"You want proof, do you? Well, I'll give you proof! I'll s
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 12/30/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"So what happens when you mix a former space ranger and an extremely cheap gorilla mask with watered down versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Wolf Man? You get The Neanderthal Man (1953)...co-written by Aubrey Wisberg (The Man From Planet X, Hercules in New York) and Jack Pollexfen (The Son of Dr. Jekyll, Return to Treasure Island), and directed by Ewald André Dupont, who's better known for his earlier works like the 1928 silent classic Moulin Rouge. The Neanderthal Man stars Robert Shayne (Indestructible Man, Kronos, Teenage Cave Man), Joyce Terry (The Beatniks), and Richard Crane (Guns Don't Argue, The Alligator People), whom some old timers may remember from the mid 1960s television series "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger", as the title character. Also appearing is Doris Merrick (Untamed Women), Robert Long (Return to Treasure Island), Tandra Quinn (Mesa of Lost Women), and veteran actress Beverly Garland (It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth, The Alligator People) in an early role.
Seems something in California's High Sierras be viciously killing wildlife cattle, and folks are jittery, especially a hunter named Wheeler, who swears up and down he saw a giant mountain lion with tusks prowling about, but of course everyone thinks he's either telling tall tales, drunk, or both, until game warden George Oakes (Long) becomes a believer after a perilous experience with the creature driving along a lonely, mountain road. Oakes then contacts Dr. Ross Harkness (Crane), an assistant director of zoological research in Los Angeles (and also obviously a walking advertisement for the Brylcreem Corporation) who skeptically makes the trip out. Through a matter of chance, they all end up at Professor Clifford Groves' (Shayne) home, one he shares with his daughter Jan (Terry), and their deaf/mute Hispanic housekeeper Celia (Quinn). Seems Groves, a contemptuous fellow, has some crackpot theory about how Neanderthal man was just as, if not more, intelligent as modern man, a notion his colleagues at the Naturalist Society don't buy off on, at least not without some proof. Well, seems Groves just may have something in the way of proof as he'd developed some sort of de-evolution serum that awakens dormant cells or some such nonsense, one that he's been experimenting on common, household cats...after some initial successes, Groves begins injecting himself with the prehistoric go-go juice, and sure enough, it works! Well, works enough to turn him into a man wearing a bargain basement rubber gorilla mask, one who prowls the countryside, killing folks for no good reason. Ross and Jan soon learn the professor's secrets (after extensive snooping about and even creating their own saber-toothed tiger, which escapes...oops), but their discovery may be too late to save Groves as the authorities, in the form of shotgun wielding posses, are engaged in a prehistoric manhunt, if you will, to destroy the murderous beast terrorizing the small, mountain community. Things finally come to a head as the authorities corner Captain Caveman and he ends up battling a saber-toothed tiger in a not so climatic finale.
The film suffered from a number of problems, the main ones being the lack of decent characters and the relatively poor writing. Richard Crane has all the charisma of a tree stump, exhibiting basically one standard furrowed brow expression throughout the movie. There was very little to support the idea he was supposed to be some sort of scientist, and really, his character had little, if anything, to do for the first hour of the film (the movie runs a scant 78 minutes). As far as Robert Shayne's character of Professor Clifford Groves, he was just such a complete and thorough a-hole throughout the entire movie that I actually didn't care what happened to him by the end. Check out the scene where he's trying to pass his theory off on the Naturalist Society. He's surly, argumentative, and highly accusatory (probably suffering from irritable bowel syndrome) towards those naturally critical of his ideas. It wasn't that they scoffed at his ideas, but they were, rightfully so, skeptical seeing as how he had no actual proof. Tie this in with his ill-tempered attitudes towards his family (watch how he gives his doting fiancée, played by Merrick, an unceremonious boot to the curb), and the fact that he was actually experimenting on his deaf/mute housekeeper and we've got a particularly loathsome individual. There did seem to be one scene, after his own transformation and the subsequent killing of a local yokel hunter, where he felt remorse, but it came off as rather insincere. As far as the other characters go, there was nothing spectacular to report as all did about as well as they could with the material provided. One aspect that stood out to me as being odd was the ungainly dialog, particularly with Richard Crane's character. It was written in such a way as to make him sound intelligent, but it came off like someone using words they weren't familiar with...this was true of some of the other characters, but more so with Crane, perhaps given his deadpan delivery (be sure to stick around to the end as Crane delivers an oh so eloquent speech commenting on the hubris of man in general...oh bruther). As far as the special effects, there wasn't much to speak of, except for an unintentionally funny transformation sequence as Professor Groves changes from himself to a skinny Bruce Vilanch. The gorilla mask, fitted with an odd looking wig, was obviously purchased at a dime store, and as far as the saber-toothed tiger, it was just a regular tiger with quick cut shots of a fake tiger head sporting some tusks, creating a sense the creature was, in fact, a saber-toothed beast with retractable tusks. The direction by Dupont is adequate, but nowhere near the quality of some of his earlier works. The opening scenes appear not to be connected, and require a bit more intuitive work from the audience than should be necessary for a feature of this quality. Given this was one of his final films (he passed three years later), perhaps the creative fires just weren't there anymore. All in all this isn't a terrible film, but just an unoriginal amalgam of material done better in previous movies.
Cheezy Flicks provides a clean, fullscreen print on this DVD, along with a very decent and clear audio track. As far as extras, there are some extremely rough looking trailers for other Cheezy Flicks releases like Baron Blood (1972), Corridors of Blood (1962), and a particularly gory looking film called Eaten Alive! (1980). Also included are some intermission shorts one would have normally seen at the drive-in, an experience many in the younger generations shall, sadly, never get to enjoy.
The name of the studio says it all
Dirk Crockett | OKC, OK United States | 09/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, from a studio named "Cheezy Flicks"...very appropriate. This movie is, among many things, one of those cheapies you use to catch on late-night fright fests back in the day before all-night infomercials took over (staying up late has never been fun since). It's got everything needed to qualify as a bonafide, deep-fried cheesy classic: Cheap production, very flimsy plot, laughable action scenes, dialogue, and make-up effects, and over-the-top background music. Perfect.
The transfer and sound are good. Among the few extras, I did enjoy the short collection of "Intermission" snips that look like were taken from old drive-in shorts from the 50s and 60s. Nice touch."