The Trollenberg Terror (1958)

Director: Quentin Lawrence

Starring: Forrest Tucker, Warren Mitchell, Janet Munro

Aka The Crawling Eye. With Jimmy Sangster on writing duties and Les Bowie on SFX, The Trollenberg Terror marked another foray, like the Quatermass films, into the world of the BBC television serial adaption…

Switzerland, home of the Toblerone and the stuffed bank account. I should also point out that Trollenberg is in Germany, not Switzerland, but never let geography get in the road of a mental ‘B’ movie. But what’s this? Climbers are disappearing on a regular basis. Not good. The latest “accident” turns out to be the worst of the lot when a young mountaineer is decaffeinated! Oops, sorry – decapitated. In the words of one of his companions, “Didn’t you see him? His head… it was torn off!” UN investigator Alan Brooks rolls in to hit the hotel bar – errr, meet up with an old pal, Crevett, a resident scientist working in a mountain observatory studying “cosmic rays”. They’ve worked together before, on a trip to the Andes no less. Crevett has employed a false pretence to get Alan up here because there’s a problem, in the form of a cloud, a static radioactive cloud parked up there on Mount Trollenberg. And something similar happened on the Andes trip… Told you, not good. Not good at all.

Also swinging by are two sisters, Sarah and Anne Pilgrim, who happen to be a famous mind-reading act. On their way to Geneva, Anne has a fainting episode (all over Alan, by coincidence) on the train and demands they stop off at Trollenberg. She is oddly affected by the area, seems to know all about it though she’s never set foot in the place before. Quite why this should be a source of bemusement to Sarah I don’t know – she’s well aware her sister is psychic. Is Anne sensing the cloud on some kind of telepathic level, or should that be whatever’s inside the cloud? When two more climbers, Dewhurst and Brett go up the peak it triggers the cloud into making a run at the village and its innocent populace and, who knows, maybe even the WORLD!

Yeh, that’s right, ending a sentence in capitals – my old English teacher told me it’s a grammatical outrage, got me up in front of class and terrorised me about it. Well, Mr Honeyford, if yer reading this, I bloody well WILL. Whenever I bloody well WANT.

Anyhoo, The Trollenberg Terror does have a few problems, not least an apparently crucial plot thread gone AWOL. We’re told that Anne (Janet Munro) is perceived to be a threat to the cloud creature due to her powers of clairvoyance. So much so, humans are being zombiecated and sent to rub her out. Indeed, a bit of back story (depending on which version you watch, some US edits have this scene excised) tells us that during the Andes expedition, a local psychic soothsayer recruited by the team was murdered in this way. Obviously there’s a specific threat but unfortunately even by the film’s conclusion Alan (Forrest Tucker) is muttering, “she can’t help us now…” Mate, we didn’t know how she could help you in the first place! I mean, what, by her being able to ‘see’ what the cloud is doing? Shit, there’s an observatory on the mountain monitoring its every move, no need for ESP chicanery. Furthermore, why is the alien cloud creature here in Germ… errr, Switzerland? What’s its purpose, its plan? We never find out. If this thing’s landing on top of a mountain because, as Crevett (Warren Mitchell) says it may require a thin atmosphere to survive, that’s hardly a springboard for world domination. Two words for ya, Cloudy: sea level. But, y’know, rather than do a lazy MST3K on an easy target like Terror, I’ll have a go at raising its profile…

I like the opening credits, the train to Trollenberg speeds into the blackness of a tunnel, groovy animated arrows point out cast and crew and when that’s done with, we emerge from the tunnel once again. Cool. The film really gets into a rhythm when Dewhurst (Stuart Saunders) and Brett (Andrew Faulds) reach the shelter of a hut at night. There’s a sense of the Lovecraftian about the sequence. As Brett goes wandering into the fog, the scene is intercut with Anne giving an impromptu demonstration of her talent back at the hotel. She correctly guesses a hidden object as a snow globe paperweight, then the psychic flash hits her and she begins to commentate on the sinister events unfolding at the hut before finding her way back inside the snow globe – “mountains, snow…” It’s not quite deft enough in director Lawrence’s hands but kudos for the attempt. Shortly after, fat boy Dewhurst is set upon by an unseen intruder. In daylight, a search party hike up to the hut to find a single body, minus head, on the floor. A spotter plane locates Brett (you can tell Brett’s an experienced climber, he blarts out climbing wisdom like, “A mountain’s a mountain…” No way, really?) on an outcropping, alive. Two rescuers converge on his location and find a rucksack, bloodied. Inside the pack is Dewhurst’s severed head. At which point they are attacked by the deranged, pickaxe wielding Brett. Eventually, he fetches up in the hotel bar where first, he has trouble getting a drink into his face. Having just about managed that, he appears to be so inebriated he almost lights the end of his nose rather than a proffered cig! Then he gets proper nasty when he claps eyes on Anne. From the hut to here, it’s a very tense and effective section of the film. A pity, then, that they squander a couple of following set-pieces.

