The Beast with a Million Eyes (D. Kramarski, 1955)
Container file........: AVI
Video Format..........: H.264
Total Bitrate.........: 2405 Kbps (2203 Video)
Audio format..........: AC3
Audio Languages.......: English 1.0
Subtitles in Subpack..: English, Spanish, French
Aspect Ratio..........: 1.33:1
Original Aspect Ratio.: 1.37:1
Source................: NTSC DVD
IMDb Rating...........: 2.6
Movie Information.....: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048991/
This is intended to be played on a PC or a HTPC. If it works on your standalone player, good for you. You can always convert it to a regular DVD using tools as ConvertXtoDVD.
Size has been calculated in order to get the optimum PQ without oversizing the file, hence the irregular size of the file (not the usual 700Mb/1.4Gb rip). A rate of Bits/(Pixel*Frame) around 0.3 is perfect, above that point, picture quality becomes virtually the same to the original source.
Check you have installed the right codecs, as listed in this .nfo file, before trying to play it. VLC will play this file without having to install any codec.
If you don't like the codec(s), container, resolution, file size, languages or any technical aspect on this rip, keep it to yourself and go and do your own.
Serious feedback on quality will always be welcome.
Notable only for the presence of former silent film great Chester Conklin, this silly sci-fi flick from legendary producer Roger Corman is a murky blend of alien-invasion fare such as It Came from Outer Space and sundry "animals-run-amok" movies. When an invading alien (possessing far less than a million visual organs) touches down in a desert township outside of Indio, California (in a spacecraft that resembles a kitchen appliance), it begins its plan of world domination by controlling the minds of various animals, which subsequently attack the townspeople. The animal attacks are numerous but dull -- except for a scene of homicidal birds that beat Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds by a full five years (not that Hitch had cause for alarm).
Paul Birch - Allan Kelly
Lorna Thayer - Carol Kelly
Donna Cole - Sandy Kelly
Leonard Tarver - Him
Chester Conklin - Old Man Webber
Dick Sargent - Larry
David Karmansky - Producer / Director
Tom Filer - Screenwriter
Everett Baker - Cinematographer
John Bickford - Composer (Music Score)
Jack Killifer - Editor
Dave Sindelar (scififilm.org)
This is another of the very early movies put out by AIP back when they were known as American Releasing Corp., and it looks extremely cheap and shows the work of people who were still in the process of learning their craft. It's slow-moving, somewhat confusing, and the acting is wildly uneven. A lot of the animal attack scenes don't work, simply because the cheapness of the production kept them from doing them effectively, but you get the gist of what's going on anyway. In fact, the movie almost feels like a rough draft of a better movie, and you wonder how much better it might be if the makers had the time and money to work out its rough edges. Nonetheless, though the total effect ends up being somewhat surreal, it was entertaining enough and I enjoyed it. It features Paul Birch and a puppet of Paul Blaisdell's.
Not the Usual Threat
Sometimes necessity can be a real mother. The challenge for any group of film makers doing science fiction and horror, particularly those on a limited budget, is to meet the vision of the story with what they can put on film. As a bad example, consider Ed Wood, Jr. He had some pretty good (albeit, unoriginal) ideas, but there were miles of difference between what he wanted to put on the screen and what he was capable of doing. Not that a better budget would've helped him, because the man was about as good a cinematic artist as Caligula was a good civil administrator.
Therefore, a good tactic for B grade horror and science fiction would be to circumvent your lack of creature budget by showing a monster you can afford yet still doesn't look silly. An invisible monster that doesn't pick anything up (requiring either strings or special film processing) would be ideal. The only trick, of course, is getting the audience to believe it's there.
A story about fighting an absentee monster is going to need plenty of things to occupy the audience. When the budget is a concern, wowing the audience with fantastic images isn't an option. One of the things it should not do is pad out the runtime. Padding in any movie is bad enough, but it would've been fatal to this one. Some may count long stretches of dialogue with character development as padding, but at least they don't annoy the audience with long static shots of someone walking between points A to B when just showing him at point B would do. Aside from the dialogue, this movie doesn't really pad anything.
