Fiend Without a Face
|Fiend Without a Face|
|Directed by||Arthur Crabtree|
|Produced by||John Croydon|
|Written by||Herbert J. Leder|
|Music by||Buxton Orr|
|Editing by||R.Q. McNaughton|
|Distributed by||Criterion (Region 1 DVD)|
|Release dates||USA 3 July 1958,
UK December 1958
|Running time||77 min.|
Fiend Without a Face is an independently made 1958 British black-and-white science fiction film produced by John Croydon and directed by Arthur Crabtree. It stars Marshall Thompson, Kynaston Reeves, Michael Balfour, and Kim Parker. The film tells the story of mysterious deaths at the hands of an invisible life-form that steals human brains and spinal columns to multiply itself. The film is based upon Amelia Reynolds Long's 1930 short story "The Thought Monster", originally published in Weird Tales magazine.
The film is set on an American airbase in rural Manitoba, Canada. Mysterious deaths begin to occur in the small town near the base, and postmortems reveal that the brains and spinal cords of the victims are somehow missing; only marks on each victim's neck are left as a clue. The locals become convinced that nuclear fallout from radiation at the base is the cause of the strange deaths.
Air Force Major Jeff Cummings (Marshall Thompson) soon becomes suspicious of Professor R. E. Walgate (Kynaston Reeves), a British scientist living near the airbase, who has been experimenting with telekinetics. It is later revealed that Cumming's suspicion is correct: Walgate has succeeded in developing telekinesis. Unknown to Walgate, the nuclear power experiments at the base have enhanced his abilities well beyond his understanding, creating a new, malevolent, invisible life form that has developed its own intelligence and escaped his laboratory.
This intelligence soon begins to multiply its numbers by claiming even more local victims. These creatures later become visible while continuing to feed on the higher levels of power now being generated at the nearby airbase. Their mutated "bodies" are revealed to be the missing, now enlarged brains and connected spinal cords removed from their victims; the spinal cords have become very flexible and have sprouted feelers. These mutations allow the creatures to move quickly and even leap distances. Each brain has also developed a pair of small eyes at the ends of extended eye stalks.
The film climaxes with the visible creatures attacking an isolated house where most of the film's main characters have gathered to discuss the growing crisis. Having come armed, the defenders discover the creatures can be easily dispatched with well-aimed gun shots to their exposed brain-bodies. It is Major Cummings who saves the day, however, by blowing up the airbase's nuclear power plant machinery, robbing the creatures of their high-energy power source, causing them to expire quickly and then dissolve away.
- Marshall Thompson as Major Jeff Cummings
- Kynaston Reeves as Professor R. E. Walgate
- Michael Balfour as Sergeant Kasper
- Kim Parker as Barbara Griselle
- Terry Kilburn as Captain Al Chester
- Gil Winfield as Captain Warren, M.D.
- Shane Cordell as a nurse
- Stanley Maxted as Colonel G. Butler
- James Dyrenforth as Mayor Hawkins
- Kerrigan Prescott as an atomic engineer
Production and release
The film was made entirely in England. Its Canadian setting was chosen because it would appeal to both American and British Commonwealth movie audiences, while still being easy to replicate using the English shooting locations. U. S. Air Force stock aviation footage was also used to establish the military base setting and to pad out the film's meagre running time. The producers used primarily expatriate American and Canadian actors working in the United Kingdom, plus a few British actors dubbed by Americans.
The film's visible brain creatures were created using stop-motion animation, an unusual practice for such a low-budget science fiction thriller of this era. The director of these effects sequences was Florenz Von Nordoff, while the actual stop-motion was done in Munich by German special effects artist K. L. Lupel. Peter Neilson headed up the British practical effects' crew.
Fiend Without a Face created a public uproar after its British premiere at the Ritz Theatre in Leicester Square in London's West End. The British Board of Film Censors had demanded a number of cuts before finally granting the film an "X" Certificate, but newspaper critics were still aghast at its horrifying special effects. Questions were actually raised in Parliament as to why British censors had allowed the film to be released and further asked what was the British film industry thinking in trying to beat Hollywood at its own game of overdosing on blood and gore.
When the film opened in the U. S. at the Rialto Theatre on New York City's Times Square, the film's producer had an outside, front-of-the-house display showcasing a "living and breathing" Fiend in a steel-barred glass display case. It periodically moved its tail, startling onlookers, and also made menacing sounds with the help of a concealed electrical device. The crowd that gathered on the sidewalk to watch the caged Fiend grew so large that NYC police finally ordered it removed because it was creating a public disturbance.
James Rolfe called the film "the greatest killer brain movie of all time." He reviewed it in his Monster Madness Camp Cult series, stating that it is the goriest film of the 1950s. Fiend Without a Face is frequently considered one of the best B movies of the 1950s.
Rémi Fréchette, a filmmaker and performance artist based in Montreal, produced and directed a Web series (2013) and a Feature film (2014) called Les Jaunes, in close resonance with the themes and images of Fiend Without a Face, including its military aspects, rural setting, and energy-based brain creatures created using stop-motion animation. . 
- Richard Gordon and Tom Weaver, commentary on the Criterion Collection DVD.
- Amelia Reynolds Long http://amelialong.tripod.com/
- ""STREET" cred for "FIEND WITHOUT A FACE" remake". Fangoria.
5. Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Volume II (1958–1962), 1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-89950-170-2.
- Fiend Without a Face at the Internet Movie Database
- Fiend Without a Face at allmovie
- AMCtv.com – B Movies – Fiend Without a Face (Full Streaming Movie)
- What's Scarier Than a Fiend Without a Face? at SFUniverse.net