The Mole People
Title: The Mole People
Year Of Release: 1956
Running Time: 77 minutes
DVD Released By: Universal
Directed By: Virgil W. Vogel
Writing Credits: László Görög
Starring: John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva, Cynthia Patrick
1. Terrifying monsters from a lost age!
2. Terrifying creatures from a lost age strike from the depths of the Earth!
3. A lost civilization erupts from the depths of the Earth...and a million years of hate-filled fury is loosed upon the world!
Review Date: 7.20.08 (updated 1.1.10)
Shadow's Title: "The Moron People"
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Dr. Frank C. Baxter – This dork is a real pain. I mean it, he is a PAIN, as in Pontificating Attendant Irksome Narrator. His sole purpose is to pop up at the beginning of the film and lecture the audience on some of the various ideas and theories on what lies at the center of the earth.
Dr. Roger Bentley – Rog here is a know-it-all. Just about any and every time a new topic comes up, Bentley talks about it as if he is an authority on the subject. Don’t you hate that? Good thing for Bentley that despite what he says, he doesn’t come across as a total jackass.
Dr. Jud Bellamin – It’s Beaver’s dad! Maybe this is the job that Ward Cleaver had when he left home and it took him out of the country on occasion! No? Well, it was a stretch anyway. Bellamin is one of the archaeologists working at the dig site in some unspecified Asian country.
Professor Etienne Lafarge – Well, you know the drill: every old monster, horror or science fiction flick had to have at least one major chickenshit, and in this film that would be Professor Lafarge here. He starts off fine, but once they are trapped below ground, he looses it real quick.
Dr. Paul Stuart – Of the four archaeologists, this guy had the smallest part because he was the first to die. He was just leisurely walking around, taking in the sights of the ruins when a quake opened up a chasm right under his feet and away he went, falling into the darkened depths.
King Sharu – This pale dork is the ruler of the underground Sumerian society. He doesn’t do a whole lot except sitting on his throne wearing a basket on his head for a crown and ordering people beaten. Had very little concern for the lives of the Mole People. In the end the feeling was mutual.
Elinu, The High Priest – The Sumerian religious leader. As such, he wields quite a bit of power, and can even influence the King. He is accustomed to having his way, so when the King decrees that the newcomers are to be made welcome, Elinu here nearly has a conniption fit.
Nazar – The local dude who guides the four archaeologists to Mt. Kuhitara and up its snowy slopes. The whole way there he seems pretty competent. Then they arrive at the ruins on the plateau and his expertise just vanishes, causing the rockslide that traps everyone underground.
Adad – Despite the character’s name being spelled as Adad in the end credits, everyone addresses her as Adel. She is a servant in the underground Sumerian kingdom, but because her genes are a throwback to their pre-subterranean days, she is not an albino like the rest of them.
The Mole People – There is some question whether or not the film’s title refers to the race of pasty white folks or these guys. For me it's these guys, since they actually burrow through the earth, despite not looking much like a cross between a man and a mole.
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The well known spinning globe logo for Universal International pops up first thing, with promises of a good time to come. With a movie like The Mole People, a viewer who saw it in the theater might have expected a spooky, atmospheric opening sequence, complete with thrills and chills to help set the mood for the film. Alternatively, one could have expected to dive right into the narrative and get to know the characters while the movie gradually built up the suspense and horror. Either way, if you expect something along those lines, you would be flat out wrong. No thrills. No chills. Nada. What do we get? Some old dork sitting at a desk. Why, he is a PAIN!
What is a PAIN you ask? Well, a PAIN is related to a CLOWN. For those of you who don’t know, A CLOWN is what I call those narrators who pop up in old science fiction and horror flicks from the 50’s and interrupt the movie by informing the audience of things they already know. CLOWN stands for Continuously Lurking Omniscient Wearisome Narrator. CLOWNs are annoying with their frequent voiceovers, but they never appear in the film itself, unlike a PAIN, which is short for Pontificating Attendant Irksome Narrator. A PAIN actually appears in the film, usually only once and at the very beginning. Most times they are located within a laboratory or library of some kind and lecture the audience on all manner of pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo, occasionally opening a book or playing with their nearby chemistry sets in order to stress a point. Well, that is exactly what you are about to be subjected to now.
This PAIN’s name is Dr. Frank C. Baxter and he is a professor of English at the University of Southern California. As we first see Baxter, he is at his desk, writing something. Grading papers perhaps? Figuring out ways to get the university to fund his three week Caribbean vacation? Making sure to note a special tutoring date with one of his female students? Writing to his lawyer about a possible lawsuit against the makers of this film? Who knows and who cares. He looks up at the camera and starts talking about how much we as a species have learned about the surface of our Earth, especially in the last one hundred years. As he speaks, he rises and stands behind a large globe next to his desk.
Baxter begins blathering on and on about how much man has learned: mapping the Earth, going into space and inventing TV dinners. Ok, that last one wasn’t one of the things he mentions, but I personally think it oughta be right up there with the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel. While he talks, the guy repeatedly makes some silly gestures with his hands, drawing attention to the surface of the globe, the space above it and what may be contained within it. It’s at this point that I noticed that old Frank here is obviously reading off cue cards. When he looks at the camera, his eyes are just a little off to the side. So either he is reading his lines or he has two lazy eyes.
Baxter continues to talk about what may be within the Earth, all the while making his constant gestures. He talks about early man venturing into caves and then fleeing them in terror? What did they encounter? My guess would be one pissed off grizzly bear or something along those lines. He talks some more about stories and legends from the various cultures and religions that have risen and fallen throughout history, and how they all share the idea of something being at the center of the earth. Then he discusses the various theories that have been talked about within the last hundred years (I suppose he means since 1856 since this flick was released in 1956). He moves over to a large sketchpad that has been set up on a stand and reveals some drawings to help explain some of these ideas.
The first represents the idea that within the Earth there are “globes within globes” and by traveling to the Polar Regions, one could travel down and access these interior worlds and their potential inhabitants. The next image represents an idea from a true idiot – that we are not living on the exterior of the planet, but on the inside. Rather than looking out at the sun, we are actually looking “in” at the sun. Only a moron could have come up with idea. Sheesh, I could have disproven that one when I was eight years old! The next image is from another moron who thinks we live on the inside of the Earth, with the world being hollow and the sun, moon and a mass of “electric potentiality” that represents the stars we see in the sky, all floating about in the very center.
Wait a second! Why is a professor of English talking to us about a topic that is more suited for a geologist? What, were there no geologists around to fill the part? Given some of the theories presented just now, and it is no wonder that no credible scientists in any field elected to take part! They would have been laughed straight out of their jobs. Then again, I have to wonder about the people who originally came up with these crackpot theories about living in the center of the earth. Did any of these morons stop to think? If we were living on the inside of the Earth (as in the interior “side” of the planet’s crust), then when we gazed at the horizon, it would curve upward into the sky! Since ships sink over the horizon, we are obviously living on a sphere! I swear, the guys who came up with these theories were total and complete morons! Anyone with half a functioning brain can see that we are living on the outside surface of a sphere…and that that sphere is held aloft in the heavens by two gigantic elephants standing on the back of an even bigger turtle. Duh!
Baxter has finally stopped gesturing and moving his hands around at all the drawings. I swear, this guy could not stop waving his arms and hands around! Even Michael J. Fox on his worst day would look like a statue compared to this guy. This guy makes palsy look like a case of catatonia. So Baxter sticks his hands into his coat pockets (exerting and maintaining the will power to keep them there must have severely taxed him, no doubt) and talks about the movie which is about to start. After only a few words, he removes his hands from his pockets and gestures some more. I knew it! I knew he couldn’t go for longer than ten seconds without gesticulating! He babbles some more about the film and then finally bids the audience farewell. Fade out.
The movie now fades in on a large smoking hole in the ground. Rising up out of that pit comes the film’s title and then the rest of the credits follow. After the director’s name ascends out of the stygian abyss and vanishes upwards, the film fades to black again. When we fade back in this time, we see a barren hillside. There are a few simple tents pitched nearby and lots of men dressed in robes and turbans are walking around. A title card informs us that this is Asia. Well, great gobs of goose shit, there ain’t nothing like such precision in narrowing down our setting. Asia? Sure, we have eliminated six other continents, but we still are talking about the largest one of them all here. Just where in Asia is this? In the East? In the West? North? South? In the middle? Where?!!
Next we see what is obviously an archaeological dig site, with people slaving away to remove rock and layers of sediment. Well, the only ones that seem to be busting their asses are the locals, who can be discerned by their attire. They are loading up baskets of soil onto donkeys and hauling them away. While they sweat their butts off, a group of four white dudes mill around doing a whole lot of nothing. Two are pouring over some kind of map while the other pair just seems to be standing and chit chatting while occasionally peering through some surveying equipment. They remind me of the state workers I often deal with on my job: they have perfected the art of not accomplishing a damn thing while working.
A local yokel comes hauling ass into camp at this point, running up to the two clowns who are looking over a map. He calls them Doctor Bentley and Doctor Stuart and wants them to come with him. As the pair race after the guy, Stuart calls to the other two white dudes nearby, Doctor Bellamin and Professor Lafarge. They join the others in the mad dash after the local.
