The Mole People

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Archaeologists led by SF staple John Agar are captured by a lost underground civilisation in Universal’s 1956 movie. It’s not without its merits, but hampered by a weak script and a low budget. 4/10

The Mole People. USA, 1956. Directed by Virgil Vogel. Written by László Görög. Starring: John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, Cynthia Patrick, Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva. Produced for Universal. IMDb: 5.0/10. Rotten Tomatoes: 3.9/10. Metacritic: N/A.

After the moderate success of Universal’s big-budget science fiction film This Island Earth (1955, review), the studio kept a rather low profile regarding SF movies, but they didn’t completely disappear from production, they were merely downgraded to strictly B-movie fare. Director Jack Arnold and producer William Alland had been the go-to guys for SF stories for Universal in the past, but Arnold was now out of the picture. Alland remained, however, and for The Mole People he was paired up with Virgil Vogel, a long-time editor at the studio, whose directorial debut this was.

The film begins with a lengthy introduction by celebrity scientist Frank Baxter, who updates the viewers on the different “Hollow Earth” theories in swing in the pseudo-scientific community. While he concludes that all these are highly controversial and most likely nonsense, this introduction does place The Mole People strictly within the realm of science fiction, rather than in the grey area between SF and fantasy adventure which many “lost world” movies inhabit. He adds that the film we’re about to see is naturally fiction, but that it nevertheless poses important questions about our world and our time.

Nestor Paiva and John Agar.

A title then moves us to a mountainous area where an archaeological dig is taking place, informing us very precisely that we are in “Asia”. Here we meet the heroes or our film, archaeologists Roger Bantley (John Agar), Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont), Paul Stuart (Phil Chambers), Dr. Lafarge (Nestor Paiva), as well as a sherpa-type guide called Nazar (Rodd Redwing). During the dig a local boy brings an oil lamp with inscriptions, which suggest that a tribe of Sumerians, led by a mythical king, sought refuge from the mythical flood described in both the Bible and older mythological sources on top of a nearby mountain. Without further ado, our five heroes decide to go mountain climbing in hopes of discovering traces of this old civilisation — or even descendants of them.

Stock footage mountains.

After a treacherous climb (incorporating a significant amount of stock footage) up the – presumably Tibetan – snow-covered mountain, the team finally arrive at the summit where they discover the ruins of an old Sumerian city, and a remarkably well-preserved bust of the goddess Ishtar. But alas, the ground inconveniently cracks open under Dr. Stuart, who falls into a seemingly bottomless pit. Many minutes of descending later, the rest of the team find him — unsurprisingly — dead on the floor of a man-made cavern. But before they have time to explore further, a cave-in kills Nazar and blocks their return to the surface. Armed with a single flashlight, our surviving trio goes in search of an exit. But instead they find a Hollow Earth inhabited by the descendants of the lost Sumerian king and his people, whom the years underground have turned into albinos. The albinos have also enslaved a race of humanoid “mole people” with insectoid faces and sharp claws, to farm mushrooms, the only source of nutrition in the cave world.

The climbing party reach the old Sumerian ruins.

The newcomers present themselves to the king of the city (Arthur D. Gilmore) as visitors from the outside world, but as the Sumerians believe there is no world outside their caves, except heaven, they ask the trio if they are indeed gods. When learning that they are mortal, the high priest Elinu (Alan Napier) sentences them to death, as the city’s population is restricted to a certain number due to the scarcity of food. The heroes learn that there is a chamber called the Eye of Ishtar, where the light of the god devours those who are to be sacrificed. The three men flee into the tunnels, where Nestor Paiva’s character Dr. Lafarge is killed by one of the mole people and left for dead. However, Bentley discovers that neither the Sumerians nor the mole people can stand the light from his flashlight. The king declares, that since they command the light of Ishtar, they must be sent from heaven.

Arthur Gilmore as the king and Alan Napier as the high priest.

