Friday, 23 August 2019

The Hideous Sun Demon (1959)

A watchable, well-paced and imaginative low budget sci fi effort with an uninspiring script and questionable acting performances

Directed by Tom Boutross, Robert Clarke

Produced by Robert Clarke
Written by Robert Clarke, Phil Hiner, Doane R. Hoag, E.S. Seeley Jr.
Music by John Seely
Cinematography: Stan Follis, Vilis Lapenieks, John Arthur Morrill
Edited by Tom Boutross
Distributed by Pacific International Enterprises
Running time: 74 minutes
Budget: $50,000


Robert Clarke as Dr. Gilbert McKenna / The Sun Demon
Patricia Manning as Ann Russell
Nan Peterson as Trudy Osborne
Patrick Whyte as Dr. Frederick Buckell
Fred La Porta as Dr. Jacon Hoffman
Peter Similuk as George Messorio
Bill Hampton as Police Lt. Peterson
Robert Garry as Dr. Stern
Donna King as Suzy's Mother
Xandra Conkling as Suzy
Del Courtney as Radio DJ


Spoilers follow below…..

Delivered By 

Reverend Leber Tolver 

[Outside a large tent, a tempest lashes, whips and whacks at the canvas as if desperately seeking to get at its occupants. Inside the tent a kind of tempest has been stirred up by a traveling preacher, as he manages to get at the occupants by lashing, whipping and whacking at the congregation with the word of the Almighty!]

“….And so, my brothers and sisters, our consideration of the kind of evil and darkness that can lurk deep within the hearts of each and everyone of us makes it necessary for me to relate to you a trans-formative event from one man’s life that occurred ten years ago and which eventually led me on the path to spreading the Lord’s good word.”

[The “reverend” waves a copy of the Holy Bible through the thick sultry, sweaty, stifling air of the big tent’s interior, while the index finger of his other hand describes a wide arch in front of him as if shooting invisible accusatory beams of divine power at the congregation.]

“This anecdote will serve as a kind of metaphor for the sort of battle we all find ourselves engaged in: a battle between good and evil; a battle for our very souls; a battle against Satan himself. But take heart my friends, for ‘the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.’ ”

[The sides of the tent thwip and thwack with increased urgency and ferocity while the hanging lights begin to sway slightly. The reverend's wife, a woman perhaps well into her thirties with dark hair streaked with grey at the front, looks up quickly and shifts nervously in her seat on the stage to the right of and behind her husband.]

Read on for more....

“Yes, it was just ten years ago that a rather obscure but clever research scientist full of youthful optimism in what science could offer humanity believed he could harness the very power of God Himself with his experiments with atomic energy and new isotopes. 

Mankind believed we could even enter and probe the Lord’s realm by piercing it with our technology in the form of satellites and rockets. Our kind of faith was false faith of the kind that the Devil loves!

“The alarm bells were ringing loudly but who was paying attention? On one particular day the urgent sound of alarms rent our quiet cocoon of complacency when Gilbert McKenna found himself being rushed to hospital after having fallen unconscious due to radiation exposure during an experiment involving a new radioactive isotope-one that has never occurred in nature before.

“Men of science believed that we could guard against the evil of the demon power we harnessed by use of the talismans we refer to as ‘procedures’ and ‘precautions.’ And yet despite this, Gilbert succumbed to a five-minute exposure to radiation.

“His colleague and mentor, Dr. Frederick Buckell had on more than one occasion told him that “Whiskey and soda mix, not whiskey and science.” I admit that before I found salvation with the Lord, I myself was a sinner and as such like Gil often sought solace in the demon drink.

“Despite our hubris in believing we can know all there is to know about what to expect in life, Gill showed no signs of burns or other effects that would be typical for such exposure to radiation. None of us, dear friends can escape unscathed, for the sins we commit have dire consequences!

“Gill had indeed danced with the Devil, brothers and sisters and had lived, but was he left unscathed? Medically at least it was decided that he be kept under observation for a few days to see if he was free of any after-effects. It was what they couldn’t detect with their science that is more pertinent to this evening’s story.

“The words from John 3:19-20 hold powerful meaning for the rest of this story: ‘For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.’

“Gill was forced to run from the light and seek out the dark. It first happened when he was in hospital and was taken up onto the roof to take in what he thought to be the healing power of the sun’s rays. While Gill dozed off, a hideous demon deep within his soul took advantage of his slumber to take possession of him and transform him into a reptilian creature – a veritable serpent of the Devil!”

[The rumble of approaching thunder can be heard mingled with the sharp intake of many breaths among the shocked members of the congregation.]

“After Gill fled from the power of the Lord’s revealing light, he stood before a mirror and was confronted by the vision and knowledge of who and what he really was. You see it was, according to the gospel of science at any rate, Gill’s exposure to the unnatural and unholy radiation that had caused a kind of reversal of the evolutionary process. The Lord then cast his light upon him in the form of exposure to sunlight to reveal through him Man’s regression. All now could see what Gill had become – an almost prehistoric-like reptile – the Devil’s serpent, a symbol of Mankind’s degeneracy.

