Monster From Green Hell
Title: Monster From Green Hell
Year Of Release: 1958
Running Time: 70 minutes
DVD Released By: Image Entertainment
Directed By: Kenneth G. Crane
Writing Credits: Endre Bohem, Louis Vittes
Starring: Jim Davis, Barbara Turner, Robert E. Griffin
1. The Mammoth Monster That Terrorized The Earth!
2. Today It’s Destroying Africa…Tomorrow, The World!
3. Atomic Mutations With An Appetite For Flesh!
Review Date: 8.3.05 (updated 1.1.10)
Shadow's Title: "Movie From Boring Hell"
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Dr. Quent Brady – This guy studies the affect of radiation on animals by shooting them into space onboard rockets. He is also the only one who sees the connection between the lost rocket and the reports of monsters in Africa, and leads the expedition to investigate. Provides unwanted voiceovers.
Dan Morgan – He doesn’t buy into Brady’s theory about giant wasps produced from massive doses of radiation, but accompanies him to Africa anyway, probably to get his hands on some choice pot or something. A nicotine fiend, he seems to be lighting up a cigarette constantly.
Dr. Lorentz – A medical doctor who has set up shop in the village of Mongwe, where he helps the natives. Their adherence to superstition annoys him, and he decides one day to prove that evil spirits are not the ones responsible for some strange recent deaths. Nope, just giant wasps.
Lorna – She helps pops with his work in Africa and we see why: the woman is not a looker in any way. I doubt there was much for her back…wherever. Hell, cut her hair shorter and give her a scar on the forehead and she’d resemble Harry Potter more than the lead in a 50’s monster flick.
Arobi – This guy belongs to one of the friendly native tribes and seems to be quite the progressive guy: wearing western clothing and sporting a rifle rather than a spear. He helps out Dr. Lorentz a lot but has a hard time trying to convince the old fart that there is something wrong in Green Hell.
Mahri – He was supposed to be the best safari guide in central Africa. I wonder what would have happened if they had hired a bad guide, as Mahri led them right through land belonging to some fiercely aggressive natives and several porters ended up dead. Some guide he turned out be!
The Wasps – Not to be confused with female pilots (Women Airforce Service Pilots), uppity East Coasters or a 1980’s big hair heavy metal band…any of which (or all) would have made for a better movie no doubt. They get supersized after being exposed to large amounts of radiation.
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We open with a shot of what looks to be the desert somewhere in the American west. Nestled between two towering mesas is a rocket-launching facility complete with multiple gantries, a radar tower and numerous other buildings. What is odd about this particular shot is that the mesas look real, but the foreground looks somewhat phony – too static, like it was a drawing or some other piece of cheap artwork. The rocket facility looks ok, but it is obvious that it has been matted into the shot somehow…unless NASA had a back-up launch site in the desert.
Suddenly a voice-over breaks the silence. Oh crap, it’s a CLOWN (Continuously Lurking Omniscient Wearisome Narrator). Alas, no! This annoying voice just so happens to belong to the main character in the film! Not competent enough to have the events on screen convey the story, the producers decided that having the film’s lead fill the audience in at key points while the movie is underway would make for a good idea. Lovely. Anyway, the voice belongs to Dr. Quent Brady, whom we will come to know over the next seventy minutes as "that annoying dumb ass."
So Brady blathers on: "This is the age of the rocket, the jet…atomic power. When man prepares to reach for the stars. But before he dares to launch himself into space, there is one great question to be answered: What happens to life in the airless void above Earth’s atmosphere? Will life remain untouched, unharmed by its flight through space, or will it change into...what? There was only one way to find out and we were working on it."
You know, I have a much more important question that needs answering at this point: Before I dare to watch this mess in its entirety, what happens to my mind when exposed to this movie? Will it remain untouched, unharmed by its proximity to such idiocy or will it change into…what? Shall I schedule therapy now while I’m still coherent, or wait until speech has eluded me and my only plea for help comes in the form of violent seizures? Something tells me that having a glass of water and some anticonvulsants on standby might be a prudent move to make at this juncture.
Anyway, while Brady was making his speech, we are treated to scenes of him and his fellow scientists at work in a lab. This work apparently revolves around the petting and admiring of Guinea Pigs. I’m sure that justifies their operating budget in itself. Brady then presents one such piggy to Dan Morgan, who then takes a visual inventory of all the critters they have assembled in cages and containers around them. This includes monkeys, wasps, crab spiders and more guinea pigs. Morgan mentions Brady’s generosity to a lab assistant before they get to work "loading the passengers." Generosity? What…did Brady fork over his personal pet guinea pig for this project? I don’t know about you, but I’d be hesitant to hand my beloved pet over for a rocket ride into space.
Sometime later, after we see a rocket being prepped for launch and the "passengers" have no doubt been loaded, we see Brady in a what appears to be a bunker of some type. Morgan enters the room at 10:14 for what turns out to be a 10:15 launch time. Gee wiz, ya think he’s cutting it a little close? Did he stop off at the commissary for a sandwich or something on his way to the control bunker…or did he wait until there was just a couple of minutes left before opening the door to the rocket and tossing the "passenger" cages in like old luggage? So Morgan counts down the seconds and the stock footage…er…I mean rocket is launched. The music kicks in and we get our opening title and credits…but hold the phone a minute! We see three rockets lifting off! Was this just supposed to be the same rocket shown three times, or did they send up three different rockets? What, did the guinea pigs make a big fuss about being on the same flight as the monkeys and demand their own rocket? Did those uppity wasps refuse to have anything to do with the spiders? WHAT?!
Would you believe that we’re not even two minutes into this film yet? Tell me that doesn’t bode well.