Now they are wined and dined, and learn that every now and again, a child is born beneath ground with normal skin pigmentation. These are deemed “marked with the darkness”, and treated as second-class citizens. One of these is the beautiful Caucasian Adad (Cynthia Patrick), whom Bentley takes a liking to, and who is gifted to him by the king. Bellamin and Bentley agree to go along with the charade of being messengers of Ishtar until they find a way out. However, the devious Elinu isn’t as easily misled as his king, and realises that the two men are mere mortals and that their power resides in the “cylinder” which holds Ishtar’s light — i.e. the flashlight. He realises that if he were to obtain the “cylinder”, he would become master of the underground world, and sends his acolytes to steal it from Bentley and Bellamin. Meanwhile, the two men take pity on the deadly, but mistreated mole men, who have the unfortunate habit of appearing randomly from holes in the ground and pulling people under, but otherwise seem to be sociable chaps.

John Agar, Cynthia Patrick and Hugh Beaumont.

So Bentley and Bellamin start stirring up unrest between the two communities, all while Elinu is on to their charade. Finally, the two are captured and sentenced to death, but momentum shifts when Elinu can’t get the “cylinder” to work (the batteries have run out), and the two escape along with Adad, who is saved from the Sumerian soldiers by the mole people. Finally, they work out the “the Eye of Ishtar” is simply a room with natural light, and escape to freedom. But Adad has last-minute regrets over leaving her people and goes back, after which she is killed in a cave-in.

The Mole People was written by László Görög, an American screenwriter born in Austria-Hungary in 1903, who arrived in the US in 1939, and worked various jobs in the movie industry, including occasional screenwriting. It was produced as a double-bill with Curucu, Beast of the Amazon. The movie was filmed over 17 days on a budget of approximately $200,000. This was a budget that William Alland had made decent films with when they were set in contemporary settings, but the lack of money is clearly in display in The Mole People, especially in wide shots of the underground world and its city. Alexander Golitzen is credited as production designer, but one wonders how much of an involevement he actually had as Universal’s chief production designer.

The party: Hugh Beaumont, Nestor Paiva, John Agar and Phil Chambers.

Director Virgil Vogel had joined Universal in 1940 as an assistant director, but spent most of his career as an editor, as well as working with visual effects. Feeling stagnated in his career, he begged the studio brass for a chance at directing, and since he was considered a “special effect kind of guy”, he was given The Mole People as his first directorial assignment. In an interview with film historian Tom Weaver, Vogel says he didn’t care one way or another which film he was given to direct, as long as he was able to direct. The low budget was not a deterrent, on the contrary, Vogel prided himself in knowing the tricks and short cuts for creating a decent movie on a thin dime.

Be that as it may, the lack of budget unfortunately shows in the end result. The problems are there from the very start, with Görög’s script, which is too short and lacks enough material to sustain the 80 minute movie. Vogel is forced to pad out the film in order to meet requirements. The climb up the mountain is long, with little happening except stock footage avalanches badly lined up with ill-fitting studio footage. According to Vogel, the stock footage is taken from a documentary about Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent to the top of Mount Everest. I do give Vogel points for depicting the trek as an arduous one, and more points for having the actors do actual repelling themselves — even if the repelling scene also goes on for far too long.

The rather shoddy matte paintings on display.

The endless roaming about on scarcely lit tunnel sets is mighty forgiving on the budget, but as soon as we get to the underground city, the film’s low-budget nature reveals itself. The matte paintings supposed to show the city and the hollow Earth receding in the background are of particularly poor quality, even if Vogel incorporates a few nifty matte shots, dropping the actors into the background. We never see much anything in the city itself, apart from a sparsely furnished “grand hall” and a small corner of a room representing the apartment in which the heroes are housed. This said, there are a few cool shots here and there. There is an atmospheric sequence resembling a Faustian silent film underworld, and the shots of the mole people dragging people underground are very effective. In an interview with Tom Weaver, lead actor John Agar says that the shots were accomplished by cutting an X into a foam rubber sheet and covering it with lightweight “gravel” (film historian Bill Warren claims it was made of cork). A mole man would appear from under the set, through the X, and grab onto the actor in question, pulling them down through the hole. Because of its light weight, most of the “gravel” would stay on the surface, and hide the hole.

