Friday, April 5, 2013

Even Lon Chaney Jr. can't save 'The Cyclops'

By Doug Gibson

I was really looking forward to seeing "The Cyclops." It had two points in its favor: One was that it was directed by Bert I. Gordon, or Mr. BIG, who made a career out of delightfully shoddy but flashy special effects. Anyone who has seen "Food of the Gods" understands how fun a BIG film can be. Also, it stars Lon Chaney Jr., years after his heyday at Universal, but hey, it's Chaney Jr.

Also, the film stinks. The FX are really bad. They're old-fashioned, badly placed photo-enhanced schlock, you know, backscreen projection and so on, and the cyclops isn't really a traditional cyclops. He's a deformed monster grown too tall thanks to uranium contamination. He has one eye because skin has grown over his eye. My young son disdainfully disses this film as the "fake cyclops" movie.

Chaney Jr. is wasted too. He doesn't play anyone sinister. In fact, he plays a thuggish, cowardly type who is supposed to be a greedy businessman. He's miscast, though. He doesn't seem smart enough to have succeeded in business. Anyway: Four people, including Chaney, head off to Mexico in a plane to explore an area allegedly rich in uranium. The locals don't want then to go, but they do anyway. Besides Chaney, there's a wisecracking pilot, a scientist, a woman whose test pilot husband disappeared over that area of Mexico a couple of years past. They are played by (pilot) Tom Drake, woman (Gloria Talbot) and scientist (James Craig). The scientist, by the way, has the hots for Talbot, the wife of the missing test pilot, played by Duncan Parkin.

Yep, you guessed it. Once they land in the Mexican they discover that the high amount of uranium has turned all the animals and insects huge (although there seems to be very few wildlife) and eventually they find the wife's husband, turned into a babbling, grotesque hulk with one good eye. During all this Chaney's despicable character dies in a cave. That scene is so poorly done that it was necessary for others in the cast to mention that Chaney had died. Honestly, from watching the scene, you wouldn't be sure. The dialogue is melodramatic; the "romance" scenes between Craig and Talbot are offensive given that it's unclear if her husband is dead and pilot Drake is always cracking unfunny jokes. Chaney, as mentioned, is boorish and cowardly.

The film was released by Allied Artists and ran 66 minutes. The "cyclops" Parkin also played the giant in "War of the Colossal Beast." If you want to watch it, click on the YouTube link above.

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