Finally, after some music best described as "Tarzan Takes Broadway," the credits end and we focus in on Brady and his pals in the control bunker. He and Morgan are talking about the recently launched craft and Morgan asks Brady if he has ever had the itch. Before you think we’ve segued into some kind of hygiene powder commercial, let me assure you that Morgan means the itch to go into space. Brady says no and that he is waiting to see what happens to the test animals first. I take that to mean that if the guinea pigs come back sprouting extra limbs or reduced to piggy paste, he won’t be booking a flight anytime soon.
A quick cutaway shows a radar dish humming and a couple of morons with binoculars gazing into the sky. Radar isn’t good enough, that they have to pay people to visually track the rockets? Or are they still, after all these years, taking Ned Scott’s warning to "keep watching the skies" damn seriously? And just what was the purpose of this cutaway? Why splice that right in the middle of the conversation between Brady and Morgan? Was it that damn important to show these dorks watching the sky? Plus, that shot of the radar dish is giving me flashbacks to Fiend Without A Face and all the stock footage of radar dishes in that film.
Then we’re back in the bunker, where some flunky says something to Morgan about the "second rocket." Well, that answers my previous question about the number of rockets, but provides no clues as to why there were multiple launches. Morgan and Brady closely scrutinize a trio of gizmos that look like funky HAM radios. The rocket in question is not coming down and suddenly it is out of radar range. Another technician notes that it was "way over normal velocity." Is "way over" a technical measurement? What is one order of magnitude higher than that – "way, way over?" How does "way over" translate into percentages? Is "Way over" the same as 10 percent? 20 percent? 50? 75? I would just like to know in case I come across that term in a textbook in the future. Anyway, Morgan then takes Brady with him to "ask the computer a few questions." One is left wondering as to what type of computer he is referring and why he feels the need to subject it to the third degree. Is it responsible for not doing something correctly – like failing to save his progress on Doom? Is it in trouble? The way he refers to it, you’d think it had personally ordered that the rocket be shot down, like it was Forbin's Colossus or something.
So the two men return to the lab that was seen earlier. Brady takes a seat while Morgan approaches a row of large instrument panels. This must be the computer. He then takes a microphone and reads aloud some statistics on the lost rocket – speed, trajectory, fuel status, etc. I got a Scotty "Hello Computer" vibe from seeing him do that. After that he flips several toggles, pushes a few buttons and waits while the computer makes all sorts of noises. Personally, if my computer made those same noises, it would be a very bad thing and I’d be diving for cover. Then he picks up an earpiece, puts it to his ear and starts writing on a tablet. What exactly is he hearing? Is the computer talking to him via that earpiece? Does it have a male or female voice? Does it have an attitude or is it as stimulating as dirt? Regardless, we can see that it has no I.Q. of 6000 like Holly from Red Dwarf, as its results are only an approximation of an answer. Still, given the data that was inputted Morgan says the computer estimates that the rocket will crash to Earth somewhere in Africa.
Suddenly we’re in Africa. How can we tell? Because there is a tribe of stock footage natives dancing around outside their crude huts. Didn’t you know that everyone in Africa is part of a tribe and lives in a crude hut? No? Well, 50’s Hollywood would have us believe that. A few tribe members led by Arobi and carrying what looks like a hammock with the sleeper still wrapped up inside, approach a large building (large in comparison to nearby huts) that seems constructed from sheets of corrugated metal, where a woman and a man decked out in white lab apparel stand waiting. These two dorks are Dr. Lorentz and his daughter Lorna and they must represent "civilization." Dr. Lorentz asks Arobi what has happened. Arobi replies with some murky mumbo jumbo but eventually reveals that the guy who is currently wrapped in the hammock happens to be quite dead, having given up the ghost when he followed a trail into "Green Hell." Arobi claims to have been just a stone’s throw away from the poor bastard when he died, having heard him scream but not seeing what attacked him. Dr. Lorentz now asks some of the others what they saw, but they all shield their eyes and avert their gazes, as if what they saw was too horrible, too mind-numbingly awful to contemplate or imagine. In other words…Yanni on tour! Dr. Lorentz then has the body brought into his lab, where he will ascertain what killed the man and put an end to the superstitious talk about monsters.
Night has now fallen over the jungle and Lorentz is examining the body with the assistance of Arobi and Lorna, who has yet to mutter a word. Lorentz has determined that the man died from the paralysis of his nerve centers. Well, that couldn’t be a Yanni attack. Those usually include blood pouring from the ears in addition to paralysis. Lorna finally chimes in and inquires if it was snake venom. The doctor admits that there was a resemblance, but the fatal dose was too much. No snake could inject that much poison. Then he says that the nature of the material injected into the body is completely different from snake venom. Um…wait a minute. Just a few seconds ago he said there was a resemblance to snake venom, now however it is completely different. Make up your mind, Doc! Which is it gonna be?
Arobi gets Dr. Lorentz to admit that he doesn’t know what caused this death. Arobi then says that the men know. The Doc tries to dismiss the notion as more nonsense about monsters, but Arobi goes on to say how all the animals, from small monkeys to big elephants to the birds in the sky, avoid the area known as Green Hell. Lorentz wants to know how long this has been going on and Arobi replies that for two weeks animals have been fleeing from this region. Right now part of me wishes that I could join them in their mad dash to escape. Arobi hammers his point home by saying that men might be superstitious, but animals are not frightened by superstitions, nor do they run from one. This seems to convince Dr. Lorentz that there is indeed something in Green Hell. Something monstrous perhaps, but something that heralds from nature and not from evil spirits.
