Tuesday, February 19, 2019

THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956) Blu-ray Review

The Mole People (1956) d. Virgil W. Vogel (USA) (78 min)

John Agar (The Brain from Planet Arous), Hugh Beaumont (TV’s Leave It to Beaver) and Nestor Paiva (Tarantula) star as three archaeologists who come upon the Sumerians, an unusual race of albino beings (led by Alan Napier) who shun all forms of light and have mutant mole men as their slaves. Because of their “magical cylinders of fire” (i.e. flashlights), the explorers are treated like gods, with Agar’s character even finding time for romance with the tannest and prettiest of the Sumerians (Cynthia Patrick), until they try to liberate the unfortunate enslaved creatures from their oppressors. Can the archaeologists escape this hallowed mountain in Asia ... or will they be trapped forever in this strange underground world?

This clunky pulp adventure, one of Universal’s least effective sci-fi efforts from the 1950s, is enlivened by some effective monster makeup courtesy of Jack Kevan (with Universal’s makeup head, Bud Westmore, stealing the credit as he had with Creature from the Black Lagoon). The not-so-subtle social commentary with the light-skinned Sumerians flogging their darker-hued servants into submission likely flew over the heads of the average white teenage drive-in crowd, but it’s interesting to see how pointed it is a half-century later.

Editor Virgil Vogel, who had cut such notable films as This Island Earth and Touch of Evil, made his feature directing debut with The Mole People. He delivered the schlocktastic The Land Unknown the following year before becoming a go-to television series director, helming episodes of everything from Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, and The Six-Million-Dollar Man. Meanwhile, Universal’s resident sci-fi producer William Alland (It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon series, The Deadly Mantis) hit upon the cash-saving ploy of using stock footage (courtesy of the 1953 documentary The Conquest of Everest, following Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s famous climb).

In a bizarre prologue perhaps intended to give the fanciful premise more dramatic heft (or more likely to pad out the slim running time), host of Shakespeare on TV, Dr. Frank C. Baxter (on the set of Dr. Exeter’s study from This Island Earth), discusses the possibilities of life at the core of the Earth at length… before revealing that it’s all “a fiction.” Um, okay.

Trivia: The Mole People’s claws were repurposed by Kevan for The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959). (He also produced the film).


Presented in Two Aspect Ratios – 1.85:1 and 2.00:1

NEW audio commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver, with guest spots by Jan Alan Henderson and David Schecter

NEW featurette: "Of Mushrooms and Madmen: The Making of The Mole People" (19 min)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode “The Mole People” (2/15/97) (92 min)

Movie Stills, Posters, and Lobby Cards

Theatrical Trailer

NOTE: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra's Larry Blamire and Jennifer Blaire provide wholly unnecessary vocal re-creations of Alland, Agar, Vogler, and Patrick for both the audio commentary tracks and the "Of Mushrooms and Madmen" featurette. I'm sure it's all meant in the spirit of good, clean fun and added ballyhoo, but it's also just kinda weird.

The Mole People is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:



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