Monster from Green Hell (1957)

Monster from Green Hell (1957)

Atomic mutations with an appetite for flesh!

When a US experimental rocket stays in space longer than it should do, the test wasps aboard are exposed to unhealthy levels cosmic radiation. The rocket crash lands in Africa and soon there are strange reports of monsters from a region known by the natives as “Green Hell.” The scientific team responsible for the testing go to Africa to find out the truth.

 

One of the last of the giant radiation-mutated monster flicks to come out of America in the 50s, Monster from Green Hell is one of the worst and lesser known efforts. This sci-fi genre was on the slide and it’s embarrassing to think that this was released in the same year as Hammer was revolutionizing the horror with The Curse of Frankenstein in all of its glorious Gothic colour.

It’s not really the fault of the monsters that the film is rubbish – the giant wasps don’t look that bad. It’s just the film is so talky and you hardly get to see them. A good half of Monster from Green Hell is spent with the science expedition trekking across Africa, stumbling across hostile tribes and poisonous rivers, losing porters and dying of thirst. You’d have thought the fact they had to travel on foot for 27 days to reach their destination would have spurred some editing and maybe some sort of ‘travel montage’ of the actors in various poses and scenes to show us in brief that they were walking. I would have bought it. That would have freed up plenty more screen time for the monsters. But instead of just skimming it over and making the audience believe they’ve travelled that far, we actually have to sit through it and watch every painful footstep.

In reality this is just a cheap ploy to cram as much stock footage in here from other films to save the cost and pad the running time. There’s plenty of shots of elephants stampeding, footage culled from Stanley and Livingstone of the hostile tribe chasing the expedition (the characters in this one even dress the same so that it looks like the footage is freshly shot) and they even throw in some vultures for good measure with a pointless poison river which isn’t explained nor mentioned for the rest of the film.

Finally the expedition get to the village but then it’s another ten minutes before they set off to ‘Green Hell’ meaning there’s a gap of at least forty minutes before monster sightings. Then there’s a random stop motion wasp fighting a stop motion snake scene (if the characters were worried about the giant wasps, then why the hell aren’t they worried about the giant snake which is just as big and deadly?). I get the idea that the plot was driven by the type of stock footage that they had to use and so the characters do things accordingly.

Eventually they find the wasps’ nest and you’d think this would lead to some big wasps versus humans finale in which two of the minor characters would be killed and the two heroes survive and get the girl. But you’re completely wrong and the group find themselves trapped inside a cave away from the wasps. Cue another ten minutes of fumbling in the dark trying to find a way out. And as soon as they do, the volcano erupts and kills off the wasps. This ‘finale’ simply involves all of the preceding shots of the wasps being double exposed into the picture and it looks ridiculous. One of these double exposures is jet black and moves only vertically, sticking it out of the screen like a sore thumb. It’s such a cop out ending and a complete kick in the ribs to anyone who has suffered the indignity of watching the rest of the film. The monsters are probably on screen for a total of five minutes and simply consist of a really static giant head model which is rolled out onto the set from the background props. At least they’ve got some original sounds and the buzzing that they make is memorable, even if you never see much of them.

 

Monster from Green Hell is a bog standard monster movie which offers little excitement and monsters and lots of boredom and stock footage. Some examples of this genre manage to pull it off quite well (Them! for instance) but this doesn’t.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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