A scientist transforms himself to a Neanderthal man and starts molesting women in this cheap and belated mad doctor entry from 1953. 3/10
The Neanderthal Man. 1953, USA. Written & produced by Jack Pollexfen & Aubrey Wisberg. Directed by E.A. Dupont. Starring: Robert Shayne, Joyce Terry, Richard Crane, Doris Merrick, Beverly Garland, Robert Long, Tandra Quinn. IMDb score: 4.5/10
It is interesting how some careers in the film industry can derail completely. German Ewald André Dupont was once one of the most celebrated directors in Europe. Lauded as an expert camera handler and one of the pioneers of sound cinema, with two or three internationally successful German and British films under his belt, he took on Hollywood in 1933, along with the boatloads of other Central European filmmakers fleeing the rise of the Nazis in Germany. But where directors like Fritz Lang or F.W. Murnau became stars in Tinseltown, Dupont went from disappointment to disappointment, at one point even dropping out of direction altogether, and ended his career in a haze of booze with B-schlockers like The Neanderthal Man.
Set in a small rural area by the forested Sierra mountains in California, the film begins with a shot of a focused scientist taking notes from a book called The Neanderthal Man and the Stoneage. He rushes into his lab after hearing a roar and glass breaking, and finds his workspace in a mess and a window broken. The scientist, we learn, is Professor Clifford Groves (Patrick Shayne), as he has an argument with his daughter Jan (Joyce Terry), and reveals himself as a pompous, domineering asshole from the get-go. Next we meet a visiting hunter called Mr. Wheeler (Frank Gerstle), who sees a sabre-tooth tiger (footage of an ordinary tiger with a visible tether), but gets laughed aout of the local watering hole by the regular clientele, including the local game-warden George Oakes (Robert Long). However, Oakes soon becomes a believer as he encounters the creature won his drive home, when it jumps the hood of his car.
Oakes pays a visit to a Los Angeles palaeontologist, Dr. Ross Harkness (our hero, Richard Crane), with a plaster cast of the creature’s paw print. Although Harkness identifies it as the print of a sabre-tooth tiger, he is sceptic as to its existence, as it has been extinct ”for over a million years”, but agrees to follow Oakes to the small town. Here he meets the fiancée of Professor Groves, Ruth Marshall (Doris Merrick), who invites him to stay at their house, where he also meets the beautiful daughter Jan, and we see a budding romance.
Professor Groves, however, is off to hold a lecture to his peers at some scientific convention, where he presents his fantastic theory, with the help of pictures of craniums and paper cutouts representing brains, that the modern man’s ancestor, the Neanderthal man, was in fact just as intelligent, if not more so, than homo sapiens. His theory is ridiculed, and when asked if he has any sort of evidence corroborating his theory, he explodes in a fit of arrogant rage, and shouts all his colleagues out of the room. Because what sort of scientist ever bothered with evidence?! Angered, he returns to his reclusive lab, where he explains to Marshall that he has perfected a serum that will revert any living being to its original evolutionary state, which is why his house-cat has been turned into a sabre-tooth tiger. He now experiments on himself, in order to turn himself into a Neanderthal man. Said and done, but he hasn’t perhaps counted on the Neanderthal man’s inherent instinct to climb out the window and kill the first person (and his dog) that comes into his sight.
This then becomes a Jekyll & Hyde story, with Groves with revelling in the adrenalin rush of his unbridled caveman instincts, but losing control over his transformations – and eventually the change becomes permanent, and Groves flees out in the woods. Later, the tavern barmaid Nola Mason (Beverly Garland) is out in the woods with her boyfriend, taking cheesecake photos, when Neanderthal Groves interrupts and assaults them, killing the boyfriend and carrying off Mason. Mason is later found staggering up to Groves’ house, while the professor himself is still away. Hysterical, she describes how a gorilla-man had ”spittle running from his mouth”, and ”pulled her hair … and … and …” She leaves the sentence unfinished, but it is quite clear what is implied.