Now we move to the wilds of the Dark Continent. A stock footage herd of wildebeest is relaxing by a body of water, the animals happily lapping up something cool to drink. Out of nowhere a loud buzzing sound fills the air and we see…a giant wasp! This immense insect is brought to life by what appears to be stop-motion. It's rather hard to say. Very few parts of the wasp move and we don’t get the same feeling we’d get from watching a Harryhausen critter. Plus, we never see its feet in motion. It just glides along like it's on humungous skates or something similar. Stock footage zebras, warthogs, gazelle and the aforementioned wildebeest all panic and flee at the approach of the big bug. Some cheap shots follow that attempt to showcase the wasp in the same scenes as the animals, but it looks very, very cheap. The wasp (I’m not sure at this point if it is just one bug or many) manages to chase after some giraffes as well as some more stock footage of natives. The latter is quite funny, as one shot shows the natives running down a hillside with the wasp coming over the hilltop behind them. This scene really makes the beast look like it has Godzilla-size dimensions, as it dwarfs everything around it to a considerable degree. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Did the bug gobble everyone up or did they manage to escape? Alas, we will never know, as the movie decides to fade out along about now.
Back in that bunker somewhere in the American west, Brady and Morgan are looking at a newspaper article under the headline, "Central Africa in Turmoil." Ya think? If giant bugs came rampaging down my street, my neighborhood would be in turmoil, too. Hell, my neighbors get worked into a frenzy when a dog gets loose, mandating a call to every authority in the city. Anyway, Morgan wants to know what the trouble in Africa, complete with reports of monsters on the loose, has to do with their project. Brady begins by saying that according to the computer, the rocket they lost six months ago landed in Africa.
WAIT! Lets bring this mess to a screeching halt for a moment. Did he say six months? They lost that rocket six months ago and no one ever went looking for it? They know where it landed…yet no one went looking for it? They had vital experiments on board the results of which could prove to be invaluable in furthering the exploration of space…yet no one went looking for it? There was the possibility of radiation brought back to Earth and harming human life…yet no one went looking for it? A foreign power could get their hands on the rocket and use it for some nefarious scheme or exploit its technology…YET NO ONE FREAKIN’ WENT LOOKING FOR IT!!! I don’t know what agency they work for, but it sure ain’t NASA, unless NASA stands for National Association of Stupid Assholes. What a collection of utter morons. Do they think these things are a dime a dozen? "Oh well, we lost a rocket. Grab another half dozen out of the box." What kind of imbecile sends up a rocket and then doesn’t bother to check up on it when it crashes? At the very least, they might learn why it malfunctioned and how to prevent it from happening again. But no…they continue to sit around and play with their guinea pigs for half a year. Idiots. Ok, rant over. Back to the film.
Brady thinks there is a connection between the lost rocket and the reports of monsters in Africa. Morgan reminds him that they have sent up hundreds of test animals that were exposed to radiation and none of them were adversely affected. Brady replies by stating that none of them received the same amount of exposure that the occupants of the rocket in question experienced. Right now, I’m worried about the levels of idiocy to which I am being exposed.
More time passes and we see Brady showing a pair of guinea pigs to Morgan. He explains that these animals went up in a rocket the day before and received forty seconds exposure to radiation at an altitude of 206 miles. Morgan thinks they look fine, but Brady says that their fur was brown when they were sent up, but is now a pale white. Then he shows off a couple of small lizards (they look like baby alligators) that made the voyage the week before and have been in a trance ever since. Next up in the menagerie of bad science is a pair of Spider Crabs (I could have sworn they mentioned Crab Spiders at the beginning of the film). The bigger of the two is a baby and Brady explains that the Momma crab was exposed to radiation before having baby. Brady’s conclusion is that the radiation has mutated the genes and resulted in a doubling in size within one generation. Wait a sec! I thought none of the animals had been adversely affected! Doubling in size, going catatonic or having my hair turn white aren’t things that I consider to be good. Morgan is still unconvinced, so Brady reminds him that the crab only got forty seconds of exposure. The wasps in the lost rocket got forty hours. Yikes, talk about a bad burn. Morgan still seems reluctant to believe in the theory, though he admits that it sounds like a nightmare.
No, that would be this film.
MORE time elapses and we see Brady and Morgan in the lab again. Both are decked out in suits this time and we see several suitcases lying about. Suddenly Brady’s voice returns to update the audience on things too boring even for this film to show. He talks about how no one believed his theory so he drafted a report that wasn’t very well received at project headquarters. The report was forwarded to Washington and ultimately Brady’s request for a leave of absence for both he and Morgan was granted (hence the suitcases). They booked passage to Africa, where they intend to look into Brady’s theory.
Stock footage of a plane takes us to Africa. In Libreville, at the office of a "Territorial Agent" they are informed that the situation in the interior is "highly disturbed" and possibly dangerous. The Agent tells them that the reports of monsters have been coming from the Mount Virunga area, which is referred to by the natives as Green Hell. The Agent advises them to travel to the village of Mongwe where Dr. Lorentz and his daughter are currently residing. The Agent says that Lorentz will be of great aid to them. All that is left is to make arrangements for a safari to Mongwe, which could take some time given all the recent troubles.
Now we see Brady in his hotel room. His voice chimes in again to say that they are still in Libreville. The Territorial Agent has been cooperative but not too quick in getting them on their way. As he sits around the hotel, he wonders what is transpiring in the interior and how it is affecting the natives and Dr. Lorentz.
Odd that he should mention Dr. Lorentz, because now we see the older guy marching through the jungle with Arobi and a couple of other natives. Despite piped-in jungle sounds, this looks more like a stand of trees in Southern California. They tromp through the jungle for a while and then stop. Lorentz asks Arobi what is wrong, to which the other man replies, "Listen!" A faint but strange buzzing can be heard. The old Doctor claims to have never heard it before, but Arobi mentions he heard it the same day his pal died. Suddenly the buzzing grows louder and a herd of elephants goes stampeding by. The men hide behind a bush, as if that is any protection. When the animals have passed by, Lorentz notes that they ran because they were panicked. He’s only seen elephants do that in response to a fire. Well, there will be lots of fearful running in response to this movie, so ya better get used to it! Arobi notes that there is no fire and that they are close to Green Hell.
