The Navy vs. the Night Monsters
|The Navy vs. the Night Monsters|
DVD release cover
|Directed by||Michael A. Hoey
Jon Hall (uncredited)
|Produced by||Jack Broder
Roger Corman (uncredited)
|Written by||Michael A. Hoey|
|Based on||The Monster from Earth's End (novel) by Murray Leinster|
|Starring||Mamie Van Doren
|Music by||Gordon Zahler|
|Edited by||George White|
Standard Club of California Productions
|Distributed by||Realart Pictures Inc.|
The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (also known as Monsters of the Night and The Night Crawlers) is a 1966 independently made American science fiction film produced by Jack Broder (and Roger Corman, uncredited), written and directed by Michael A. Hoey, and starring Mamie Van Doren and Anthony Eisley Billy Gray, Bobby Van, and Pamela Mason. The film was distributed by Realart Pictures Inc.
A group of scientists with Operation Deep Freeze discover frozen prehistoric trees and other specimens in the Antarctic dating back to the first Ice Age. They collect samples of each for further study and load them aboard their C-47 military transport.
The dull, workaday life at the Navy weather station base on Gow Island in the South Pacific is interrupted by that very same C-47 transport aircraft. On a routine approach for re-fueling, the transport experiences some kind of unusual trouble and suddenly crash-lands on the island's single airstrip, destroying its control tower and the island's only two-way radio. The stricken aircraft also blocks the runway, preventing its further use. Lieutenant Charles Brown (Anthony Eisley) is in command of Gow's weather staton. When he, Navy nurse Nora Hall (Mamie Van Doren), and biologist Arthur Beecham (Walter Sande) reach the wreck, the seven scientists and crew aboard the cargo aircraft when it left Antarctica are now mysteriously missing. The only one found aboard is the transport's pilot, who is traumatized and in a state of shock, unable to speak.
Unloading the prehistoric cargo from the crashed C-47, Dr. Beecham recommends planting the trees to ensure their survival in the island's tropical conditions. Somewhat later, Gow Island's bird population becomes disturbed by something unknown. At the same time, the weather station's scientists try to figure out a connection between this event and a corrosive residue that begins turning up at various island locations.
It slowly becomes clear that the planted prehistoric trees have quickly grown into acid-secreting, carnivorous monsters that move about Gow Island at night, at will. They reproduce fast and eventually cut off the island with their growing numbers and nocturnal assaults on Gow's native islanders. Brown has to hold together his dwindling Navy personnel and the coterie of scientists and civilians and figure out a way to stop this prehistoric menace. The Navy personnel's only available weapons prove largely ineffective against the tree monsters.
Eventually, the weather station is able to restore radio contact with the mainland and ask for help. In response, the military sends in multiple aircraft strikes from their nearest base. Fighter jets drop both napalm and fire air-to-ground missiles at the slow-moving night monsters, blowing then up or setting them ablaze. As a result, the prehistoric threat to Gow Island's surviving personnel is quickly eliminated.
- Mamie Van Doren as Nora Hall
- Anthony Eisley as Lieutenant Charles Brown
- Billy Gray as CPO Fred Twining
- Bobby Van as Ensign Rutherford Chandler
- Pamela Mason as Marie
- Walter Sande as Dr. Arthur Beecham
- Edward Faulkner as Bob Spaulding
- Phillip Terry as Base Doctor
- Kaye Elhardt as Diane
- Biff Elliot as Commander Arthur Simpson
The Navy vs. the Night Monsters is based on the 1959 science fiction novel The Monster from Earth's End by Murray Leinster. Hoey read Leinster's novel and thought it could make a good science fiction film along the lines of The Thing From Another World (1951). He optioned it and wrote a screenplay, originally entitled The Nightcrawlers. Producer George Edwards read it and agreed to finance the film; because of the limited amount of money available, Hoey was hired to direct. He says he was paid $10,000 for the script and his services, $4,000 of which went to novel's author for the film rights, $2,000 to The Directors Guild of America and another $1,000 to his agent, netting him only $3,000 for his efforts.
The executive producer was Jack Broder, with Roger Corman providing some uncredited assistance. Hoey says that during rehearsal, Broder announced the film's new title would be The Navy vs. The Night Monsters. "The entire cast was ready to walk out," says Hoey. "They were furious that he would give it that title."
