The Creeping Terror
|The Creeping Terror|
|Directed by||Vic Savage (as A.J. Nelson)|
|Produced by||Vic Savage (as A.J. Nelson)|
|Written by||Robert Silliphant|
|Narrated by||Larry Burrell|
|Music by||Frederick Kopp|
|Edited by||Vic Savage (as A.J. Nelson)|
|Distributed by||Crown International Television|
|Running time||75 min|
The Creeping Terror (also known as The Crawling Monster and Dangerous Charter) is a 1964 horror/science fiction film, in which a slug-like monster terrorizes an American town after escaping from a crashed spaceship. The Creeping Terror is widely considered to be one of the worst films of all time, and in September 1994, the film was the subject of derisive riffing on the satirical television series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
A newlywed deputy, Martin Gordon (Vic Savage), encounters an alien spacecraft that has crash landed in fictional Angel County in California. A large, hairy, slug-like, omnivorous monster emerges from the side of an impacted spaceship. A second one, still tethered inside, kills a forest ranger and the sheriff (Byrd Holland) when they independently enter the craft to investigate.
Martin, now temporary sheriff, joins his wife Brett (Shannon O'Neil); Dr. Bradford (William Thourlby, the original Marlboro Man), a renowned scientist; and Col. James Caldwell, a military commander and his men to fight the creature. Meanwhile the monster stalks the countryside, devouring a girl in a bikini, picnickers at a "hootenanny", Grandpa Brown (Jack King) and his grandson while fishing, a housewife hanging the laundry, the patrons at a community dance hall, and couples in their cars at lovers' lane.
The protagonists ultimately deduce that the monsters are mindless biological-sample eaters. The bio-analysis data is microwaved back to the probe's home planet through the spaceship.
Caldwell decides that the creatures must be killed, despite Bradford's objections. He orders his men to fire at the creature, which they do while standing close to one another as it moves towards them. Their gunfire proves ineffective, and all of the troops are devoured. Paradoxically, Caldwell decides a moment later to throw a grenade, and the creature dies instantly.
At the end of the film, both creatures are destroyed, but not before the signal is sent. The dying Bradford suggests that this bodes ill for the human race, but observes that since the galaxy to which the transmission was aimed is a million light years away, the threat may not manifest for millennia.
- Vic Savage as Martin Gordon
- Shannon O'Neil as Brett Gordon
- William Thourlby as Dr. Bradford
- John Caresio as Col. James Caldwell
- Brendon Boone as Barney the Deputy
- Byrd Holland as Sheriff
- Jack King as Grandpa Brown
- Pierre Kopp as Bobby
The Creeping Terror was directed, produced, and edited by Vic Savage under the alias A.J. Nelson. Although Robert Silliphant is the credited writer, the original story was written by his younger brother, Allan Silliphant, who went on to produce, write and direct the 3-D adult feature film The Stewardesses (1969) (under the name Al Silliman Jr.), the only micro-budget film of the 1960s or 1970s to become the #1 film on the weekly Variety box-office chart (it finally grossed over $140,000,000 in 2011 U.S. dollars).
Silliphant's half-brother, Stirling Silliphant, was already a very successful writer at the time, having written extensively for TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and co-created Naked City and Route 66. He would go on to write In the Heat of the Night, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, among about 40 other films. Allan Silliphant was therefore famous by association, a fact used by Savage to draw in potential investors. The younger Silliphant brother had no idea that the family name was being used to influence potential investors. Savage reportedly offered many of the investors a small part in the film for a few hundred dollars each, in exchange for a part of the profits. However, just before the film's release, Savage was sued repeatedly, even possibly facing indictment on charges of fraud, and vanished. He was apparently never heard from again in the context of film production, and reportedly died of liver failure in 1975, aged 41.
Savage paid Allan Silliphant $1500, according to comments by Silliphant when interviewed for "Creep", although far less was implied by a book about "bad movies." Forthwith, the 22-year-old Silliphant returned in three days with the original nine-page film treatment that he had "made up" face-to-face with Savage, based only on a vague earlier story idea. Later in the production there was conflict between writer and director, with Silliphant growing frustrated that Savage did not seem to share his vision that the story was "supposed" to be over the top. Furthermore, instead of shooting at scenic Lake Tahoe as Silliphant had intended, a muddy pond at Spahn Ranch had to do. The assistant director was stuntman Randy Starr, who later achieved notoriety by providing Charles Manson with the gun used in the Sharon Tate murders. Silliphant saw that the direction the film was taking would harm his family, especially the reputation of half-brother Stirling Silliphant, rather than enhance it, so he bowed out after the studio scenes were done. The production became a weekend affair for several more months, with Savage raising the money by selling small parts to star-struck plumbers, etc. One story says Savage checked into a motel with a silent picture-only Moviola to do a quick assembly of the film.
A point concerning the narration, about which the robots in the MST3K episode joke, is that the narrator speaks over much of the dialog in the film while long bouts devoid of dialog have no narration (similar in style to many of the educational films of the 1950s and 1960s). Reportedly the original sound tracks were lost (one suggestion is that they literally fell into Lake Tahoe, which is almost certainly wrong since the movie was not filmed there), although cast member William Thourlby has said that the film was shot without sound as a cost-saving measure, and that dubbing was to have taken place after production. Therefore, there is only a limited amount of dialog in the film, because Savage supposedly shot scenes without regard to the professional quality of the sound, or even transferring it properly to 35mm mag stock. Having insufficient money to pay for basic sound transfers, he finally hired a local radio news reader to narrate the entire movie in post-production.
In 1980 and 1981, a group of students at the University of Michigan produced two sequels to The Creeping Terror entitled Return of the Creeping Terror and The Creeping Terror Strikes Back. Several shots include crewmembers holding the lights and microphones, and the Terror's victims can be seen rolling offscreen after the carpet smothers them. Try as they might, they could not make the sequels worse than the original.
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