Monday, May 18, 2009

The Crawling Hand (1963) and The Slime People(1964): A Grindhouse B&W Double Bill

Some things were just made for the Dive In circuit and a lot were recycled on that circuit up until ten years after their initial release. I caught these two as they were running in a local grindhouse around 1968.

The Crawling Hand Directed by Herbert L Strock( I was a Teenage Frankenstein, Gog, Blood of Dracula) Starring Peter Breck, Kent Taylor, Alan Hale, and Alison Hayes. Breck & Taylor are scientists and we see a sweaty, black rings around the eyes astronaut begging them to blow up his ship before he returns to earth. They blow him up after realizing that he is alive with no oxygen.

A couple of teens on the beach (Rod Lauren & Stirry Steffan) find the dismembered arm of the astronaut. Rod wraps it in a blanket and takes it home. Funny moment, Stirry was changing into her swimsuit and the projectionist decided to “censor” the scene by putting his finger over the projector lens. More than half the audience was made up of 12 to 16 year old kids who nearly rioted after this stunt.

The hand comes back to life and strangles Rod’s landlady. It also tries to strangle Rod. Rod morphs into a black eyed killer who tries to strangle the owner of the local malt shop. During that struggle, the juke box turns on and we get Papa O Mau Mau by the Rivingtons. The police (Alan Hale) are closing in. In the climatic battle, in a junkyard, Rod slices up the renegade appendage with a broken bottle and the rest is eaten by cats, no I’m fuckin’ serious. The remains are placed in a sealed box and Rod returns to normal. When two guys, who are supposed to dispose of the box, open it, the hand is gone and the inevitable sequel never came.

Interestingly all three leads starred or would be starring in TV series. Kent Taylor was Boston Blackie in the 50’s series. He did a lot more low budget horror, Brain of Blood, Brides of Blood, Phantom for 10,000 Leagues, before his death in 1987. Alan Hale went on to be the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, then played a Sheriff in another B horror flick, The Giant spider Invasion before his death in 1990. Peter Breck went on to star on The Big Valley as Nick Barkly. Rod Lauren was in Terrified and The Black Zoo. He also guest starred in a few TV series. He died in 2007. Look for Alison ( Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) in a small role.

The Slime People 1964 Directed by & staring Robert Hutton, also starring Les Tremayne. Los Angeles is under attack by giant, rotting vegtables. Ok, they are not as bad as the critics make them out to be. Actually the creatures are pretty cool and are defeated by this cast of seven or so. I think it was in Les Tremayne’s contract to appear in just about every late 50’s and early 60’s creature fests.

The Slime People have surrounded the city with fog that solidifies into a wall. The kill everybody. We get lots of stock footage of demolished building to achieve this end. Seems our atomic tests have pissed off these creatures and they are about to let us know it. Being that they can’t breath our air( like we can?) the have some machine making oxygen or whatever for them. Machine is destroyed, creatures drop dead, and the world is safe again.

Funny thing is that both films have only one kill in each of them. The landlady in the Crawling Hand & a wino is killed in an empty movie theater in the Slime People. Real low budget, but two of my all time favorite from my early grindhouse days.
42nd Street Pete

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