The mole people themselves don’t look very much like moles, but rather like some sort of reptile/insect hybdrids. The hero masks are not badly designed, and hold up for some scrutiny. To save money, however, the creatures are clad in pants and long sleeves, which means that suits were required only for feet, hands and head. The mole men have humps on their backs, which were supposed to be crafted by the makeup department. However, when producer Alland heard what that would cost, he simply told the makeup guys to stuff the shirts with newspapers.

A mole man.

The basic idea for the film is not terrible at all. Like Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937), it takes its cue from H. Rider Haggard’s adventure novels in which explorers happen upon lost civilisations in secluded valleys or underground cities. In Lost Horizon, a plane crashes in Shangri-La in the Tibetan mountains, and The Mole People takes in cue perhaps most closely from Edward Bulwer Lytton’s novel The Coming Race, in which cave explorers descend too deep and come upon a lost super race. The albino Sumerians and the mole people are, of course, taken from the pages of H.G. Wells’ novel The Time Machine, although here the roles are reversed. In Wells’ novel, it was the beastly Morlocks who bred the angelic but simple Eloi as cattle. In the film, it is the civilised Sumerians that keep the mole people as field slaves. The western interlopers ultimately come through as the liberators of the downtrodden slaves. This could have worked, had had this basic story line been better developed, and had we got to know the mole people better. However, the focus of the script is all over the place. The introduction of the Caucasian girl is understandable from a point of view of marketing, but throws the film off balance. The main focus of the two heroes is always on getting out, and the liberation the mole people just sort of happens by sheer accident. I like the idea of the smart high priest manipulating his people (and slow-witted king) into believing there is nothing but gods outside their cave world, but immediately recognising the intruders as mere mortals from the outside. The detail of turning the flashlight into a MacGuffin is also a clever one. Unfortunately, the script feels sloppily compiled and its ideas under-developed. The ending in which Adad suddenly has a change of heart and runs back into the caves is, of course, ridiculous. To the credit of the production team, this was not what was originally filmed. The original cut had Adad joining Bentley topside, but that didn’t fly with the censors, who deemed that this promoted mixed-race relationships, so the actors had to be called back to film a new ending.

John Agar rapelling.

Little in the script stand up to logic scrutiny. First of all, how does a barefoot kid bring them the oil lamp which leads them to the top of the mountain? Do the locals kids regularly take hikes up the snow-covered mountains to the abandoned city? And where do the archaeologists suddenly get the gear and clothes for a mountain climbing expedition in the middle of an archaeological dig? Why did the Sumerians burrow underground after saving themselves from the flood? How has a community of 80 people survived the hazards of inbreeding for 6000 years? If the Sumerians have become so accustomed to darkness that their eyes are hurt by a normal flashlight, how come the city is so brightly lit that the heroes are able to see perfectly fine? Who are the mole people? Are they also descendants of the Sumerians, or were they already there when Ishtar and her people arrived? If food is so scarce that the Sumerians must sacrifice their own people, then why bother with the mole people at all? Mushrooms must be the least labour-intense crop in the world to farm. Surely 80 Sumerians can farm their own mushrooms instead of keeping a small slave army of extra mouths to feed? Anyway, it is highly doubtful that a human civilisation could have sustained itself for 6000 years on a diet consisting only of mushrooms. While their supply of vitamin D may substitute for the lack of sunlight, mushrooms lack essential vitamins like A and C, and are fairly low on protein, fat and carbs. And so on. Of course, logic isn’t a requirement in these movies, but here the questions just keep stacking up.

The eerie mushroom fields.

