I DVR’d Cyclops (1957) from TCM with high hopes and it did not disappoint. Oh, it was not a good movie by any stretch. But I had a good time making fun of it.
Oh yeah, Spoiler Alert! I’m probably going to spoil practically everything.
In the first scene, a girl is meeting with a Spanish-accented official who is denying her permission to fly… somewhere, looking for her fiance whose plane crashed there some three years ago.
So let’s start with that. Three years ago? If your fiance disappears in a plane crash, how do you wait three years before going to look for him? Or am I asking too much of a movie female? I suppose the expedition was a little complicated to arrange. For one thing, the girl couldn’t finance it all on her own (I can go on calling her “the girl,” because she’s the only one in the picture). She has joined forces with a guy who has invented something that detects uranium. Gee, do you suppose he is in this only to make a buck and is likely to cause trouble later?
The official plans to send someone with them to make sure they fly straight home and nowhere else. It’s not really spoiling anything to tell you that they circumvent the official and head for the restricted place, is it? I was hoping they would do something at least marginally clever and fool the guy, but no, Lon Chaney, Jr. sucker punches him and they take off. Nobody follows them.
In retrospect it occurs to me that they could have used that fact as foreshadowing: the place is so dangerous the officials will leave them to their fate. I think the script writers got lazy (if they ever invent a time machine, I may try to get myself a job as a movie writer in the ’50s). Well, that’s OK, we want to see the mysterious, dangerous place with the Cyclops; we don’t want to spend the whole picture getting there.
Regarding Lon Chaney I kind of got my hopes up when I saw his name in the credits. Well, I guess actors have bills to pay, too. Actually, Chaney does a good job as the uranium-seeking trouble-maker. It’s just that I had kind of wanted to see him get turned into a Cyclops.
And may I just insert a word about movie slugs? In movies and on television, one sock to the jaw is all it takes. The slugee is down for the count. Men especially like to do this to women “for their own good.” So the man can go off and have all the adventure while the girl stays “safe” (I use the terms “man” and “girl” intentionally). No women get slugged in this picture, so it’s got that going for it.
Lon Chaney is apparently a very good slugger. His next is administered to the pilot of the plane. Even in the close confines of the cockpit, he knocks the guy out so he can grab the controls. Chaney wants to land while his whatevermeter is clicking high. He almost gets his wish in a big way as the plane plummets toward the earth. You see, the other guy has grabbed him from behind and pulled him away from the controls.
Excuse me, what? The pilot is out cold. Why are you pulling the one left awake away from the controls? Luckily the girl shakes the pilot awake in time to avert disaster. I’ll pass over my wonderment that you can shake somebody awake in that situation. Likewise I’ll pass over their extreme luck in finding, inches before impact, a strip of ground sufficient to land on in a huge mountain range. I know, I have to suspend some disbelief. I didn’t even blink when the girl’s map shows they are very close to where the fiance’s plane went down.
So she and the other guy go off hiking into the jungle (yes, a jungle in the mountains, get over it), leaving Lon Chaney to try to talk the pilot into flying him home so he can “stake his claim” to the supposedly uranium-rich area. OK, so they weren’t even allowed to fly there legally, but this guy can just claim it for his very own, like in the Old West? The knock-out slugs and safe landing were easier to swallow than that one!
Never mind, it’s a movie. Let’s get to the monsters. Through the miracle of perspective, we get giant lizards, a giant mouse and a giant hawk. The first time a character sees a giant lizard, he stands there watching it and smoking his pipe in a contemplative fashion. When the lizard retreats behind a rock before anyone else can see it, the guy says it must have been his imagination.
You see where this is going, right? Fiance isn’t dead, he’s a giant. And his face has been hideously deformed by reasons which are never made clear (after all, the animals are all intact) so that he only has one eye and can only talk in grunts. We don’t know if he can understand anything, but the girls tries to talk to him.
Bringing movie female stupidity to new heights, she does not realize that this scary creature is her fiance. She just wonders why looking at him makes her sad. Come on! Even I know who he is, and I never met the guy! Oh well, I suppose three years and radioactive deformities can change a person.
The movie is full of “Why would they…?” moments. For example, why does the Cyclops block the people into a cave with a big old rock which he is then unable to reach them over, as he tries to do? Then he leaves (why?) and they do NOT (a) look for an alternative escape route, (b) see if he’s still there, or (c) try to come up with SOME plan. Instead they opt for (d) go to sleep. I thought it was still morning!
At least this gives Lon Chaney a chance to steal the rifle, which eventually leads to his coming to a not very exciting end at the hand of the monster (who can only get one hand into the cave far enough). Oh, but first he goes back to sleep, and when they all wake up, nobody says, “Hey! Gimme that rifle back!”
The movie can’t seem to make up its mind if the Cyclops is scary or sad. They kind of go back and forth, ending up on scary in one of those “Oh, now the movie is over” endings. I see I’m over 1000 words and I haven’t even started on how that’s not what I thought a Cyclops was. I guess I’ll just end with, if you like a stupid movie you can make fun of, Cyclops is a good choice.