The foursome stomps through the jungle some more, the strange buzzing a faint but steady companion. At one point the other two natives refuse to go any farther and wait until the Doctor and Arobi are out of sight around a bend in the trail before skedaddling in the other direction. They come across a strange depression in the dirt and as one takes a closer look, a massive wasp head (just the head mind you, the body is nowhere to be seen) comes pushing through the trees to attack the poor schmuck, which it does by stinging him. As I am left pondering how it accomplished this, as I was under the impression a wasp’s stinger was at the end of its abdomen, the wasp then grabs the hapless soul in what looks like a big claw. What the hell kind of wasps are these? The other native runs to help his companion, attacking the monster with a knife (a knife!), but he winds up grasped tightly in another claw. Its meal firmly in hand...er...claw(!); the giant wasp withdraws back through the trees. I’m still laughing at the idea of a man using a pocketknife to assault a bug the size of a big rig truck.
The screams produced by the two doomed men bring Dr. Lorentz and Arobi, but all they find is the odd mark in the dirt, which turns out to be a foot print. They also locate a necklace worn by one of the two missing men, which Arobi claims was the man’s good luck charm. I think that guy had better get his money back on that one! Then the two stomp through the jungle some more until they are in sight of Mount Virunga, a dormant volcano. The buzzing sound can be heard, but now it is noticeably louder. Dr. Lorentz theorizes that this is because they are getting closer to whatever is producing the noise. Well no shit, Sherlock! Lorentz then announces that he is following the path down into Green Hell alone. Arobi offers to go in his place, as he is younger, but Lorentz believes that the other man would be in a better position to offer help if anything goes awry. The Doctor reaffirms his dedication to science and knowledge before stumbling his way down the path, despite Arobi’s plea for him not to go. Fade out…
Brady and Morgan are organizing their safari, but Brady is anxious to get going as they have been in Africa for "a week and three days." Why he just didn’t say ten days is beyond me. Morgan jokes that he would prefer to make the trip in the confines of a Sherman tank, to which Brady says they have the next best thing – a crate full of grenades. Um…wrong. The next best think to a tank is a bazooka or cannon, not grenades (not that they wouldn’t be handy). Morgan teases Brady for bringing such explosives to combat a flock of insects, but Brady would rather be safe than sorry. Morgan then launches into a good-natured attack on Brady’s mutation theory, stating that being generous and assuming the wasps are ten times normal size, that still leaves them a far cry from being gigantic monsters. Brady defends his ideas by offering the notion that such mutation not necessarily follow the same incremental increase in size, and that it could very well "jump," producing a larger organism. Brady then concedes that he may be "way off base." Is that another technical term? Is that akin to something being "way over" normal velocity? Just asking.
Morgan heads to bed, but Brady decides to write in his journal. Oh, crap…you know what that means, don’t you? Yep, Brady’s voiceover returns to fill us in on more boring details. He relates how they embarked on their safari the following morning, the twenty-fifth of March. The Territorial Agent had hired the best guide in central Africa to lead them to Mongwe, an Arab named Mahri. With over four hundred miles between them and the village where Dr. Lorentz resides, they hoped to walk an average of fifteen miles a day and reach their destination in roughly twenty-seven days. I suppose hiring a plane and parachuting in was out of the question. While this latest speech from Brady unfolds, we see the expedition getting underway. Shots of the safari alternate between ones shot in Southern California with the actors and stock footage of a real safari in Africa.
This might be an ideal time to get up and grab a snack, hit the crapper and take a nap…without pausing the movie. What unfolds next is an exercise in tedium. We are subjected to untold stock footage shots as well as a few that were filmed especially for this mess that detail the expedition’s progress. All it amounts to is just a seemingly endless series of scenes that show people walking…and walking…and walking…AND WALKING. Sure, we get an occasional glimpse of an animal or two, but Wild Kingdom this is not. What is mildly amusing is that the producers dressed actor Jim Davis in a goofy white outfit complete with Pith hat. He really stands out like a sore thumb. I’m guessing this was done so the safari footage shot with him in Southern California would better match the stock footage they lifted from some jungle film. Brady’s voiceover returns so he can bitch about being out of shape (join the club!). Two weeks pass and the group makes good time, but Brady is not pleased. He begins to develop a gut feeling that something is going to happen, but he just doesn’t know what it may be. We the audience have a clue as to what it is, as we get to see the group being spied upon by mean-looking natives. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the whole lot of them will end up in some cannibal’s pot. Then the film could end and we would be free to seek badly needed therapy.
So the group pauses at one point when they hear drums. Mahri says that they are war drums. Have you ever heard the phrase, "The natives are getting restless?" Well, in this case, the natives are getting more than restless, they are getting downright excitable. We get several stock footage shots of natives on the proverbial warpath. Lots of them go running across the land, shouting, whooping it up and waving spears in the air. I somehow doubt this is all in anticipation of the latest Harry Potter book. No, they seem mighty upset about something. Did the gang from the safari trespass on sacred lands? Did they track elephant poop over the graves of their ancestors? Who knows. Who cares. Brady’s voiceover pops back up like an unwanted skin rash, this time talking about how they tried to keep moving and hoped that they weren’t spotted by whoever is beating those drums. Alas, they (and in turn we) were not so lucky.
As the safari passes through a field, the natives launch their attack. It begins when one man fires an arrow at the lead porter, who falls over with an arrow in the middle of his back. Now, the porters were walking single file and there wasn’t a whole lot of space between them. For that arrow to hit that guy square in the back it would have had to either pass through the guy behind him or turn at a right angle in mid-flight. Seeing as how the second porter did not also collapse is evidence enough to point toward some funky mojo at work.
If for any reason you did not avail yourself of the opportunity provided earlier to eat, sleep or crap…then you’re in luck. Your second chance has just arrived. The natives fire off a few arrows. Some porters fall dead. The safari guys fire their guns. Some natives fall dead. The natives outnumber the safari dudes, so the safari guys all run like hell. The natives give chase. The safari guys light the fields on fire behind them, cutting off the pursuing natives and allowing time to escape. In reality all of that unfolds over a two to three minute time period, but it sure seems A LOT longer.