All the while, Dr. Harkness breaks into Groves’ lab and finds his notes, along with photographs of the mute housekeeper Celia (Tandra Quinn), which show that Groves has also experimented with her. Jan and Harkness follow the town posse hunting the beast, and find him holed up in a cave with his fiancée as hostage. Now it becomes a showdown between Neanderthal man, Frankenstein posse and sabre tooth tiger (yes, of course it makes a comeback). And in the end, as is always the case in these films, “there are things man should not meddle with”.
Good things first: there’s some decent acting in the movie, and the film is occasionally well lit and filmed. The story has some amount of cohesion and the on-location filming lends the movie a certain amount of credibility. Kudos for filming a tiger and not using stock footage.
Now the bad: the acting is occasionally wooden and/or overplayed, and the direction is mostly sloppy and pedestrian. The story feels disjointed and slapdash, and apart from the on-location shooting, the sets are laughable, such as the exterior of the bar, which is clearly two painted plank walls stuck together in an angle that has never been used on a single house. The props and make-up are terrible (with some exception) and the special effects crude. And don’t get me started on the sabre-toothed plush tiger close-ups that feature in brief flashes.
The film was produced by by Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg, who also wrote the disjointed script. The tag team of Pollexfen and Wisberg had written and produced the surprisingly good The Man from Planet X in 1951 (review), a film that prevailed despite its sometimes hokey script and its very low budget. The two continued their collaboration on a string of low-budget movies in the early fifties, but despite some interesting output, like the mis-named post-apocalyptic Captive Women (1952, review), were never able to repeat their success with The Man from Planet X. The reason for its success spelled Edgar G. Ulmer, an Austro-Hungarian production designer and director, who very quickly took control over that movie, and crafted a tight, multi-layered and atmospheric horror thriller. Perhaps the producers had hoped that another European master director who found himself slumming in Hollywood would be able to do the same thing for The Neanderthal Man. But the difference was that Ulmer was an extremely dedicated workaholic who adapted himself well to Hollywood and had another 15 years ahead of him as a director. Dupont was not that guy.
As stated in the intro, E.A. Dupont had behind him a very successful career in the German entertainment industry — as a film critic, playwright, screenwriter and director, with a prodigal knack for revolutionary camera work. Considering the masterful films Dupont did in previous years, his work on Neanderthal Man certainly looks like he just didn’t care very much. There are still some flashes of his genius, especially in the more contemplative scenes with Robert Shayne, where the old-school German expressionism shines through in lighting and camera angles, and the unbroken scene of the hysteric Beverly Garland is a bold move. He sure knows how to light his movie, however drunk and uninterested he is. In fact, there is nothing particularly wrong with the direction itself, even if it is very pedestrian throughout most of the film.
The problem is everything else, starting with the script. In a film where a misunderstood scientist experiments on himself and then turns evil, one should feel some sympathy for said scientist for the film to have an impact. Boris Karloff was superb at portraying mad scientists who were evil as they come, but still elicited pity and even love from the audience. But he also generally had better scripts. In Neanderthal Man, Professor Groves is a total asshole from the first minute we see him. There is nothing about this person that would make us feel even remotely sorry for his fate. He is a prick to his daughter and girlfriend, he is an egomaniac who insults his colleagues for asking for proof for a preposterous idea, he abuses his maid as a guinea pig and he feels no remorse for killing people, and even keeps his fiancée hostage.
The film states that Groves’ serum will reduce any being to its most primitive state. Well, in that case, why does it stop at the Neanderthal man and the sabre-tooth tiger? Shouldn’t it bring us back all the way to mollusc-state? Or even fish? Well, that’s a minor issue. A bigger issue is that homo neanderthalensis is not an ancestor to homo sapiens, which means no matter how far we would regress, we would never become Neanderthals. No wonder Groves was laughed at by his colleagues, when he put Cro Magnon man as a precursor to homo neanderthalensis, and homo neanderthalensis as a precursor to homo sapiens. The Neanderthal man was a sub-species onto its own, that lived in Europe and Asia up until about 40 000 years ago. That’s when the so-called ”Cro Magnon man” started pouring from Africa into Europe and Asia. And the Cro Magnon man was nothing more than early homo sapiens sapiens. In fact, modern man and the Neanderthal man co-existed for about 5 000 years. And no, the sabre-tooth tiger has not been extinct for ”over a million years”, it’s more like 10 000 years.