The movie’s Wikipedia page has a whole section dedicated to the the (intentional or unintentional) differences between recorded mythology and history, and the film’s depiction of it. For example, while the mythical story of the flood can be found in several pre-biblical myths, the biblical flood has never been established as a scientific fact. The script of the movie associates the god Ishtar with the Sumerians, when Ishtar was in fact the Babylonian name of a god, whose Sumerian counterpart was called Inanna. The film frequently seems to get Sumerian and Babylonian terms mixed up. The gods depicted on the temple walls are Egyptian and not Sumerian, which suggests that the temple sets were leftovers from another movie. And the symbol of Ishtar is depicted as an elongated chevron, when it was in fact an eight-pointed star.

Three maidens entering the Eye of Ishtar.

The acting is OK. John Agar is a stalwart, if colourless, hero, stuck here in the cheapest of the science fiction films he reluctantly did for Universal. Stock player Hugh Beaumont is likewise competently bland as the sidekick and Cynthia Patrick as the ingenue could have done little with the appallingly scripted part she has even if she had greater acting chops. Nestor Paiva played himself into the hearts of all monster movie fans as the grouchy skiff captain of Creature from the Black Lagoon and alongside Agar in Revenge of the Creature, and is one of the highlights of The Mole People as well, even if the part is not even half as good. The standout performance is given by Alan “Mr. Alfred” Napier as the evil high priest. Arthur D. Gilmore also does a decent jobs as the somewhat slow-witted and easily manipulated king of the Sumerians. However, the actors are mostly stuck with very little to do and inane dialogue, and their efforts aren’t aided by the cramped sets and overall low-budget production.

Adad having a change of heart at the film’s ending.

Director Virgil Vogel says in an interview with Tom Weaver that if he had the chance to do the film again, he would have re-written the script and tried to stop producer William Alland from cutting corners with the budget, but that when he was offered it, he thought the script was fine. As a whole, it didn’t really matter to him what movie he was making, as long as he got a shot at directing; “You have to remember, I was a young man then, and didn’t know much what I was doing”.

In another interview with Weaver, lead actor John Agar says that he absolutely does not blame the flaws of The Mole People on Vogel, whom he calls “a nice guy”. However, Agar thought the dialogue was rubbish and even pointed it out to Alland. As far as the mole people went, Agar tells Weaver he thought the make-up was quite good for the time, and praised the make-up effect guys at Universal as the best in the business the 50’s.

Going for the flashlight.

The Mole People isn’t a terrible film as far as low-budget 50’s science fiction movies go. A 17-day shooting schedule and $200,000 are production values that many low-budget studios and independent producers could only dream of, and even if they scraped the bottom of the barrel, Universal had a pool of stock players that guaranteed at least some degree of quality in the acting department. The sets and mattes may not be that much to look at, but at least it’s not all cardboard.

The movie received lukewarm reviews in the trade press. The Motion Picture Daily called it “a scary enough concoction, although the situations strain credibility at times”. Harrison’s Reports reported “mild suspense” and “some chills”, but noted that “overall the pace is somewhat slow and [the film] does not succeed in reaching any appreciable heights of excitement”. Variety wrote that the film “has some fanciful gimmicks, but unfolds them a bit too slowly”. In his 1984 book The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies, Phil Hardy calls The Mole People “an unimaginative film in which Agar (blandly) plays the leader of an anthropological expedition to the Middle East”.

Cynthia Patrick.

Today, The Mole People has a 5.0/10 audience rating on IMDb, based on around 3,500 votes, a 4.9/10, or 43% Rotten rating, at review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, and a 1.5/5 rating on AllMovie. Hal Erickson at AllMovie writes that the film “holds the dubious distinction of being the weakest of the Universal-International horror films”.