Now we return to the more relaxed stock footage of people walking…and walking…and…well you get the idea. Brady’s voiceover returns to inform us that in order to avoid anymore restless natives, the safari altered their course, but this added seventy-five miles to their voyage. Soon their water supply began to run out. This is illustrated by a particularly intense and dramatic moment when Morgan collapses from the heat and Brady gives him his last few drops of water, despite the protestations of the other man. Ok, I was kidding...it wasn’t particularly tense or dramatic. More like boring. In spite of all this, the gang resolutely marches on.
Now for some reason we see a lion drinking at a watering hole. Then we see a large flock of birds in a field take flight. Why we see these things is beyond me. They really add nothing to this film except time and an increasing desire to scream in frustration. Then Brady, Morgan and their safari pals stumble upon the watering hole. All the men race for a drink but Mahri screams for everyone to stop. He points to some stock footage vultures nearby and says that death must be nearby and then commands everyone to not drink until he returns. Then he walks off to survey the land over a small rise. As he is scouting, one porter cannot stand the wait and takes a sip from the watering hole. Brady stops and chastises the weak-willed individual. Then Mahri returns and says he found a lion that had died just a few minutes ago from poison. Don’t ask how he knows that. He just does. He could give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money with such deductive skills. At least we now know why we saw that footage of a lion. Anyway, the stupid ass that took a drink suddenly bellows in pain and clutches his guts. Within seconds he is dead.
Had enough stock footage of people walking through the jungle? Well, the filmmakers don’t think so. Another brief montage is thrown our way, complete with close-ups of the dehydrated and weary Americans superimposed over the wide shots.
Night has now fallen. Brady and Morgan are in bad shape. The lack of water is taking a toll on their mental health (I’m experiencing something similar with this movie). Both men look like their time on this Earth can be measured in mere hours when miraculously…it begins to rain! Brady stumbles around in the rain like a drunk under a beer waterfall. He collects water in his Pith hat and gives it to Morgan to drink. Ewww. Can you imagine drinking out of something that recently was filled with someone’s greasy, dirty hair? Brady even asks Morgan how he likes the taste, to which the weakened man responds, "Not bad. Not bad at all." I guess when you’re that thirsty, a little dandruff aftertaste is no biggie.
The rain continues to pour. So much so that the safari members are forced to pitch tents and seek shelter. This gives Brady an excellent opportunity to write in his journal and annoy the audience with his latest voiceover. This time he talks about how strange Africa is – it either tries to drown you or dehydrate you. Then he details how they sat out the rain for two days before moving on. Morgan recovered from his dehydration-spawned senility, but Brady was getting restless. Restless! Can you believe it! After weeks in the jungle he is just now getting restless? I’ll tell ya about being restless! This film is only thirty-three minutes long at this point and I feel like I’ve lost a year of my life. If anyone is restless, it’s me!
So, after two days of sitting around waiting for the rain to stop, they decide to go ahead and proceed despite the bad weather. Now we get to see people walking…and walking…and walking, only this time it's in the rain! At one point lightning strikes a tree, startling a porter and sending him crashing into Brady, who promptly falls hard on his ass. Then we see footage of people walking through the jungle on a clear day. I take that to mean the rain has finally abated. The group fords a river and I am left despondent over the fact that Piranha are native to an entirely different continent, as whittling down this caravan of fools would make for something slightly more entertaining that this endless jungle trek. When the group stops for a breather, Morgan tells Brady that he doesn’t look so good. Brady immediately passes out. He is quickly thrown onto a stretcher and the trek resumes.
He awakes in the building that belongs to Dr. Lorentz. The doctor’s daughter, Lorna and Morgan are standing nearby. The latter lights up a cigarette and hands it over to Brady, who eagerly takes a hit. Why did the doctor never prescribe that for me? Anyway, Morgan tells Brady that he was unconscious for the day it took them to reach the village and for another half day since arriving. Brady makes goo-goo eyes at Lorna and then asks where her father is. Morgan explains that the elder Lorentz is out in the jungle and has been gone for some time now. When Brady asks why, Morgan just says, "the same reason we’re here."
Now Brady gifts us with another voiceover. "After a shave and an outdoor shower, I began to feel like myself." So…he showers outside when at home? He then describes how Lorna plays and replays the same notes on an organ. He wonders how long it will be before Dr. Lorentz returns from his expedition. He wants to hear what Lorentz may have turned up before he and Morgan start their own investigation. All in all, a real snooze-inducing installment.
As Lorna plays her organ with Morgan and Brady close by, Arobi comes running in to the building. Lorna asks where her father is and Arobi says that the elder Lorentz is "with his god." Naturally, this produces a few tears from Lorna, who buries her face in Brady’s chest. Morgan asks how Lorentz died. Arobi relates how the Doc followed the path toward the volcano and into Green Hell. There a monster killed him. Arobi remained behind like the old man had ordered, but when he heard him cry he ran to help. He came across his body and then ran away. Ever the Doubting Thomas, Morgan asks how Arobi knows it was a monster that killed Lorentz. Arobi produces an item that looks like a big claw or talon and says that this was buried in the old man’s shoulder.
Brady and Morgan set about examining the thingy, which we learn is part of a stinger. Morgan scrutinized the substance contained within it and has determined that it is venom. Brady has been using his microscope and has what he thinks is the clincher: a cross section of the stinger confirms that it is wasp tissue. Morgan then wants to know if Brady can estimate the size of the insect, based on the stinger’s dimensions. Brady says that yes he can, but refuses to speculate, as they will see for themselves.