The local leads them to a rock face where an ancient stone tablet is protruding from the soil. Once can see some type of archaic writing on it. Bentley examines it closer and wonders why a stone tablet would be in this particular strata. Lafarge recognizes the writing as cuneiform, adding that it is impossible for such an artifact to be in this location. Bentley (somewhat annoyingly) corrects him and says that it is only highly improbable. After all, according to him, in archeology, all things are possible. The two extract the tablet from the dirt and we can see that it has quite a bit of writing on it.
The next thing we know, the four archeologists are in a tent, looking over the recent find. Stuart notes that the location where it was found was below the “great flood” level, so the tablet has to be at least five thousand years old. Bentley chimes in and says that the writing is Sumerian and is a dedication to a temple or public building. Really? Is he sure? How do we know the tablet doesn’t contain an ancient recipe for cow liver stew? Maybe it is nothing more than an advertisement, the ancient Sumerian equivalent of “Eat at Joes” or more likely in this case, “Eat At Humbaba’s?”
Bentley now babbles some, talking about fallen civilizations and the prospects for our own society, but all Stuart wants is a translation of the tablet’s writing. Bentley agrees, looks at the tablet and reads: “I, Sharu, king of kings, son of Sharu Ad…” The remainder of the line is lost due to the tablet being broken. The four now talk about this Sharu guy, none of them recognizing the name. Lafarge brings up “The Gilgamesh Tablets” found by somebody named George Smith. Bentley nods and mentions how these tablets related a legend about a dynasty that disappeared from the face of the Earth. Lafarge points out that the name Sharu was mentioned on those tablets.
News flash: George Smith did not find the original Gilgamesh tablet. He was just the British Museum assistant that first translated the tablet in 1872. The tablet was actually found twenty-two years earlier in 1849 by The Right Honourable Sir Austen Henry Layard when he discovered the Library of Ashurbanipal in the archaeological site of Kuyunjik (then ancient Nineveh, capital of Assyria) in northern Mesopotamia. The site would be found in modern day Iraq. After translating the first tablet, Smith later conducted his own excavations which resulted in the discovery of subsequent tablets in the Gilgamesh epic. You’d think as an archaeologist, Lafarge would know these things! Since he is referred to as Professor at least once, this would give the impression that he teaches as well. I’d hate to go to that school!
Stuart then wonders about the tablet they just found and what the rest of the writing on it may say. Bentley looks it over again and reads some more.
“He who with malice destroys, effaces, or removes from its place, this, my signed attestation, may he be denounced by Ishtar. May his name, his seed in the land, be destroyed.”
No sooner has he finished reading aloud that bit, than there is a thunderous sound. The ground begins to shake back and forth and being the astute and observant man he is, Bentley notes aloud that it is an earthquake. Ya know, just in case the others had mistaken it for something else, like Godzilla attacking. Outside, the shaking of the film camera is supposed to represent said earthquake. Workers drop their tools and run around in a panic. In the tent, the four scientists try their best to keep things from falling over. Alas, no one seems interested in the table on which their newly discovered prize is sitting. Thus, there is no one to stop the table from buckling and the tablet from sliding into the floor, where it breaks into several pieces. D’oh! Indiana Jones would be horrified at their appalling lack of care for such priceless antiquities.
Sometime later, be it the same day or the following day, the four of them are sitting around bemoaning the fact that the earthquake has put them behind schedule by at least a month. Bellamin wonders if the goddess Ishtar is punishing them for removing the tablet from the earth, but Lafarge reminds him of the inscription, which spoke of someone who removes it “with malice.” He doesn’t think they fit the bill, because as archeologists, they want to rescue the Sharu dynasty from oblivion. Bentley jumps in and says that archaeologists are unpaid publicity agents for deceased royalty. The others laugh at his quip. I, on the other hand, am desperately looking around for a nice stiff drink at this point.
Long about now, another local comes walking up, pulling a reluctant child behind him. The boy is carrying something wrapped in cloth and does not seem to want to follow the man. It’s as if the kid is afraid the white men will do something bad to him, like yell at him, beat him or even worse…make him sit on their laps. He pulls back, but the man just yanks harder on his arm, forcing the kid to follow along. The last time I saw a kid being forcibly marched along like that and doing his best to resist was when I was at the mall and some poor little bastard was being pulled along by mommy into the Lane Bryant store. Not only do kids hate shopping for clothes, but just imagine what kind of sights that kid might have been subjected to in there. Oh, wait...that kid was me! I must have repressed that memory.
So, this local guy comes up and says that this shepherd boy has found something. This guy might be dressed in robes, with a turban on his head, but he has no accent whatsoever. He sounds like he just got of the bus from Los Angeles! What country in Asia was this supposed to be again? Bentley, without even looking at what the kid has, gives him a coin in exchange for whatever is wrapped in the cloth. The kid grins like an idiot at his payment and is led away by the local man…who then probably beat him and took the coin for himself. After all, the kid was probably just going to go buy a Cowboy hat from Texas with it.
Bentley unwraps the object and after a brief glance at it, calls to the boy and wants to know where the lad found it. The kid points to a mountain nearby and says, “Kuhitara. High, high.” Wow, not just high, but high, high! That must mean pretty close to the top of Mt. Kuhitara. How exactly does that translate into distance? Is it one mile for every use of the word high? If so, then it’s a good thing the kid was not pointing at the top of Mt. Everest. Then it would have been, “Everest. High, high, high, high, high.” Lafarge notes that Mt. Kuhitara was the epicenter of the recent earthquake.
Next we see the foursome in a tent, examining the object brought to them by the kid. It seems to be made of gold and is shaped somewhat like a funky lamp, with more cuneiform writing on its sides. Slowly, the men remove the crusty covering that has been clinging to it for many, many years. Lafarge examines a sample of this crusty material and notes that it is a form of moss that grows on Mt. Kuhitara, but not where the boy found it. No, it comes from much higher up the mountain (high, high, high no doubt). Bentley figures the earthquake dislodged it from its original position and rolled it down to the plateau where it was later discovered. Stuart wonders how it even got up atop Kuhitara to begin with. Bellamin figures Bentley may have the answer to that, after his examination of the object.
Bentley confirms that the artifact is a lamp, shaped like a boat. The engravings show a man, a woman and different animals in pairs. Stuart wonders if this means the engraving represents a Sumerian version of the Noah's Ark story. Bentley responds by claiming that The flood (the subtitles capitalize it like that) written about in the Bible has been proven to be a historical fact, so why couldn’t there be a Sumerian version? Funny, I don’t remember that being in any of my textbooks in school.
It would seem Lafarge isn’t the only idiot in the group. Alas, the Sumerian version (the story of Utnapishtim and the flood) is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh which they referenced earlier (and which no one seems to remember who it was that actually found it and who translated it). Therefore, Stuart should already be well aware of the Sumerian version of the flood. Perhaps he just forgot that bit? Maybe he was napping on the day they covered that in school? Whatever the case, these morons don’t seem too knowledgeable on the very thing to which they have dedicated their lives. My guess is that some university somewhere funded their trip to Asia in hopes of them not returning and disturbing the work of “real” archaeologists. If so, it seems the plan was only fifty percent effective.
Anyway, Bentley now produces a notepad with the translation of the lamp’s writings. He begins to read aloud.
“I, Sharu, king of kings, son of Sharu Ad. From water I emerged. I caused to embark within the vessel all my family, my relations, my craftsman and my slaves, and the beasts of the field, and made my home in the ark. We floated on the waves until we found the land of the snow near the goddess of Ishtar.”
Wait a second! It says all that on that one little lamp? The big ass tablet they found earlier had more writing on it than this lamp, yet it didn’t say that much! Lafarge thinks the mention of “the land of snow” is referring the top of Mt. Kuhitara and that the Sharu Dynasty survived the flood atop the mountain. Bellamin seems dubious, noting how the Dynasty was never heard from again, but Stuart thinks this is because no one would think to look for people on the top of the mountain.
Bentley announces that they will go looking, but Lafarge thinks it is impossible. Bentley says the summit is only twenty thousand feet, but Lafarge points out the constant winds and snow that make the journey so treacherous. He is sure that nothing is there. Bentley points out that if that is the case, then they should not be afraid of “nothing.” I guess his word carries some real weight, because it seems they are all committed to making the trip now.
The next thing we are looking at is stock footage from the 1953 British documentary Conquest Of Mt. Everest. This shows dozens of crates of supplies laid out in preparation for the expedition up Mt. Kuhitara. In the background are dozens and dozens and dozens of people, including many, many more Caucasians than we’ve been shown in this film – further proof that this is stock footage. Then we get a close up of our actors amongst some boxes made up to resemble the crates seen in the stock footage. The four archaeologists are going over a map with their native guide, who is telling them that Kuhitara is a treacherous mountain to climb.
The guide further expounds on their ascent strategy, outlining the plan to establish three camps. The porters will carry enough supplies to set up a base camp at the foot of the snow level. A second camp will then be established two thousand feet below the summit of the mountain. After that, they will embark on the final leg of their climb, setting up their final camp near the top, where the moss is known to grow. Bellamin and Bentley joke about all the effort and money going into this trip, and how it is all based on some vague inscriptions on an ancient oil lamp. With everything in readiness, the group agrees to set out the following morning.
