Anne Pilgrim, and her sister/manager Sarah. Anne is disturbed by a strange force from the nearby mountain called Trollenberg; she faints in Tucker’s lap.

Upon arrival in the village of Trollenberg, a number of obligatory characters are introduced, including: the nosy reporter, the expert fat guy, the experienced guide, the weasely, knows-more-than-he-admits-to local, and the this-is-serious-why-won’t-anyone-listen-to-me scientist. From his impregnable fortress/observatory the scientist warns his friend Tucker about a small roving cloud has been beheading people on the mountain. The weasely local downplays the significance of the decapitations, the fat guy thinks that the whole thing might be due to rock formations, and the reporter just kind of ineffectually snoops.

The fat guy and the guide go up the mountain, where the guide disappears and the fat guy’s head gets ripped off in a cabin. Back in the village, Anne sees it all in a vision while performing boring psychic parlor tricks for the rest of the characters. The guide comes back mumbling about the heat, and there is a long pointless scene about how his hands are shaking violently. He tries to kill Anne, and we soon learn that he has no blood and has been dead the whole time. That night he gets up and tries again, only to have Tucker foil him once more.

The mysterious evil force in the decapitating cloud now takes over Anne’s mind directly. (Which begs the question, why did it even bother with the animated corpse of the guide in the first place?) It summons her up the mountain. Tucker finds her halfway up and confines her to the scientist’s fortress/observatory. Frustrated in its Anne-stealing designs, the cloud branches out over the town while the terrified populace takes shelter in the fortress/observatory. Only the weasely local refuses sanctuary, taking off for parts unknown. He shows up later mumbling about the heat. Yes, he’s an animated corpse, and yes, he tries to kill Anne. The nosy reporter rescues her at the last moment. Turns out he’s in love with her, a detail the filmmakers neglected to mention until now.

At or around this point, we learn that the cloud is inhabited by giant tentacled alien eyeballs that are vulnerable to fire. Given this information, they are all rather easily dispatched with some Molotov cocktails and some firebombs. Tucker falls in love with Anne’s sister Sarah, another detail no one bothered to bring up until the end.

Host Segment One:

Gypsy has an itch, but no arms.  Scratch her.  Scratch her, I say!Joel invents the electric bagpipes and plays Led Zeppelin. Dr. Forrester invents canine antiperspirant, which makes Dr. Erhardt sweat only through his tongue. He gives Dr. Erhardt a doggy treat.
Host Segment Two:

Joel tries to explain to the ‘Bots why it’s bad for a human to lose his head.

Host Segment Three:

Gypsy has an itch, but she’s not sure where. She uncoils herself all over the place while Joel and the ‘Bots scratch everything they can find.

Host Segment Four:

Joel tries to explain the ‘Bots why rogue body parts are scary.

Host Segment Five:

Joel hands out RAM chips to the ‘Bots if they can think of a good thing and a bad thing about the movie. This is the first time Gypsy mentions Richard Basehart on national television.

Thoughts:

This image is a spoiler.  Unfortunately, so is the movie's title.A few questions: what did the extraterrestrial eyes want with Anne? Who sent the fat guy with the stupid rock formation theory? Why does an exiled scientist with no credibility rate enough grant money to build himself a huge fortress/observatory? What’s with the guide who carries around his own head (I think) in a knapsack? And if Forrest Tucker doesn’t have the influence to have the U.N. investigate the decapitation shenanigans, then why does he have the authority to call in airstrikes over foreign soil on a moment’s notice, no questions asked?

Oh, and one more thing. I hate the movie rule that says that all of the unattached female characters have to be paired up with the unattached male characters by the end of the film, whether it’s been mentioned before or not.

Like much of the first season, the comments that Joel and the ‘Bots make during the film are witty, but unobtrusive. The strength of the episode lies mainly in the entertainment value of the movie itself, which is pretty entertaining. It moves from one point to the next, almost without stopping, and without bothering to fully explain the last point. It’s fairly nonsensical, but it’s much better than it would be if it stopped to action long enough to try and explain. It’s a good subject for the debut of the national cable series.