Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Black Scorpion (1957)


An undemanding but entertaining sci-fi / horror film

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Produced by Jack Dietz, Frank Melford

Written by Robert Blees, David Duncan
Music by Paul Sawtell
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Stop motion animation special effects: Willis O'Brien.
Edited by Richard L. Van Enger
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Running time: 88 minutes


Cast


Richard Denning as Dr. Hank Scott
Mara Corday as Teresa Alvarez
Carlos Rivas as Dr. Arturo Ramos
Mario Navarro as Juanito
Carlos Múzquiz as Dr. Velasco
Pascual García Peña as Dr. Delacruz
Pedro Galván as Father Delgado
Arturo Martínez as Major Cosio
Fanny Schiller as Florentina

The Black Scorpion is the kind of film that tends to grow on you the more you watch it. This low budget film delivers with whatever resources it has as its disposal. The end result is an enjoyable and entertaining 88 minutes of escapism.



Trailer


Spoiler Alert





The film opens with stock footage showing the explosive forces of volcanoes and scenes of destruction that nature has visited upon human life and property. The volcano shown was Paricutin which erupted in 1943 and was active for about a decade.





A narrator’s voice then informs us that, “For centuries, the prayers of Mexico's peasants have been their only shield against the devastating furies that have wrecked their homes and destroyed their lives. And so today, again they kneel, terrified and helpless, as a new volcano is created by the mysterious and rebellious forces of nature. The Earth has split a thousand times. Whole acres of rich farmlands have cracked and dropped from sight. And millions of tons of molten lava are roaring down the slopes, in a quake recorded on the seismograph of the University of Mexico as the most violent of modern times. To the benighted citizenry of this remote countryside, the most alarming aspect of the phenomenon is the fact that its unabated hourly growth is without precedence, having reached a towering height of nine thousand feet within a few days. And with each added foot, it spreads its evil onslaught into a wider circumference. But what is now most feared is that rescue work will be severely hampered by the hazardous inaccessibility of the terrain.”

Having established the savage mastery of Nature, an alternating series of black on white and white on black title and credits are then shown.

12 miles from the village of San Lorenzo a Jeep is being driven over volcanic terrain by an American Geologist, Dr. Hank Scott (played by our by now familiar and dependable stalwart actor, Richard denning) accompanied by Dr. Arturo Ramos, a Mexican Geologist. They soon encounter a couple of telephone linesmen working to repair the damaged telephone service. After asking for directions to San Lorenzo and enquiring if anyone has made it through, they are informed that a police car went through earlier but has not as yet returned.

A feeling of impending trouble is set up in the mind of the audience.

Close by to a farm house, a mysterious sound causes Arturo and Hank to stop driving. The Jeep’s radiator needs water, so they approach the farm house calling out to find out if anyone is there. They soon discover to their utter surprise a damaged and abandoned police car. Hank asks, “what could do this to a car out here?” We can only imagine that the something would be big, powerful and dangerous.






Arturo calls in the “accident” on the damaged patrol car 511’s radio and reports that “no one is here.” But why?

They suddenly hear a rattling sound which immediately sets us up to expect a rattlesnake. As the two men search for the source of the sound in the house, they come across a pot of beans still boiling on the stove. So whatever did happen, probably happened quickly and not that long ago!

Just as we have had one set of expectations set up for us, the two men come across a baby who is still alive. As we breathe a collective sigh of relief, Hank carries the baby back to the Jeep.






The tension is not long relieved when a sound draws Hank and Arturo toward a bush that conceals the body of the dead sergeant Vegas. What is especially shocking about the gruesome find is the look of sheer terror on the dead policeman’s face and that an inspection of his gun shows that “every cartridge has been fired.” Something so horrible has managed to leave an indelible post-mortem imprint of terror on a grown man’s face. That something had also caused the policeman to empty his gun at it without having been able to kill it. What exactly are we up against here?