Glenn Erickson at DVD Savant points out that The Mole People’s “tiny budget is simply inadequate for its ambitious story”, but that “there aren’t too many unintentional laughs and we get enough key monster action to make kids happy”. He concludes: “The Mole People is a mole-hill attempt at a Lost Civilization epic, but its engaged performances and interesting story twists make up for some slow sequences”. Mark Cole at Rivets on the Poster calls it “a fairly solid adventure story, even if just a little predictable in places”. And at EOFFTV Kevin Lyons writes “despite [the actors’] best efforts, The Mole People is only, at best, a so-so film, one of Universal’s lesser genre films of the 1950s. 

Director Virgil Vogel (left) and cinematographer Ellis Carter with some mole people masks.

Virgil Vogel edited This Island Earth and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, among a number of other films. His career as a film director was short, however. He directed a handful of pictures in the late fifties, including two more SF films. The first was The Land Unknown (1957), which was supposed to be another lost world epic, but which was also marred by its low budget. Finally, he directed Sweden’s first SF movie, Rymdinvasion i Lappland (1958), which was shortened and re-edited for US release as Invasion of the Animal People. Seeing that his movie career wasn’t moving forward, Vogel jumped ship to TV, where he enjoyed a long and successful career, and directed shows like Wagon Train, Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, The Streets of San Francisco, Magnun, P.I. and Miami Vice — but also SF fair like The Six Million Dollar Man, Knight Rider, Street Hawk, Airwolf and Quantum Leap.

Mole people revolt!

Screenwriter László Görög was born László Guttmann in Austria-Hungary in 1903, and emigrated to the US in 1939. In his birth country, Görög worked as a journalist and a prolific writer of detective and crime novellas. It wasn’t until he arrived in Los Angeles, however, that he entered the movie business. Without a studio contract, Görög received commissions from various companies. His first produced screenplay was Tales of Manhattan (1942) for Fox, then he wrote The Affairs of Susan (1945) for Columbia, which earned him an Oscar nomination for best original story. However, film work seems to have run dry in 1947, and he has no credits before 1953, when he started writing for television. Görög mainly wrote for anthology shows and had a few film assignments as well. He also wrote The Land Unknown and Earth vs. the Spider (1958). He retired in 1963.

John Agar in “Revenge of the Creature”.

Lead actor John Agar has become a symbol of the 50’s B science fiction movie, much to his own chagrin. Agar got a flying start to his career in 1946, when he had just married teenager and former child star Shirley Temple, and Temple’s producer David O. Zelznick discovered him and his good looks, and offered him a five-year contract including acting lessons. Agar did a number of high-profile supporting roles opposite stars like John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, but his carer suffered badly when his marriage with Temple ended, the press turned against him and his contract with Zelznick ran out in 1951. However, after a few rough years he was cast in the lead of the B horror film The Golden Mistress (1954), after which he was offered a seven-year contract with Universal.

Revenge of the Creature (1955, review) was Agar’s first role for Universal, and he hoped that his contract would finally give him his big breakthrough as a leading man. However, he was relegated to playing B movies, and William Alland especially liked him in his science fiction films. Agar played the lead in Tarantula (1955, review), and later in The Mole Men, a film Agar thought was so bad, that he said he would rather tear up his contract than appear in another one as lousy. He saw his contract with Universal going nowhere, especially as Universal was grooming leading men like Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis and George Nader. So he quit.

Nestor Paiva and John Agar in “Tarantula”.

However, his roles didn’t necessarily get better. Straight out of Universal he found himself starring the horror film Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. This was followed by films like The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Invisible Invaders (1959), Hand of Death (1962), Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962), Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1966) and Night Fright (1967). In the late sixties his roles became more sporadic, and he partly withdrew from motion pictures, but happily took on smaller roles when they were offered. He appeared alongside a number of old sci-fi veterans in the bizarre fan fiction movie The Naked Monster, originally filmed in 1988, but partly re-shot in 2004, when much of the cast had died, and released in 2005. In the sixties he also did three TV movies for director Larry Buchanan, including Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966) and Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966), both considered among some of the worst movies ever made.

