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Old 07-25-2006, 04:02 AM
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Default Beast From Haunted Cave, The



Reviewer: Paff
Review Date: September 4, 2001

Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 4/3/2001
MSRP: $24.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes | Pan & Scan



I wish I were a Baby Boomer. If I had been born in the post-WWII years, I would have been just old enough to walk to the neighborhood movie theater on a Saturday afternoon, plunk down a quarter and sit through a double or triple feature of late '50s black and white monster flicks. I can imagine myself walking into the main foyer decorated with lobby cards and posters beckoning me to "See! Malevolent beings from Mars annihilate the White House and antagonize small, annoying dogs!" I sidle up to the candy counter and order a gigantic tub of popcorn and a soda the size of an oil drum. Climbing up to the balcony, I settle into my chosen seat and kick back, ready to feast my eyes on today's creature feature, a picture called Beast From Haunted Cave. Shhh…the movie's about to start.

The Story

inline Image Our story opens at Happiness Lodge ski resort in the Black Hills of South Dakota where a group of thieves are planning a gold heist. The strategy is to place explosives in a nearby abandoned mine and, while skiers and resort workers are distracted by the commotion, rob the administration building of several dozen blocks of gold hidden in its safe. The plan is a success and the robbery goes off without a hitch. The next step is to flee the area without being caught. For this leg of the plan, the thieves have hired a ski instructor named Gil (Michael Forest) to take them to his cabin, which will serve as their hideaway for the next several days while the police conduct their search.

inline Image All is not well for the robbers and their host, however. Little do they know that the explosion they set has unleashed a horrible, spiderlike monster - they have destroyed his home and boy is he mad! This creature has a very inhospitable way of welcoming visitors to his lair: it cocoons them and then sucks their blood at its leisure. With no place to live, the beast takes up residence in a nearby "haunted cave" and waits patiently for victims to come strolling by.

Meanwhile, Gil's troubles are mounting (as if a neighboring monster isn't enough). An attraction is developing between himself and the lead thug's girlfriend, Gypsy (Sheila Carol), which translates into an immediate death sentence. It doesn't really matter, though, because the thug plans on bumping him off anyway to rid himself of any and all witnesses to the heist. Thanks to Gypsy, Gil catches wind of this and escapes with her. However, an impending storm hinders their escape plans and they hide out in the haunted cave, where the title beast already has a napkin tied around his neck awaiting his next meal.

Beast From Haunted Cave has a distinguished pedigree, if you consider B-movies and celebrity relatives "distinguished." It was written by Charles B. Griffith, who was responsible for penning the sci-fi classic Not of this Earth as well as Corman quickies Little Shop of Horrors and Bucket of Blood. (As evidence, the script is littered with beatnik lingo, such as "knitting - is that your scene?") Speaking of Corman, Beast was produced by Gene Corman, Roger's brother. In keeping with family tradition, the film was shot in 12 days on a shoestring budget using a first-time director (Monte Hellman). Also featured in one of the starring roles is Richard Sinatra, nephew of Old Blue Eyes himself.

One usually does not expect stellar performances from the players in a low budget quickie; however, the acting was exceptionally good. Goofy Wally Campo plays a bumbling, brainless crook one moment, then convincingly switches to a more heroic role in the blink of an eye. Sinatra exhibits the genetically imprinted Italian swagger perfectly, but tops it off with a sensitive character portrayal and believable, casual dialogue delivery. Sheila Carol's performance is especially notable. She plays Gypsy as a sad, tragic figure, a woman who has chosen the wrong path in life and is now hopelessly and irreversibly washed up at twentysomething. It is disgraceful that this actress never went on to bigger and better things.


Beast From Haunted Cave is remotely reminiscent of From Dusk Till Dawn. Both movies begin as run of the mill heist capers, and then descend into horror when the thieves realize they have more threatening, grisly pursuers to worry about than the cops. The title beast is a hippo-sized spidery menace adorned with gossamer strings of hair. At first, the only indications we get of the monster is a wisp of hair, a claw-tipped long leg or the sound of a distant roar that sounds like a hoarse, sickly wolf howl played in reverse. When we finally glimpse the monster in its entirety, overseeing its cocooned victims, it looks like a colossal white spider crossed with Cousin It and the abominable snowmonster from the old Rankin Bass Rudolph holiday special.

This was a highly enjoyable, if very short, movie. The suspense was built up nicely in the first hour and then, before I knew what was happening, the monster was dead and the movie was over! My first reaction was that somehow I had skipped a chapter or something, especially since the DVD cover boasted of a "special extended version." Beast From Haunted Cave runs a scant 72 minutes with 10 extra minutes of additional scenes filmed for its televised release added in. That means the original theatrical release was just over one hour long.

Image Quality

inline Image
Viewers have a choice of watching Beast From Haunted Cave in either 1.85:1 widescreen or pan and scan for 4 x 3 television sets. The black and white picture is clear and crisp in most scenes. Some interior shots, like those inside the haunted cave, are a bit dim and could have been lightened up a little. Long shots are grainer than close-ups and not as detailed. For example, skiers filmed against the white snow of the mountain are fuzzy and the mountain itself just looks like a white wall with no detail. Otherwise, the picture is very good with strong, solid blacks and limited graininess. Considering the budget and age of the film, this is a very satisfactory transfer.

Sound

Surprisingly good sound quality for 2.0 mono. Music is clear and there are good bass tones. The dialogue sounds just a tad hollow, but it is in no way distracting. I was most impressed by what I didn't hear. Usually with an old movie like this, you will be exposed to the inevitable snaps, crackles and pops of old film stock. Not with this DVD. Don't expect a full-blown Dolby Digital experience with a movie of this caliber, but do expect amazingly clean sound for a film your Dad may have watched in theaters.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Not much is available in the way of supplements. But when you think about it, most of the cast and crew involved made few, if any, pictures after this one. Even if they did have something to say about the filmmaking process, would they even remember? So you get the original theatrical trailer, which is one of those cool old ones where bold sentences are plastered across the screen amid scenes of mayhem and the occasional sound bite ("See screaming young girls sucked into a labyrinth of horror by a blood-starved ghoul from hell!"). And although I'm not sure if this counts as a supplement, included in the DVD case are extensive, informative liner notes written by Bill Warren, who compiled the sci-fi encyclopedia Keep Watching the Skies and co-wrote the Evil Dead Companion. This serves as an acceptable substitute for the lack of documentary material on the disc itself.

Final Thoughts

The End. The lights turn up and I stretch lazily. Ah, that was a good one. A big hairy monster that wraps people in cocoons and then sucks their blood - now that's how I like to spend my Saturday afternoons. Too bad about the length, though. There was so much built-up suspense and the monster was pretty cool, but then it was over before the grease on my popcorn ran out. I still enjoyed it though. When I'm a grown-up in 40 years or so, will I want to see Beast From Haunted Cave again? Absolutely.

Rating

Movie - B
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B
Supplements - C


Technical Info.
  • B&W
  • Running time - 1 hour 12 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • Dolby 2.0 Mono

Supplements
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Liner Notes by Bill Warren

 

 

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