When Hank and Arturo arrive in San Lorenzo they are greeted by a cacophonous din emanating from a panicked crowd of terrified peasants. Hank calls out amidst the uproar, “We're from Mexico City! I say, we're from Mexico City! We're scientists! Is the mayor here?” His bellowed query is at last answered by the presence not of civil authority but more importantly in the eyes of the rural Mexicans, by religious and spiritual authority in the form of the local Priest, Father Delgado.

Hank hands the baby over to the priest while a local woman identifies him as Manuel Tiburcio, whose parents are missing and are presumed dead. The woman takes the baby after declaring that there is a “demon killing us one by one.”

Later during a meal, Father Delgado explains that the deaths began the first Sunday after the eruption of the volcano. In accordance with his science-based view of the world, Arturo declares that there must be some “simple logical cause.” Delgado goes on to explain about the superstition of the huge "demon bull" by saying that it is a “symbol of evil among many ancient civilizations." The men from the Mira Flores Ranch brought the demon bull story with them having abandoned the place two days ago.

The next morning. Major Cosio asks Hank and Arturo not to embark on their “unnecessary expedition.” Regardless, they set off on their mission to the volcano, informing Cosio that they intend to return to San Lorenzo that evening.

When the two men later stop to get their bearings and plan their next moves, Hank suddenly spots a woman riding a white horse. When Arturo peers through the binoculars all he sees is a horse, as the rider has just fallen off her steed. Now why on earth would a lady be riding a horse so close to an active volcano? In keeping with many films of this kind from that era, she’s bound to become part of some love interest feature of this film. I guess we’re going to expect her character to follow the usual stereotypical female role? We’ll see…






Hank and Arturo drive off to find her and discover that she is unharmed and that she is Teresa Alvarez (played by beautiful actress, Mara Corday), owner of the Mira Flores Ranch. As Arturo goes to retrieve her saddle, he notices a piece of obsidian which he picks up and takes back to the waiting Hank and Teresa. We know that this cooled piece of lava is probably important and will feature later in the story. The two geologists are now to make Mira Flores their base camp.

Back in San Lorenzo Hank and Arturo are summoned to see the Major and Dr. de la Cruz. De la Cruz’s findings suggest that the dead policemen’s subcutaneous cells have “run rampant” and that an “organic poison” is involved. There is the presence of a wound but no blood. There is also the presence of bacteria. Even more intriguing is the evidence of strange footprints of which casts have been made. Further investigations will need to be made using more sophisticated equipment.

Hank Scott: One question, doctor...
Dr.De la Cruz: I hope I can answer it.
Hank Scott: Well, the alcohol, the distilled water, the salt solution - I can understand that, but what's the tequila for?
Dr.De la Cruz: Well, in your country I believe they call it a coffee break!
All: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! 



Oh, Puncho! Oh, Cisko! We are so funny!





With the sullen volcano brooding ominously in the background, Arturo, Hank and Teresa drive to Mira Flores. At the ranch, one of the ranch hands comments that the “cattle knows there’s something evil in the wind.” After being introduced to the young Juanito and a bit of romantic verbal ping pong between Hank and Teresa, our attention is drawn back to the strange obsidian rock Arturo picked up earlier. Inside the obsidian is a trapped scorpion. When Arturo breaks it open, a micro-cosmic foreshadowing of later events emerges in the form of a live scorpion. But how could this be?

In a remarkable piece of irony, Hank places the scorpion in a jar while Arturo goes off to fetch a magnifying glass “to watch this little monster.” If only they knew!






As if on cue, the next event is heralded by the ringing of the telephone. The lineman has rung to inform Teresa that her phone line was the last to be fixed and he is testing the line. Suddenly his fellow linesman on the ground is confronted by a huge scorpion possessing an almost human-like face with a countenance full of evil intent dribbling a saliva-like substance from its mouth. The effect is enhanced by the camera zooming in for a close-up shot.




One can imagine special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen nodding his head in approval as one of Willis O'Brien’s creations snatches up the man and carries him off under a bridge.




See the fluid motion of the creature together with the clever camera work as it tracks the scorpion effortlessly flipping the truck over and killing the linesman. The giant scorpion then chases the other lineman back up the pole, plucks him off, and kills him.