Hugh Beaumont started his career on stage and had a number of small roles in movies in the 40’s. His first brush with stardom was a five-movie crime film series starring as private detective Michael Shayne in 1946-1947. A reliable supporting actor, Beaumont never achieved leading man status, but appeared in a number of films and TV guest spots until he landed the role that made him forever associated with the kindly small-town dad, as Ward Cleaver in the family sitcom Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963). He made a few more TV guest appearances in the 60’s, but gradually left the business to lauch a second career as a Christmas tree farmer.

Nestor Paiva.

Born in the US to Portuguese immigrant parents, Nestor Paiva had what Gary Brumburgh on IMDb calls ”one of those nondescript ethnic mugs and a natural gift for dialects that allowed him to play practically any type of foreigner”. First noticed by larger audiences as the villain The Scorpion in the film serial Don Winslow of the Coast Guard (1942), he made a career out of playing foreign villains, henchmen or authority types in B films like Angel’s Alley (1948) and Bride of Vengeance (1949). His defining role, however, was as Lucas in Creature of the Black Lagoon (1954, review).

The role gave him numerous guest spots on big TV series, such as Rin Tin Tin (1955-1957) and Sugarfoot (1957), but the one he is maybe best remembered from is Disney’s Zorro, where he played the innkeeper in 14 episodes between 1957 and 1961. That in turn led to even bigger series like Perry Mason, Sea Hunt, Rawhide, Lassie, The Third Man, Bonanza, etc. Creature wasn’t Paiva’s first sci-fi, he had had a few bit-parts in serials and sci-fi-ish films. After Creature he appeared in Tarantula, Revenge of the Creature, The Mole People, Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961), The Madmen of Mandoras (1963), Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966) and They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968), as well as a number of sci-fi-tinged TV series. He passed away in 1966. Overall he appeared in over 300 films or series.

Cynthia Patrick in a press image.

Born in San Rafael as Patricia Farrell in 1934, lead actress Cynthia Patrick grew up overseas as the adopted daughter of a US Air Force colonel and began modelling and acting in Europe. Upon returning to the US, she continued this line of work. She was picked up by Univeral in 1956, but apart from her role as Adad in The Mole People, received only bit-parts. She was let go the next year and did a couple of TV guests spots before quitting and going into real estate.

Alan Napier in “The Invisible Man Returns”.

Alan Napier, thin and tall at 196 cm or 6’4, is superbly cast as the evil high priest. The refined Brit, cousin of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and the great great grandson on Charles Dickens, was well out of character in this role, and continued to play very diverse supporting and bit-part roles over the decades, in everything from B-horrors to jungle adventures to Shakespeare, including films like Julius Caesar, My Fair Lady and The Sword in the Stone. But he will forever be remembered for a role he wasn’t even happy to take in the first place, that of the soft-spoken but surprisingly hardy and ingenious butler Alfred in the 1966-68 TV-series Batman. Napier also appeared as the buffoonish factory foreman Willie Spears who gets throttled with his own scarf in The Invisible Man Returns (1940, review).

John Agar and Rodd Redwing.

Playing Nazar, the sherpa-type guide, was Rodd Redwing, an interesting footnote figure in Hollywood. Born to black parents in Tennessee in 1904, although Redwing claimed to have been born in New York to an actor father and a Chickasaw Indian mother. In reality his father was an elevator operator and his mother a manicurist and hairdresser. Rodd’s real name was Webb Richardson. He moved to New York in 1929 to pursue a career in acting. However, probably realising how difficult it was to get ahead as a black performer, he soon changed his name to Rodd Redwing and claimed to be of Native American descent. At another point he claimed that he was born in India to an Indian father and a German mother, and that his real name was “Roderick Rajpurkaii Jr.” Exactly how and why he made the move to Hollywood is unclear — according to his own testimony he was invited by Cecil B. Demille. When he did arrive in the early 30’s, he worked as a gunsmith at one of the companies supplying studios with fire arms. He quickly became known as one of the top gun, tomahawk, knife and whip instructors for the westerns, and coached many stars of the screen in gun handling in particular, while himself playing bit parts and doing stunt work. He was also a trick shooter and knife thrower and performed his tricks both on stage and television — some of which were actually stage illusions. He appeared in close to 100 films before his death from a heart attack in the late 60’s. During his career he mostly played “ethnic” characters, most often Native Americans. He had a small role as one of the natives attacked by the Gill-man in the beginning of Creature from the Black Lagoon, and played another native in the jungle/SF movie The Flame Barrier (1958).