The next day arrives and with it comes more stock footage from that Everest movie. We see porters (with some really heavy-looking colossal backpacks) crossing a river, Then we get a rear screen projection shot of the film’s actors meant to imply they are there in the same location along with the porters. Another stock footage shot follows, then another rear screen projection shot. Their guide points out that they are near the base of Kuhitara and that if they keep to their schedule, by the next day they should be able to see the plateau where their base camp will be erected. The group presses on.
More stock footage now, but before too long it is stock footage of people climbing up snowy hills! Several climbing shots follow, intercut with shots of our actors on studio sets meant to represent snowy mountain ridges. Then the stock footage stops and sets up camp. Actually, Bentley’s voice is dubbed over stock footage (timed just right with the movements of one figure), creating the illusion that this was filmed for our movie. After camp is erected, we see Bentley gazing up at Mt. Kuhitara. Their guide waltzes over and chats with him on how impressive it is. Bentley mentions how quiet it seems, but the guide tells him that the mountain can scream when it wants to, maybe even that night. Then with a brief look at the director, to no doubt make sure he said his line correctly, the guy playing the guide walks off camera.
Some time later and the screaming has indeed begun. No, I am not referring to the maddened cries of despair from those in the audience who are desperate for something interesting to happen in this film. Alas, the screaming comes in the form of howling winds. The four archaeologists huddle in one tent, trying to stay warm with a gas powered heater as the wind buffets their flimsy shelter. Bellamin notes how his backside is frozen, but the side facing the fire is well done. Bentley points out that if the storm breaks soon, they can make it to the plateau by the following night.
Now a distant rumbling can be heard, causing everyone to stop talking and look around in puzzlement. “Avalanche,” Bellamin remarks. Is he sure? Maybe it was just the result of the beans Lafarge had for dinner? The rumbling intensifies, but no one makes a move. They just sit there and look around at each other with blank expressions until the sound fades away. Sheesh, it’s a good thing the avalanche wasn’t coming in their direction! This group of fools would have just sat their and gotten buried alive. Bentley talks about the total size of the mountain and the small amount of space they are currently occupying, adding that crossing Times Square would be a more dangerous undertaking than what they are engaged in right now. Hell yeah it would! Times Square has rapists and muggers and rapists who rape muggers and who knows what else! This generic Asian locale just has…snow.
So a new day dawns and the stock footage is rolled out again to show that the ascent has continued. After a while, a stock footage avalanche is spotted, causing our actors on studio sets to run for their lives. The four archaeologists take cover under a small outcropping of rock as fake snow is overturned above them. I have no idea what happened to all their porters. Either all those guys stayed at base camp, they were wise enough to stay well to the rear of these four morons as they climbed…or they were all just buried alive. For a split second, I thought that last option was what happened, for Bentley spots something in the snow nearby: an arm protruding into the air. However, this arm belongs to a statue and not an organic person, so I guess all the porters are still alive…somewhere. The stone arm slowly falls over in the snow and if you look closely, you can see the wire used to make it move.
Bentley plucks the arm from the snow and notes that the avalanche must have brought it down from the plateau. Lafarge asks if anyone could be living up there now, to which Bellamin replies, “In this thin air, it’s possible to imagine anything.” You know what I’d like to imagine at this point? A story!! How about something happening in this film! At least Dr. Frank C. Baxter was fun to watch, with the way he waved his arms and hands around like an epileptic on crack. These four guys are about as much fun to follow as the Eskimo Lacrosse League.
Sensing the audience on the verge of bailing, the stock footage of people climbing snowy mountain ridges is hauled out once again. Eventually the small group of climbers reaches the freakin’ plateau. We see that the only ones in the group are Bentley, Bellamin, Lafarge, Stuart and their native guide. What sight greets them upon their arrival at the plateau? No, not a Starbucks (though I would not be surprised to see one already there), but the ruins of an ancient Sumerian temple. Of course, the close-up of the group shows them standing in different positions relative to one another than does the wide shot.
The group begins threading their way through the toppled columns and crumbling stone buildings that seem to have been carved right out of the mountain top at some point in the distant past. Bellamin notes that ancient Sumerians usually built their cities near their temples, and points out the lack of any additional buildings aside from the temple ruins. Bentley mumbles something about sending their guide, Nazar, back to the base camp to fetch his men so they can setup a permanent camp in this location. At this point, Lafarge calls them over and points out the fallen head from a stone statue. Bellamin thinks it may be a representation of the Goddess of Ishtar. Bentley recalls the inscription on the lamp that mentioned floating on the waves until the land of snow near the goddess of Ishtar was found. He wants Doctor Stuart to see the statue head.
Speaking of Stuart, he is walking around, taking in the sights when he steps in the wrong spot. The ground cracks open and the poor sap falls straight down into a pit that has opened up directly beneath him. Bentley, Bellamin and Lafarge race to the pit and peer over the edge. There is no sign of Stuart in the darkened depths, though we do hear the unlucky bastard’s scream as he falls into the stygian abyss. Nazar hands a flashlight to Bentley, who tries to illuminate the interior of the pit, but he cannot locate the bottom. There is only one thing left to do: get the ropes, descend into the darkness and hope that there is enough left of Stuart after he hit bottom, that they can scoop him into a baggie or something.
So, with the ropes now secured and their parkas removed, the gang prepares to climb down into the earth. Bentley goes first. Slowly he descends as the others lower him from above. After a while, he reaches a ledge and proceeds to hammer a bolt into the rock face, no doubt to help secure a further descent. Sure enough, he ties a rope to it and begins descending again, delving further into the black depths. He eventually reaches the end of that rope, but not the bottom of the chasm, so again he hammers a bolt into the rock face, and affixes a rope to it. We see Lafarge beginning his descent and the whole way down, he has this expression on his face like someone has his balls in a vice. Then again, judging by the way the rope is being pulled tightly against his crotch and that might not be too far from the truth. Lafarge catches up with him and Bentley notes how warm it is getting. Bentley then begins descending again and a close-up of the last bolt that he placed shows us that it is worked itself loose and is not going to hold for long.
Eventually, Bentley reaches the bottom. Good thing, too as he was fresh out of ropes! If he had to descend any further, he would have to do the old Spider-Man trick to get down. He now takes his flashlight and looks around the dark caves, though for some odd reason, there is light emanating from somewhere. Maybe it’s light from the opening far above, though I cannot see how sunlight could penetrate all the way down here when just a few minutes ago they were up top and unable to see the bottom. Anyway, Bentley locates Stuart sprawled out on the cavern floor and shouts this news up to the others. He rushes over to examine him, but it seems poor Doctor Stuart is dead. Lafarge and Bellamin soon join Bentley at the bottom of the chasm, their guide, Nazar, still making the long descent. Nazar comes upon that last bolt, and seeing that it is somewhat loose, pulls out his hammer and tries to drive it back into the rock face. All his hammering manages to do is loosen a bunch of rocks, one of which hits him right in the head. He then plummets to the bottom and lands next to Stuart’s body. The others jump back as a torrent of rocks comes crashing down, filling in part of the cave and blocking their way out.
Lafarge mumbles something about being trapped, while Bentley shines his light around and notes that the cavern they are in is not naturally occurring and shows signs of having been excavated. Again, Lafarge mumbles something about being trapped with no food or water and at this point it should be clear that this guy is loosing his grip on sanity. Oh, he seems ok now, but he is already showing signs of instability. Sooner or later, he is going to snap. Bentley notices that there is a slight draft, which means there must be another opening to the surface close by. The trio set off to find it. I guess they have given poor Nazar up for dead and don’t plan an attempt at removing him from the rubble. Why bother? He’s just a local guide. They must be a dime a dozen, right? This callousness is almost appalling. As they traverse one tunnel, no one notices a small bit of wall break away, revealing a clawed hand. The hand retracts and we see a face peering out through the opening from the chamber beyond. It’s one of the Mole People! Needless to say, this is not a scary moment.
Lafarge is panting up a storm, claiming the air is hard to breathe. So either the air is thick and heavy due to the rising heat, or the other two guys have been dropping air biscuits the whole time they’ve been down there. The other two help him along as they continue to stumble through the dark, Bentley’s flashlight their only source of light. Eventually they see a bend in the tunnel up ahead and a strong source of light is emanating from beyond the turn. They rush ahead and emerge into a huge cavern, which is hundreds of feet high, and thousands of feet wide and long. An unknown source of light illuminates everything. In the distance an underwater lake can be seen. A small river flowing from that body of water runs nearby and on its far side can be seen a fairly large city of stone buildings. On their side of the river are a few ruins of similar buildings.
Bentley figures the light is produced from “some chemicals” in the rocks. That’s it! That is the only explanation the film will give for the light that seemingly exists underground. Not glowing lichen, but “some chemicals.” That’s like saying that we all don’t drop dead because of “some gases” in the air. Am I the only one who wonders what these mysterious chemicals may be and how they interact to create light? Am I truly the only one who sees the possible impact of such a discovery or the potential patents stemming from it? Apparently so.
So now Bentley spots a statue head on the ground and notes that it is an exact duplicate of the one they found on the plateau above. They talk about the city ruins across the river and start fomenting theories that explain its existence. Some engravings nearby credit the founding of the city to Sharu, so they realize the Sharu dynasty did not vanish in the flood, but survived to build a city atop the mountain, only to succumb to an earthquake that caused most of the place to be swallowed up intact by the Earth. Sort of the opposite of Atlantis, which got swallowed by the oceans.