An even bigger problem with the film is makeup and props. As I wrote earlier, kudos for actually filming a tiger (even if the tether chain shows). But problem number one: the actual tiger on screen has no tusks. Problem two: the editor sticks in shots of a ”sabre-tooth tiger” here and there, which looks like a still photo, and it’s hilarious (see pic above). It’s clearly a stuffy toy, and is either horribly cute or cutely horrible. The transformation scenes of Groves are clumsily made. There’s none of the brilliant fading technique used so beautifully by John P. Fulton at Universal. Instead the make-up is built up in stages, and the editor just simply cuts away to close-ups of hands pr cats between the transformations. The make-up itself is actually pretty good, though. The next-to-final transformation is very well done by makeup artist Harry Thomas. But this get-up took way too long to complete for every time Shayne needed to be in cave-man makeup. Instead, for the final stage, the producers, pressed for time, simply slap on a rigid rubber mask that looks like a ”cross between a gorilla with a perm and a bullfrog”, as one reviewer put it. Even the eyes are painted, that’s how bad it is. And in one take, the makeup Thomas hasn’t had time to complete Groves’ arms. When we see him taking off towards Garland’s boyfriend, he has no make-up on his arms. In the next shot he suddenly has hairy arms. Then the hair disappears, and then returns again. That’s just a testament to how cheaply and quickly the film was made. It’s really a shame, because the makeup used for the second-to-last transformation scene shot probably intended as the final look, and it is really, really well-made, probably trumping all ape-man or cave man makeup of other fifties films. In an interview with film historian Tom Weaver, Harry Thomas laments that he wasn’t permitted to do his job properly on the film. As he tells Weaver, he knew that in time, it was the makeup that would sell these movies, not the sloppily written scripts.
The film met with mixed-to-negative reviews by the trade press at the time of its release. BoxOffixe magazine gave it a “fair” rating, noting that it should qualify for “spook show” evenings, and would be “adequately acceptable” as a B feature in most bookings. The Hollywood Reporter, on the other hand, called it “an overlong, dull conversation piece”.
The Neanderthal Man has a clearly negative 4.5/10 rating on IMDb and no Rotten Tomatoes consensus. AllMovie gives The Neanderthal Man 1/5 stars, with a review by Rovi, calling it a “wearily routine variation on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde“. Further: “The script is not only badly written, it’s clumsily organized, with way too much time spent on the saber-tooth tiger, and very little, relatively speaking, on the menace of the title”. TV Guide calls it a “rather stiff effort”. In his Classic Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gives The Neanderthal Man 1.5/4 stars, calling it “colourless and cheap”. Tom Weaver in Universal Horrors, The Studio’s Classic Films calls it “a sad commentary of the career of [Dupont]”.
In his superb tome Keep Watching the Skies!, film historian Bill Warren writes. “It’s an uninteresting variation on the Jekyll and Hyde theme, with almost nothing to recommend it.” Warren also points out something that struck me as well: The Neanderthal Man seems “anachronistic, existing in an isolated stylistic bubble”. This goes for both the script and the direction. This kind of story was B-movie fodder for the late thirties and the early forties — a troubling time in history when horror movies were exploring the darkness inside. The fifties in Hollywood, on the other hand, was all about external threats to the American way of life — be it nuclear radiation or a Soviet invasion. But The Neanderthal Man is basically just another wolf man or ape man movie coming ten years too late to the party. The visual style follows the old expressionist palette, the small town and deep woods evoking the misty forests and gothic European villages of yesteryear, painted with dark shadows and stark contrasts. And while there is nothing wrong with revisiting themes and styles of the past, there is little point in doing so unless there is a purpose to it. But there is little purpose in Pollexfen and Wisberg’s script, as it just re-treads the familiar path, ending up in he exact same spot as all its predecessors.
