I love old monster movies, the worse they are the better I like ‘em. Tubitv.com indulges me with tons of them to watch for free! Beast from Haunted Cave was literally a random pick by my hubby – but it turns out to be something of a little unsung gem in my opinion.
On the surface it’s about a band of thieves who rob a bank and then plan to make their getaway by going up a snowy mountain in South Dakota where their fellow henchman is to pick them up in a plane and fly them to Canada. Instead a series of blizzards trap them on the mountain, and a monster they awakened along the way kills most of them. It’s a 50s crime movie/monster movie fusion!
Normally, I am all about the monster. But in this case, I have to agree with the leader of the bank robbers, Alexander Ward, who says “I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it chews up the whole state. I care if it came from Mars or happened by spontaneous combustion.” According to IMDB, the monster was based on the Wingless Hanging Fly, something I can’t find even with the Internet, although Hangingfly is out there. They are sort of gruesome looking. But as far as I can tell the monster is a tree stump and two very long sticks with a single joint all draped in Halloween spider webbing. Mostly we only see it’s shadow on the cave walls. It seems to like to grab people and web them up to the cave wall, then stab them in the throat with some sort of tube and suck out their blood. It apparently takes you a few days to die.
But what I ended up really enjoying was the story. For a cheapo B monster movie, there is actually a complex little story going on here and it’s all about this girl:
This is Gypsy Boulet, played by Sheila Noonan, or Sheila Carol as she is also apparently known. When the movie begins she is introduced as the boss robbers “secretary”. She is a bad girl, who drinks and flirts with everyone, but especially with the nice guy Alexander calls “Cowboy”. Gil Jackson, played by Michael Forest, is a nice guy who runs a ski lodge and lives in an isolated cabin up on the mountain. He’s just a nice guy. Who doesn’t know quite what to make of Gypsy drunk at 9 in the morning, or Alexander’s rough treatment of her (“You don’t know the trouble I’ve had because of this woman” Alexander says). He’s hired to guide the group on a cross country ski trip to his cabin, and before that he gives them all some skiing lessons.
Gypsy and Gil (who is played by Micheal Forest) have several well done scenes together as Gypsy mourns her life with Alexander, and as she gets to know Gil, becomes attracted to him. She says she’d like to live with him on the mountain, but Gil has his doubts. “What will happen when you get bored?”
I have not watched the other three movies – the only movies Sheila Noonan ever did, at least as far as Imdb knows – but here she is really channeling her inner Lauren Bacall. For just a moment, in that bar scene above, you can see the nod at Bogey and Bacall with Gypsy and Alexander. I’m not a romance person, but these relationships, and Gypsy’s character, her moods and her words, and of course, looks, really captured me.
Of course, I am always casting a wary eye on the portrayal of brown folx in these old movies I love. So when Small Dove was introduced, I was actually quite pleased. She is Gil’s “housekeeper” at the cabin. Small Dove is played by Kay Jennings in what appears to be her first, last, and only movie role. Her part is small and she probably says less than a hundred words, but she made my heart warm all the same. She starts out with that cynical attitude of any country person towards these city folks, but after an appearance by the monster, develops some respect for the most gormless of bank robbers, the guy who is clearly along for comedy – Marty Smith, played by Wally Campo.
Kay Jennings is clearly Native American, and I wonder if she might have been a local? Small Dove is captured by the beast, and when her new anormarata finds her webbed to the cave wall, has the presence of mind to explain quite a bit to him about the beast before she dies. She is smart, courageous, and capable. Yay!
Last, but hardly least, the entire film was done in South Dakota – and man is that some pretty country.
There are some names you will recognize here if you like the old B movies. The thief, Marty, is played by Richard Sinatra. Yes, he is in fact a cousin of Ol’ Blue Eyes. The producer is Gene Corman, Roger Corman’s brother. The film was released in 1959 as a double feature with The Wasp Woman. (It’s on my list, but first I have to go watch the rest of Sheila Noonan/Carol’s movies). The director is Monte Hellman, who went on to work with Roger Corman on many films. The whole move is an hour and five minutes long, so if you have a bit of time to kill and haven’t seen this old horror movie yet, I really think it’s worth your time.