October Horrorshow: The Cyclops

Exactly one month after Beginning of the End was released in 1957, another epic Bert I. Gordon schlock-fest hit theaters. Both written and directed by Gordon, The Cyclops is about as worthless a film as this terrible filmmaker ever made…for half of its Spartan 65-minute running time. But then the titular cyclops finally appears onscreen, and all is forgiven.

Gloria Talbott plays Susan Winter. Her husband has been missing ever since his small plane went down three years earlier in some remote Mexican mountains. Susan has assembled a small expedition to retrace his steps and hopefully find him alive and well. She is joined by Russ Bradford (James Craig), Lee Brand (Tom Drake), and Marty Melville (Lon Chaney Jr., in one of his many supporting roles after his time as a horror star had ended).

The men accompanying Susan have their own ideas about the expedition. Marty wants to set up a uranium mining operation in the mountains, and is searching for a claim. Lee seems to be just a pilot, but Russ is smitten with Susan. He doesn’t hold out any hope of finding Susan’s husband alive. He’s there for moral support, and to be with Susan while she, hopefully for him, finds some closure and can therefore begin a new life with Russ. It’s kind of creepy that Russ is hovering over the whole affair in this way, and even more unsettling that Susan is very much aware of his intentions.

After arriving in the mountains, the group discovers that the area is saturated with radiation from underground uranium deposits. This makes Marty giddy, but the radiation has also led to local animal life growing to stupendous sizes. This part of the film plays out like King Dinosaur, Gordon’s first film. The pace is deadly slow, The Cyclopsand when giant animals do appear, Gordon employed his own brand of cheap special effects. He could get one of his pet lizards onscreen, and make it look bigger than the cast, but Gordon never figured out how to combine shots in a convincing way. The matte work is so poor that the giant creatures are partially transparent. This was par for the course with Gordon.

The movie is so bad by this point that I had checked out. I was just waiting for this dog to wrap up, and then I would be on my way. But then, BAM! The Cyclops appears, in one of the more hilarious monster reveals I’ve seen so far in this year’s Giant Monstershow. He bounces up from behind a rock, and we viewers are treated to some very unique makeup effects.

The cyclops is played by Duncan Parkin (with pervasive vocal effects performed by Paul Frees). The makeup he’s wearing consists of some deformed teeth, a flap of cancerous skin growing over his right eye, and a gigantic prosthetic eye over his left. It’s both disturbing and funny. Parkin, for his part, looks like he was blinded by the makeup, so some credit has to be given him for performing a role while he couldn’t see. But that’s all the praise I have for him. His job was just to stand there and wave his arms around. He didn’t even have to speak a line, what with Gordon choosing to use an endless string of guttural noises for the cyclops’s vocalizations. Should one see this movie, be aware that the grunts and yells of the cyclops will annoy neighbors.

It’s the cyclops, and the bad special effects surrounding him, that makes this movie an unintentional comedic masterpiece. It’s hard to explain just how bad the special effects are. The cyclops and his human targets, while appearing onscreen in the same shot, never occupy the same space. It’s like a physical gulf separates the cyclops from the people he’s trying to grab, and Gordon was just unable to bridge that gap. This flick is a dreadful piece of shit, but the effects are so inept and ridiculous that it elevates the film. What would have been best left forgotten becomes worthy of preservation. Future generations need to see Bert I. Gordon at his shittiest, if only for the laughs. Alien: Resurrection is a far better movie than The Cyclops.