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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reel Bad Cinema: From Hell It Came (1957) review


Tod Andrews (Dr. William Arnold), Tina Carver (Dr. Terry Mason), John McNamara (Professor Clark), Linda Watkins (Mae Kilgore), Gregg Palmer (Kimo), Grace Mathews (Orchid)

Directed by Dan Milner

"Come quick! Please help us, we cannot kill the Tabunga! We burn Tabunga, with a mighty fire, but it didn't help. It came out alive! Please come before it kills us all!"

The Short Version: This incredibly awful, yet endearingly popular example of Bad Cinema bears some laughably wooden performances that rival the stiffness of the films walking radioactive tree trunk. The plot is inconsequential, even if the inherent racism is not. It's Anglo ingenuity versus native superstitions in what has to be one of the worst pictures of all time. The Tabunga (Tabanga? Hell, even the trailer doesn't know, it calls it the Baranga!) takes its time showing up while in the meantime, Dr. Arnold walks around with a Tabunga in his pants in his pursuit of Dr. Terry Mason. Personally, I'd of rather watched the entrancing Grace Mathews strut around the screen for 71 minutes instead of the tardy Tabunga, the endlessly apathetic line deliveries and the accompanying dumb dialog.

Kimo, a native of some unnamed South Pacific island, is framed for the death of his father after collaborating with those oppressive, ever hated white folks; a handful of doctors sent by the UN to cure a mysterious plague possibly caused by the fallout from an atomic bomb test. Tano, the new chief (who is in league with the devilish Norgu, a with doctor wearing a fashionable set of bones on his head), usurps the tribal throne away from Kimo and orders his execution. Kimo, noticeably upset over this, swears revenge from beyond the mud. Later on, Kimo keeps his word and returns as the terrifying Tabunga, a nearly immobile and rejected tree costume from the WIZARD OF OZ forest sequence. The Tabunga/Tabanga/Chimichanga menaces the third rate scientists and the cut rate Hawaiian Luau performers for about fifteen minutes till guns and a late blooming, nonsensical script addition win out in the end.

Remember the giant cucumber creature from Corman's cult classic IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)? How about the shuffling, man-eating carpet critter of THE CREEPING TERROR (1964)? Or the Volkswagen with legs masquerading as an outer space spider threatening a GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975)? Those interplanetary ragamuffins have nothing on the walking schlock that is the Paul Blaisdell designed Tabunga, a wobbly, SLOOOOOW moving, bark encrusted monstrosity from radioactive hell that is definitely not one of famed painter, Bob Ross's 'Happy Trees'.

You know you're in trouble when the best special effect is the films title in the opening credits sequence. It's more animated than the shambling dead tree branch with the sleepy eyes. Richard Harrison, is that you under that costume?

And calling the Tabunga SLOOOOOW moving is an understatement. Not only does it move slower than a slasher villain, it takes its time showing up, too. For about 45 minutes of screen time, we're stuck with an endless array of dialog scenes that sound like the actors have the script in hand during a rehearsal.

The only person who shows signs of life is Linda Watkins as Mae Kilgore, the horny Aussie lush who has her eyes on both men; Dr. Arnold who comes off like a low rent Bogart and the effeminate Professor Clark, who comes off as just gay.

"Hey! I'm the He-Man, he's the gay man!"

Of the other actors, Tod Andrews derives the most entertainment, matched only by the slothful tree monster doing a damn fine Richard Harrison impersonation. Andrews spends the entire movie strutting around with his shirt unbuttoned playing Rico Suave while a Tabunga grows in his pants spawned from his relentless and constant moves to get Tina Carver's clothes off.

He doesn't make it, folks. She bails just as the turbulence hits.

After several swooning moments including a prescription for a cold shower upon their first meeting, an attempt to catch a gander at her goods after exiting their makeshift shower and a failed B-line for Carver's lips in the jungle, the headstrong female lets him know she likes her job more.

While we're talking about Tina Carver, she's got a hellish, Banshee-like scream that sounds like a rabid parrot with Laryngitis. It's really hard to do it justice without hearing it for yourself. Hopefully they didn't do too many takes of that.

Going back to Andrews, he definitely fared better in one of his ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW appearances; particularly a 1961 episode where he played a tightwad inspector out to throw the book at Andy and Barney for their "slack" police procedures.

The lovely Grace Mathews certainly could have used some more scenes walking around in her two piece Hawaiian-ized get-up. Her slinky figure, perky eyes and sparkling smile should have been the main attraction, at least till the Tabungan tree devil makes his uneventful arrival.

Regarding the performances, I suppose one could go out on a limb (haha) and say the acting is pretty damn good considering the hilariously stupid dialog they're given to say. Also the actors show an uncanny ability to hold back gut-busting laughter during the Tabunga's "attack" sequences which is worthy of some sort of award all on its own.

"We know now American magic is better. Maybe we need new medicine maker to replace Tano. Will you be our witch doctor?"

Possibly more intriguing than the horrific acting, the torturously knee slapper of a creature, Tod Andrews's constant attempts to assault Tina Carver with his own wooden monster, or the lovely frame of Grace Andrews, is the omnipresent racial overtones.

All of the natives are played by Caucasians and there's an air of white man's science being superior when placed against the primitive, superstitious natives. This also extends to the finale when the beast is brought down. The natives constantly look to the scientists for help, even towards bringing an end to the Tabunga's SLOOOOOW moving reign of sleep inducing terror.

Aside from that, the script is a mess, too. It's never explained why shooting the dagger into the monsters heart will kill it. The damn dagger was already plunged into Kimo's heart the first time around so why should this matter now? I mean, the damn thing constantly oozes green blood from the wound!

Also, Norgu the witch doctor was responsible for the Tabunga coming back to life, claiming to control it as with previous Tabunga's. Yet, once the creature is loose, he suddenly forgets this and sets out to kill it, instead!

I was honestly expecting Tod Andrews' character to make like George Washington and whack away with an axe, but no doubt his doctor Arnold would be worried the Tabunga (you say Tabanga, I say Tabunga) would mess up his hair.

This hilariously awful movie is of the highest possible recommendation. It definitely grows on you (haha) with each subsequent viewing. If you're hungry for a good bad movie burger with a low running time, but high in fat calories, you got your Royal Crapola with Cheese right here.

This review is representative of the Warner Archives DVD.

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