Holy recycled props! Take a look at the screen captures. In A, we see the group at their initial excavation site. Notice the stone wall in the background, no doubt part of some ancient ruins that they are in the process of slowly uncovering. Now look at picture B. Here we see them soon after discovering the underground Sumerian city. Nearby is another stone wall with writing on it. In fact…it’s the same stone wall, only now it is missing the end segment with the doorway. Still, you can see how the one end is lower than the rest, denoting the fact that it is the same prop. Likewise, take a look at picture C. This shows the head of a statue found in the ruins atop Mt. Kuhitara. Now check out picture D. Yep, it’s the same head, only this one was found in the subterranean passages. You can see the scar-like mark above the right eye (where the arrows are pointing) which makes it obvious that it’s the same prop in both shots.
Bentley talks about the history books that will need to be rewritten when they get back, but that leaves the question of whether or not there is a way out. They will have to keep looking for it, but Bellamin remarks that they have all been on their feet for nearly fifteen hours. Bentley agrees that they all need some rest and figures their current location is as a good a place as any to stretch out and grab some shut eye. They all lie down, Bentley using a nearby rock as a makeshift pillow (ouch), but they all fail to see the movement in the soil behind them, as if a Graboid was about to bust through the dirt. Lafarge thinks he hears something and wonders if there is anything alive down here. Bentley tells him it couldn’t be anything more than small lizards or bats, then tells him to go to sleep. As they talk, one of the Mole People is just a few feet away, clawing his way through the dirt.
Moments later, we see the three men asleep on the ground, only now we are looking at them from behind. A huge clawed hand comes into view and grabs Bentley by the face. Another hand quickly tosses a sack over his head. Lafarge awakes and quickly has a bag thrown over his head as well, as does Bellamin. The three struggling men are then pulled down into the earth by their captors. Somehow, during the brief struggle, it looks like Bellamin was able to grab his gloves and put them on. When he first laid down, they were off, but now we see them on his hands as he is pulled into the pit and he claws at the ground.
Sometime later, the three men are regaining consciousness in another cave, one with manacles set into the walls. They remove the sacks over their heads and wonder what happened. Bentley and Bellamin don’t recall seeing a thing. However, Lafarge is sporting some large scars on his chest that would indicate their kidnappers were owners of some very large hands...and that they were in desperate need of a manicure. Bentley shines his light around but cannot find a way out. He figures a way must exist, as they were brought in somehow.
Across the chamber, manacled to the wall, are several skeletons, but closer examination reveals them to be something other than human. The scientists are unsure how to classify them, noting their large skulls and oversized hands. One shows damage to the skull, denoting a death caused by a blow from a blunt instrument. Bellamin says that that is a sign of a higher civilization. WTF? Killing people by bashing their skulls in is a sign of a higher civilization? A higher civilization than what? The one where they kill people by flaying them alive or the one where they do it by shoving red hot pokers up their ass? Lafarge now calls their attention to a section of rock wall that seems to be moving.
Sure enough, part of the wall swivels and two pasty faced guys enter…and when I say pasty faced, I mean pasty. They make the Pillsbury Doughboy look positively tan in comparison. And those outfits! Pointy hats, tunics that end in skirts and sandals. These guys look like they got carried away with the pancake make-up while getting ready for the Gay Elf Musical Recital. Both are carrying swords and one gestures towards the door. Bentley figures they want the three scientists to accompany them, but Lafarge doesn’t want to go. His chickenshit gene is starting to kick in, I see. Needless to say, they don’t have much choice and are led out of their jail by the pale guys.
They are marched through some tunnels and emerge in another large cavern…or just a different section of the same large cavern spied earlier. There is a structure nearby with a large open courtyard and a top that reaches up to the cavern’s ceiling. A large arrow like symbol adorns the front of the building and it should be noted that it is the same symbol that appears on the outfits adorning the two pale goons accompanying the three scientists. Taking that into account, this place is probably a temple of sort kind. There is a large gathering of people assembling and Bentley remarks to the others that they are in “3,000 B.C.” As they approach, they take note of the small river that flows nearby. They arrive at the temple and see that a ceremony of some kind is currently underway.
Some old pasty guy (hell, all these guys are pasty) who must be the local religious leader, holds up an object which has been fashioned to resemble the arrow symbol seen everywhere. He says that in his hands, he holds the “magic eye of Ishtar. The sacred weapon of Ishtar. The golden rod, the secret of death.” As he says this, half the place falls to one knee while others hold their swords aloft in tribute. After all this transpires, the high priest dude walks over to a guy sitting on a throne and addresses him as the King, pointing to the three scientists and referring to them as the “evil ones,” adding that they were captured by the “beasts of the dark.” The King orders them brought forward.
three heroes are pushed forward. The King looks at them and asks who
they are. Bentley says that they are friends, even though they are different.
The King seems amazed that Bentley can speak their tongue. Bentley explains
that they come from a world where their language can be studied on ancient
tablets. Showcasing the true mark of a closed-minded idiot, the High
Priest says that there is no world beyond theirs. The King adds that
there is only Heaven, where they lived a long time ago, until they were
expelled for their sins. Mr. High Priest Idiot chimes back in to explain
that this underground realm is the world and they are its people. Above
is Heaven, where only the gods dwell. He doubts that the trio of newcomers
The guards move in to grab them, but Bentley and Bellamin launch themselves into action, by slugging the guards and grabbing one of the dropped swords. One moron guard manages to get impaled in a moment of utter stupidity. Their combat training is really subpar. After a few seconds of lame fighting, the trio escapes down a darkened tunnel, hordes of pale-skinned dudes in skirts chasing after them. Lafarge, having become the whiny, cowardly bitch of the group, trips and falls. The other two run on, unaware that he is now sprawled out on the ground. The guards come running up and one raises his sword to strike the fallen Lafarge, but a cry from the downed man alerts Bentley, who shines his flashlight back on their pursuers. The light blinds them and sends them running away faster than hardcore Jesuits leaving an all you cat eat pork BBQ.
Bentley realizes that their eyes cannot tolerate the light. They help Lafarge to his feet then they chase after the guards, the pursued now becoming the pursuers. The guards come hauling ass back into the temple area, covering their eyes like they just saw a horrible sight (Britney Spears in a thong, maybe?) while the High Priest stands with the King and yells for the guards to stop running away like chickenshits. After a flash of light to each of their faces, The King and the High Priest decide to get their posteriors into gear as well. Soon the entire temple area has cleared of pale people.
The three archaeologists now walk over and examine the body of the guard who took a sword to the gut. They notice how these people have no pigmentation, figuring that years of living with no exposure to the sun and its ultra violet rays has transformed them into albinos. Bentley looks at the dead guy’s eyes and sees that the pupils have become enlarged in order to let in the maximum amount of low intensity light. He reasons that this means their optical nerves must be hypersensitive to bright lights. Then he starts wondering about these people – how have they survived? What do they eat? How did they forget about their past on the surface? Are their women attractive and more importantly, are they easy? Ok, perhaps he did not voice that last question aloud, but as a male, you just know he was thinking it. Bellamin then wonders why these people feel the need to kill them. Bentley thinks it is because their presence makes them question the truth of their beliefs about the world.
Lafarge suddenly calls out a warning, pointing at the ground. Bentley and Bellamin, having now walked a few feet away, turn to look back at the dead body. The corpse vanishes into the soil, obviously having been pulled under by something alive. This sight is all it takes for Lafarge’s chickenshit gene to override all other biological imperatives in his body and he takes off running back down the tunnel. The others call for him to wait and give chase when he doesn’t slow down for an instant. When he finally stops to catch his breath and they catch up to him, he tells them that they have to find a way out. Going back to the temple would be a bad thing. Bentley agrees and the three set off down the passageway.
After a while, Bellamin notes that they have been going downward for some time, with the temperature getting hotter. Lafarge says that the air is worse and that he can hardly breathe. Long about now they hear some odd sounds. Not knowing what it is, Bentley and Bellamin go to investigate while Lafarge stays behind. Oh, sure…just split up to check out weird sounds while trapped in the bowels of the Earth. You couldn’t pay me enough to stay behind. I’m going wherever the dude with the flashlight goes. End of story.
So the two men come upon a large chamber where dozens of Mole People are being put to work doing…something. Whatever it is, it seems to involve digging large holes in the ground. A team of albinos stands guard over them, cracking whips at them occasionally. One guard walks around, dispensing food from a sack, dropping it near each Mole Person. This prompts two of them to fight over the same bit of food, which only gets the guards to come running over and begin whipping them both like mad. One guard kicks away the food, which lands near the cave where Bentley and Bellamin are hiding. We see that the food is a large mushroom. One Mole Person shambles over to retrieve the food, but lets out a shriek when it sees the two scientists. Alerted to the presence of the scientists, the guards rally the Mole People into a pursuit.
Bentley and Bellamin begin to haul ass. Bentley tries to use his flashlight, but discovers that the button is jammed. D’oh! They reach the spot where Lafarge is resting and grab him, telling him to get moving. The three then seem to run off and hide somewhere in the dark, the sounds of Mole People echoing through the caves. This sparks Lafarge’s chickenshit gene again and once more he takes off running. He stumbles through the tunnels and eventually falls down. He looks up and sees one of the Mole People a few feet away. The creature moves in and we hear Lafarge scream. Bentley arrives a few seconds later to see the beast kneeling over a still and quiet Lafarge. He whacks the monster across the head with his flashlight. This seems to “unjam” the button and the light flares up. He shines it in the creature’s face, causing it to flee down the tunnel. Bellamin arrives at this point, and when they take a closer look at Lafarge, it’s obvious the poor shmuck is dead, as his eyes are open and his face is covered in claw marks.