Panic soon ensues with yet another volcanic eruption as the scorpion launches an attack on Mira Flores. Peasants and cattle stampede. We have a shot of one woman falling and almost being trampled to death until one man stops to pick her up and rescues her from certain death. Therein lies that one hope for humanity: a single act of selflessness and kindness - commodities that are all too often in short supply.

By the next day, the occupants of Mira Flores have evacuated to the city of San Lorenzo. Surveying the scene of human desperation, Father Delgado comments, “This is all that remains.”

Hank, Arturo and Teresa encounter Dr. Velazco who has just arrived. He has managed to identify the poison “as that of a scorpion.” This creature that has come from the “bowels of the earth” is known from fossils. It is also known to;

  • come out at night 
  • be slow and lethargic 
Dr. Velazco proposes the use of poison gas as a weapon to combat this newly discovered species: Scorpionida Rex.

At this point of deciding who’s going to do what, the then natural inclination would have been to shield the female from all possible danger and let the guys go off and do manly stuff. Well, Ms Alvarez will have none of it. In fact, Dr. Velazco admits to her, “I think you have found yourself a job.” Still, she did feel as though she had to ask their permission! I guess you don’t get anywhere in life unless you persist and keep asking and insisting.

A search for the scorpions’ lair is conducted involving ranch hands and the army when suddenly one of the horsemen, Mendoza, falls into a crevasse at the site of the volcano. The depth of the crevasse can be gauged by the fact that when a stone is cast down into it, no sound of impact can be heard.

Hank and Arturo decide to descend into the dark doom-laden depths of the demon’s abode. Before doing so, they discover that intrepid Juanito has stowed away on the trailer. Equipped with climbing paraphernalia and protective clothing, the two geologists enter a metal cage and are slowly lowered down into the abyss.

Midway down they are greeted by a large and rather irate scorpion lurking on a ledge. After Hank takes its picture they continue their descent. These days he would have taken a selfie with the scorpion and tried to collect as many Pokémons as he could on the way down!






At the end of their descent, they find themselves in a “huge cavern.” Hank and Arturo are at this point unaware that the pesky kid, Juanito has secreted himself behind the gas bottles in the cage. A perfect recipe for up-coming trouble!

The two geologists photograph a huge inchworm that they estimate is at least “30 feet long” and then stumble across the remains of the clumsy and unfortunate Mendoza who had earlier fallen in.






As our erstwhile little trooper, Juanito ventures forth to explore on his own, a battle royal erupts between the giant inchworm and some large scorpions. Eventually the largest scorpion which is “the granddaddy of them all” emerges victorious to claim the Andre the Giant trophy.







What has not gone unnoticed is the fact that the scorpions are able to kill each other by puncturing the weak spot in the throat and injecting their venom there. As Hank observes, “That's how they kill each other - that weak spot in the throat!”





Meanwhile, our little gnat, Juanito decides to tug at a trap door and is then chased by a thoroughly incensed giant spider for his troubles. Fortunately for him, Hank and Arturo are able to kill it by blasting it with their rifles.

The trapdoor spider and the giant worm were original models or props from the original King Kong (1933). In addition, the sounds of the scorpions are the same sounds that were used by the ants in Them! (1954)

In his defence, Juanito tells the two men, “I came to help you.” Before they can say to him, “We’ll give you I came to help you,” the three are overcome by an urgent need to dash back to the cage with alacrity. Unfortunately, they find that the scorpion has arrived there first and is expressing its dislike of the aesthetic qualities of the recent addition to its cavern’s decor.




With the cage now detached from the line, Arturo in a tension-filled long moment hangs on to the line as it is being pulled up. He eventually makes it safely back to the surface. The process is repeated for Hank and Juanito but this time with the aid of a loop on the cable. After they are pulled to the surface, Velazco orders the opening to be sealed with explosives.

Later on, Velazco in Mexico City calls Hank in San Lorenzo and orders him and Arturo to Mexico City to complete their report. It is believed that it would be better if Hank “assumes that the danger is completely over.” Why it is thought that subterfuge is needed to be resorted to I’m not sure. Hank and Arturo are professionals and could have had the urgency of the real situation explained to them.