The almost obligatory Child In Peril Scene™. Soon as you see the bouncing ball you know the kid is going to slip away from the retreating villagers and head back to the hotel to retrieve it. The sequence cranks up well enough, tendrils of mist creeping under the doors, then the doors crashing inward and we finally see the monster – a grotesque tentacled eyeball. The little girl runs in to scoop up her ball, remarkably unperturbed by the sight of a giant tentacular one-eyed ballsack (and it’s a bit worrying to see where it shoves a tentacle). But never fear Alan is here. In reality, he gets there too quick and out too easy losing all tension in the process. Then they waste a hazardous cable car journey; the cloud begins to freeze the lines but rather than have the car maybe stall completely a metre from the platform, or show the steel cable starting to fray and snap, the car jolts rubbishly a couple of times before reaching safety. They don’t even have the car fall into the ravine just as everyone gets off in time. Boo! For some reason, the camera lingers on a dropped teddy back at the other platform. Would’ve been darkly funny had they all been trundling along in the cable car only to discover the kid had sneaked off again…

The finale is quite enjoyable, scientists and townsfolk packed into the observatory as the cloud creatures multiply and crawl inexorably toward their din-dins. Again, Anne is a specific target even though by now her telepathic skills are completely redundant and the boys are reduced to lobbing petrol bombs at the monsters. That is until Alan calls in an airstrike… Actually, there’s a funny moment when heroic Alan runs out to chuck a Molotov missile. He gives clear instructions to a beaky bloke in a peaked cap to open the door and once he’s out, to close it again immediately. Beaky swings the door open, out goes Alan – and in the reverse angle a short, speccy bloke closes it! What happened to Beaky, I liked him! Also look out for a mercifully brief and ludicrous shot of a Philip Truscott (Laurence Payne) ‘action figure’ being hoisted into the air and throttled by a tentacle.

The main players do okay; Tucker makes for a decent hero, initially reticent to put his credibility on the line after the ‘Andes incident’ but eventually taking a firm hand of the situation. Warren Mitchell puts on a smirk-worthy accent but does the scientist-y thing pretty well, despite some awkward moments (I’m thinking particularly of when he’s telling Tucker how much the lab cost – he keeps chuckling like a simpleton). Laurence Payne as the journalist is reprising his role from the series. You get the impression of him as a snake-in-the-grass sort early on, if that was intended it never goes anywhere. Jennifer Jayne as Anne’s sister Sarah finds herself in a thankless role really, her character doesn’t serve any purpose beyond being there.

Then there’s Blackpool girl Janet Munro… She’s lovely. When I first saw her in Terror it was love at first sight. Then I saw her in The Day The Earth Caught Fire (which I’ll also be reviewing at some point) and fell in love with her all over again. I don’t mind admitting I used to lie back in the bath and fantasise about taking Janet up the Trollenberg… Oi! You filthy minded swine, that’s not what I meant! She plays vulnerable really well, it’s a shame she didn’t get a chance to follow the telepathic arc through to a heroine moment, instead having to be rescued by the lads all the time. Janet, I’d love to have made the moon our mirrorball, kid. Tragically, after a couple of marriage breakdowns and a brush with the nasty booze, a heart condition saw her off back in 1972. 38, she was.

And on that sad note… I can say The Trollenberg Terror is a passable distraction. The snow-capped peaks make a good setting, plus there’s some nice matte and miniature work as well. Yeh, it’s utterly, utterly silly but definitely worth a LOOK.

Check out the daft trailer here: http://tinyurl.com/ycpy43p

You’ll have to look around for a full movie link. There’s one here http://tinyurl.com/36rrpd4 but you’ll need to register I think.

Cheers, folk.