Few online critics warm up to The Neanderthal Man. Mark Cole at Rivets on the Poster writes: “once you figure out this is Jekyll and Hyde, there really isn’t much more to it”. Derek Winnert calls it a “disappointing, grungy-looking, low-everything regulation mad scientist chiller”, giving it 1/5 stars. Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings says: “This is definitely not a high point in fantastic cinema”. And the late great Gary Loggins at Cracked Rear Viewer called it a “totally unlikeable turkey”.
Now, this is not the worst film I’ve ever seen. It’s got a few decent performances in it, it has a couple of nice moments, it has short flashes of quality production, and there’s an overall feeling this might have been a halfway decent B reel, had it just had a little more time and money. It’s a run-of-the-mill forties B-schlocker — and it’s actually better than some of the stuff turned out in its subgenre’s heyday, such as The Mad Monster (1942, review) or The Ape Man (1943, review). But a bit like the 1940 Boris Karloff vehicle The Ape (1940, review), it leaves you wondering why anyone bothered to make it. Perhaps Pollexfen and Wisberg hoped that the 1952 re-release of King Kong might spark a new ape man craze, or perhaps they were inspired by recent speculations in the press about an abominable snowman in the Himalayas. Whatever the case, it is a film out of place and out of time, and it doesn’t help that it’s badly written, designed and directed, and for the most part badly acted. It’s not offensively bad, it’s just completely pointless.
Director E.A. Dupont worked as a film critic for many years in Germany before he became a playwrite and screenwriter in 1916. He directed over 25 short or feature films before he got his big breakthrough in 1925 with Varieté, a sexually charged murder thriller based in the circus world, that displayed Dupont’s prodigal work with ”unhinged camera”. He and master cinematographer Karl Freund came up with solutions that allowed the audience to follow the proceedings through the eyes of trapeze artists, flying high above the audience. The revolutionary camera work and the fast-paced editing made the film an international sensation, and Dupont was noticed by Univeral’s boss Carl Laemmle, who invited him over. His B movie for Universal was a flop, however, and he then relocated to Great Britain, where he proceeded to make yet another highly regarded classic, the sexually tinged, expressionistic and visually innovative Moulin Rouge (1928). He yet made another highly regarded film, Piccadilly, in 1929, starring the Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong, who had relocated to Britain after she got tired of playing sultry servant girls in Hollywood. Wong was an amazing screen presence, and would she be alive today, she would most certainly be one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. But, alas, the racial attitude at the times, especially in Hollywood, were against her. Dupont’s final big film in England was Atlantic (1929), a lavish extravaganza, based on the sinking of the Titanic, and sometimes counted as the first ”German” talkie, although it was made in Britain. The movie was a financial disaster, and Dupont was then relegated to smaller movies in Germany, Britain and France, until he decided to have another go in Los Angeles.
But Dupont and Hollywood did not mix well, and the director was never able to orientate himself, and bounced back and forth between studios in the thirties, making long forgotten B pictures. He didn’t get along with neither studio brass nor actors and crew, and the final straw came on the production of the Dead End Kids movie Hell’s Kitchen, when he slapped one of the Dead End Kids for making fun of his accent (unfortunately it wasn’t Ronald Reagan, who also appeared in the movie — that would have been a good story). This got him fired from the film and shunned by studios. Instead he decided to become an agent, a career which he kept up for ten years. His comeback film was an atmospheric noir thriller with a psychological slant, The Scarf (1951), which has been fairly well received in later years, but bombed when it was released. Struggling with a serious drinking problem, he failed to find good work after The Scarf, and was stuck with some TV work and a few independently produced B movies until his death in 1956.