After Hank and Arturo, together with Teresa arrive in Mexico City, they are taken to the University to meet with Dr. Velazco. Recent aerial photographs of the San Lorenzo area showed the presence of a giant scorpion. Together with the possible survival of giant scorpions, there is also an underground system of caves and caverns that could be made use of by the scorpions. One branch of the cave system sits uncomfortably close to Mexico City, a city of 4 million people. In time-honoured sci-fi film (and all too often real-world) fashion, it is felt that secrecy is needed to be maintained as the resulting panic could prove to be worse than the scorpions.





While Hank and Teresa have a drink at a night club and plan dinner, Teresa declares that they “won’t have a worry in the world.” The irony of this remark comes crashing down when in the next scene a train from Monterrey to Mexico City is attacked by the scorpions and is derailed.




Bulletin Announcement
(excerpt)

“…express train from Monterrey has been derailed……
129 persons killed……. Giant scorpion headed toward Mexico City
…. City is under martial law!”




The largest scorpion, the Black Scorpion, has arrived at the train wreck site and kills some of the other smaller ones. Meanwhile Mexico City is ordered evacuated.

Enter the might of the 1950s Mexican military! Yes, we saw their air force of about three P51s take on Kronos in the movie of the same name and…. Oh, yes…never mind!

A plan is hatched is to lure the scorpion  into an arena 
using steer carcass meat, then shoot it with a projectile that will be used to electrocute the creature with 600,000 volts. 




When the scorpion arrives at the stadium, a pretty impressive battle takes place with the military utilising tanks and helicopters to attack the creature. The first shot of the projectile misses. An unintentionally funny moment occurs when a soldier is retrieving the projectile and declares, “I won’t miss this time” only to be accidentally electrocuted himself! Ouch!




The second shot, however, is successful and the electricity is applied. The scorpion finally lies dead on the ground of the stadium and we end with a long shot of the dead scorpion.

End Note


Willis O'Brien was the creator of the stop-motion effects for the original King Kong. Back in 1933, as a young boy, Ray Harryhausen would have gone to see the film King Kong with his parents and would have marvelled and been inspired by the magic spun on the screen by Willis O’Brien. The Black Scorpion was the final film for which Willis H. O'Brien designed special effects.


Scorpions Fact File

Black Scorpion

(CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79273)


There are about 1500 - 2000 known species of scorpions world-wide. They are most often thought to be desert creatures, but scorpions can also be found in quite cool and wet regions such as in the forests of Brazil, in British Columbia, in North Carolina, and even the Himalayas.

Scorpions;

  • Belong to the arachnid group which are invertebrates with four pairs of legs and two body parts. 
  • Are part of a group of creatures that includes spiders, ticks and mites. 
  • Possess a large pair of pincers and a tail with a venomous sting on the tip. 
  • Have been around for some 450 million years. 
  • Are largely nocturnal in their activity. 
  • Digest their food externally. 
  • Mate by performing a mating dance during which the male deposits a packet of sperm on the ground before guiding the female over it to be picked up. 
  • Give birth to live young that spend their early life on the back of the mother. 
  • Spend most of their lives resting under rocks, pieces of wood, or in burrows. 
  • Expend very little energy. 
  • Typically eat insects. 
  • Can slow their metabolism, use little oxygen and live on as little as a single insect per year! 
  • Require soil to thrive being burrowing creatures. 
  • Are resilient: Specimens have even been frozen overnight, placed in the sun the next day to thaw out and then have simply scuttled off unscathed!
People fear scorpions because of the sting on their tail and their venom. Several thousand people do die each year from scorpion stings, mostly from species in northern Africa, the Middle East, India, Mexico and some parts of South America. Only 30 or 40 out of the 1500 – 2000 species of scorpion have venom strong enough to kill a person.


There are no giant scorpions.




……as far as we know!




