The Creeping Terror, the 1964 monster flick from producer, director, editor, and star Vic Savage, is a regular staple on ‘worst movies ever made’ lists, and it should be. Watching this flick is a mirthful, schadenfreude-filled experience. It will make a viewer shake one’s head, mystified that a movie so obviously bad could be made. It has the feel of a spoof, as if it were making fun of the low-budget monster flicks of the 1950s. But, no, this is very much a serious film.
The Creeping Terror may have been made in 1964, but, according to the internet, so it must be true, it never received a theatrical release. It lingered on a shelf somewhere until Crown International Pictures licensed it for television in the mid-1970s. Thank goodness for the clearing house for crap that was Crown International, otherwise this could have been a lost film, subject to mere rumor and speculation.
Savage, in his second, and last, film credit, stars as Martin Gordon, a deputy sheriff in the kind of small, rural California town that typifies old-school monster flicks. While he is returning from his honeymoon, an alien spacecraft lands nearby. Inside are a pair of the more outrageous monsters one will see in a flick like this — right up there with the tree-monster featured in From Hell it Came, or the sneering, inverted ice cream cone from It Conquered the World. The monsters in this flick (there really is only one, as the 2nd monster stays confined to the spaceship until the very end) resemble a spiky slug, and operate something like a dragon costume from a Chinese New Year’s parade. Here’s an image of a recreation of the costume used in The Creep Behind the Camera, a docudrama about the making of The Creeping Terror. Note the booted feet at the bottom:
Throughout the film, Deputy Gordon and local scientist Dr. Bradford (William Thourlby), try, with the help of the army, to stop the monster from tearing a swath through the locals, but fail, because this movie needs a body count to stay interesting. In the end, there is an explosive finale that closes the books on this 74-minute long dog.
There is plenty of info in the tubes, and in the docudrama mentioned above, about the circumstances that brought this film about. This article will instead focus on the outrageous moments of filmmaking that make this a shitty classic.
First is, of course, the monster, already mentioned. But, it’s not just how it looks. It’s also how it is used. The monster is slow, even for monster flicks. That doesn’t matter to the many victims in the film, who stand still or lie prone in front of the monster, giving themselves up with little to no effort to save themselves. The peak moment of this behavior is when the monster overruns about six soldiers who stand like bowling pins awaiting the inevitable.
Another amazing moment of shitty filmmaking is when the alien spacecraft arrives on Earth. It’s not an alien spacecraft, by any stretch. It’s stock footage of a NASA rocket taking off, run backwards. Stunning. No amount of suspension of disbelief can trick one’s brain into believing this is an alien craft.
Next is the narration. This might be the worst narration in the history of film. Read by Larry Burrell, whose voice is so smooth I want to hear it on my deathbed, the voiceover describes events in the film that should have been provided by dialogue. Accounts on this narration differ. Either Savage lost the original soundtrack, and had to hire Burrell to cover for that, or sound was never recorded during the shoot, with the intention that dialogue would be added in post. Either way, it seems the cast was unable or unwilling to be on hand for re-recording, so viewers get this play-by-play narration instead of about 2/3 of the film’s actual dialogue. Extraordinary shittiness.
Savage also used canned sound effects and screams. This isn’t a crime against film in and of itself, but there is one shrill female scream that he used dozens of times in the film. In one death scene, he just looped it over and over as the monster swallowed one of its victims whole.
Then, there’s the dancehall scene. In a movie this short, it truly is shitty when the filmmaker needs to pad the running time, but that’s all this scene was for. It goes on and on and on, young ladies and their dates twisting and gyrating to the most inane ersatz jazz known to mankind before the monster shows up and eats everyone very, very slowly. This scene is the crowning achievement of the film — its peak moment of shitty. This scene alone makes the entire film worth watching.
There’s more, of course. Despite this film’s dreadful objective quality, its failings make it watchable, if only for the belly laughs. We have a new addition to the hallowed top fifty of the Watchability Index, the land of shitty gold. The Creeping Terror takes over the #29 spot from Deathsport. It’s essential viewing, especially for fans of 1950s-style monster flicks.