Lead actor, playing the mad scientist, Robert Shayne, is best known for playing Inspector Henderson on the TV series Adventures of Superman (1952-1958). Shayne goes for broke in his histrionics when portraying the obnoxious character of Professor Groves, and his Napoleonic tendencies. The only problem with this portrayal is that it makes it very hard for us to accept that he actually has a fiancée and a daughter that care for him as much as they do – with Ruth Marshall even preparing to give her life for his as he kidnaps her in the end. Just doesn’t calculate. Shayne does the obnoxious very good, but someone like John Carradine or Boris Karloff could have chewed the scenery whilst also making the character partly sympathetic — a key ingredient in these kind of films, which Pollexfen and Wisberg have failed to understand. The point in mad scientist tales like these is that it is the science and the hubris which is evil, not the person — because if caught up in the pride and single-mindedness, this could have been YOU!
Joyce Terry as the daughter/love interest is certainly lovely to behold, although not necessarily much of an actor. She really only has one facial expression – that of worried disbelief – throughout the film, but her portrayal is so utterly sincere and heartfelt, that you easily forgive her lack of range. You really just want to give her a big hug and tell her everything will be OK. Terry (billed as “Joy Terry“) only has nine film credits, for obvious reasons, are some of them are strictly voice work, and I can’t really find any more information of her through a simple google search. The same goes for Robert Long, who only has five film credits, but carries large parts of the film like a definite pro. In fact, he is one of the better parts of this film, despite his tendency to overacting. He must have been 60 by the time he made the movie, and it would be very interesting to know more about his history.
As the mute housekeeper we see cult actress Tandra Quinn, born Derlene Jeanette Smith, and credited here as Jeanette Quinn. She is passable as the mysterious housekeeper, and does a fair approximation of sign language, although in an interview with film historian Tom Weaver she admits that is was mostly made-up, although they had a sign language coach on the set. We just recently covered Quinn’s story in our of the bizarrely bizarre movie Mesa of Lost Women (1953, review), which opened just a week before Neanderthal Man. These two roles were half or her film career, which lasted for a full three years, and both of them were mute, leaving countless fans assured that she was mute in real life, further adding to her exotic appeal. In fact, she says in her interview with Weaver, she was always told she had a very beautiful voice and seems to have been quite talkative, at least in later years. For the longer version of her life and career, please see my review of Mesa of Lost Women.
One of the joys of the film is Beverly Garland, who is not only a touch of quirky, bubbly class as the barmaid, an innocent bit of cheesecake in her bathing suit scene, but also provides a tremendous acting feat in her scene after being molested by the Neanderthal man. This is really the most unsettling scene in the whole film, and Garland is so good that it seems like a scene from an entirely different movie. Her performance isn’t lessened by the fact that it is shot in a single take of a close-up or her face. Stunning work.
And what of our hero, the courageous palaeontologist? Well, no-one ever accused the square-jawed jock Richard Crane of being Shakespeare material, and it certainly takes some suspension of disbelief to imagine him fiddling with delicate bones and tiny instruments, but then again, he does fairly little that has to do with science in the film. He acts more like some Chandlerian private detective, which he has a slightly bigger chance at pulling off. However, Crane has friendly, likeable quality about him and a certain glint in the eyes that makes him transcend his rather wooden acting.
Robert Shayne had a long and prolific career on stage, in film and TV, without ever becoming neither Broadway nor Hollywood nobility. He had a string of supporting roles in A films in the forties, notably opposite Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington (1944) and Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945), and is sometimes remembered for his brief turn opposite Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959). More often, however, he was cast in small, prominent or even leading roles in B movies, such as The Spirit of West Point (1947), sometimes described as the worst sports movie ever made.
Apart from his six-year tenure at Adventures of Superman, he appeared in numerous sci-fi films, such as Invaders from Mars (1953, review), Tobor the Great (1954, review), Indestructible Man (1956), the infamous The Giant Claw (1957), Kronos (1957), How to Make a Monster (1958), The Lost Missile (1958), Teenage Cave Man (1958) and Son of Flubber (1963). In the sixties and seventies he was mainly seen on stage and on TV, and he practically retired in 1977 after nearly 50 years in the film business. He made a brief comeback in 1990-1991, then 90 years old, in two episodes of the TV series The Flash, as a newsstand salesman. He was actually blind at the time, and learned his lines by having his wife read them out for him.