Next, we see Bentley and Bellamin doing their best to hide Lafarge’s body by covering it with rocks. After some last words about their comrade, the two slowly begin walking down the tunnel. They eventually end up back at the first place they saw the underground city and where they tried to take a nap before being kidnapped. Bellamin knows there has to be a way out of these tunnels somewhere, as there is a constant supply of fresh air. He suggests using the river to swim out, but Bentley says that it runs underground for miles.
At this point, the High Priest dude and some guards emerge from the tunnel behind them. The High Priest asks them not to use “the burning light.” He explains that since they have proven that they possess the “divine fire of Ishtar,” the King has decided they are holy messengers. They are assured of the King’s friendship and are invited to a royal feast. The High Priest now notes the absence of Lafarge and asks where their companion is. Bentley explains that he was called back to heaven by Ishtar. The High Priest accepts this answer and then tells them to follow him.
Some time later, Bentley and Bellamin are at the feast. The King asks them why they have been sent by Ishtar to his kingdom. Bentley pulls some answers out of his ass and says they are there to see how they live so that Ishtar might be better able to help them. The High priest then asks if Ishtar does not know them through their prayers and rewards them for their sacrifices. Bentley says that he and his companion are the eyes of Ishtar. You and I both know that this lie is gonna be back to bite them on the ass. Anyway, the King says that the Kingdom is their (the two scientists) home.
Now four broads emerge from a some back chamber, carrying bowls and platters of food. The food seems to consist of two items: fish and huge mushrooms. Bentley notes that mushrooms are one of the few things that can grow without the sun. I’m guessing the food really, really sucks, cuz no one seems to want to eat it. Take note of the magically moving plate of fish in this scene. In the close up shot of the King (picture A), the plate of fish looks like it is right in front of him, with little room between it and his plate. In the wide shot (picture B) we see that there is only that one plate of fish at that end of the table. However, when we get a close up of Bentley and Bellamin (picture C), the plate now seems to be situated closer to them. It now seems to have much more room between it and the King’s plate. What gives? Maybe they were pushing the plate back and forth, to see who was gonna take a bite first?
The first three of the four women bearing the food are just like everyone else in this place: dark hair and skin so pale, they make albinos look like George Hamilton. However, the last woman has a skin tone much more like that of the two scientists and sports a dark blonde hair coloring. Who knew these simpletons were the founders of L'Oréal? She sets the bowl full of big mushrooms down on the table, but is rather clumsy about it and drops it in the floor. The King angrily calls her over. She kneels down and on a signal from the King, a guard walks over and starts whipping her. He gets in two strokes before Bentley stops him.
The High Priest tells him not to interfere, as the King’s will is the law. Bentley brandishes his flashlight and declares that the fire of Ishtar is the law. “So be it,” says the King, who seems afraid of being burned again. Bentley then helps the girl up and upon seeing this, the King asks if he has fondness for her. Bentley answers yes, at which the King says the girl now belongs to him. He then has her removed from the banquet area.
Bentley says that the gods do not favor the trading of Human Beings. The High Priest scoffs at the idea of calling that particular girl Human, instead referring to her as a “marked one.” Bentley asks if there are others like her and is told that very few are born with the mark of darkness. I am guessing they are referring to what to them, is a dark skin tone. Bentley then asks how many “normal” people there are like the King and is told “twice and a half times sixty.” So…um…one hundred and fifty? Bentley remarks that that is a small number of people. The High Priest says that it is a sacred number and the King adds that it is the highest number that their sacred food can nourish. Bellamin asks what they do when their population exceeds that number. The King says that they kill them. The High Priest then clarifies by explaining that the poor saps are sacrificed in the fires of Ishtar.
A guard now approaches and informs the King and the High Priest that the beasts of the dark (The Mole People) have desecrated their dead. He explains how the creatures took away the body of the guard that was slain by the newcomers. When they finally located the body, the creatures had stripped it of all the flesh. The creatures in question have been caught and the King orders that they be killed. The guard nods and then leaves. The King now says that they should bless the spirit of the earth. The High Priest stands and gives thanks to Ishtar for the food from the tunnels, the fish of the river and the sacred milk of the goat. He babbles some more stuff and finally comes to an end. Then it’s time to dig in! Mmm…mushrooms and fish. What a combo! Hey, as long as there is some horseradish sauce to dip those shrooms in, I’m there!
Later, Bentley and Bellamin are alone, discussing their situation. They both agree that they will need help to find the passage that leads back to the surface. Bentley doesn’t think the albinos will help them, nor will the Mole People, given how they have been enslaved and mistreated. Realistically, how deep can they be? Remember, they climbed most of a 20,000 foot mountain before actually climbing down into the ground, and then they did not really climb down all that far (a few hundred feet at most). Given a few more hours of walking through to dark to get them a little further and they still would have to be somewhere within the mountain itself. Which means a large portion of that mountain is hollow, given the huge caverns– complete with large bodies of water and rivers – that we’ve seen so far.
The blonde servant girl from earlier walks in at this point and bring them a pitcher of some beverage. Bentley calls her Adad and thanks her. How he knew her name is left unrevealed. A few seconds later, Adad calls for Bentley to lie down and she will watch over him while he sleeps. He asks when she will sleep and they launch into a discussion on how she tells time by listening to the beat of her heart. Personally, I don’t use the beat of my heart to tell time. I have found the growls of my stomach to be much more reliable in ascertaining the most important times of the day: breakfast time, lunchtime, dinner time and snack time.
Bentley tries to get Adad to go home, but she insists that this is her home now, as the King has decreed. Bentley says that she is free to go, but she does not know the meaning of the word free. He explains that it means she is free because if she wants to go, she can go and if she wants to stay, she can stay. She embraces this idea and says that she wants to stay. He tries to warn her of possible dangers because he and Bellamin are so different from her people. He says that because they are different, the others may try to harm them. She wonders what he will do and he says they will try to get back to their world. Repeating the same religious dogma that has no doubt been pounded into her head since birth, she says to him that there is nothing beyond the darkness.
At this point, the High Priest can be seen lurking in the doorway and eavesdropping on their exchange.
Bentley begins to tell Adad of the world of light that exists beyond the darkness. As he talks, she picks up a stringed instrument and begins plucking strings. I don’t know if she does this because she wants to play him a song, is hoping that he will shut up or thinks his story will sound better set to music. He talks and when she hears his accounts of the world from which he comes, she says that he is speaking of Heaven. “Maybe I am,” he remarks. We get a last shot of the High Priest listening to them before the scene fades out.
Later, Bentley and Bellamin are touring a local workshop where pale guys with no shirts use lava to heat their forges and are pounding out swords. They move on to a chamber where women are weaving some type of cloth. Bellamin notes that it looks like Burlap, then whines that he wishes they could find the way out of this place. Indeed, because burlap is so appallingly unfashionable.
Elsewhere, the High Priest is lecturing a group of acolytes. He is saying that the King has shown poor judgement in believing that the intruders are divine messengers. The High Priest thinks that matters such as this should be left up to the religious caste. One guy asks if the newcomers are not divine and the High Priest points out how they eat when hungry, sleep when weary and poop when bloated. Ok, maybe he didn’t use that last example, but he does remind them of the fear that the intruders showed when the guards attacked them. He is sure that they are mortal. The same acolyte then asks about the fire of heaven that they possess, but Mr. High Priest reminds him that it is the cylinder they carry that possesses it. Anyone who holds the object could use such power and as the religious leaders amongst their people, they should be the ones to possess and use it to control the beasts of the dark, the people and if need be, a faltering King. He then instructs his people to follow the newcomers wherever they may go and to bring him the cylinder.
Later, Bentley and Bellamin are wandering the tunnels, trying to find a way back to the surface but are having zero luck. Where is Professor Lidenbrock or better yet, Doug McClure when you need them? The pair is unaware that one of the High Priest’s men is tailing them. They walk back into the main cavern where Bellamin thinks they should just apply for Sumerian citizenship. The two joke about what would happen if they stayed in this subterranean realm and how future archaeologists who discovered the place would be amazed at all the little Bentleys running around speaking Sumerian with Harvard accents or shocked at the sight of baseball being played as a pastime. They rattle on, unaware of the albino who is hiding behind the rock on which they are sitting and who is reaching for the flashlight. Just as he is about to grab it, Bentley picks it up so he and Bellamin can look around some more.
Now we head over to some cavern where albinos are whipping Mole People. Seriously, is whipping Mole People their national pastime? Any time you see a Mole Person, he/she is being whipped by some pale goon. These guys do need baseball in the worst way! Anyway, mushrooms seem to be growing nearby and numerous goats can also be seen. The Mole People are dumping food in a trough for the goats to eat. The Captain of the guard approaches and one guy asks if they should feed “them” as they are growing weak. I am assuming he is referring to the Mole People. The Captain says that their orders are to not feed them until told to do so. As he walks away, we see Bentley and Bellamin standing in a nearby cave entrance, watching.