Frank Baxter, egghead.

Frank Baxter, who appears as himself/the scientist in the beginning of The Mole People is one of those characters that is ubiquitous to a certain generation of Americans, but rings no bells for a European audience. Baxter was sort of the Bill Nye the Science Guy for the boomer generation in the US. He hosted a whole range of TV programs (of which IMDb lists only a handful), some devoted to his expertise as an English professor in the University of Southern California (such as Shakespeare), some on philosphy, art history and science in general. Baxter was a hugely popular lecturer at USC, and his open recitals at Christmas had people lining the block. It wasn’t long before TV took advantage of his spirited and often humorous talent of imparting knowledge and he became especially well known for his role as “Dr. Research” in a range of animated films called The Bell Systems Science Series, which was first aired at CBS and then entered into the public domain, free to use in schools, which meant a whole generation of kids grew up learning science in school from Frank Baxter.

Bob Herron as Kahless the Unforgettable in Star Trek in 1969.

In amongst the bit-parts one can spot, for example, Kay E. Kuter, who spent decades in film and TV as a supporting actor. SF fans will remember him fondly as the dying Sirah in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode The Storyteller (1993) and as the bearded leader of the mysterious Calusari, called in to exercise the demon of a young boy in the X-Files episode The Calusari (1995). Many of the Mole People were played by renowned stuntmen, including Universal legend Eddie Parker, who, among many other things, doubled for Lon Chaney, Jr. in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1942, review), and Bob Herron, who portrayed the mythical Klingon hero Kahless in the 1969 Star Trek episode The Savage Curtain.

Yvonne de Lavallade doing a sacrificial dance.

The film also features a curious interpretive dance number with a captivating dancer, who is unfortunately unimaginatively filmed. This is, in fact, the only Sumerian in the movie portrayed by a black performer, although made-up white like the other albinos of her race. Her name is Yvonne de Lavallade, older sister of the much more famous Creole dancer Carmen de Lavallade; dancer, actress and choreographer, and 2017 recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor Award. Yvonne only appeared in one other film.

Janne Wass

The Mole People. USA, 1956. Directed by Virgil Vogel. Written by László Görög. Starring: John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, Cynthia Patrick, Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva, Phil Chambers, Rodd Redwing, Robin Hughes, Frank Baxter, Kay E. Kuter, Eddie Parker, Bob Herron. Cinematography: Ellis Carter. Editing: Irving Birnbaum. Art direction: Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith. Costume design: Jay A. Morley, Jr. Makeup: Bud Westmore, E. Thomas Case, Jack Kevan. Sound: Leslie I. Carey. Special effects: Norman Breedlove, Clifford Stine.

2 replies

  1. I was intrigued to learn about the re-filmed ending of THE MOLE PEOPLE. When I saw the movie in Paris it was the remade ending, but some years later I found one of these magazines from Italy made of photographs taken from print of a movie – maybe it was “Malia” or another of the same kind.
    Well, in this magazine the movie’s concusion showed Cynthia Patrick still alive. Now, was it a change made by the magazine’s publisher – or was the movie really released in Italy with the original ending ? Unfortunately I don’t have this issue anymore. As the photographs were taken directly from a print, it would be interesting to verify if some of them were taken from the alternate ending ?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.