Beverly Garland is best known to a mainstream audience as a TV star. She was part of a little bit of TV history when she played the lead in the police series Decoy (1957), the first police series featuring a female lead, and one of the first dramatic TV show in general with a female protagonist. Unfortunately it only ran for one season. She is perhaps best remembered, though from her motherly characters on the sitcoms My Three Sons (1960-1972) and Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983-1987). She did a ton of work in TV and appered in a number of sci-fi series: The Twilight Zone (1960), Science Fiction Theatre (1955-1956), The Wild Wild West (1967), Planet of the Apes (1974), The Wide World of Mystery (1975), The Six Million Dollar Man (1977) and Spiderman (1997). She is also remembered by superhero fans for her recurring role as Lois Lane’s mother Ellen on the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997).
Apart from her TV career she also appeared in a number of B movies, often as a tough chick who knew how to handle herself in danger. She has also garnered cult fame for starring in three Z-grade films directed by Roger Corman. She appeared in a small role on the family film The Rocket Man (1954), and starred as the female lead in It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957) and The Alligator People (1959). She also had prominent roles in Twice-Told Tales (1963) and the much later If (2003), one of her last roles. In latter years she became more and more involved in the business of her husband, who owned two hotels he had named in her honour, and she took over the ownership of the sprawling resort The Beverly Garland Holiday Inn when he passed away. She herself dies in 2008, and the hotels are now managed by her son. Garland was nominated for an Emmy for a guest spot on Medic and has a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Richard Crane was a prolific character actor with a career spanning three decades. He started out in uncredited bit-parts in the early forties, but was catapulted into leading roles in B movies when many of Hollywood’s top men served with the war effort. His career took a dive in the mid-forties and he was again relegated to bit-parts, serials and TV. However, he played the lead in the sci-fi serial Mysterious Island (1951) and had frequent appearances on Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (1953). His most lasting fame came with the extremely popular TV children’s series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, where he played the titular character for seven years between 1954 and 1961. In 1959 he teamed up again with Beverly Garland in his only other sci-fi film, The Alligator People.
In a minor part as a local in the diner (a California local with a Texas drawl, no less) we see noted character actor and later dialect coach Robert Easton, who looks and sounds a bit like a cross between DJ Qualls and Mackenzie Crook. Easton also appeared in a number of sci-fi films, including The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms, which I have recently reviewed, please check out more of Easton in that article. Frank Gerstle who plays Mr. Wheeler the hunter appeared in The Magnetic Monster (1953, review), Killers from Space (1954, review), The Wasp Woman (1959), Monstrosity (1963), Murderer’s Row (1966), The Silencers (1966) and The Bamboo Saucer (1968). Character actors Anthony Jochim, Marshall Bradford, William Fawcett and Tom Monroe all appeared in a number of B sci-fi films in the fifties, as well as quite a few serials and TV series of the genre.
Makeup artist Harry Thomas worked on a total of 21 science fiction films, starting with Superman and the Mole-Men (1951, review), Red Snow (1952) and Invasion U.S.A. (1952, review). He then moved on to films like Project Moon Base (1953, review), Cat-Women of the Moon (1953, review), Killer from Space (1954), Jungle Hell, Voodoo Woman (1957), The Unearthly (1957), From Hell It Came (1957), Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958), Night of the Blood Beast (1958), Missile to the Moon (1958), Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), Flight that Disappeared (1961), Space Probe Taurus (1965), Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966), The Bubble (1966), and The Curious Female (1970). You almost get teary-eyed by reading the list. It’s like a complete resumé of all the worst sci-fi horror films of the fifties. Wonderful. He also worked on many episodes of the TV series Adventures of Superman.
