Beast from Haunted Cave
|Beast from Haunted Cave|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Monte Hellman|
|Produced by||Gene Corman|
Roger Corman (uncredited)
|Written by||Charles B. Griffith|
|Based on||story by Griffith|
|Music by||Alexander Laszlo|
|Cinematography||Andrew M. Costikyan|
|Edited by||Anthony Carras|
Allied Artists Pictures
|October 30, 1959|
Beast from Haunted Cave is a 1959 horror/heist film directed by Monte Hellman and starring Michael Forest, Frank Wolff and Richard Sinatra. It was produced by Gene Corman, Roger Corman's brother. Filmed in South Dakota at the same time as Ski Troop Attack, it tells the story of bank robbers fleeing in the snow who run afoul of a giant spider-like monster that feeds on humans. The film was released as a double feature with The Wasp Woman (1959).
The movie began an association between Roger Corman and Monte Hellman that lasted for fifteen years. Hellman would work on several of Corman's films and he would finance several movies that Hellman would direct.
A group of criminals, led by the ruthless Alexander Ward, hatch a plan to steal gold bars from a bank vault in Deadwood, South Dakota. Ward sends one of his henchmen, Marty Jones, to set an explosion in a nearby gold mine; the detonation will act as a diversion for their heist. Although Marty, accompanied by local barmaid Natalie, succeeds in setting off the explosion, he encounters a beast in the mine. The beast kills Natalie, but Marty escapes with his life.
The next morning, the explosive goes off as planned, and Marty and his gang succeed in stealing gold bars from the vault. Led by a local guide named Gil Jackson, they set off to a remote cabin, where they hope to be picked up by a plane. Gil is initially unaware of their plans, but he becomes suspicious when he hears reports of the robbery on the radio and discovers that they're carrying handguns. They reach the cabin without incident but, once there, a violent snowstorm delays the plane's arrival. Marty's "secretary" Gypsy is taken with the young Gil and tells him that Marty plans to kill him once the plane arrives. Gil and Gypsy take off back to town together.
Marty, who still carries unpleasant memories of his encounter with the beast, has all the while been concerned about being followed. He encounters the beast again during the trip to the cabin, but his companions think he's losing his mind. Eventually, however, they become convinced of the beast's reality when they see it attack Marty's other henchman, Byron. Despite their fear of further attacks, the gang is set on tracking down Gil and Gypsy before they reach town, so they head to a nearby cave. Another snowstorm forces Gil and Gypsy to take shelter in the cave as well, which turns out to be the lair of the beast. In the final struggle, the beast kills the remaining gang members, but Marty shoots it with a flare gun before he dies. Gil and Gypsy are left to watch as the monster burns to death.
In the mid-1950s, film producer and director Roger Corman, along with his brother and fellow producer Gene Corman, hired then theatre director Hellman to direct a film from a screenplay by Roger Corman regular Griffith.
According to Griffith, Corman was motived by the success of Naked Paradise. He said "Roger said "I want NAKED PARADISE using a gold mine instead of a pineapple plantation. Put it in South Dakota and add a monster." I didn't know how to add a monster to that script, so I had it all wrapped up in a cocoon in a cave just threatening to break loose all the time. I don't know how it happened That became BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE. "
Monte Hellman said "what interested me about it was that it really wasn't a monster movie. Roger liked Key Largo very much. I think that was one of his favorite movies. He kept making Key Largo just different versions of it. In this case he added a monster to it."
Both of the Cormans had grown tired of filming in Bronson Canyon and the Los Angeles Arboretum, and wanted to film in new locations in future films. This would also enable them to hire crews out of Chicago at a cheaper rate than in Los Angeles.
After getting information from the Chamber of Commerce in South Dakota, they decided to film in South Dakota's Black Hills The Black Hills themselves turned out to be too difficult to film. Gene Corman considered a mind in Lead, South Dakota, then found a disused mine in Deadwood.
To amortize costs, Roger Corman produced another film, Ski Troop Attack at the same time on the same location, utilising the same screenwriter and lead actors. The two films took five weeks in all the shoot, with one day off between films, and Beast was shot first. The unit was based at the Ben Franklin Hotel.
The film's cast was mostly composed of Corman regulars Wolff, Campo, Forest, Sinatra (cousin to famous actor and singer Frank Sinatra) and Noonan. Ahlstrand, Playboy's Playmate of the Month for July 1958, also played a minor role in the film as Nathalie the barmaid. Michael Forest says he was paid $500 a week and recalls "what was taking place was tough on us physically."
