Monday, June 13, 2016


Yesterday in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

I did some whining about some insurance woes, but things got better when I switched to writing about The Black Scorpion, a 1957 movie about giant scorpions in Mexico. I wrote about the Mexican military man, his identity known but to God, who died one of the most tragic and senseless deaths I’d ever seen in monster movies. I’ve viewed the movie and his demise around a dozen times and, each time, his fate makes me shake my head and softly remark “that poor son of a bitch.”

Today I will speak of another poor son of a bitch who bites the big one in another horror film. His name was Byron, the movie was Beast from Haunted Cave and it runs 75 minutes at what I’m guessing was a budget of about eleven dollars and seventy-two cents per minute. Here’s how the Internet Movie Database summarizes it:

A group of gold thieves pull of a heist and flee into the snowy wilderness, only to be pursued by a horrible, spider-like monster.


We start with stock footage of people skiing. Then we meet sturdy ski resort owner Gil [played by Michael Forest], ruthless criminal Alex [Frank Wolff], tough-as-nails-but-not-really Gypsy [Sheila Noonan] and bank robbers Marty [Richard Sinatra] and Byron [Wally Campo]. Alex’s master plan is to blow up a cavern and, while the authorities rush there, rob the unguarded town bank. Having already booked a cross-country trip with Gil, the thieves will hold up at Gil’s remote cabin and wait for a plane they’ve arranged to fly them to Canada to spend their ill-gotten gains.

Things go awry when Marty, whose job is to set the timed explosives  at the cave, takes barmaid Natalie [Linné Ahlstrand] with him for some making out. Unsuspecting Natalie waits outside the cave while Marty plants the alarm clock...excuse me...bomb. Marty sees some sort of egg fragments, which is about as close as we’re gonna get to the origin of the title creature. He and Natalie lock lips until the Beast [Chris Robinson] attacks. Marty escapes. Natalie doesn’t.

Back at the resort, Gypsy flirts with Gil, Alex gets angry, Byron goofs around and the bartender [Chris Robinson doing double duty] wonders where the heck his barmaid is. Marty is pretty shaken when he returns, but the heist...must go on.

Alex’s plan goes off with one unexpected hitch. An inspector was in the cave when the alarm clock exploded. The murder doesn’t concern the criminals. But, later, at Gil’s cabin, when she hears about it on the radio, it gets to Gypsy.

The Beast follows Gil and the others on their way to the secluded cabin. Only Marty sees the spider-like creature and alarms everyone when he fires at it. There’s a chilling moment when Marty sees (or imagines he sees), a still-barely-living-Natalie spider-webbed to a tree. It’s honestly frightening when she opens her eyes and you can sense her mind has been shattered.

Gil’s cabin is tended to by a stout Native American woman. She and Byron take a mutual shine to one another. We’re getting closer to our “poor son of a bitch” moment.


This pause is to allow you to reconsider not reading the spoilers thus far. If you want to get up to speed on the movie, go read them now. I’ll give you a few minutes.


The cabin fever report. Gypsy drinks and flirts with Gil. She wants out of her life with Alex, which causes Alex to smack her around a bit. When Gil tries to stop him, Byron pulls a gun on him. Things have reached a breaking point.

Marty goes out hunting the Beast. He finds a cave entrance near the cabin. Alex and Byron figure they will have to kill their unstable companion. Gil and his housekeeper are also on their hit list with Gypsy also becoming a more likely addition to said list.

Gil has figured it all out. He plans to sneak away and ski back to town to alert the authorities. He gives Gypsy a chance to go with him and she agrees. Outside the cabin, Gil’s housekeeper distracts Byron from alerting Alex with some amorous advances. Byron gets all amorous right back. He really does care for the woman.

The Beast attacks Byron while the criminal is in passion mode. The housekeeper fights the creature off with fire, but is taken by the creature. Byron is not a good person, but he goes after the monster hoping to save the woman. His good deed does not go unpunished as he is also taken by the Beast.

In the movie’s most chilling moment, Byron wakes up to discover he has been spider-webbed to the cavern wall between the barely-alive Natalie and the housekeeper. He watches the Beast drain the last of Natalie’s blood before the creature turns its appetite to Byron’s new girlfriend. Byron struggles valiantly to try to save the woman, but the Beast kills both of them.

Byron. That poor son of a bitch. He was a bad man, but, attempting to do good, he meets a horrible fate. I confess I have more than a little sympathy for him.

A storm forces Gil and Gypsy to hold up in the cave. Alex and Marty follow them. Gil shoots at the Beast with no effect. The creature goes after the criminals and kills them, but not before Marty gets off a shot with the flare gun he conveniently found at the cabin. The monster dies in flames. The movie ends abruptly.


Beast from Haunted Cave is a movie that improves the more I think about it. It has a tight story with interesting characters. Though Alex is pretty much one-dimensional, there are levels to the other players. Marty feels responsible for Natalie’s fate. Byron tries to save the housekeeper and pays for his singular act of decency and even nobility.

The movie was directed by Monte Hellman, who was mentored by Roger Corman, directed a number of other movies, including the direct-to-video Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989). He’s currently teaching in the Film Directing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.

Hellman was an amateur director when brothers Roger and Gene Corman hired him. Working on a low budget with a rehashed screenplay, the young man did a remarkable job.

Screenwriter Charles B. Griffith was a Corman regular. He rewrote his earlier Naked Paradise for this movie. According to Wikipedia, "a third version of this story line appeared as the comedy film Creature from the Haunted Sea.”

There’s a story behind the monster as well:

The monster...was designed and portrayed by Robinson, who’d later star in General Hospital. According to Robinson, the design of the beast, which he nicknamed "Humphrass", was based on a wingless hangingfly. In order to create the creature's skeletal form, Robinson added aluminum stripping to a plywood base, then covered the frame with chicken wire before wrapping it in sheets and muslin. He then soaked the frame in vinyl paint in order to waterproof the design, since it had to be used in the snow. The creature's head was fashioned out of quarter-inch aluminum wire, which was then encased in steel wire and wrapped in muslin. The creature's fangs and teeth were also constructed with aluminum wire. Robinson then placed putty and patches of crepe hair onto the design before adding spun glass in order to give it a cobwebby appearance.

We don’t get many clear shots of the Beast, but, when we do, they are fairly striking. Because the movie exposes its minuscule budget at nearly every turn, it’s easy to dismiss it. However, once I set aside my less-than-favorable first impressions, I could appreciate it for what it was. A remarkable film that was much better than it had any realistic right to be. I’d watch it again.

That’s all for our two-day coverage of poor sons of bitches in the monster cinema. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Tony:

    Before General Hospital, Chris Robinson did some time on other shows, including 12 0'Clock High. I think he checked into GH sometime in the 70's. Just thought you should know.