Everyone seems to be preparing for another sojourn into the jungle and Morgan places Mahri in charge of the grenades. Brady gets the chance to speak with Lorna, who is dealing with dad’s demise. He launches into a speech which is supposed to be inspiring or comforting, but comes off as deadly boring instead. Later, Lorna and Arobi discuss the situation. She expresses her concern that others will die needlessly. Then we learn from Mahri that the men from the safari and the men from the village have talked at length with one another. The result? When morning arrives, all the safari men have vanished. It seems the stories about monsters that were told to them by the locals have managed to convince the lot it would be better to head back to the coast. Brady says that they can just use men from the village. Mahri adds that such a plan will work only if the men agree to go. A while later, Lorna approaches Brady and Morgan and announces that she will be accompanying them into Green Hell. Brady thinks this is a bad idea, as it is no place for a woman, but Lorna reminds the chauvinistic jerk that she knows the local jungle better that he. Plus, the local men won’t go if she doesn’t go. It seems they were not planning on going anyway out of fear, but when they learned that a woman was going, it shamed them into joining the group.
The next morning the gang heads out from the village and the curse of stock footage once again befalls us. The group has a brief encounter with a coconut-tossing monkey, they pass the discarded packs left behind by the two guys who had been helping Dr. Lorentz and whom we saw get bitch slapped by a giant bug, they stomp through the jungle and finally, they come across a village that has been destroyed – bodies littering the ground all over the place. This particular village has some special meaning to the natives, and when they see that the place has all the life of a Siberian discotech, they run like hell. Now it is just Brady, Morgan, Mahri, Arobi and Lorna. With no real choice, they decide to press on.
They thread their way through the decimated village, gawking at the dead people strewn about – one guy is even hanging through the thatched roof of his hut! Either something reached through the roof and pulled him partway through, or the term "hitting the roof" has new meaning in these parts. Anyway, all the death seems to affect Lorna, who gets a quick embrace from Brady. Yech. On their way out of the village they come across those huge footprints like the one seen earlier. Brady calls it a "typical" wasp marking and Morgan notes the size. Arobi points out that the trail leads to Green Hell. Time for more walking.
As they make their way cautiously into Green Hell, a thundering sound is heard and we are treated to all new stock footage…of a volcano. Just when you thought the producers couldn’t throw anymore recycled shots at you, along comes the volcano footage. It seems Mount Virunga is restless. I imagine the volcano is rumbling because it has gotten damn tired of waiting for something…anything to happen in this film. It just decided to take matters into its own hands and force the issue. Lorna is freaked out by the rumbling, but the group cannot turn back. They move forward.
Now we see that night has fallen and the gang of five morons is gathered around a fire. If ANYONE launches into a round of "99 bottles of beer" at this point, I swear I will chuck this DVD out the nearest window. Alas, no such luck. What we do get is Brady offering Morgan a cigarette. Jeez, now there’s real drama for you. Then Brady decides it is time for a speech, so he provides one. He details to Lorna, Mahri, Arobi and we in the audience some facts about wasps in general. Basically, he tells them that the big bugs will overrun Africa unless they can be destroyed. Mahri questions the firepower necessary to do this, so Brady shows off a grenade.
Long about now, Queen of the Moron People AKA Lorna, decides to go for a walk alone in the jungle. Brady sees her bailing out on his boring speech, so he wraps it up and goes after her. They rendezvous a short ways away where they talk a bit. Don’t ask me what was said because I tuned it out.
Back at the fire, Morgan is showing Mahri and Arobi how to throw grenades, advocating a "stiff arm" style for casting them away. Brady and Lorna return and it is decided that everyone will try and get some sleep. Well, everyone except Brady, who will take the first watch. As the others sleep, he writes in his journal. This usually means that a voiceover is about to be inflicted upon us, but this time we are saved. By giant wasps no less. A buzzing sound is heard and quickly the whole gang is awake and staring into the darkness. The following bit is funny because intercut with scenes of the gang at their fire are scenes showing a stop-motion snake attacking a stop-motion giant wasp. The wasp wins, naturally. Then we get several shots of the insects moving through the jungle around the fire, most of these shots using the large wasp head prop that probably represented the bulk of the FX budget on this flick. Brady notes that they are surrounded, but the creatures won’t come any closer. He attributes this to their fear of the camp fire, but I’m thinking that after so long in the jungle, these people must absolutely reek and the wasps are just trying to keep from dropping dead from the smell. Brady decides to test his theory and pours some kerosene on the fire. Not only does this cause the fire to flare up, but it causes flames to erupt all over the place – most not anywhere near the camp fire!
I’m guessing the pyromania did the trick, as now it is morning. We know this because the film shows us the sun rising over the mountains. Who wants to bet that this is stock footage, too? Anyone? We see Brady wondering around by himself, having a smoke. Why he is alone is unknown. Maybe he needed some private time to pinch a loaf. Whatever the reason, we get another voiceover. He talks about how the fire did the trick in keeping the bugs at bay, how they kept the fire burning strong through the night and how he now is afraid that they might not be able to stop whatever they may find. Zzzzzzz. After he finally shuts up, we get back to what this film is all about – people walking through the freakin’ jungle. There is a brief pause in the walking when they stop to view the volcano, which is still rumbling away.
The buzzing somehow gets louder and Brady tells everyone to leave their packs but to bring their ammo. Then they begin walking again (I’ve almost had it with all this damn walking). After a bit they stop and Brady takes Morgan to the side. I was almost afraid of the confession of feelings that could possibly occur, then I realized that at least would be something occurring. Brady reminds Morgan to check his ammo and to make sure Lorna has hers. He also remarks on how they must be on top of the entire wasp colony because the buzzing has gotten so loud. Then he tells Morgan to stay with the others while he scouts ahead.
He crests a small rise and on the other side he sees a big wasp. He motions for Morgan to join him and when the other man arrives they see a trio of the giant bugs. Somehow, Brady spots the Queen and points it out. Morgan notes that this is their only chance to kill them all – while the bugs are all together. I hadn’t realized that three bugs constituted a nest…or where those three supposed to represent dozens upon dozens? The two men head back to the others and Brady forms a plan to kill the wasps with grenades. He points out different locations on the hillside where he wants the others to take up positions and wait until he gives the signal to throw their grenades. Everyone loads up with a couple of the explosives and then they make their way to their various assigned areas.
