Directed by Edward Nassour, Ismael Rodríguez / E.A. Dupont
Distributed by Scream Factory
In their continuing quest to shine a light on underseen genre flicks and champion little-loved B-movies, Scream Factory recently released a double-bill of drive-in era creature features in a nifty Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack. Holding within it both a giant monster flick and a Jekyll/Hyde inspired tale of science gone wrong, this release offers viewers a window into the past to check out the forerunners of today’s fun exploitation flicks, from a time when the term “grindhouse” hadn’t yet been invented. But are the films themselves good enough to warrant this trip back to the 50s?
The first feature presented on either disc is The Beast of Hollow Mountain, a Mexico-set western of sorts which teases a giant monster throughout its running time. The film is largely concerned with Jimmy Ryan (Madison), an American looking to ranch cattle below the border, much to the chagrin of Enrique (Eduardo Noriega – not the star of Open Your Eyes and The Devil’s Backbone), who sees Jimmy as a threat. When Jimmy catches the eye of Enrique’s lovely fiancée Sarita (Medina), both sparks and fists look set to fly between the two rivals. And then the titular monster shows up.
Beast certainly has a lot going for it, no doubt. For one thing, it’s gorgeously filmed – presenting beautiful locations with a mix of vibrant and earthy colors, all captured with surprisingly modern camerawork. For another, its cast is mostly solid, as is its reveal of what exactly the “beast” is. Unfortunately, the movie is so preoccupied with the rather dull struggle between its two leads that it can barely be bothered to put the monster in what is supposed to be a monster flick. The creature doesn’t make a full appearance until an hour into its sixty-minute running time, at which point it’s presented with a mix of cheap rubber suit-work and even cheaper stop motion animation. Sad to say, but Beast is a complete snoozefest – albeit a damned good looking one.
Faring even worse is The Neaderthal Man, a (then-) modern day retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde tale which finds one Professor Clifford Groves (Shayne) attempting to prove his theory that cranial size should be equated with intelligence, and therefore that neanderthal men were likely as smart as their modern day counterparts (I’m not making this up). After developing a serum to regress mammals to the biological state of its ancestors, Groves first tries his new potion on a cat (leading to the creation of a sabretooth tiger), before eventually trying the serum on himself – turning him into the “Neanderthal man” of the title. Rampaging and Zzzzz’s ensue.
While Neaderthal boasts some nice black and white photography and earnest performances from its leads, the plot is too hokey to take seriously, and is played far too straight to be fun. The characters are mostly an uninteresting lot, while the reveal of the film’s big eponymous threat is an inevitable letdown. It’s a shame, because the premise might have allowed for an enjoyable monster romp. Ah, well.
Scream Factory presents both films with decent images and audio. The transfers on each are nice enough, though both prints bear some damage (especially Beast, which has some noticeable scratches at various points in the movie). Beast boasts some beautiful colors and is generally sharp, though the image is occasionally soft to the point of being blurry. Neanderthal’s black-and-white 4×3 presentation is a bit better, though it exhibits some damage itself. Overall though, not a bad presentation for these little-known films. Sadly, no bonus features for either movie.
Ultimately folks, if you’re a sucker for these types of flicks (or if you’re a diehard Scream Factory collector), you’ll likely wanna give this collection a chance. Just be sure to lower your expectations and keep a pillow handy. All others, though – best just to leave these films in the past.
2 out of 5
1 out of 5
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