Friday, May 3, 2013

CREEPY CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE VOL 2 - THE CRAWLING HAND / THE SLIME PEOPLE

VCI Entertainment strikes again with the CREEPY CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE VOL 2, an enjoyably awful Z-movie double bill consisting of a couple of drive-in classics from 1963: THE CRAWLING HAND and THE SLIME PEOPLE!

In THE CRAWLING HAND, an American astronaut is possessed by a malevolent alien force while returning from a moon mission, and ground controllers are forced to destroy his ship on re-entry. But one of the spaceman's arms (and hand, 'natch) survives the blast and washes up on a beach, where it is found by a young medical student  named Paul (Rod Lauren). He stashes the dismembered appendage in his landlady's pantry, only to discover too late that it has an evil will of its own! Soon, his landlady's dead, and the local sheriff (Alan Hale, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) wants to hang Paul for it. Can a couple of investigating NASA scientists find the creepy Crawling Hand and clear poor Paul of the crime?

Directed by Herbert L. Strock (I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, GOG), THE CRAWLING HAND is a surprisingly entertaining 88 minutes of cinematic schlock. The special effects are ludicrous, the script is banal and there's nary a thrill or chill to be had - but it's somehow compelling. Maybe it's the earnest performances of its cast, or maybe its the sweetshop jukebox constantly playing the Rivington's hit, "The Bird." Who knows? But I enjoyed it.

In THE SLIME PEOPLE, Los Angeles is overrun and conquered (before the movie starts) by the titular subterranean reptile men, who have enclosed the city in a bubble of impenetrable "hard fog." The film chronicles the harrowing adventures of a small group of survivors as they attempt to evade the slow-moving, spear-carrying invaders from beneath the Earth's crust, and somehow make their escape from the City of Angels.

While the plot makes little sense - it's never really satisfactorily explained just how the awkward Slime People defeated the city's better-armed U.S. military defenders, for example - and the shoestring budget is always evident, the movie somehow manages to work... if just barely. There's a palpable sense of dread and menace throughout the film (aided, in no small part, by the omnipresent fog), the Slime People suits are surprisingly well-designed and executed, and there are some excellent stunts during the film's infrequent action scenes. The cast is pretty good, too.

VCI presents both of these exploitation favorites in 1.78: 1/16x9 anamorphic widescreen, with solid transfers culled from remarkably nice prints. There's a little bit of speckling and other minor defects in evidence throughout, but nothing particularly distracting. Contrast and detail is very good, too - both films were previously released on VHS and DVD by Rhino Home Video, and VCI's transfers are much superior. As with the first CREEPY CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE volume, VCI has secured the participation of genre film historian Tom Weaver, who provides an interesting audio interview with SLIME CREATURES star Susan Hart. The original theatrical trailers of both films are also included.

As with Volume 1, the CREEPY CREATURES DOUBLE FEATURE VOL. 2 is a terrific addition to any monster movie fan's DVD library. Both movies are nostalgic gems and are presented in fine form by VCI Entertainment. Highly recommended.

BUYVol. 2-Crawling Hand/Slime People