Not the Usual Heroes
The Kellys are simple folk. Nobody here is a hero with chiseled features, a scientist, a showgirl, or a scientist that looks like a showgirl. The army doesn't arrive with tanks and flame-throwers. The nearby town is not shown. Add it all up, and an accountant should be thankful, because this saves some big bucks on production.
On the other hand, that means very the few actors are going to have to carry a big chunk of the production. Fortunately, the actors in this feature do a pretty good job. This isn't Lawrence Olivier doing Hamlet, but at least the actors are competent, deliver their lines well, and play their characters credibly. They portray common country people without slipping into caricature. I suspect that they were able to pull this off because most of the production company had been making westerns. The trip from standard western characters to these people would not have been a very long journey. All that's missing is a hotshot gunfighter, and given the nature of the threat, he'd be out of his element.
Therefore, the acting here is better than many other B grade creature features from the time. Yeah, that's not saying much, but there it is. I wouldn't recommend making this one into a stage play, but it could be done, and that's because this is more of an actor's movie than one for the director or special effects crew.
Whether or not this works depends on viewer expectations. If it's a given that a science fiction story with an alien must be flashy and gadgety, then this show is a failure. However, not all science fiction needs to be so showy, and, frankly, a lot of the flamboyant ones from the '50's were pretty darn pretentious. For good or bad, this is not a pretentious movie. Well, at least it's not pretentious between the end of the prologue and the last eight minutes of the story; those are the parts where the alien has some dialogue.
Not the Usual Solution
How do you beat a space alien? Easy, you call out the military. If the military fails, you design and build a gadget to beat them. You'll also want a photogenic individual leading either of these efforts. Maybe you'll get lucky and it will be revealed that the aliens have a lousy inoculation program, so a common cold will do the trick; of course, you may still have to field the military and the new gadgets until the out-of-towners sneeze themselves to death.
I can't think of many movies where love was the correct final answer. Shoot, aside from I Married a Monster from Outer Space, I can't think of any from the '50's where that worked as even a personal solution. Rather than trying to beat the invader by out shooting or out gadgeting him, the Kellys beat him with a natural, positive human trait. It almost makes this a fable.
Since many Alien Menaces in American movies of the period tended to be about a notch or two from the common Red Menace, it would be easy to call this a Cold War artifact. A soulless, Godless invader sneaks in, controls some weak minds, and uses them as spies and operatives to revolt and wage a campaign of terror. It's finally eliminated in the last scene by the most powerful symbol of Americana, the eagle. However, most of the story plays like a supernatural possession tale, with the alien subbing in for a ghost or the Devil. Rather than beating it through superior arms and vigilance, the alien loses to positive spiritual traits.
Come to think of it, you can find similar arguments regarding the message in Invasion of the Body Snatchers; is it pro-Communist or pro-McArthy? The best answer is to say it's anti-possession. (That is, of course, not technically correct for the story, but the end result is pretty much the same.) Likewise, The Beast with a Million Eyes is really an anti-possession story, but the filmmakers put in the Cold War symbolism as well. It's only in the last scenes that the alien can be associated with the Red Menace. That's not a very far stretch, since the common enemy of the God fearing American was the Godless Commie.
The Bad Stuff
Hardware Woes and Special Defects
This movie has only one alien device, and that would be the Cosmic Whirly Thingie. To the movie's credit, it does look unusual; however, the words "threatening" and "advanced" do not come to mind. Of course, it's difficult for us, knowing what we know now, to judge it on its merits at the time it was made. Obscuring it with the Cosmic Water Ripples was probably a good choice.
While on the subject, the Cosmic Water Ripples are, well, water ripples. They're good for conveying the idea of wave propagation from the Cosmic Whirly Thingie, but there is no disguising their humble origins. However, I suppose if this had been made by a production company with more money, they would have put in Cosmic Cartoon Waves. Despite their shortcoming, Cosmic Water Ripples are more convincing.
And then there are the two scenes (prologue and showdown) with the superimposed eyeball. It's a gutsy, sort of artsy move, but it doesn't pay off. Rather than feeling a sense of threat from a hideous, ethereal eye, the average viewer is more likely to sense goofiness.
No Lock on the Film Stock
It looks like different grades of film were used during the production, or possibly some of the shots were processed better than others were. That becomes distracting when they're spliced together. Also, although the night scenes are well lit (or they knew what they were doing when they did "day for night" shots), some of the daylight scenes are washed out.