One of the Mole People, who is probably starving and desperate for food, tries to take a bite out of a big mushroom reserved for the goats. The Captain sees this and orders the guards to give the creature sixty lashes. Within seconds two guards are whipping the shit out of him with all the gusto of a Swedish dominatrix. Bentley and Bellamin intervene, but the Captain asks them not to interfere, stating that his orders are to keep the beasts hungry when Bentley notes the only reason the Mole Person took a bite was because he was starving. The guards now point out that the Mole Person in question has escaped and is fleeing down a tunnel. Chastising Bentley and Bellamin for possibly bringing disaster down on all of them, the Captain goes after the creature. He has his knife out, so it looks like he plans on killing the creature. Alas, he only gets partway down the tunnel when he steps in a hole and is dragged to his doom by the monster.
Now we see Adad in Bentley and Bellamin's quarters, sitting and plucking her instrument. Bentley enters and tells her that the melody is as beautiful as she is. Pardon me while I puke. That was such a phony line. Then again, this woman has no experience with modern dating techniques and would probably fall for any line fed to her. She goes to place her instrument aside and nearly hits herself in the face with it! Was it really that costly that the producers couldn’t film another take for this scene? Sheesh!
Adad explains to Bentley that she is a marked one. He agrees and points out all the things that differentiate her from the others: her hair color, her skin tone, and her tenderness. He is really laying it on thick and mentions something about the love of her ancestors. She doesn’t know what the word love means (neither do most women in my experience despite their claim to the contrary and their willingness to use it so casually), so he tries to describe it to her. Then he asks if she believes, like the King does, that he is one of their gods. She says no, as their gods are mean, angry and always giving orders. She just described my old boss! Bentley smiles too much to be one of their gods. He invites her to come to his world with him and she agrees to go. A pale faced guard enters now and says that the King would like to see Bentley at once.
In the audience chamber, the King informs them that the Captain of the guards has been found murdered. The High Priest says that the beasts of the dark have committed the crime and that it is possible the creatures intend to revolt. The High Priest admits that their guards are just a collection of colossal chickenshits who cower at the sight of their own shadows. Since they need the Mole People to work for them, they do not want bloodshed, so the King wants Bentley and Bellamin to use their fire cylinder to help bring the creatures under control. The two scientists look at each other and after Bellamin shakes his head ever so slightly, Bentley announces that they will take no part in any plan to punish the slaves. Then the pair walk out.
Once they are gone, the High Priest does his best to convince the king that the newcomers are evil and have not been sent by the Goddess Ishtar. Take from them their cylinder of fire and they will be powerless, he says. The King disagrees, saying they will not challenge Ishtar. Then he orders that the guards arrest three of the Mole People and then to beat them until they are dead. Wow, what a guy! I can see a bright future for him in urban law enforcement.
Next we see three Mole People chained to a wall. Guards stand behind them and one with a whip is lashing the poor creatures. Then a light shines in his face. He turns away in pain and runs away, as do the other guards. The light is from Bentley’s flashlight, but seconds after the guards have fled, the battery in it finally gives out. “It’s dead,” Bentley remarks. “Then so are we,” Bellamin points out. Bentley thinks that as long as the others think they possess that special power, then they will be ok. The two now release the three Mole People and set them free. Before they go, one of the Mole People looks at the pair and grunts softly at them. It seems to understand that they have shown it and the others kindness. Bentley says that while the Mole People cannot speak, they can reason. He and Bellamin must hope that the creatures can help them find a way home.
Elsewhere, the King and the High Priest are walking together. The King thinks Ishtar is punishing them because they have sinned, but the High Priest says that the intruders are the sinners. The rebellion of the Mole People is due to them and it is because of their actions that the people may well starve. The intruders encourage disobedience in the Mole People, who in turn cannot produce enough food to feed everyone. The King says that if this is the case, they must reduce their population by offering some in sacrifice to Ishtar.
So now we’re back in the temple, where the High Priest is holding aloft that symbol again and reciting the same words we heard him babbling the very first time we saw him. As he drones on and on, we see three woman kneeling nearby. Each is wearing a long robe. Once the High Priest finishes his boring speech, someone bangs a gong and a new broad comes dancing into the room. This woman is fugly. I’ve seen broads that use meth who were better looking. Plus, the dance she performs looks like it was choreographed by a ten-year old. A ten-year old with Parkinson's disease at that. It’s just terrible. Finally, thankfully, mercifully, the dance comes to an end and we hear a loud gong. Shit, you mean this is like the Gong Show? Then why the hell didn’t someone gong her within the first few seconds of her lame dance? We all could have been spared the need for therapy. Her dance now over, the woman wastes no time in vacating the area. I’ll bet! No doubt if she were to linger, the King would have ordered her beaten to death for the atrocity she just inflicted on everyone.
More gongs now sound and the three robed women that were kneeling now rise. The High Priest is handed a dark black hood that he pulls over his head. Then moving to a large door over which is that same arrow-like holy symbol of theirs, he opens it. Bright light pours into the room. Everyone shields their eyes. The High Priest, with his dark hood, seems unaffected. The three robed women now approach the door. As they walk into the light, they drop their robes and enter the chamber beyond, naked. Remember, this is 1956. They may be naked, but you won’t be seeing anything, so don’t even get your hopes up. What’s really odd is that everyone in this subterranean kingdom is supposedly super sensitive to light. They all avert their gaze or cover their eyes when the bright lights shines through from the room beyond. However, when the three sacrificial women step into the light, they stare straight ahead, never once wincing or closing their eyes from the glare. Once they have entered, the High Priest closes the door, locking them on the other side.
Evidently, some time passes by, for the next time we see the High Priest, he is no longer wearing the dark hood. He opens the door to the sacrificial chamber, but this time no bright light shines through from beyond the doorway. Instead, the chamber is quite dark. Four guys with two stretchers now enter the room. When they emerge a moment later, we see that they are removing the bodies of the women who were sacrificed. Their naked forms are mostly covered up, but there is enough of them that is exposed that we can see that they were horribly burned, their skin looking all black, cracked and seared worse than your average steak at Denny’s.
The new Captain of the guard now approaches the High Priest and asks him to follow, as he has something he wants to show him. He leads him out of the courtyard area and over to the dirt where there is something covered by a large piece of cloth. The Captain pulls back the cloth and when the High Priest sees what is underneath, he says that the King must see this for himself. A short while later the King arrives and is shown what lies beneath the cloth: the body of Professor Lafarge. Proof enough that he did not go to Heaven as Bentley claimed. Proof also that the newcomers are not divine, but as mortal as anyone else. The King is convinced and gives the High Priest the go ahead to do whatever it takes to destroy the intruders. Oh, snap!
Lets pause a moment to look at the artwork adorning the wall of the Temple/Throne Room area. Wanna know the problem? Those are Egyptian hieroglyphics and artwork, not Sumerian! The figures lack the big hair and beards which so commonly figure in Assyrian and Sumerian art. Having those tossed in there by the producers is almost as bad as Chandra Kaly and His Dancers (who were not Egyptian) being put in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.
Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.
Next we see Bentley and Bellamin sitting at the table in the room that has been set aside for them. They’re looking a little bummed out. I guess that search for a way out has not been going very well. Bentley is looking forlornly at his pipe. I’m guessing he has exhausted his meager tobacco supply and is looking for something new to put in there, cuz he asks Bellamin if he has ever heard of anyone smoking dried mushrooms! HAHAHAHAHA! Adad now enters with a platter of giant mushrooms. Bellamin notes the large quantity and asks if the slaves are now back to work. Adad doesn’t know, stating that the food keeper was very generous. Bentley and Bellamin waste little time in digging in.
Bentley invites Adad to sit, but when she doesn’t partake of the meal, asks why she does not eat. She tells him that royal food is not for servants. He reminds her that she is not a servant any longer and is free to do as she pleases. As he talks, he gets a funny look on his face and stares at the shroom he just took a bite of, as if it has transformed into a steaming hunk of goat poop or something. Hell, if these are magic mushrooms they are eating, they could be seeing all sorts of weird shit. Somebody cue up In A Gadda Da Vida, quick! He tries to talk more, but his speech is becoming slurred. Bellamin drops his head to the table without a sound and a couple seconds later, Bentley is out as well. Adad then realizes that the mushrooms were drugged in some way. She throws the plate into the floor, but it is too late.
The High Priest and his men now enter. Bentley and Bellamin rouse briefly and try to resist but can only manage to stand from the table and then fall right over like a drunk after an all night binge. The High Priest takes possession of the flashlight, unaware that it is no longer functioning.
While the two archaeologists are being secured, Adad escapes the room and flees down the tunnels. She avoids a guard patrol and makes her way to where the Mole People are being worked (and whipped). She tries to run across the large area, but slips and falls into one of the holes. The Mole Person in that hole then grabs her and pulls her completely under the soil. The guards who witnessed this run over and…you guessed it, begin whipping nearby Mole People. All the Mole People then sink into the ground and vanish, leaving the guards alone and somewhat perplexed. Um…if the Mole People could so easily escape their tormentors, why did they wait until now to do so?
Returning to the temple, we see that Bentley and Bellamin are lying on the floor, still bound. The High Priest dons his black hood and then four other guards wearing identical hoods arrive and pick up the two scientists. The High Priest opens the door to the sacrificial chamber and the pair is pushed, struggling the entire time, through the entrance and into the bright room. The door is closed and once the bright light has abated, hoods are removed, eyes are opened and everyone can see something new: a veritable horde of Mole People rising up from the ground just beyond the courtyard.