Broder wanted to make the film back-to-back with another film, Women of the Prehistoric Planet, using the same crew and George Edwards as line producer on both. Hoey thought highly of Edwards, claiming "he was really a creative producer ... a good producer who tried to keep things away from you while you were on the set; keep the picture moving forward smoothly; keep oil on the waters. And at the same time make creative decisions that made sense, which was the antithesis of what Jack Broder did. Shooting took ten days."
The cast included Billy Gray (of the The Day the Earth Stood Still and Father Knows Best TV series), who Hoey says "had sort of been having a tough time; he straightened his act out but was still having trouble getting back. So they made an offer and he accepted." Hoey was hoping to get a bigger name than Tony Eisley for the lead, who was not the first choice, but the director was happy with his performance.
Mamie Van Doren was cast because she had a commitment to make a film with Roger Corman, who sold this to Jack Broder. Van Doren's casting meant that Hoey turned her character into a civilian "so I put her in a tight sweater and a pair of slacks about 50 percent of the time."
The cast also featured two members of Elvis Presley's Memphis Mafia, Sonny West and Red West, plus Pamela Mason ("She obviously felt that it was beneath her, but she was a pro and she did what I asked her to," says Hoey).
Hoey enjoyed working with Stanley Cortez but was not happy with the practical effects used to create the moving tree monsters:
Jack Broder wouldn't hire the guy that we originally had meetings with, a guy who could have done a marvelous job...I wanted the [monster] trees to look like the other trees, so that there wouldn't be the feeling that they stood out like sore thumbs, which is what those stupid things did. Broder hired some guy who did them for $1.98. When they showed up on the set the first day, I refused to film them, I was so upset. A lot of what happened at the back end of the movie, like the little stumps walking around in the sand, was stuff that Jon Hall shot. I had nothing to do with it...Yes, the famous Jon Hall from The Hurricane . In later years he had a production company, and apparently he made a deal with Broder and went out and shot more stuff. The only tree that I worked with was the one that had the guy in it manipulating the limbs, which is the one that has the fight with the [C-47] pilot. We shot it in pretty low-key light, to try to hide as much of it as we possibly could.
Post production reshoots
Broder had requested a 90-minute film so he could sell it to television, and Hoey's original cut came in at 78 minutes. When Hoey left the film, Broder hired Arthur Pierce, director of Women of the Prehistoric Planet, to shoot additional scenes. Hoey later claimed these scenes would "change the whole premise" of the film. "He added all those scenes of those Navy officers in that base on the mainland. It completely ruined the premise of what I had in mind." Antony Eisley agreed with Hoey:
The producer totally recut the picture after it was made and totally destroyed any validity it might have had. That picture ... would have been a very good little thriller. First of all, you never saw those trees in explicit detail; you had a sense of mystery about what was killing these people on this island. As originally shot, the island radio tower was destroyed by a plane crash and there was no contact between the island and the outside world. I, as executive officer of the military Army base, was not prepared to assume command, and I had nobody I could turn to. So we played it at a level of fear and panic that wouldn't exist if we could contact some base on the outside. Then, months after the picture was shut down, the producer put in this stupid stock footage of bombers blowing up the island at the end and shot these monotonous talking scenes of generals on the telephone that were not at all germane to the original story. As a consequence, in the final cut, we actors are playing at a level that the situation didn't call for at all! That was very, very upsetting.
The Navy vs. the Night Monsters is a B film that film historian and critic Leonard Maltin aptly described this way: "1} Look at the title. 2) Examine the cast. 3) Be aware that the plot involves omnivorous trees. 4) Don't say you weren't warned." In film historian Tom Weaver's interview of Michael A. Hoey, Weaver contends that The Navy vs. the Night Monsters has subsequently became a "cult favorite".
- Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.
- Pym, John, ed. "The Wraith." Time Out Film Guide. London: Time Out Guides Limited, 2004. ISBN 978-0-14101-354-1.
- Strick, Philip. Science Fiction Movies. London: Octopus Books Limited, 1976. ISBN 0-7064-0470-X.
- Weaver, Tom. Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2006. ISBN 978-0-78642-858-8.