In fact, I have a creeping feeling that between them, the crew on this film were involved in every single bad sci-fi movie made in Hollywood during the fifties, starting with prolific B movie composer Albert Glasser, who, apart from about half of the above mentioned, also worked on The Monster Maker (1944, review), Rocketship X-M (1950, review), Indestructible Man (1956), Monster from Green Hell (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Cyclops (1957), Teenage Cave Man (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Earth vs. the Spider (1958) and The Cremators (1972).
Cinematographer Stanley Cortez (Samuel Krantz) changed his name after his actor brother Jacob Krantz changes his moniker to Ricardo Cortez – we have seen him on the blog in The Walking Dead (1936, review), with Boris Karloff. Samuel Cortez was mostly assigned to B movies but also worked with directors like Orson Welles and Charles Laughton. He is responsible for the visuals in Riders to the Stars (1954, review), The Angry Red Planet (1959), The Madman of Mandoras (1963), They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968, TV movie) and Doomsday Machine (1972).
This just goes on. With editor Fred R. Feitshans Jr. we get the addition of The Man from Planet X (1951, review), Captive Women (1952), Port Sinister (1953), Pajama Party (1964, yes it’s a sci-fi), Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), Frogs (1972) and the TV series The Green Hornet (1967-1968), starring non other than Bruce Lee. Production manager Clarence Eurist adds a few more clunkers: Robot Monster (1953, review), Target Earth (1954), The Most Dangerous Man Alive (1961), The Day Earth Invaded Mars (1963) and Night of the Animals (1977).
And it just gets better. The visual effects are made by B movie legend Jack Rabin and David Commons. With Rabin we get the additions of Unknown World (1951, review), Flight to Mars (1951, review), Invaders from Mars (1953, review), The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956), The Black Sheep (1956), World Without End (1956), The Unknown Terror (1957), The Invisible Boy (1957), Kronos (1957), War of the Satellites (1958), The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959), The Atomic Submarine (1959), Behemoth the Sea Monster (1959), The Bees (1978), Deathsport (1978), Humanoids from the Deep (1980) and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Wardrobe master Jack Masters adds It! The Terror from Beoynd Space (1958), The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) and Beyond the Time Barrier (1960).
Now would you look at that list! I think the only films missing to make this a complete collection of the 25 worst Hollywood sci-fi films of the fifties is The Giant Claw and Red Planet Mars. Amazing.
To summarize, this film doesn’t quite belong with the absolute bottom-feeders of bad sci-fi films of the fifties. Despite a low budget and zero interest from Dupont, he could do this film in his sleep. Decent actors and a fairly short and to the point script keeps the movie from getting dull. Especially the actors keep the film lively and fairly interesting. However, the plot is so old that we know more or less exactly how things are going to play out from the beginning, and it fails to connect on an emotional level, a few strong scenes midway through notwithstanding. What really brings the axe down on the film is the bad production values and the poorly researched science, as well as the fact that Professor Groves and his family simply aren’t believable. It is, however, a great film to sit around with friends and have a MST3K styled heckle with. It’s so bad, it’s good.
The Neanderthal Man. 1953, USA. Written by Jack Pollexfen & Aubrey Wisberg. Directed by E.A. Dupont. Starring: Robert Shayne, Joyce Terry, Richard Crane, Doris Merrick, Beverly Garland, Robert Long, Tandra Quinn, Lee Morgan, Eric Colmar, Dick Rich, Robert Easton, Frank Gerstle, Anthony Jochim, Marshall Bradford, William Fawcett, Tom Monroe, Robert Bray. Music: Albert Glasser. Cinematography: Stanley Cortez. Editing: Fred R. Feitshans Jr. Art direction: Walter Koestler. Set decoration: Ben Bone. Makeup artist: Harry Thomas. Sound mixer: Robert Roderick. Special effects: David Commons, Jack Rabin. Wardrobe master: Jack Masters. Produced by Jack Pollexfen & Aubrey Wisberg for Global Productions & Wisberg-Pollexfen Productions.