The High Priest orders the guards to kill them, but you and I both know that these guards are chickenshits who can barely fight their way out of a paper bag. They unsheathe their swords and stand ready (well, as ready as they can be) as the wave of Mole People descends on the temple. As other people flee, the High Priest makes his way over to the throne and tells the King there is nothing to fear. He shows him the flashlight and says that he now has the burning light. Well, unless these Sumerians have invented batteries, they have nothing.
So the army of Mole People storms the temple. The albinos do their best to fight back, but pretty much get their asses handed to them. We get numerous shots of albinos and Mole People engaging one another in poorly choreographed, rehearsed and executed fights. The High Priest tries to use the flashlight, but of course there is no juice left in its batteries. Realizing it is of no use, he discards it, but by that time a pair of Mole People are upon him and the King. Both are pretty much pounded into the next life.
As the carnage continues, Adad arrives on the scene. She runs to the door that leads to the sacrificial chamber, but lacks the strength to lift the heavy bar that keeps it shut. She drops to the floor and begins to cry. Meanwhile, about four Mole People take a break from slapping the shit out of albinos and trudge over to the door. They manage to get it open, but when the bright light beyond shines through, all the Mole People in the temple decided to high tail it back to the caves. And why not? They had pretty much killed everyone in the temple, leaving nothing behind but one big pile of bodies.
Adad now steps into the light and shows no sign whatsoever of being hurt or burned by it. She enters the chamber and we see that the bright light is actually sunlight, shining down from an opening far above and forming an arrow-like shape when it reaches the floor. The shape from which their holy symbol was derived.
Bentley then steps out of the shadows and embraces her. He looks up at the sun and explains to her that her people once came from his world and that she is living proof that that is true. That is why her people called her a marked one. He doesn’t come out and say it, but I’m guessing she has recessive genes that allowed for her appearance. She looks at the sun and comments on its warmth and beauty. Bellamin approaches and theorizes that the priests had known about this way to the surface for thousands of years, but kept it secret. Eventually, the light became too strong for them as well. The Mole People will have to remain in the dark (literally and figuratively).
Adad expresses her desire to accompany Bentley back to his world. Without another word, the three of them begin climbing up the ragged walls of the chamber, which provide many ledges and handholds. They eventually reach the top and where should they find themselves? Why in the ruins of the ancient temple on the plateau. Hold the phone a sec…
The sacrificial chamber containing the “fires of Ishtar” is at the bottom of a vertical shaft which looks to be several hundred feet deep. In picture A, we see a view of the chamber from above. You can clearly see how the sunlight forms that arrow-like pattern on the floor (it almost looks like a Starfleet emblem turned on its side). This is clearly where the Sumerians got the symbol that adorns all of their clothes and buildings. Now, in picture B, you can see the exit point. You can even make out the tips of Bellamin’s fingers as he pulls himself out of the shaft. Now, does that opening in any way look like it would form such a neat shape? No! Not only is it not arrow-shaped, but look how small that is! With an opening that small, the beam of light reaching the chasm floor would not be as big. Furthermore, given the size of the hole and the brightness of the sunlight, it means the sun would have to be directly overhead at that exact minute. Another few minutes before or after and the sun would not be aligned with the chasm. The blazing Fire of Ishtar could only be observed for a few minutes on any given day.
So Bellamin welcomes Adad to their world and she says that it is more beautiful than she could have imagined. Then Bellamin spots their gear that got left behind. A short time later, all three are wearing parkas and heavy clothing better suited to the cold climate. They are leaving the ruins when a rumbling can be heard and the Earth begins to tremble. It’s another freakin’ earthquake! Startled, Adad bolts, but a large stone column topples over onto her. Bentley rushes to her to find her half buried under snow and stone. She has just enough strength left to open her eyes, stare longingly at him and then POW. She dies.
Far below, the earthquake causes rubble to collapse the chasm that leads to the sacrificial room, forever cutting off access to the ancient realm below.
Did the earthquake do any more damage? Where there any survivors of Mole People’s rampage? We did see some people flee the area before the battle (well, it was more of a slaughter than a battle), but they mostly seemed to be women. Did the Mole People track down and kill all of the Sumerians, of did they head back to their holes once they dispatched everyone in the temple area? Between the Mole People’s rebellion and the quake, were any Sumerians left alive? Given their small numbers to begin with, the film seems to imply that their civilization was destroyed, but I can’t help but think that a few might have escaped death and continued living in the subterranean depths.
Furthermore, did Bentley and/or Bellamin ever try to return to Mt. Kuhitara and prove that their little adventure really happened? They really don’t have much proof when you think of it. The bodies of Stuart, Lafarge and Nazar were all left underground. All they had was Adad’s body. That might help in some way. I wonder if the chasm they originally descended (the one Stuart “discovered”) was still open to any extent? Between it and the one leading to the sacrificial chamber, there should have been some way to regain access to the Sumerian realm. Perhaps things took an even worse turn after the credits when the two surviving archaeologists were buried in an avalanche on their way back down the mountain.
Who knows any of these things for certain. For now this is…
A group of archaeologists discover an ancient Sumerian civilization that still thrives deep below the surface of the earth. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is. However, the movie does take an interesting (if not overly drawn out) route in getting that premise properly set up. Things start off at an archaeological dig where the initial findings are unearthed. A mystery is uncovered and subsequent events only deepen that enigma, which provides the impetus for getting our protagonists to undertake a journey of discovery. Here we have a slight twist on the more common view of scientific exploration that was popular at the time in genre movies. Rather than a team of astronauts, all of whom would be quite proficient with their futuristic gear and hold doctorates in modern technical sciences, leaving Earth behind to explore the depths of space and the strange alien worlds that lay beyond our solar system; we have a team of archaeologists who seek to better understand mankind’s history and wind up venturing deep within our own home planet, discovering a strange world right under our very feet. These guys (and in turn, the film itself) are more interested in looking at the existing world for puzzles to solve and truths to clarify rather than bumble their way into the utterly unknown. It’s almost as if the film is trying to impart the idea that man must first look to his past and understand himself before he can successfully move forward into the future.
Of course, there are other ideas than can be gleaned from this movie if one chooses to look at various elements with more scrutiny. Foremost is the subtle attack on organized religion. While audiences no doubt rolled their eyes at the sheer ignorance of the Sumerians, who believed that theirs was the one true world in existence, and that only heaven itself existed apart from them, I wonder how many saw that a similar firm belief in unproven universal “truths” was (and still is) held by a majority of Americans. In showing how Elinu uses the power of their false beliefs to keep himself in power and to help control the population, condemning any who thought or said differently as evil, the filmmakers could very well have been saying that all organized religion is nothing more than a hindrance in man’s social evolution and that only by embracing the truths of science rather than teachings based on myth and legend, will he propel himself out of the dark and into the light. Then again, that entire concept could have been something that someone else contrived at a much later date. I’ll let you decide, so I won’t even touch upon the idea that the Sumerians, as Albinos (and thus the whitest folks you’ll ever see) are shown to be oppressive slavers.
Even though the film starts off with four main protagonists, it isn’t too long before that is narrowed down to three. Despite checking out at (nearly) the twenty-one minute mark and having appeared for almost a full third of the narrative portion of the film, Dr. Paul Stuart really has very little to do aside from mutter a few lines here and there, get excited about some old artifacts and then let loose with a death scream when he takes his fateful plummet into the depths of the earth. Of the three that carry on from that point on, we see three distinct approaches taken in regards to their respective personalities and how they each handle the situation in which they have found themselves.
First off we have Etienne Lafarge, the only obvious non-Caucasian of the group. Despite holding a doctorate, teaching as a professor at the university level and being very well learned in his field, Lafarge still falls victim to the unfortunate stereotypes that have so often plagued minority characters. In older genre films such as this, all too often such characters either serve as the comic relief or the coward of the group. In this film, it is the latter of those two descriptions that best fit Lafarge. For the first part of the film he comes across as jovial, yet overly cautious, but once he and the others are trapped below ground, his mental state starts to rapidly deteriorate to the point where he begins to give in to his mounting panic. This of course does not serve him well at all and after freaking out and running off in a blind panic a time or two, he comes to a bad end. So basically, his character arc tells us that yielding to one’s fears can lead to our own undoing. The only thing to fear is fear itself…or so some dead president once said.
Next up is Dr. Jud Bellamin, who comes across as a very levelheaded, logical-thinking academic. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think the guy was Mr. Spock’s cousin, with the way he doesn’t seem overly affected by anything. Yes, he expresses a fair amount of concern, worry and even fear on occasion, but he is nearly the polar opposite of the more emotionally driven Lafarge. He views every new situation from a very pragmatic stance and despite how grim things seem to be on occasion, he keeps his cool and even a sense of humor. Ok, there was that one instance where he was about to slug one of the albinos and Bentley stopped him from doing so, but most of the time he was much more sedate. As one of the film’s two surviving characters, his journey would seem to tell us that knee-jerk reactions and emotional thinking should be put aside in favor of a more clinical approach to life. Looking even deeper and taking into account the larger themes of the film, and the message may even be more simple than that: science is good, religion is bad…but more on that angle later. I know most people will see Ward Cleaver in Bellamin when watching this film, and really, who can blame them? Bellamin is very similar in manner and temperament, so it would be very hard not to see Wally and Beaver’s dad.