“The only way Gill could avoid this transformation was to flee from the light and take refuge in the darkness. Yes indeed, evil hates the light for it is in the light that his nature and deeds will be exposed!

“Having reverted to his “normal” state, Gill tended his resignation and descended into an aimless solitary existence only emerging at night. In order to deaden the pain he felt inside, Gill sought out the comfort of alcohol and contemplated the temptations that other kinds of comforts had to offer.

“One night Gill entered a bar and his attention was soon drawn to a female piano player. Her sultry siren song seductively slid from her lips while parts of her flesh seemed intent on oozing and sliding out of her dress. This Jezebel who went by the name of Trudy illustrates the warning contained in Proverbs 5:3 ‘For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.’

[The reverend’s wife rises from her seat and walks over to a large reel-to-reel tape recorder and turns it on to play a professional recording of the song, “Strange Pursuit.”]

“As was indeed was this temptress’s song,

[Loud clap of thunder startles those present] 

Strange Pursuit: The pursuit of love, 
Is a strange compelling desire. 
Though you're near, you're not mine to hold, 
And I want the joy your lips inspire. 

[Another loud clap of thunder and lights begin to flicker]

My heart is bare, you know I care, 
Will you take my love, or throw it away? 
Please let me know, just "yes" or "no." 
Why the great suspense in this game you play? 

[Howling wind outside accompanied by torrential rain battering the tent]

Strange Pursuit: The pursuit of love, 
Has me breathless with a burning fire. 
On and on, goes the maddening chase. 
Never ending is love's strange desire. 

“The siren’s song during Gill’s second visit to the bar seemed to help lure him further away from the dark abyss into which he had just before found himself staring. There appeared to be no solution to his dilemma to be derived from science. It occurred to Gill that there was only one possible means of escaping his personal torture of loneliness. But that course would be an affront to God! It was God who gave Gill a sign to step away from the precipice into oblivion with the sound of life coming up from below the cliff edge where he had been contemplating his own life’s negation.

“Yes indeed, Gill’s longing to seek out companionship drew him once again to the bar and closer to the one who in the eyes of God-fearing people would be called a harlot! And it was this very same harlot that Gill defended and had fought with her male “friend” for offending her. What shocked Gill my friends is how close he had come to killing this man had she not tried to stop him!

“Had Gill but heeded the words from Proverbs 18:1 ‘Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.’

“And so against all sound judgment Gill fled with the bar singer into the night. After a night on the beach spent washing away good sense with alcohol and satisfying their carnal desires, they both fell asleep on the sand. Such sinful acts did not go unnoticed by the Lord for Gill awoke in the morning horrified to discover His shining light starting to reveal the extent of his sin. Like the coward that he was, Gill tried to flee back into the darkness away from the Lord’s accusing eye, leaving the strumpet stranded on the beach to fend for herself lest she discover his true nature.

“The irony of her earlier words “it’s never late till the sun comes up” slapped Gill full in the face as he made it back to his shadowy abode of darkness, but not before the Devil’s serpent had reasserted its presence within him.”

[The reverend now draws everyone’s attention to his wife who has in the meantime resumed her seat]

“Since those awful days ten years ago, my wife Ann has been a rock of support to me throughout all my own travails. But it was the power of the Lord acting through her that helped her then boyfriend, Gillbert McKenna through those trying times. Her love, innocence and purity of spirit formed a protective shield against Satan’s onslaughts in the form of the hideous demon within Gill!

“For me, Ann has always epitomized the words of 1 Corinthians 13:7: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

“It was Ann who discovered Gill cowering like a frightened infant in the cellar. It was her faith, her entreaties and her perseverance that helped him to overcome his despondency and changed his mind about refusing to see the radiation expert, Dr. Hoffman who held out the sole hope of being able to remedy his “condition.”

“After an examination, Dr. Hoffman ordered Gill to remain in the house at all times as a precaution. Still, he continued to feel the pull of some force or need within him. It felt like a need to satiate the thirst of his inner hideous demon. Ah! But this demon convinced Gill that it was his feeling of guilt for leaving Trudy, that impelled him to once again return to the bar.

“As if in punishment for Gill’s sins, the Lord decreed that he be beaten for what he had done to Trudy. And that is what her male companion and his friends did to Gill outside the bar. Perhaps he deserved no less. God does indeed work in mysterious ways, my friends!

“The next morning Gill awoke in Trudy’s apartment. Even she with her moral turpitude, licentiousness and vindictive nature and who had every reason to feel anger toward him, actually felt compassion for the one who had done her wrong. As we are reminded in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” 

“Ah, but the Lord had not done with Gill yet, for soon after Trudy’s “friend” arrived at her apartment and upon seeing Gill, forced him at gunpoint out into the daylight – the very place that would cause to be revealed the evil demon within him. After Gill transformed into the hideous demon serpent, he murdered the evil-doer. Evil begat evil and was in turn murdered by evil – revealed for all to bear witness to!