©Chris Christopoulos 2016

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)


An entertaining sci-fi movie despite the low budget and ordinary special effects


The Amazing Colossal Man, an adaptation of the 1928 Homer Eon Flint short novel, The Nth Man, is a 1957 science fiction film, directed by Bert I. Gordon and starring Glenn Langan. The film involves a man who grows to over 60 feet tall due to an atomic explosion.


Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Written by Mark Hanna (screenplay); Bert I. Gordon (screenplay) & George Worthing Yates
Produced by Bert I. Gordon (producer); Samuel Z. Arkoff (executive producer); James H. Nicholson (executive producer)
Music by Albert Glasser
Cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc
Film Editing by Ronald Sinclair
Released by American International Pictures



Cast



Glenn Langan: Lt. Col. Glenn Manning
Cathy Downs: Carol Forrest
William Hudson: Dr. Paul Linstrom
Larry Thor: Maj. Eric Coulter, MD
James Seay: Col. Hallock
Frank Jenks: Truck Driver
Russ Bender: Richard Kingman
Hank Patterson: Henry
Jimmy Cross: Sergeant at reception desk
June Jocelyn: Nurse Wilson
Stanley Lachman: Lt. Cline
Harry Raybould: MP at Main Gate
Jean Moorhead: Woman in Bathtub
Scott Peters: Sgt. Lee Carter
Myron Cook: Capt. Thomas
Michael Harris: Police Lt. Keller
Bill Cassady: Lt. Peterson
Dick Nelson: Sgt. Hansen
Edmund Cobb: Dr. McDermott
Paul Hahn: Attendant
Diana Darrin : Hospital Receptionist
Lyn Osborn Sgt. Taylor
Jack Kosslyn: Lieutenant in briefing room
William Hughes: Bombsite Control Officer
Keith Hetherington: Newscaster
John Daheim: Soldier
Judd Holdren: Robert Allen
Harold Miller: Official





Trailer



“ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL! ……. PLUTONIUM EXPLOSION WILL TAKE PLACE AT TIME ZERO!” 

Time: 2.45 am
Place: Desert Rock Nevada
Event: Test of a new plutonium bomb
Purpose: Soldiers to experience an explosion “under simulated combat conditions.”

Spoilers follow below......




When the “chain reaction cycle did not complete as expected” Lt. Col. Glenn Manning is ordered to keep his men secure in the protective trench, as the bomb will still explode but its timing is unknown.

Suddenly a “light civilian plane” is spotted flying over the “restricted area” and it “appears to be in trouble.” With its spluttering engine in its final death throes, the little plane crash-lands near the bomb test site.






Despite the fact that the “bomb could go off at any second,” Glenn’s main concern is that “there’s a man in that plane.” Contrary to orders, Glenn leaps from the trench in a desperate bid to rescue the pilot. Once he enters the detonation area, the bomb goes off, and Glenn is caught in an atomic blast that bathes him in deadly radiation.

How ironic that an act of bravery is performed to save a life only to be seared and extinguished by an evil cataclysmic act of destruction! 


“Things like this just happen. There doesn’t have to be a reason.”







Barely clinging on to life with “third degree burns over almost 100% of his body,” Glenn Manning is treated by specialist, Dr. Paul Linstrom and military scientist, Dr. Eric Coulter at the base hospital. Glenn's fiancée, Carol Forrest waits anxiously while for the medical personnel behind the scenes, all indications seem to point to the likelihood that Glenn will not survive”:

“What kind of chance do you give a man who hasn’t a square inch of skin left on his body” and who “by all the rules…should be dead?”


God’s will? 
Will of the gods? 
Fate? 
Predestination? 
Chance? 
Coincidence? 
Karma? 
God knows!




The next morning, a nurse discovers something unusual concerning Glenn’s condition. When Linstrom and Coulter are called in to see, they are gob-smacked when confronted by the sight of Glenn's miraculously healed burns.



Questions arise:


How did Manning manage to survive the explosion?
How to explain the presence of new skin and the absence of scarring?

Speculation:

“Plutonium may have some unknown quality that was responsible.”

Application:

Perhaps the process Manning went through could hold the key to some kind of “regenerative healing capacity.”

Certainty:

“Something out there is beyond the limits of our knowledge.”