Finally, we come to the last of the archaeologists, Dr. Roger Bentley. He is the obvious leader of the group (the crates of gear they take on their expedition to Mt. Kuhitara are all labeled as being his property, meaning he was in charge of the initial excavation). His is the curiosity that gets piqued, his is the will that sets things into motion. Once they are trapped, he takes the lead in their efforts to return to the surface. Much of this leadership stems from the passion that he radiates as the heart of the group. A passion for uncovering the truth in the past. A passion for discovering something new. A passion for any hot blonde chick that happens to cross his path. Bentley never looks back, refusing to dwell on past mistakes and choosing to move forward, seeking solutions to his problems. Now if there was ever a message that this character sends it is the old classic, carpe diem (seize the day). You want to move forward in life? Then it is up to you. You want out of the mess you’re in? Well, we saw what whining did for Lafarge, so don’t be a wuss, suck it up and get proactive in life. As played by John Agar, Bentley comes across as quite likable, the exact sort of guy you’d want at your side in a crisis. Agar instills his usual charm and confidence, but to a lesser degree we see his magnetism with the ladies. Next to Dr. Matt Hastings, who he played in Tarantula, I think Roger Bentley is Agar’s most likable character of the many he played in genre films.
The remaining characters are much more generalized in execution, even if conceptual ideas originally differed. Elinu, the High Priest is a sharp-minded schemer of Machiavellian proportions. He’ll stop at nothing to ensure his position of power. King Sharu is your typical moron leader who thinks he is in charge, but really is not. He can be harsh with his subjects, the sure sign of someone who has no true idea on how to lead. I only wished his and Elinu’s demises were played out a little more. It would have been quite satisfactory seeing them thrown around and beaten by Mole People a bit more than we did. Finally, we come to Adad, the blonde slave chick who yearns for something better, but doesn’t see a world that will allow it…that is, until Bentley comes along and sweeps her off her feet. She is the idealized picture of the perfect 50’s woman: demure, naïve, innocent, obsessed with domestic life, pleasing her man and deferring to his authority. In other words, she is nothing but pure Science Fiction and really quite boring. The only other character to take notice of are the Mole People themselves, but they are only shown as being badly treated slaves who rebel. What they are like as a people is never examined.
Given the reputation that this film has earned over the years, the FX in this movie are really not that bad. I wouldn’t call them state of the art for the time period, either, but they were certainly a few orders of magnitude above cheap miniatures and rubber monsters. Well…ok, the film does have more than its fair share of rubber monsters, but they do not look anywhere near as shabby as numerous other critters heralding from 1950’s genre films. The studio saved money by having the titular Mole People presented as more than just mindless monsters and instead portrayed them as an intelligent, if primitive, people. Thus, the reason for having them all decked out from head to ankle in dark, dreary clothing that resembles nothing so much a large burlap bag. That way, only the heads, hands and feet of the actors playing them would have to be covered with rubber appendages. In this way, the producers were able to have numerous creatures on screen at any one time and still maintain the same level of quality in their looks. I will leave it up to you to determine for yourself whether that level of quality was substandard or not. For me, it works.
Other than the adequate creature FX, the movie has several instances where live actors have to be inserted into a shot featuring a vista or landscape that was non-existent. In this case, they did not exist because the cost for building them as sets would have been prohibitively high. Thus, the filmmakers decided to utilize paintings to bring these locales to life and through creative tinkering, meld these pieces of art with live sets and actors. Sometimes this melding was accomplished simply through the use of rear screen projection, while on other occasions more technical methods were employed. While the results are not always one hundred percent convincing and can be easily spotted for what they are, these shots are still surprising good given the time period and in comparison to the work being done in other films.
I wonder if directors of 50’s horror/science fiction flicks even
knew how to move their cameras around. So often I watch these movies
and they are just one static scene after another. Oh sure, they move
their cameras around some, but probably because they only paid to have
the camera dolly or crane for one day during the entire shoot. This
movie is not much different. Most shots seem to focus on one thing and
keep it in the frame with little or no movement. Yes, some shots do
have some minimal movement, but most of the time things appear pretty
still. Of course, this may have been a stylistic choice on the part
of the director. Since most of the film takes place underground in (often)
claustrophobic caverns, this lack of movement could have helped in putting
across the idea that the environment was a confining, stifling one.
However, I do not think that is the case. Since the producers didn’t
take advantage of the opportunity to utilize sounds as a way of adding
atmosphere to the dark cave passages, I doubt the camera movement (or
lack thereof) had a purpose behind it.
This movie has a great premise, but the end product is rather dull at times and down right crappy at others. It’s hard to believe at times that this was produced by a major studio. Aside from an aspect here or there, most everything about this film seems more like something churned out by American International Pictures or some other maker of cheap films. The main characters are at least engaging enough to maintain one’s interest in the movie (if these types of movies are your thing, if not, then nothing short of liquid crack will keep you awake), though in differing cases this is because they are either dauntless explorers, laughable chickenshits or just flat out morons of surprising magnitude. The FX are surprisingly decent for such an obvious low-budgeted film. The visual FX are rather good and the creature FX for the Mole People, while more cost effective (cheap) than other big name film monsters (The Gillman), are still good enough to help suspend one’s disbelief. Musically, it’s a lot of the same thing we’ve heard before. In many cases, the exact same thing we’ve heard before. Stylistically, the film doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. Lighting, use of shadows and even sounds are not fully taken advantage of in order to help create a specific mood or atmosphere. Despite how the movie is presented in the posters and trailers, this is less a monster movie and more an adventure movie, with fantastic elements. The Mole People themselves are only monstrous in appearance. One doesn’t feel much horror at the sight of them. Quite the contrary, in fact. Viewers are more likely to sympathize with them when shown how badly they are treated. Overall, the movie is very middle of the road. There is both better and worse from the era. Depending on your tastes, it could be at either end of the spectrum.
Dancing - There is really only one scene that features this and it's a singularly unattractive woman that engages in a spastic dance, dressed in a truly hideous outfit.
Monsters - The Mole People. They have dark bumpy skin, gigantic eyes, huge hands and communicate through growls and grunts. Though that does describe HALO nerds as well.
Romance - Ugh. While the romantic angle is not too overt, it’s apparent that Bentley and Adad see something in the other that interests them. For her, it's a mystery. Him? Her boobs.
Snowy Hijinks - The film's first part shows the archaeologists as they ascend the snowy peaks of Mt. Kuhitara, camping in flimsy tents and avoiding an avalanche at one point.
Stock Footage - Almost all shots of people climbing, walking or even just standing in or around snow was lifted from another film (Conquest of Mt. Everest from 1953).
Swords - The Sumerians possess the ability to craft swords, though in the thousands of years they have lived underground, they have forgotten how to effectivley wield them in combat.
Underground Hijinks - The bulk of this film takes place in tunnels and large caverns (supposedly) deep in the Earth. Few of these locations look authentic.
Violence - There is a fair amount of violence here. People fall to their doom, get clawed to death by Mole People, are crushed, get stabbed and are burned alive.
Hand gestures by Professor Baxter: 38
Reported Sumerian population: 150
Most Sumerians seen at once: 34
Most Mole People seen at once: 18
Total whip lashes inflicted on Mole People: 88
Times Lafarge freaks out: 2
Percentage of film comprised of Stock Footage: 4.69%
Mins – Is he having a seizure or something?
Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time Bentley talks authoritively on some subject, take a drink.
for larger image
Professor Baxter the PAIN talking about something.
Baxter: “…for I think if you’ll study this picture and think about it when it’s over, you’ll realize that this is something more than just a story told.”
Shadow’s comment: Yeah, it’s also a pretty effective cure for insomnia.
High Priest Elinu and King Sharu explain the simple truths of life.
“There is no world beyond ours.”
Shadow’s comment: Rog, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!
Bentley needs something for his pipe.
“Did you ever hear of anyone smoking dried mushrooms?”
Shadow’s comment: Just be careful of the funky portobellos that are going around.
Film & Me
This is yet another film that I recall seeing for the first time at a very young age (around four or five). As I recall, my dad and I were watching Creature Features, which was one of those 70’s staples: the hosted horror movie. This one aired on Friday and Saturday nights and was hosted by Bob Wilkins. He would often show two movies on Saturday nights and halfway through the first, would feature a “sneak peek” at the second. That was my first exposure to The Mole People. It was the second film for the night (I have no idea what the first one might have been) and I remember Dad getting my attention and saying, “Look what’s coming up next!” I recall that the “sneak peek” showed the brief scene where Bentley, Bellamin and Lafarge are trying to take a nap, only to be pulled down into the ground by the Mole People. While I remember seeing that short scene, I really don’t know if I was able to remain awake long enough to watch the actual movie that night. If I missed it, then at some point not long after, I did manage to see the movie in its entirety, because I do remember watching it with my sisters nearby. This movie popped up a few times on TV over the next few years, but even as early as 1977/78, I stopped seeing it in the TV listings. It would be another fifteen years or so before I saw it again, when Universal released all of their 50’s horror on VHS. I bought up a bunch and The Mole People was one of them. In fact, I still have that VHS tape, as it was my only source for seeing the movie until the DVD release in 2006.
Shadow's rating: Five Tombstones