ThereWolf, October 2010.

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About ThereWolf

I only come out at night... mostly...

46 responses to “The Trollenberg Terror (1958)”

  1. Tom_Bando says :

    For a bit there I was thinking that was George W. Bush in the poster…

    Forrest Tucker I like. He was a fave of my childhood-from the Ghost Busters Saturday Morning show in ’75-6 that ran on CBS. He and his old F-troop crony Larry Storch were a funny pair together, along w/ Bob Burns in an Ape Soot. The show itself was Filmation junk but it’s heart was in the right place, at least.

    Can’t say I’ve seen this movie, prob. would make a good two-fer w/ Kronos or Tarantula, maybe?

  2. Jarv says :

    Aaah! Did not know that. That’ll be the one that they’ll ruin then.

    Very nice review by the way. Is janet munro any relation to Caroline?

  3. Jarv says :

    Did you see the history of horror? Sangster was huilarious on it

    • ThereWolf says :

      I didn’t see it. What channel? Is it on YouTube, anything like that?

    • Spud McSpud says :

      Sangster was ace on that show. “I told them, ‘If you know so much about it, direct the fucking movie yourself!’ and I walked out. They never came down to the set again.” And THAT, friends, is how you deal with the suits sticking their dumb-ass noses in your business…

      Yeah it was a bit of a “this is what Mark Gatiss thinks is great about horror” feel to it, but it was diverting enough, fun to watch, and had ex-movie-God-turned-fried-chicken-and-weed-wastoid John Carpenter looking all amazed at the Halloween shrines set up all over the neighbourhood he filmed it in… Yeah, it was a lot of fun. But Sangster and Roy Ward Baker… I’d love an afternoon listening to their reminiscences. Oh, the stories they could tell…

      • Jarv says :

        The third one had it’s moments, but I think he made a real mistake stopping at Halloween. The 80’s contained seminal vampire AND (uniquely) Werewolf films, and the 90’s had postmodernism with Scream. To blame Halloween for Torture Porn nowadays was foolish and untrue.

        Also, he made a big deal of some shitty fucking films.

      • Spud McSpud says :

        Good point there, Jarv – to hang all the torture porn and shitty slasher scenes on HALLOWEEN was most irresponsible – everyone knows that Sean S. Cunningham is to blame with his FRIDAY THE 13th series, and even HOUSEwasn’t enough to redeem him for FT13thVII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN.

        Just kidding. I LOVE most everything Sean S Cunningham ever made 😀

        But yeah – there was a LOT more to be mined from the 80s onward. No ALIEN? No HELLRAISER? No SCREAM? NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET? As for werewolves- no THE HOWLING? No SILVER BULLET? No love for the greatness that is DOG SOLDIERS??

        Definitely needed a fourth instalment – at least…

  4. kloipy says :

    excellent fucking review Wolf! Glad you keep coming with these and ”At the Mountains of Matte-ness” had me dyin

    • ThereWolf says :

      Nice one, Kloipy!

      Yeh, I was quite pleased with that caption meself!

      • Tom_Bando says :

        It was a good, punny blurb I thought.

        Yes I was thinking of Kronos Kronos, animated metal space monster stomps on things in the desert, starring Jeff Morrow. And a (regrettably) edited out, Giant, Robot, Lion.

      • Spud McSpud says :

        I loved the IF reference, myself. Another classy review there, wolf. Hah! There, wolf? Anyone??!?

        I’ll be here all week…

      • ThereWolf says :

        I must find Kronos…

        Cheers, Spud!

        You saying ‘there, wolf’ like that reminds of good old AICN poster Freds Balls In A Mason Jar who used to regale me with “Hello there, wolf!” every time he dropped into the talkback.

        Come back, Fred! And bring your discombobulated balls with you!

  5. Continentalop says :

    Fuck yes! I was hoping you’d review this. And now to hear you’re gonna review The Day the Earth Caught Fire is great news. Janet Munro in her wet t-shirt was one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen.

  6. Tom_Bando says :

    For what it’s worth, I just watched ‘M’ for the first time–w/ Peter Lorre? Danged great flick yessir. It’s free and online. Roger Ebert’s site has it.

    • ThereWolf says :

      ‘M’ is a superb film. I saw it for the first time a couple of years ago. Creepy when Lorre’s describing his wicked compulsion – “Don’t want to… Must!”

