Sunday, August 09, 2009

Vamp or Not? Beast from Haunted Cave

coverBill from over at the Uranium Café stopped on by recently and suggested that the 1959 drive-in 'B' movie Beast From Haunted Cave (which was directed by Monte Hellman, who would go on to direct the segment “Stanley’s Girlfriend” in the portmanteau film Trapped Ashes) was prime ‘Vamp or Not?’ material. I need to thank Bill as I thoroughly enjoyed this little slice of 'B' movie nostalgia that carried the tagline “Screaming young girls sucked into a labyrinth of horror by a blood-starved ghoul from Hell”.

The great thing about the film is just how much character they put into it. Okay, some of the dialogue and plotting is more than a little hokey but somehow it felt comfortable. We begin with two men taking Polaroids, they are Byron Smith (Wally Campo) and Marty Jones (Richard Sinatra). They return to a ski resort. Up on the slopes, drinking a 10 AM martini is Gypsy Boulet (Sheila Noonan) who is chatting up resort owner Gil Jackson (Michael Forest) whilst her lover, Alexander Ward (Frank Wolff), is skiing.

Alex and GypsyThe basic story is this. As well as owning a fireworks factory, Alex is a crook who pulls of various heists. Smith and Jones are his crew and Gypsy is his moll – but she wants out of the lifestyle. They have come to Deadwood in South Dakota to pull a job. Marty Jones is to set an explosive at a nearby mine. In the morning (Sunday) they are all meant to be going on a 2 day cross country ski trip led by the innocent Gil. Gypsy will get there first and distract Gil and, once the mine explodes, they will raid an office holding gold. They will take 2 bars each (all they can carry) and meet up for their trip. When they get to Gil’s cabin they’ll make an excuse to stay until their getaway ski plane comes and they kill Gil.

Linné Ahlstrand as NatFor it all to work Marty has to set the explosive. He takes a cocktail waitress, Nat (Linné Ahlstrand), up to the mine – allegedly on a romantic drive. He goes in with her (the fact he has a gun with which he shoots the lock is blamed on the fact that there is a cougar on the loose. An excuse she totally buys) and leaves her in the entrance whilst he ‘explores’. He sets the bomb but notices some web like stuff and some material (he later describes as egg fragments). He gets back to the entrance and kisses her when a long tendril-like arm grabs her.

suspended in the treesHe is distressed when he gets back – the thing got her, he’ll say, but he won’t say what thing. Alex is less than impressed but the heist goes ahead. They are skiing cross country and get to a place to rest (and can I say that sleeping bags on packed down snow doesn’t sound like a fun camping trip to me). Marty says that something is following them and takes first watch. He hears crying in the trees and goes out and sees… Nat (still alive) webbed in a tree and the creature. Now I thought this might be an illusion at this point but we see later that it has brought her along. He shoots but, when the others awaken, nothing can be seen. In the morning Gil finds strange tracks.

almost etherealThey get to the cabin and meet Little Dove, Gil’s housekeeper. There is an attempt to keep an uneasy peace but Gypsy is coming on to Gil and Alex is less than impressed. Marty seems to be losing it and when he goes out, and sees the creature, he is attacked and injured. At this point the creature looked as though it could be transparent or ethereal at times, though that could have been bad effects/mapping. Byron and Little Dove get close and Gil begins to suspect the crooks. Worse, a storm closing in means that the plane Alex is waiting for may not arrive.

Little Dove is taken nextWhat the film does is play with character and motivation and does it really well. The delivery of dialogue is very natural and Noonan, in particular, is excellent as the lush of a moll with some serious regrets. Some of the motivations seem a little contrived at times and the talky nature of the flick can slow things down. Ahh... you say, but what about the creature. Things come to a head when Gil goes to alert the authorities and Gypsy leaves with him.

drinking Nat's bloodByron is going to follow when the creature gets Little Dove. Byron scares it off with fire but then goes to find it in a nearby cave that Marty has realised must be its new lair. As it happens, the encroaching blizzard means that Gil and Gypsy head to the cave for shelter also and Marty and Alex go to get them there. The beast has, indeed, made it his lair and Byron finds Nat and Little Dove pasted to the wall and is caught and webbed himself. To his horror the creature probes Nat and starts to suck her blood.

the final showdownWhere has it come from? The film doesn’t say but offers a couple of hints/theories. Marty thinks that it might be a prehistoric creature just hatched in the mine. We also hear about a Native American vengeful warrior spirit, fighting the foreign invader. The creature seems, at the end, flesh and bone but apparently impervious to bullets. However it did appear ethereal at one point. It is destroyed, in the end, by fire. It seems intelligent, it tracks the skiers and Marty believes it is because he saw it and escaped in the mine. Let’s face it, an animal would likely have stayed near the town, also it doesn’t attack on the first night of the cross country ski trek – as though it is gauging its enemies. It drinks blood but is it vamp?

I’m torn but I’m leaning towards probably not… however it is most definitely of genre interest and, as I mentioned at the head, I really enjoyed the movie in a drive-in 'B' movie sort of way. The imdb page is here.


Bill said...

Glad you checked this out and liked it. I liked it too and eventually I will put it up at the Cafe, but I blog at a friggin' snail's pace. I watched The She-Creature today and while I love old B flicks with a passion I begin to notice how little time the monsters spend on the screen. Too bad really.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Bill - thanks to you for the recommendation.

IRO lack of on-screen appearance, it is actually, possibly, one of the reasons the old B flicks work so well.

CrabSyiX said...

Having just watched Reaper series 2:06 Underbelly, I am struck at the similarities. Dove (Hollow), a tentacled beast, a silver mine? No skiing but Sock does slide down on his sister!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

that's just naughty

CrabStiX said...

My spelling has gone to pot... said the hash-head sorcerer.