Conclusion



Consequences

By science the secret power of the gods is released 
And wielded by mere mortals with madness unleashed; 
While some look up in hope for future promise yet unknown, 
A deep despair descends with what they’re yet to be shown.


The oafish fist of officialdom crashes down upon Carol Forrest when minion security officer Lt. Cline informs her that she is prohibited from seeing Glenn again - for what else? “Security reasons!” And of course there is the good old Nuremburg-style defence: “I’m only carrying out orders.” Two statements that have done the most to rob great swathes of humanity of life and liberty throughout history!

Undeterred, Carol ventures to the hospital where instead of finding her husband, she discovers an empty room. Upon enquiring as to the whereabouts of her husband, Carol is told, “Sorry miss, I’ve never heard of a colonel Manning.”

At the reception desk Carol is met with yet another obstacle when she is informed that “There’s no Colonel Manning listed here.” Only by taking a peek at the register of names does she learn that her fiancé has been moved to another facility: the army “Nevada Rehabilitation and Research Centre” in Summit, Nevada.

“Washington gave strictest orders to keep the affair quiet.” 

The thickly layered cake of lies receives another tier of deception when Forrest drives out to the research centre and is met at the gate by a military guard who informs her that there haven’t been any patients there “since the war ended.” Carol is eventually admitted entry, and is soon informed by the desk sergeant that there is “no colonel Manning registered here.”

Wisely trusting no-one, least of all official denials, Carol ventures further into the facility and overhears Linstrom and Coulter discussing Glenn's condition. She learns that he has been breathing rapidly and has been “unconscious since the accident.” Carol then lets herself into Glenn's darkened room and faints in horror when confronted by the sight of a giant recumbent version of her fiancé.


HEIGHT: 18 FEET

Linstrom informs Carol that Manning’s condition may be the result of his being exposed to the plutonium blast which has caused his old cells to stop dying and his new cells to continue to multiply at an accelerated rate while replacing the damaged cells. With the process being out of balance and the “old cells refusing to die,” Manning will “continue to grow until he dies” at a rate of 8 feet per day!

Perchance to dream




In one of the most poignant scenes of the film, we enter into Glenn’s dreams as he sleeps. We see him with Carol having a picnic at a time when the Korean War has just begun. Carol says to Glenn “there’s no reason for you to volunteer.” Try telling that to a man who feels that he knows his duty and is not afraid to stick his neck out and plunge himself into the very maw of danger when the situation demands it of him.





The dream moves on to a battle during the war when a then Lieutenant Manning survived enemy fire whereas two of his comrades were killed. It was as if they were sacrificing their own lives so that he may live! Imagine the guilt and self-blame festering within Manning as his subconscious tries to resolve the unanswerable question of why he should survive while his fellow soldiers should die?

Had events and circumstances somehow conspired to lead Manning toward the very predicament he now finds himself in?

HEIGHT: 22 FEET

Glenn awakens after dreaming about the night he was injured in the plutonium blast. The realisation of what has happened to him gradually grows as he begins to discover the doll-house dimensions of the world he now inhabits. Shock and terror then find expression in a primal scream.






Even the comforting support of a good woman like Carol cannot break through the cumulous clouds of Manning’s despondency and cynicism. In response to Carol’s optimistic belief that “they’ll be able to help you,” all Manning can ask is;

“What sin could a man commit in a single life-time to bring this on himself?”

So philosophers, priests, therapists and counsellors, what say you all?


God’s will? 
Will of the gods? 
Fate? 
Predestination? 
Chance? 
Coincidence? 
Karma? 
God knows! 

HEIGHT: 30 FEET

What is even harder to find an answer to is the truth! The government and the military have kept the truth of Manning’s condition from the media and the public.

One way of doing so is to make the truth itself appear to be so unbelievable and outlandish that it is easily discounted and not given any credence. Take for instance the 25 sides of beef that was delivered to the Research Centre. When the driver asks what it is for, the guard tells him, “It’s for him. The giant. The 30 foot one we’ve got living here.”



