Monday, April 9, 2018

Trog a sad feature finale for Joan Crawford

By Doug Gibson

Late in her film career, Joan Crawford chewed up the screen with good, over-the-top performances in thrillers such as "Strait-jacket," "I Saw What You Did," "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," and "Beserk." Those who has seen Jessica Lange have fun in the TV series "American Haunting" and seen the late Crawford in her 1960s features can easily see Joan doing Jessica's role today.
Unfortunately, Crawford made one more feature in 1970, "Trog," for director Freddie Francis. A low-budget "major release," it features an outlandish plot that generates little energy from the 65-year-old Crawford, who for the first time looks old, and tired. Joan stars as Dr. Brockton, who gets really excited as a half-man, half-beast (played badly by Joe Cornelius) is discovered in the British countryside by two unfortunate underground explorers; one dies.

Once Trog is discovered, Crawford's character makes several impassioned pleas to allow science to study him. She also engages in long, boring diatribes about the missing link and evolution. (One of the problems with this film is that Trog is never allowed to really go crazy and act like a missing link. In fact, he too often resembles a repulsive baby monster who accepts treats from Dr. Brockton. There are a few murders by Trog, but not nearly enough to justify the price of a movie ticket.

Another veteran of horror films, Michael Gough, who starred with Crawford in the better 1967 circus thriller, "Beserk," outshines Crawford as a town resident who desperately wants Trog killed by authorities. In fact, Gough is almost psychotic in his hatred of the missing link, and he does chew up the scenery and provide a little life to the muddling film. Unfortunately, he's killed off by Trog in a ludicrous scene.

Despite the discovery of something that would have shocked the world, the whole Trog saga appears to be small potatoes in the the world that Francis film world. There isn't much media covering Trog, and ridiculously, there's only one mild security man guarding Trog! Perhaps the budget wouldn't allow more extras to serve as media?

Crawford looks frumpy and unattractive in the film. Just three years ago, at 62, she's still been quite attractive in "Beserk." But in "Trog," she's dressed in unattractive pantsuits. Some reviewers have claimed that Crawford was suffering from a drinking problem during the making of this film. That may explain her overly earnest, low-key performance and hangdog demeanor that she presents. She can't carry this slow-paced low-budget offering with bad FX anywhere. There's too much talking, little enthusiasm and minor action.

In the final scene, when (spoiler alert) Trog is killed, reporters ask Dr. Brockton for a quote. Actress Crawford stares bleakly at the reporters, shakes her head in despair, and walks heavily away. It's a fitting metaphor to her last feature, a mediocre offering. Joan would star in three more TV movies before dying in 1977 at age 72. Watch the trailer to "Trog" above. And watch John Waters (below) explain why he's a fan of "Trog."

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