Director: Ewald André Dupont
Starring: Robert Shayne, Joyce Terry, Richard Crane, Doris Merrick, Beverly Garland, Tandra Quinn USA/Germany. 1h 18m
One of my movie weaknesses is vintage sci fi movies, I just adore the heroism and pure wonderment and moral dilemmas they still offer, the 50’s were a golden age for the beginning of big scale science fiction, from mad scientists to space exploration, monsters and space exploration. Things might not really work how they were depicted, the same generation who were sure radioactive insect bites would only enhance a man also encouraged their kids to smoke, but sci fi wouldn’t really be sci fi without a level of taking things too far and being outlandish.
The Neanderthal man is a prime example of a down trodden scientist who pushes the envelope and takes things to the extreme The mockery of a brilliant scientist Prof. Clifford Groves (Shayne) by his peers, pushes him to the dangerous edge of self exploration, after being publicly ridiculed the professor continues his feverish work to prove that our cells remember their prehistoric past and turns himself into a Neanderthal man, his cat into a Sabretooth and his housekeeper into some scary beastly wild woman. The trio have little recollection of their primal actions and terrorise the wildlife and residents of their small town.
It’s easily something that you’d see in a retro style comic book but I like the theory, I’m not sure how plausible it really is, ignitiging dormant cells and implying they can remember is a bit out there but similar stories have cropped up from Jurassic Park (1993) using ancient blood trapped in amber and there’s something about the film which reminds me of The Fly (1986), the experiment is totally different but when BrundleFly is explaining his basic instincts and how he was changing it’s on par with what’s happening here, although this experiment is reversible and the Professor becomes a sort of Jekyll and Hyde (1931) type character and this results in a frame by frame transformation scene possibly the best part of the movie.
Apart from the Sabretooth tiger attacks and gross science everything about Neanderthal is pretty typical of any American production of the time, men being manly, with perfect hair and crooning voices and women acting cute but are well aware of their place, but the overall feeling is pretty stiff.
The effects are laughable, I know it was the 50’s and horror effects were somewhat in their infancy but a man running around with a gorilla mask isn’t quite a leap in the right direction for dynamic special effects but the film is ok for what it is, but in it’s credit they did use a real tiger to take him down, which is a gutsy stunt, but that’s when hollywood studios were allowed to use animals anyway they wanted to but you never know when a tiger is gonna go wild tiger, especially when chasing a man with a gorilla mask, it does ensure that the movie goes out with a bang.
R – The Fly (1986), Jekyll and Hyde (1931)
L – Transformation Scenes, Neanderthals on Film, Crazy Scientist Vol 1,