Movies From the Black Lagoon: The Cyclops
Movies From the Black Lagoon
The Cyclops - 1957, Unrated
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer
A belated rescue mission goes horribly wrong when the would-be saviors find themselves being hunted by giant beasts in this sci-fi effort from Bert I. Gordon.
Mr. Gordon's initials spell out "BIG" and that's appropriate as most of his films deal with creatures that have mutated into giants. He made Locusts large enough to threaten Chicago in 'The Beginning of the End" and then enlarged ants until they could go a few rounds with Joan Collins in "Empire of the Ants." Here we get an early effort in which he throws four people into a forest teeming with giant lizards and other critters down Mexico way.
The story finds an expedition heading into a remote jungle. The idea is to find a pilot, named Bruce, who never returned from the region when his plane set down three years earlier. The group consists of ace pilot Lee, smarmy businessman Marty, dapper scientist Bradford, and the girl that Bruce left behind, Susan. A Mexican official who doesn't trust these gringos as far as he can spit shuts down the quartet coming out of the gate. He even tells them they will have to fly out of Mexico with a policeman on board to make sure they really leave. Turns out the valley that swallowed Bruce is bad juju.
The group decides to go anyway and they come up with a cunning plan. Just as the cop is set to board their plane Marty offers him a bribe and promptly decks him before the dough can clear his wallet, I said he was smarmy -not stupid. Marty turns out to be a one trick pony. His one trick amounts to punching your lights out and he does it whenever he is stressed. Unfortunately he decks the pilot when Lee refuses to land on a Uranium mound.
They survive the landing but everyone is shook up so it is easy to see why Bradford assumes he is hallucinating when he spots a giant lizard. Later he spots a huge mouse but Susan is there to confirm that he isn't seeing pink elephants. They do spy a gargantuan Hawk, however, and it makes a meal of the ridiculously large rodent. They also observe a giant spider and more lizards. Bradford gets excited about these perils, in a scientist sort of way, while Marty begins to freak out.
They eventually discover the wreckage of Bruce's plane. They also find Bruce's clothes and wristwatch in a cave. They are less happy to discover a huge boulder blocking them from exiting the cavern and they are downright depressed to learn that a giant man, with a very bad skin condition, has stationed himself outside the entrance. Marty loses it completely and takes a shot at the enormous figure and is squashed like a back pocket Twinkie for his efforts.
The trio eventually figures out that Bruce is the guy outside the cave and that everything in the valley has been mutated by radioactivity. They tumble to the fact that they need to leave before the same thing happens to them and make a dash for it. Unfortunately the big bad Bruce is on their tail and he is not at home to being stranded again.
This is fun and not too long, clocking in at under 75 minutes. The giant effects may seem primitive now but they are fun in a retro way. The sound effects, though, are incredibly stupid with lion like roars coming from the lizards while a high pitched whine appears to emanate from the spider. The film gets points for introducing horror fans to a new staple -the evil businessman. The trend gets off to a great start here by having Marty be a pompous blowhard who is the first to lose his nerve when things get tense. Lon (The Wolfman) Chaney is just fine as the sweaty loser who thinks waving his money around will open any door for him. It is a fine start to the evil businessman trend that peaked in 1986's "Aliens" which saw Paul Reiser competing with the angry space critters for biggest bad guy on the planet when he played the ruthless Carter J. Burke.
Best Line: "You didn't get paid to be killed by a prehistoric dinosaur."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.