Friday, September 14, 2018

Neanderthal Man

Neanderthal Man
Ewald André Dupont

Dr. Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne) really likes Neanderthals. He thinks the size of their brains made them smarter than modern humans and he’s willing to prove it by making house cats into saber-tooth tigers, maids into monsters, and himself into an ape-man. What he hopes to accomplish with all this is anyone’s guess. Dr. Ross Harkness (Richard Crane) and Jan Groves (Joyce Terry) are two dullards who take their sweet time trying to unravel the pretty obvious mystery.

The monsters of Neanderthal Man consist of an ape mask, stock footage of a tiger, and the worst Smilodon plushie ever revealed on film. I understand the logistics of including a saber-toothed tiger in a low budget film would be problematic, so I am almost willing to give that a pass, but there is no attempt to match the footage of a regular tiger stalking about to the stuffed animal with giant teeth stuck on it. The ape mask is perhaps even more embarrassing; by 1953, ape-suit technology had been well developed for movies, so I am not sure what the producers were thinking when slapping an unemotional dime store mask on an actor.

Actual Smilodon prop used in an actual movie made by adults.
If the movie has one saving grace it is the fact that the acting is so stilted and overwrought that it creates a delightful contrast to the shabbiness of the production. Everyone speaks in overstuffed diction that sounds important and then you remember they are talking about an ape-man who keeps carrying women off. The deadly seriousness with which everyone takes in the events of the film transports Neanderthal Man from cheap and dull into the realm of enjoyably terrible. The greatest flaw of the script is waiting around as we watch the leads slowly (and I mean sloooooowly) figure out that Dr. Groves is the one turning into a monster.

Neanderthal Man is filled with some very odd editing choices. A woman teleports into a bikini and back for a photo shoot, the fatal shot delivered to the ape-man is off camera and faded out before it can have any impact, and when Jan delivers the line where she comes to realize her dad is a part-time monster the final word is cut. Why? Only editor Fred R. Feitshans Jr. knew for sure and he isn't talking.

After trying Oil of Olape
Neanderthal Man also has an unexpectedly sleazy side. It is more than hinted that Groves rapes a woman while he's devolved, and in fact killing and rape seem to be his primary goals as he roams the countryside. Most films from this era would play coy and merely hint about such things, but Neanderthal Man all but comes out and states it bluntly. Also souring things is the implication that Dr. Groves has not only been experimenting on his maid, but that he's been molesting her

Neanderthal Man is cheap, badly acted and almost incoherent. It is a movie that I can’t recommend in good faith unless you are of that particular breed who eats up a specific kind of 1950s awfulness. Monster on Campus (1958) would basically replicate the plot of Neanderthal Man and do it better in every single aspect. If you want a good 1950s era take on Jekyll and Hyde check that one out. If you want delirious trash then take the hairy paw of Neanderthal Man.

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