Thursday, 21 September 2017

Teenage Monster (1958)

Is it a Western?
Is it a Horror?
Is it a Sci-fi?
It’s a monster case of Teenage angst!

Directed by Jacques R. Marquette
Produced by Jacques R. Marquette, Dale Tate
Written by Ray Buffum
Music by Walter Greene
Cinematography: Taylor Byars
Edited by Irving M. Schoenberg
Distributed by Marquette Productions Limited
Running time: 65 minutes
Budget: $57,000 (approx.)


Anne Gwynne: Ruth Cannon
Stuart Wade: Sheriff Bob Lehman
Gloria Castillo: Kathy North
Chuck Courtney: Marv Howell
Gil Perkins: Charles Cannon
Norman Leavitt: Deputy Ed
Gabe Mooradian: Fred Fox
Stephen Parker: Charles Cannon as a Boy
Jim McCullough Sr: Jim Cannon
Frank Davis: Man on Street
Arthur Berkeley: Man with Burro

In 1880 in a small town in the American southwest, a young boy is exposed to the rays from a meteor and becomes a grotesque teenage killer monster who is hidden from a hostile world by his mother.


Read on for more....

It is 1880, not far from a small town in the American southwest where we find a frustrated Jim Cannon, together with his wife Ruth and young son Charlie hoping to find gold in an abandoned mine. Times are tough for the Cannon family and it’s beginning to show. 

One day while Charlie goes to help his father at the mine, a strange object falls from the heavens, killing Jim and badly injuring Charlie. 

Under his mother’s care, Charlie has grown into a teenager, but with a little child’s intellect and hideously deformed physical features due to his exposure to the object’s rays that fateful day seven years previously. 

Ruth has managed to keep Charlie's existence a secret from the local townspeople, but this proves to be difficult as he often runs away. In fact, Charlie has unintentionally killed sheep and cattle in his attempts to play with them.

One day, Charlie defies his mother’s instructions, escapes his confinement in a cave and manages to kill a man when he refuses to allow Charlie to pet his burro. Upon returning to the cave, Ruth admonishes him for running away and uses fear to reinforce this by reminding him that if he is ever caught, he will be taken away from her.

Later on, after the long-awaited discovery of a rich gold vein in the mine, Ruth goes into town with an ore sample to have it evaluated by the assayer, Fred Fox.

While the ore sample is being appraised, Ruth dines with sheriff Bob, who has long held hopes that Ruth will move into town and accept his offer of marriage. Suddenly, Bob's deputy, Ed rushes in to report that a dead man has been found outside of town. When Ed mentions that this killing is similar to an unsolved murder that occurred the year before, Ruth quickly puts two and two together and comes up with her son, Charlie as being the culprit.

Ruth soon learns that the mine strike is successful and genuine. She then decides to negotiate a deal to buy Fox's house at the edge of town, hoping that this will be a positive environment for Charlie. 

Weeks later, Ruth goes on a date with Bob, which will mean that Charlie will have to be left alone. Feeling resentful about this, Charlie throws a tantrum and defiantly decides to venture outside where he attacks a neighbour and terrifies some children. If that was not enough, Charlie proceeds to kidnap a waitress by the name of Kathy North and takes her back to the house.

In town, news of a new murder reaches Ruth’s ears, along with stories and descriptions of a monster at large roaming around the area.

When Ruth returns home, she finds Kathy passed out in the closet where Charlie has hidden her. After reviving Kathy, Ruth admits to her that Charlie is her son and offers to pay Kathy $500 a month to remain silent about him. Ruth also suggests that Kathy become her companion which would help to explain how Ruth could be in possession of so much money.

A few days later, Kathy meets her boyfriend, Marv Howell, who is obviously only intent on using her to obtain money. When he discovers the $500 in Kathy's purse, he assumes that she has stolen it. He then threatens to expose her and takes the money. 

Kathy returns to the house and manipulates Charlie into agreeing to kill Marv for what he did. After committing the deed, Charlie returns home to find Bob kissing Ruth goodnight. Overcome with rage and jealousy, Charlie attacks Bob from behind. After Bob recovers, Ruth passes off Bob’s assailant as being the same creature that the children had earlier described. 

Later, Ruth confronts Kathy who freely admits to convincing Charlie to kill Marv. Kathy, sensing her growing power, threatens to blackmail Ruth for even more money to keep silent about Charlie. Despite the shifting balance of power, Ruth refuses to sign a note promising to pay Kathy $20,000.

After Bob and Ed discover Marv's body, they decide to question Kathy but she feigns ignorance of the matter. Kathy then asks Bob to serve as witness to signing the $20,000 promissory note.