The animal attack scenes should've been better. Showing the bird footage and then showing a flailing human conveys some of the bird attacks, and that footage is used more than once. You do get a sense of human interaction with the birds during one of these attacks, but there isn't enough there to make it look threatening. There are plenty of scenes where the attacking birds are talked about but not shown. Although this improves the economy of the movie, it happens too many times to let it go.
On the other hand, the chicken attack scene is more convincing, because you get the chickens jumping (actually, thrown) into the face of the actress. (Take it from someone who walked into chicken pen at the age of five; a rooster can be down right intimidating.) The possessed cow is, well, a cow. You get no shots of animal-human interaction when the cow attacks someone, and you don't even get a hint of something that looks like a dying or dead cow when she's been shot within a few feet of her final intended victim. I don't look forward to dead cows in movies, but something like that would've really helped to suspend the old incredulity in that scene.
Duke is not scary. As noted in the plot, he goes through his paces during his scene, so his handler accomplished that much of the job. But the final effect on the screen is not a possessed German shepherd trying to kill a human; it's this big, sappy animal trotting through the set They added barking to the sound mix, but instead of making him look more fierce, it just makes him look more placid. Once again, the actors are left to carry the scene. The actors are also required for revealing Duke's demise, but that part works because you're not immediately shown who won (which allows for some suspense) nor the resulting mess. It's one of those things that can (and should) be left to the imagination.
Cut to Confusion
At a point in the last fifth of the movie, they tried to increase the story's momentum by jumping from location to location. Although it's true that this movie doesn't pad it's running time, a few quick establishing shots or snippets of dialogue might've helped.
In particular, there's the sequence after Him knocks Larry on the head. Him gets out of the car and continues on foot. Fine, we don't know where he's headed but we know we'll find out. Cut back to the ranch for a scene, and then, for the sake of some time passage, cut back to Larry waking up. No problem.
Now, Larry gets out of the car and runs. We don't know why, and it's kind of important because not knowing why he's not driving anywhere is pretty darn distracting. Cut to Him at the Cosmic Light Show, which we assume is at the crater with the Cosmic Whirly Thingie. Fine, we know where he went. Cut to Larry, arriving at the crater. OK, now we know where Larry went, but this is awfully bumpy for an action sequence, especially if missing details distracts you. For example, how did Larry know Him was there? It looks like he just found him by blind luck. Did Larry go to the crater voluntarily or was he drawn there? And while you're puzzling over those questions, the movie cuts to a shot of Sandy climbing through the shutters and running. Why? Was she possessed? Did she sense something was wrong with Larry?
The whole effect is very disorienting, and I don't think that was the filmmakers' goal for that sequence. Maybe I'll just throw up my hands like they do over in the dimension of Jabootu and shout, "Why? It's in the script!"
The Big Showdown Letdown
In the grand finale, the confrontation with the alien is disappointing. The dialogue is a philosophical diatribe. This is appropriate, but since they're discussing Great Truths, the level of the conversation feels inadequate. Also, the actor they selected for the voice of the alien is not convincing anyone he's a being from a mentally superior race. I know they weren't going to get a high powered actor for this part, but c'mon, this guy should be selling used cars instead of dominating a planet. Of course, if you do it right, there may not be a world of difference…
The Who Cares Stuff
Notes on the Cast and Crew
David Kramarsky (director, producer) had previously worked as a producer with newcomer Roger Corman on things like Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954).
Lou Place (director) would later direct the legendary Daddy-O (1959).
Tom Filer (writer) would later write The Space Children (1958).
Stocky Paul Birch (Alan) had been playing in westerns and on TV by the time he got to this one. He'd later appear in several other westerns, but he also continued doing B science fiction in things like Not of this Earth (1957) and The Queen of Outer Space (1958). He'll probably be best remembered as the authority figure at the end of civilization in The Day the World Ended (1956).
Lorna Thayer (Carol) shows some potential here as the taut, neurotic wife who becomes better adjusted by the end of the story. In just about any movie, her character would get whacked without getting a chance to change. She was mostly relegated to bit parts both before and after this one, which is a real shame; she shows a lot of good screen presence here. However, she did get one of the most famous bit parts in the history of movies: the waitress in Five Easy Pieces.