NEWS BULLETIN (excerpt) 

H WELLS presenter 

What happened to Colonel Manning? “To all accounts he should have died. What’s all the mystery for Washington?” 



WEIGHT: 2987 POUNDS







As if to emphasize Manning’s predicament, Linstrom orders him moved to a tent as he has outgrown his room. It is as if he has now become some kind of circus freak sideshow performer or exhibit.

Linstrom later makes an almost callous-sounding but also rather idiotic comment that Manning “should be confined!” How can one confine something that is continually growing?

His rather insensitive nature reveals itself when he keeps insisting that Carol shouldn’t remain close to her fiancé. How could anyone expect a good woman like her to agree? She points out to Linstrom that Glenn is “all alone except for me.”

She understands that there is nothing in the world that is more difficult for a single individual than to bear the burden of a personal tragedy in total isolation without the support of friends and family.




Linstrom also reveals to Carol that Glenn's heart is growing at only half the rate of his body and soon will be unable to support his enormous size with the result that he will die in a matter of days: “All parts are enlarging at the same ratio, except the heart.” According to Linstrom, Glenn’s mind will go first and then “his heart will literally explode.”

All Carol can do is ask that age-old unanswerable question:



WHY? WHY DOES IT HAVE TO HAPPEN? 


Linstrom can only reply with, “I wish I knew.”


God’s will? 
Will of the gods? 
Fate? 
Predestination? 
Chance? 
Coincidence? 
Karma?
God knows! 

We wish we knew…




When a sergeant brings Manning his dinner in the tent which is now his home, Manning’s mental and physical deterioration is now quite evident. Looking at the miniature newspaper headline, he asks, “They call this living?” before succumbing to a fit of coughing that suggests that all is not well with him.






The petrified and hapless sergeant desperately wants to be anywhere else but in the presence of this giant but he finds himself nailed to the spot by his orders and the force of that overpowering physical presence. Manning’s comments are directed at both the sergeant and the rest of humanity:

“Why don’t you ask me how it feels to be so big? .... That’s right sergeant, I am a circus freak...I think you’re the freak! … I’m not growing– you’re shrinking!”

Manning then succumbs to a paroxysm of coughing and clutches his chest in pain.






Later while talking with Carol, Glenn reveals just how bitter and angry he has become. He sees himself as being a monster and declares that the beating of his heart “keeps getting louder and louder.” Glenn goes on to recall his yearbook entry in which it was stated with almost cruel irony that he was considered to be “a man most likely to reach the top.” Before storming off, Glenn loudly shouts out an appeal to all creation:


“I DON’T WANT TO GROW ANYMORE!”

In a world we have made for ourselves all of us have from time to time wished we could just yell out for things to stop – to stop moving so fast; to stop becoming so complicated; to stop changing so much; to stop growing bigger and bigger beyond our individual power to control.







Even Carol’s optimism and support is not strong enough to sustain Glenn. Back in his tent when Carol informs him that she is hopeful concerning the experiments that have been performed on animals, all Glenn can think of doing is wish for death to release him “from this curse.” According to him, he is just “a lost cause.” Even Carol’s appeal to him that she could never leave him “at a time like this” is met with an angry retort:



"GET OUT! LEAVE ME ALONE!" 

An individual suddenly has a problem foisted on him; a problem of such magnitude that it becomes too much for one person to deal with. Self-blame, frustration, anger, depression and despondency are all that seem to be left to deal with things. All thoughts are turned inward and become warped while pessimism and negativity are magnified and in fact almost define that individual’s entire universe as the individual becomes further alienated from everything and everyone else around them….



Can this only happen to a fictional film giant? 

The following morning Coulter reports to Linstrom that he may have found a solution to Manning’s growth: “…I’ve got the answer! … The answer is in the bone marrow!” In order to correct the body’s regenerative balance, they will need to “inject sulphur-hydro compounds into the bone marrow” together with high frequency stimulation of the pituitary gland to reduce Manning’s size. Hey, it’s scientific crap that sounds good, OK?

Height: 50 – 55 Feet 



“Sooner or later someone’s bound to see him” 

(ya’ think?!) 