While overhearing Bob once again proposing to Ruth, Kathy works on Charlie’s jealousy and anger by convincing him that Ruth wants to abandon him.

From this point, a series of events forces Charlie into a maelstrom of confusion. First, he overhears Kathy’s disdain for Ruth’s self-sacrifice concerning her son. Next, when Charlie follows Bob and Ruth to the barn, he overhears Ruth turning down Bob's proposal on account of her having other obligations. Finally, Kathy goads Charlie into attacking Bob and Ruth but this only enrages Charlie and he then seizes Kathy and drags her away. 

Soon after, Bob, Ruth and Ed follow Charlie up a steep mountain where Kathy is about to pay the ultimate price for callously using Charlie against his own mother. Charlie hurls Kathy off a cliff as the others watch in horror. Despite a mother's plea to save her son, Bob shoots Charlie, who then plummets to his death.

Points of Interest

Teenage Monster was shot under the title, "Meteor Monster" which was changed to Teenage Monster to cash in on the success of monster movies containing the word "teenage" in their title. When released to television, the title was changed back to Meteor Monster.

The film was made as a cheap half of a double feature with The Brain from Planet Arous (1957).

Cinematographer Jacques R. Marquette kept production costs low by shooting the picture himself and hiring an inexpensive director who actually wound up quitting the day before principal photography was to begin, claiming that he had been offered a 14-week contract by a major studio. Marquette’s solution to this development was take over the job himself, making this his only film as director. The job of cinematographer was given to a new cameraman whose first job was on this film!

The new director of photography was inexperienced in shooting “day for night,” and so the entire first day's "day for night" shooting had to be scrapped because an acceptable image could not be printed from the resulting underexposed camera negative.

Anne Gwynne

Anne Gwynne who plays Charlie’s mother, Ruth Cannon was a former 1940s Universal star and she featured in such movies as Black Friday (1940), Weird Woman (1944), and House of Frankenstein (1944). Her opinion of Teenage Monster (her final film) was that she thought it was the worst thing she ever did and that it led to the end of her movie-making career.

Charlie was played by stuntman Gil Perkins who was over fifty years of age at the time and was a former “Wolf Man” and “Frankenstein” monster double from the Universal horror classics of the 1940s.

Gloria Castillo who we saw in Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) probably gave the best performance in the film as the scheming and ruthless waitress. She wound up being more of a “Teenage Monster” than was Charlie! 

The low standard of the film’s special effects and make-up department can best be gauged from the appearance of the 'meteor' being little more than a lit sparkler held close to the camera. Then there’s Charlie’s hairdo and bad teeth! Need I say any more?

The film’s most important feature is its portrayal of what teenagers often find themselves dealing with: unfamiliar and complex feelings and emotions; inappropriate and destructive ways of dealing with problems such as lashing out at those around them; exploring relationships with the opposite sex; holding naïve notions of Love; feelings of betrayal, etc., 

Teenage Mutant Monster 
Times were tough when you were just a kid, 
And no matter what your father said or did, 
Your mother was there to make things right 
And pierce the darkness with her light. 

Lucky strike dreams kept nightmares at bay 
Until death descended and to your dismay 
You waved goodbye to unhappy childhood 
And took up a path much misunderstood. 

While Tree of Life sheds days like leaves of Fall 
You become so strong and grown so tall, 
Yet still just a child but not quite an adult, 
But what you’ve become, it’s not all your fault. 

You cannot live in a world that shuns difference 
And recoils in horror from your appearance, 
Nor can you comprehend the world’s cruel taunts 
With a mangled mind that knows not what it wants. 

Why is that you manage to destroy 
That which you only wish to enjoy? 
What are these rushes of rage and frustration 
Each an uncontrollable and terrible sensation? 

You act as if to confirm prevalent perceptions 
Of you and your kind’s apparent aberrations; 
Solutions are sought to keep you out of the way: 
A cramped, cribbed and confined castaway. 

Resentment rises and roars out disobedience; 
Impulse impels you to seek out experience, 
To be caught in the seductive embrace of temptation 
That she-monster of deception and self-destruction. 

Jealousy reigns not knowing who or what to believe, 
Lately learning those you know and love may deceive, 
Worsened by a love that excuses all that you’ve committed 
Of crimes for which you have no right to be acquitted. 

“There atop a cliff, I the precipice await
You Monster, pushed there by many hands of Fate, 
Guided by your own footsteps toward the abyss, 
To put an end to your internal apocalypse.”

©Chris Christopoulos 2017

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