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Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Beast with a Million Eyes - 1956

This is what happens when you create the movie poster first -- no script, no plot, no guidance, just a poster and a miniscule $23,000 budget. Shot in the desert with a non-union crew, a no-name cast and special effects that included an over-sized coffee percolator as an alien space ship, this movie rivals "Plan 9 from Outer space" for pure ineptness.

This film was so low budget and so badly done (but what do you expect for 23 grand?) that the exhibitors rebelled when they flew out to see the finished product, the product they were supposed to show in their theaters! Where was the beast? Where were the million eyes? One exhibitor reportedly offered to pay for a re-shoot, saying they should just burn this one.

But James Nicholson (co-founder of AIP with Samuel Arkoff) wasn't one to give up. He locked himself in the editing room with the print and a knife, scratched all the frames where the monster and its coffee pot were visible, and emerged with a film that, while still pretty bad, at least was no longer a total embarrassment. Now, instead of a silly looking little creature sitting in a coffee pot, there were lightning bolts and flashes of light like death rays or something. Good enough that the exhibitors were able to show the thing to the public.

What's sad is that the basic idea behind the story is interesting: an alien life force arrives on Earth and takes over the will of animals to use as weapons against us. The invader is defeated in the end when an intelligent family shows it love -- something it can't stand.

This was the only film directed by David Kramarsky, who must've thought better of the whole directing thing after this fiasco.

Look for Dick Sargent, long before "Bewitched", as the deputy.

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