In the meantime, a bigger problem has arisen with the disappearance of Glenn Manning. A 10-mile-wide search for Manning is soon organized involving helicopters, “Charlie Dog” & “William X-Ray” circling Boulder Dam and Las Vegas. The search fails to find any trace of the by now over 50-foot-tall giant Glenn.

Glenn has now been missing for 15 hours and there is mounting concern that his condition may be affecting his mind. A special syringe filled with a serum from Glenn's bone marrow has been created. It is hoped that it will stop his growth.



"Do you consider Manning dangerous?"

While considering the danger that Manning may pose, Carol states her belief that, “It’s not a wild beast you’re talking about. He’s a human being!” By contrast, Linstrom believes that Glenn should have been confined with chains and a fence. He tries once again to insist that Carol leaves: “Can’t you see the futility of the situation?” Carol tells Linstrom point blank, “I’m not leaving until I know.”


HEIGHT: 60 FEET
WEIGHT: 18.000 POUNDS



NEWS BULLETIN (excerpt) 


H WELLS presenter 

“Flying saucers of earth have a competitor….Two motorists almost collided with a 60 foot giant! ...” What have you got to top that one?” 

Not finding the giant and working out “what to do with him after he’s found” are problems that have to be dealt with. It isn’t surprising that recourse to a military option is soon settled on. The next morning Colonel Hallock armed with a pointer and a map outlines the operation to locate Manning with the customary “here, here and here” references. The assumption is that “the giant is potentially dangerous” and once he is located the troops are to “stay away from him.”




Lindstrom Carol and Coulter are in one of the helicopters searching for Manning. They have on board an outlandishly large syringe with which to inject the serum into Manning.





Manning is eventually spotted just outside of Las Vegas. He casually proceeds to wander along the Strip stopping off the Dunes Hotel; the Riviera; the Imperial Palace; the Silver Slipper (where he rips off a giant rotating high heel shoe marquee)......





........the Tropicana (where the police against orders open fire on him with their rifles.) Here Glenn retaliates by pulling up a palm tree and hurling it at the crowd.





Next stop is at the Sands where he picks up a convertible car and throws it, just before he smashes the sign. Lastly, Glenn breaks up the Pioneer Club Vegas Vic cowboy sign and throws pieces of it at the police. 





Manning leaves Vegas and makes his way towards Boulder Dam. Lindstrom’s helicopter manages to land close to Manning and they prepare to give Manning his injection. By this stage it is apparent that his mind has gone.





Linstrom and Coulter grab hold of the syringe and drive the needle into Manning's ankle. Manning pulls out the syringe, and spears Major Coulter through the body with it.




Manning then reaches down and picks up Carol and walks to Boulder Dam. Lindstrom pleads over his megaphone with Manning to put Carol down. As soon as he does so, he is struck with a barrage of gunfire followed by a bazooka blast. Manning falls off the top of the dam into the Colorado River to what seems to be his death.





Points of Interest




The Amazing Colossal Man unfortunately contains quite poorly-crafted and unconvincing special effects even for the time at which it was made. The giant manning character was just projected onto other film and superimposed with the result that he often looks transparent. On the other hand, the effect of the giant hypodermic needle impaling the major looked quite realistic, brutal and hilarious at the same time!

Another disappointing feature of the film was its very abrupt ending which may have been a result of its low budget or a deficit of ideas?

The strength of the film is centred around Colonel Glenn Manning's dilemma, the irony of which is never lost on him or the audience. His situation is almost a metaphor for much of the human condition when faced with the kinds of suffering that life has to throw at us.

The most powerful scene of The Amazing Colossal Man is the one in which the colonel wakes up from his coma for the first time after the plutonium bomb explosion accident. Alone in a dark room in the early hours of the morning, he gradually comes to realize that something is terribly wrong. As the scene fades to black, Manning wails uncontrollably into the darkness of the hell into which he has descended. His reaction is sudden, convincing and emotionally affecting. We cannot help but feel sympathy for this outcast who has now become a menace to society.











©Chris Christopoulos 2016