Brady gives the signal and everyone begins chucking their grenades. Thankfully, these morons remembered to pull the pins first. The grenades detonate and we see several of the giant bugs go BOOM. Some of these bugs are the same cheap stop-motion shots already used in the film, while a couple look like hand puppets! Having exhausted their supply of grenades, and having noted that the nest of giant wasps is still very much intact…AND taking stock of the fact that the surviving bugs are quite pissed…they decided to enact plan B: run like hell! The chase music kicks in (it's that same Tarzan Takes Broadway stuff that we heard over the opening credits) and as everyone flees, we get a truly terrible shot of a giant wasp rising up over the ridge behind them and giving chase. The bug is very dark, yet transparent at the same time. If you have ever seen the FX for the lobster-like Gargan (hell, it was a lobster) in Teenagers From Outer Space, then you get the general idea as to what this particular FX shot resembles – an over exposed model poorly matted into the frame.
The gang seeks shelter in a cave and the pursuing wasp sets up camp outside and tries to reach in and grab them. Now, for some unknown reason, the crate that is holding the remaining grenades is sitting just a few feet away. I really don’t remember anyone stopping to grab it as they fled, plus I really don’t remember them leaving the crate in a freakin’ cave…but somehow there it is! Everyone flees deeper into the cave while Brady grabs a grenade from the crate, pulls the pin and tosses it back into said crate before running. The whole thing goes kablooey and causes a cave-in that seals the entrance.
Now in pitch blackness, they start yelling for each other. Brady flicks on his flashlight and they see that everyone is accounted for and unharmed. Arobi lights a couple of torches and they begin looking for a way out. As they slowly make their way through the cavern, Brady tells everyone to "stick close to the wall." I don’t know whether this is because there is a chasm to be avoided or what. The director thinks that helping to illustrate how cramped it is would be a good thing, so during this sequence, the top and bottom parts of the frame are blackened, making it appear that only the area near the group’s torches is well lit. They eventually come to a spot where the cavern splits into two. Brady heads one way, Morgan and Mahri head in another while Lorna and Arobi stay put.
After much crawling and walking through caves, Morgan and Mahri return and announce that they think they have found a way out. They call for Brady and the lot set off once again. They eventually arrive at the surface just as the volcano decides to erupt (my patience with this film was undergoing something similar). They watch as stock footage lava pours down the mountain and kills all the giant wasps – who cry out pitifully as they are engulfed. The film recycles every single shot of a wasp for this big climax, superimposing lava scenes over them to represent their fiery deaths. Finally all the bugs are dead.
Brady: "Well, it took a volcano to do what we failed to do."
Morgan: "Nature has a way of correcting its own mistakes."
Lorna: "My father must be pleased."
Arobi: "The death of the creatures will bring about the deliverance of my people. The gods have been kind. They have taught us as Dr. Lorentz taught us…to have faith."
Zzzz…er…uh…um…what? Where am I? Oh, yes! Monster From Green Hell…which could also be called Attack of the Stock Footage or even better yet, The Endless Jungle Trek. I suppose the most accurate title would be Insomnia Cure. Yes, this film is that boring. Hell, the word boring doesn’t even do it justice. I think a more grand time could be had re-arranging sock drawers. Other people’s sock drawers. There just isn’t anything exciting about this picture in any sense of the word.
The entire plot of this film would easily be used as just the set-up in a more competently made movie. Whereas a different film would have the scientists journey to Africa, find the wasps and then have to deal with the monsters getting lose and rampaging across the continent and/or globe, with numerous close-calls and failed attempts to stop the creatures before a satisfying resolution is discovered, this film focuses the entirety of its running time on the scientists’ journey to and across Africa. That kind of thing is great in a more conventional drama, where all sorts of self-discoveries can be made by the characters, but in a monster flick it’s pure anathema. The audience wants to see monsters, damn it. Not people walking through some trees in Southern California ad nauseam, supplemented by the most obvious stock footage this side of Victory at Sea. That stock footage is the one element that really drives home the killing blow for this film. Sure, lots of films from this era feature stock shots, but good god almighty…this film’s stock footage accounts for a significant amount of its running time. I don’t know precisely how much because I had no desire to torture myself further by timing all the stock shots (something I would go back and do later, though...see the "Movie Stats" section below), but it has to be at least thirty to forty percent (ok, I was way off with those estimates). And what is worse is that the producers utilize story elements from this stock footage to help create adventures for the characters to have while trekking through Africa! That’s like writing a book, tearing out pages from another book, pasting them into one’s own and then using that material to have the characters head off in a direction completely unrelated to the topic of the book. It’s just maddening! We want to see monsters, but we get Safari footage instead.
The characters here are as about as cardboard cutout as you can get. We have two dull scientists, of which the lead is about as charismatic and charming as a boil on the ass. There is nothing about Brady that makes us want to root him on, or hope that he succeeds. There are no details to his personality, funny quirks or idiosyncrasies that help flesh him out and make him seem more real. Nope. He exists purely to drive the already minimal plot forward. Morgan only seems to be in the film as a counterpoint to Brady’s views on mutation, so the latter can have someone to look at by film’s end and say "I was right!" Everybody else comes off as just glorified set dressing. Mahri and Lorna should have been dumped from the film, as they contribute nothing whatsoever. Lorentz is barely even in the film…blink and you may miss him. Arobi comes across as the most vividly acted (which is not saying much), but still suffers from a severe lack of characterization. Overall, there is nobody in this film that the viewer can care about or want to see succeed.
