Monster From Green Hell, 1957. 3/10

Kind of unusual premise in that we microwave some critters in outer space. Well, technically, it’s cosmic radiation that produces giant wasps, Like I said in reviewing 1955’s Tarantula, it’s a little nutty for our intrepid scientists to experiment with such nasty critters as tarantulas and wasps. Of course, even giant ants proved to be terrifying in the seminal Them! of 1954. But, given that movie’s much more thoughtful premise, those critters weren’t intentionally created.

Maybe Green Hell should get points as the only sci-fi movie of its era set in Africa; on the other hand, thanks to those more in the know than myself, it’s very much ‘on location’ in L.A., with stock footage of African events to fill in the blanks.

And filler it is: what’s the point of showing a tribal war, and its horrific aftermath–a guy dying by drinking from a poisoned pond? The only way that stuff works would be having the wasps appear, and the frightened combatants either flee or combine to fight the mutual menace.

We’ve got two scientists Drs. Brady (Jim Davis) and Lorentz (Vladimir Sokoloff), Lorentz’s daughter Lorna (Barbara Turner), Dan Morgan (Robert Griffin), and the local guide Arobi (Joel Fluellen). The acting isn’t bad. Fluellen giving the best performance, but the cast is crippled by the script’s annoying and persistent narration. Can’t we just have scenes that show what we’re being told? Narration can be useful to set the scene at the very beginning of a movie (the rocket launch here, for example). Like the prop that it is, narration then just needs to get out of the way.

In any case, the creature is the heart and soul of any creature movie, and these wasps are pretty good. And huge. The problem is we often just see their heads (models I guess) as they poke out of the brush, or a distant rather indistinct superimposed image. The fight with the snake was very good, probably the movie’s best scene. But I couldn’t help thinking: how did the snake get to be so big?

Once the guys (plus Lorna) converge on the wasps’ nest things get more interesting. There’s more wasps scooting about; still, there’s some vague images where they seem larger. The heroes save themselves by collapsing a cave entrance. Brilliant, but they’re trapped for a while. Providentially, a volcano eruption takes out the wasps. The guys escape both the creatures and the lava.

Think of how much better Green Hell would’ve been if it were set in the Southwest desert, ala Them! and Tarantula. As it is, suspension of disbelief is shredded if we assume that a couple of guys with some makeshift weapons will be enough to save the world from giant wasps. In an isolated setting, suspense can build up by gradually exposing an unknown menace; a known menace, as is the case here, should mean a more organized, deliberate response.

The answer to this illogical situation is obvious: stock footage will only work if the entire movie is (allegedly) set in the same location as the footage. It’s like having stock footage of the moon for a movie on scuba-diving; you can use it, but does it make sense?

Farmermouse was scared of the wasps, the war, the volcano, and the cave-in, but he got some cool souvenirs, so he gives Green Hell three doodads. 3/10.

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