This was probably the first screen appearance for Richard Sargent (Larry). He later did a variety of bit parts on TV and in movies, but he never really hit it big until, a few year after shortening his name to Dick Sargent, (oh, you see where this is going now) he was given the part of the second Darrin Stevens in Bewitched. Born Richard Cox, he, unlike Peter O'Toole, had the foresight to change his name to something that wasn't a double phallic.
Chester Conklin (Ben) was a vaudevillian who'd started doing movies, like, forever ago. He was one of the Keystone Cops and, later, appeared in several movies with Charlie Chaplin. In this movie, he displays some comedic talent that's several cuts above the comic relief in similar movies.
Floyd Crosby (cinematographer) won the Academy Award for his work in Tabu (1931), and much later earned a Golden Globe for High Noon (1952). And then he went almost exclusively into B movies. (Why he made this transition, I have no idea. The only thing I can figure is he was granted a lot more creative control for what he was doing.) Oh, yeah, and his son David was a rock star.
A young Albert Ruddy did the art direction. Later, he would produce The Godfater and take home an Academy Award for Best Picture. Perhaps he should've quit while he was a head. He went on to write and produce stunningly bad things like Matilda (1978), Megaforce (1982), and Cannonball Run II (1984).
Samuel Z. Arkoff (executive producer) and Roger Corman (producer, and director on some scenes) need no introduction here. (It's a good bet that if you've bothered to dig this far into an analysis of a movie like this, you already know those names.) This one was very early in their careers, shortly after Arkoff switched from lawyer to film producer. At this time, their company was called The American Releasing Corporation. Arkoff and a salesman associate his named James H. Nicholson were about to take the B movie world by storm with American International Pictures.
Last but not least (except maybe in terms of physical height) was Paul Blaisdell (monster creator and effects). He went on to build some of the most recognizable monsters in B movie history. His creations include the crustacean She-Creature (1956), the carrotish Venusian in It Conquered the World (1956), and the Tabanga in From Hell it Came (1957). It's easy to see some resemblance between his alien in this movie and his bug-eyed monsters in Invasion of the Saucermen (1957). However, it should be noted that Blaisdell was tasked with making this monster on very short notice, and that story is the subject of our next section.
The Unseen Becomes Visible
[Note: The facts in this section are from the book Faster and Furiouser by Mark Thomas McGee]
As mentioned in this B-Note’s prologue, this movie was to be called The Unseen. There was no visible monster in the script. Nicholson decided the title needed more ooomph and it became The Beast with a Million Eyes. Then he did the artwork for the advertising, which showed the head of a horrible monster with eyes trailing up its forehead. (You can see a copy of the final poster art at Dr. Casey's.) It was sent to the distributors to pique their interest.
After finishing the movie (with some hellish complications), they showed it to some distributors, but none of them wanted anything to do with it. Where was the monster in the advertising? They weren't going to take it without a monster.
Realizing they needed a monster, they contacted one of Nicholson's old friends, Forrest Ackerman. No, they didn't need to use Ackerman for a monster, but at the time he was an agent for science fiction talent. When he realized they needed this thing fast and on a tiny budget, he brought in Blaisdell. (Ackerman is credited with being a string puller for the space ship; apparently he was pulling a few other strings as well.)
Blaisdell built a pretty elaborate puppet, nicknamed Little Hercules, but in the rush to get the thing into the movie the quality of the puppet was lost in the translation to film. Some people have also derisively noted that the alien had only two eyes, as opposed to a million. You don’t need your third eye to see that it’s a dog eat dog world when metaphors are taken literally.
As for the fate of Little Hercules, he took up residence in the Ackermansion (the house that Ack' built) until his body fell apart a few years later. If you want to call him “The Beast in a Million Pieces,” that’s your business.
Telepathic alien scout makes life eventful for a farm family. Plays more like a supernatural tale than a science fiction story. Emphasis on character dynamics and dialogue instead of action. Actors do a pretty good job in a rushed mess. Made by AIP when it was in its embryonic (ARC) state. Recommended for B movie enthusiasts only. Period. All others need not apply.