Even by 1950’s standards, the FX here are cheap, crude and outright laughable. The stop motion bugs are very jerky and appear as if they are in the midst of having some sort of seizure. The fight between one wasp and a snake looks like it was filmed by fifth graders and has all the excitement of having your corns lanced off with a laser. In many shots it looks like someone forgot to pay the lab bill because the matted-in bits with the wasps are severely over-exposed. And don’t even get me started on the life-sized wasp head that is wheeled into shots on occasion to menace the poor actors. Now, most films from this era suffer from cheezy-looking monsters, but many of those films also had some spunk to them…one at least gets the notion that the filmmakers were enthused about what they were doing despite their lack of a budget. This film gives one the impression that the producers just didn’t give a rat’s ass. The lack of excitement reverberates throughout the whole affair and as a result, even the brief scenes with the one element that draws us to these films – the monsters – are deadly dull and yawn inducing.
This film was assembled like a jigsaw puzzle – literally. All the requisite parts were either lifted from stock footage or filmed on their own, but there is no style or passion on the screen. Continuity sucks, as characters jump places from one shot to the next, and only a minimal amount of skill seems to have gone into the original footage – just enough to get the job done. It is a proverbial connect-the-dots/cut-and-paste job done as quickly as possible in order to churn out a product and cash in on a trend. Hack filmmaking at its worst.
The original music is by Albert Glasser, who worked on a multitude of B-movies in the 50’s. I cannot recall the music adding or detracting from any given scene. The exception is that "Tarzan Takes Broadway" theme I have mentioned a couple times. While certainly upbeat, and containing a certain Jungle-inspired "feel" to it, it just seems that it would be more at home in a different type of movie – an adventure or madcap romp…but not a monster flick.
In the end this film is a colossal bore. The characters are lifeless and unworthy of anything but scorn. The monsters are cheezy and engender nothing but laughs…that is, when they actually manage to put in an appearance on screen. For a film about giant monsters, the producers seemed highly determined to show us everything but those monsters. The sheer amount of time given over to stock footage and obvious padding needs to be held up before all filmmakers as an example of what NOT to do. It is almost criminal to subject the audience to so much wasted celluloid. Avoid this one unless you really are a glutton for punishment.
This is a ultra cheap movie padded with stock footage in the same manner that Togo’s sandwiches are padded with bread – take it away and you have very little remaining. The wasps might as well not be in the film, as they hardly show up at all. Instead, the film seems like an excuse to show people walking through the jungle as much as possible. It's just flat out boring and it is not even funny in a bad way. This film is definitely one for the truly die-hard B-movie lover only. Everyone else will find it a dreadful waste of time unless they are in desperate need of a sleep aid.
Giant Bugs - A nest of giant wasps that look nothing like any wasp I have ever seen. Don’t expect to see them very much, despite the movie being named after them.
Jungle Hijinks - Lots and I do mean LOTS of walking, running, camping, walking, talking, moping and walking in the jungle. Oh, …and lots of walking as well.
Nature Run Amok - Exposure to radiation has made ordinary wasps into Super-Sized monsters. That can of Black Flag under you sink will do you no good.
Stock Footage - This film is absolutely loaded with stock footage of rockets, natives, animals, planes, volcanoes, etc. It can all be rather mind-numbing.
Underground Hijinks - Near the end of the film, the characters become trapped in some caverns. Drama does not ensue. Neither does excitement or thrills for that matter.
Violence - Very mild here. A couple guys get slapped around by a giant wasp while elsewhere we see a few people get shot by arrows and/or bullets. The latter bunch just fall over dead.
Animal deaths: 2
Animal stampedes: 3
Native stampedes: 2
Voiceover segments from Quent: 11
Times we see Quent writing in his journal: 5
Cigarettes smoked: 13
Number of wasps: hundreds
Highest number of wasps seen at once: 3
Wasps seen killed by volcano at end: 9
Percentage of movie made up of stock footage: 12.9%
Mins – It’s Gojira! No…it’s Gorgo…nope….er…Gamera?
Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time the film shows a character walking, take a tiny sip of your drink. Just a tiny sip, mind you! There is a lot of walking in this one!
for larger image
Quent Brady on the missing rocket.
Brady: "I’ll tell you one thing, if that rocket comes down in a populated area, it won’t be good."
Shadow’s comment: Somebody hand Sherlock here a prize for his keen observational skills.
Morgan’s words of wisdom at seeing the wasp menace ended.
Morgan: "Nature has a way of correcting its own mistakes."
comment: Then what the hell are you still doing here?
Film & Me
film was another "gem" that I was never able to see during
the golden age of my 1950’s film watching…which ironically,
was the mid and late 1970’s when such films were replayed on Saturday
afternoon and evening monster matinee television shows. In fact, I had
never even heard of the film until some point in the late 1980’s.
During that time I rediscovered my passion for these movies and began
buying VHS copies of anything I could find. It was while engaged in
this activity at a local music store that happened to sell a few videos
(they were also primarily stocked with vinyl records, just to show you
how long ago this was) that I ran across a copy of the film. Needless
to say the title and date had me excited. A giant bug film from the
50’s which I had never seen! It was like unearthing buried treasure!
I bought the film without hesitation and eagerly awaited my first chance
to view it. Well, that chance came just a few hours later and I can
vividly recall how bored I became with the movie. All that stock footage!
By the time the end rolled around, I was less than impressed and quickly
coming to the realization that there was a very good reason as to why
I had never heard of the film before – it sucked royal ass. It
was a looong time before I watched it again (a year or two, I believe)
and since that day, I imagine that I have watched that tape no more
than five or six times. The movie just doesn’t warrant multiple
repeat viewings like other classics from that era. Of course, just because
the film is somewhat crappy is no reason in my book to not by a DVD
version, which I did. Granted, the fact that it came in a two-pack along
with another film that I had never seen before, coupled with a very
agreeable price (less that 10 bucks) sold me rather quickly on the notion.
I debated a long time as to what would be the first film to review under
the letter M for this site, but this one won out in the end. For that
Shadow's rating: Three Tombstones