      If you’ve not seen another Lang film, Dr Mabuse: The Gambler – do. Brilliant. But be prepared, it’s over 4 hours long!

      • Tom_Bando says :

        I’ve seen a couple of his before–The Big Heat, Western Union, Metropolis, stuff like that. This one though I’d not seen. I have vague memories of seeing the David Wayne version from the Fifties though. This is the one you want certainly.

  7. MORBIUS says :

    Well done Wolf.

    Quite an entertaining synopsis.
    I too, had to chuckle at your…mountains
    of matte-ness…the delivery and timing were
    IMPECCABLE. That one was for you Mr. Honeyford!

    Salud!

    • ThereWolf says :

      Thanks, Morbius.

      Nice use of capitals! To be fair, he was a decent teacher. I think he gave me a chasing coz he knew I could write and he wanted to keep me focused.

      Unfortunately, he got a chasing for making (perceived) racist comments! Made the local news and everything…

  8. LB says :

    You make snide remarks about getting your mind destroyed-*You Have No Idea*.

    Making fun of H.P. Lovecraft will unend you, pitiful Human!

    As your mind collapses, staring into unfathomanble dimensions-your destiny becomes clear: Gibbering Madness while friend and folk watch.

    Space-Time is being collapsed into two dimensions as we speak, in the Large Hadron Collider in Sweden.

    Inchoate Madness is your fate.

    Cheers,

    -lb!

    • Spud McSpud says :

      Iya! Iya! Cthulhu ftaghn!!

    • ThereWolf says :

      “Gibbering madness” has already happened, LB…

      Large Hadron Collider! How did I miss that… should have been ‘Switzerland, home of the Toblerone, the LHC & the stuffed bank account…’ Damn my idiocy!

      Coz, it’s not in Sweden is it. “Hey, Sweden!” – “They’re not Swedish, Mac. They’re Norwegian.”

    • xiphos0311 says :

      The LHC is in Switzerland at CERN which I believe is in a suburb of Geneva. Sweden has nothing to do with the LHC except for sending scientist, technicians mathematicians etc.

      Stuffed shirt moment over.

      Good review Wolf.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Cheers, Xi.

        What’s happened to your regular book reviews/ round-up – doing anymore of those?

        I’m reading The Killing Floor by Lee Child at the moment. Liking it a lot.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Wolf I do not have plans at the moment to write anything.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Wolf if you are looking for something to read after that Military policeman nonsense written by an Englishmen that doesn’t realize that the American military is way less horizontally integrated then the UK Forces, I suggest the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. Think Master and Commander but with dragons.

      • LB says :

        Xi is correct-CERN’s LHC straddles the border of France and Switzerland.

        Mea Culpa!

        And Ohmygosh-Did i get somebody to read a Jack Reacher novel!?!

        Ha-I’ve read them all-except book 16-the newest one.

        I love the hell out of them-they are the ultimate long-distance airplane flying books.

        The early ones, you can tell the guy is a Brit, but later ones his editors make him correct all of measurements.

        Ha there’s kind of 2 clunkers out of the whole lot-but they are all freakin’ great.

        I imagine that it’s Xiphos everytime I read them-That being a compliment.

        The only question is how many gals has Reacher banged versus how many dudes he’s wasted.

        He’s like a fucking serial killer, really, but the dudes he’s whacked all had it coming!!!

        Dopey, Fun Stuff!

      • ThereWolf says :

        Oh, it was you, LB!

        I knew someone had mentioned Jack Reacher but couldn’t work out who…

        Anyway, great call. Not the genre I usually go with but I’m right into The Killing Floor, ’bout halfway through. I like first-person narration style. Good stuff.

  9. just pillow talk says :

    Oh, this sounds fantastically dumb.

    I’ll have to check this one out.

  10. Tom_Bando says :

    I like reading ThereWolf’s reviews. Keep’em going there sirrah.

  11. Franklin T Marmoset says :

    I used to love this kind of thing when I was a kid. Dodgy robots and rubber monsters and crazy scientists and whatnot. Good stuff. And you can’t beat a bit of giant tentacular one-eyed ballsack action, the rubberier the better.

    Good review, ThereWolf, as always.

  12. Terry Fleming says :

    Fantastic write up! Your comments cracked me up 😂. I’m now going to be one of your followers ☺️

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