“After Gill fled into the hills, he returned to the house where my wife Ann, Dr. Hoffman and Dr. Frederick Buckell were waiting. 

Gill eventually returned to his normal state, but I use the word “normal” loosely. Both his mind and his soul were strained to the limit what with the murder he had committed and the arrival of the police bearing an arrest warrant. In a fit of hysteria, Gill fled from the area in a car but managed to accidentally run down a police officer in the process.

“If only Gill had understood then what is revealed to us in Ephesians 6:10,11, to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil!” 

“But no, Gill chose to run and run until he found himself hiding inside a hut located at an oil field while the police searched the area. Suddenly a little innocent angel of mercy discovered Gill in the hut and tried her best to help him. Gill realized that he could not let any harm come to the innocent girl what with the arrival of the police. He carried the girl out of the hiding place out into the sunlight where he then let her go.

“In the full glare of the Lord’s revealing light, Gill’s inner hideous demon manifested itself for all the world to see. 

"During a struggle with one of the policemen, the demon managed to kill him and was almost successful in killing another officer who was somehow miraculously able to shoot it in the neck. The fatally wounded demon then plummeted to his death from the tower where he had been shot." 

[The rain and wind begin to subside and only the ever receding rumble of thunder can be heard]

“Ann has not uttered a word since that fateful day. We all know that a hideous demon had come into the world and before its evil had spread too far, the power of the Almighty vanquished it. But for Anne, it meant the death of the one she loved who had struggled valiantly against evil incarnate!

“And that is my message to you all my friends! Struggle against the hideous demons that are at this moment trying to take possession of you! Struggle against the evil of The Beast who these days does not go by any number or any mark.

“The Beast operates in the full glare of the light! He is revealed to us in the light! He revels in the light! The Lord shines his light on the Hideous Beast to illuminate his evil doings and nature to us! The Beast and his hideous demons have no need to hide in the shadows! Why? Because we have been too blind to see - even with the benefit of the Lord’s guiding light!

“See the hideous demons for what they are whenever:

  • Man kills and robs his fellow man. 
  • Nations dispossess and cleanse people from their homes and lands. 
  • Leaders lie and manipulate the populace
  • There exists the politics of division and hatred. 
  • Powerful elites enrich themselves at the expense of the majority. 
  • People discriminate on the basis of race, creed, gender, age and sexuality
  • Those who seek our protection and compassion are instead punished. 
  • Others are demonized, scapegoated and blamed for problems they have not created. 
  • Walls and barriers are erected between peoples. 
  • Greed and pursuit of profit chokes our environment. 
  • The State tramples on the rights, privacy and liberties of its citizens.
  • All that makes up an individual is reduced to a mere commodity.
  • Leaders and nations anoint themselves as being the chosen ones. 
  • We see and hear only with the eyes and ears of the tribe.
  • We stand idly by and let these things come to pass. 

“When each of you leave this tent, I want you go out into the world with open eyes and shine your own light on the evil doings of the hideous demons out there. Resolve to do all you can to struggle and overcome them before they become too powerful. Struggle against them so that they will once again learn to fear the light!

“In closing friends, take heart in the words from Psalm 146:5-9;

"….The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous…...But the way of the wicked he turns upside down."

After the sermon was over, the congregation dispersed into the darkness of the night. Each could feel the eerie oppressive silence that had replaced the earlier tumult. It was as if the night had become a slumbering creature awaiting the coming of a new day where it could open its eyes and emerge into the light……..

Points of Interest

The story for The Hideous Sun Demon was apparently inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Other proposed titles for the film were Saurus ( taken from the Latin word meaning "reptile") Strange Pursuit and Terror in the Sun.

The film's crew consisted of University of Southern California film students, while the cast was made up of unknowns and Robert Clarke's family and friends. The film was shot during 12 consecutive weekends when Clarke and the crew were free and ended up costing $50,000. 

The Hideous Sun Demon premiered on August 29, 1958 as part of a double bill with Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters which is featured on this blog.

Due to the film's low budget, the cast and crew were only paid $25 per day and clothing and make-up were provided by the film's stars themselves. 

Production designer, Richard Cassarino designed the title monster’s suit which was created for $500. It was built over a diver's wetsuit and was extremely hot inside especially the humid weather.

One strength of the film lies in its focus on the effect the transformation has on Clarke's character both emotionally and morally such as in his excessive drinking, succumbing to lust, committing murder and enduring loneliness and isolation.

The film also presents a good variation of the werewolf stories in that this time we have the rays of the sun turning Clarke’s character into the hideous creature!

Full Film

©Chris Christopoulos 2019

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