Hellman says "it wasn’t fun to make at all. It was my first film and we had 13 days to shoot, and by noon of the first day we hadn’t gotten a shot because the equipment was all frozen – it was 10 degrees below zero and we couldn’t get anything to run... Roger Corman, who was the executive producer, was screaming on the phone that if we didn’t get our first day’s quota he was gonna be on a plane the next day and take over the picture. We managed to get it [working]; the sound was a little bit off-speed but we were able to correct it."
Scenes in the cave were filmed in an abandoned mine in Deadwood, where the crew was allowed to film. While shooting scenes in the cave that required the actors to use guns, the sounds reverberating from the fired ammunition would sometimes cause parts of the cave's ceiling to break off, which made some of the cast and crew members nervous while working on location.
Other problems arose while filming in the mine, as the air became very stale to the point where the crew had to pump air into the cave; the problem was never completely solved due to improper equipment.
According to Robinson, the design of the beast, which he nicknamed "Humphrass", was based on a wingless hangingfly. In order to create the creature's skeletal form, Robinson added aluminum stripping to a plywood base, then covered the frame with chicken wire before wrapping it in sheets and muslin. He then soaked the frame in vinyl paint in order to waterproof the design, since it had to be used in the snow. The creature's head was fashioned out of quarter-inch aluminum wire, which was then encased in steel wire and wrapped in muslin. The creature's fangs and teeth were also constructed with aluminum wire. Robinson then placed putty and patches of crepe hair onto the design before adding spun glass in order to give it a cobwebby appearance.
"They literally spent two dollars at the dime store," said Hellman. "It was mostly angel hair and paper machie monster."
Forrest said, "I kept lookin’ at it and thinking, “This doesn’t scare me at all!” [Laughs] But it was supposed to, I guess’ Chris was doing the best he could under the circumstances, trying to make this thing walk when he could hardly move in it."
Roger Corman recalls the shoot "as a very tough challenge. It was unbelievably cold and snowed all the time.
Hellman says he was paid to write, edit and direct, but he was unable to edit since he was not in the union, which was IA out of Chicago. He added, "Fools plunge in .. . I just did it, and I probably made more mistakes than the average person who makes a first film. I didn’t really have any help and I wouldn’t take any help. I had to do it on my own. Once I made my first film I considered myself a film-maker. I lost all interest in the theatre and never went back."
A sequel for the film was planned, which would have resolved the fate of the surviving characters, but it was soon canceled, resulting in the film's open ending.
Hellman claimed to have received 2% of the profits - which he said came to $400 over the next five years.
In a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin noted that despite being "substantially dissimilar to most monster pieces", the film had "few positive virtues". The review also commented on "uneven acting and direction".
Alan Jones of The Radio Times rated the film two out of five stars, noting what he called the film's "flair and imagination by director Monte Hellman", while also stating that it was "a painless, cost-conscious effort typical of producer Roger Corman". Leonard Maltin awarded the film a mixed 2 out of 4 stars, calling it a remake of Naked Paradise with a monster added in.
Three years later, Roger Corman asked Hellman to four pictures for TV; they had been a little over 60 minutes and he needed them to be 80 minutes for a sale to Allied Artists’ TV. He shot extra scenes for Beast from Haunted Cave, Creature from the Haunted Sea, Last Woman on Earth and Ski Troop Attack.
"I had fun, I was autonomous, and Corman didn’t care what I shot,” Hellman says. “The stock was different; I used whatever actors were still available.”
On March 20, 2001, Beast from Haunted Cave was released for the first time on DVD by Madacy as a part of its "Killer Creatures" double-feature pack alongside The Brain That Wouldn't Die. Madacy would later re-release the film in 2004 as a part of another multi-feature pack. In 2002, a "Special Extended Version" of the film was released by Synapse Video on March 26, followed by an additional release from Alpha Video on October 22. Alpha Video would re-release the film twice in 2003 as a part of multi-feature film packs. The film was re-released on four separate occasions by Platinum Disc in 2005 for various multi-feature film packs, with its final release on September 13 distributed by Genius Entertainment. Over the next several years, the film was re-released several times by different distributors until its final release as a part of a three-disk multi-feature film pack by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment on September 1, 2015.
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