Sunday, June 01, 2014

White Elephant Blogathon | Eegah (1962)

For the past three or four years I've participated in the annual White Elephant Blogathon (generously coordinated and hosted this year by the Diary of a Country Pickpocket blog), where participants submit movies for other bloggers to watch. It's all random, so you have no idea who will get/have to review your submission or whose submission you'll have to review. In the past couple of years there's been a push for participants not to just submit the most awful movie they could think of, but also consider underappreciated movies that may be legitimately good. I've pretty much continued to foist terrible films on other people (this year it was 1981's Tarzan the Ape Man starring Bo Derek), but I'll probably change that next year. Eegah has taught me a lesson.

Who's in it: Arch Hall Jr. (The Sadist, The Nasty Rabbit), Marilyn Manning (The Sadist), Richard Kiel (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker), and William Watters (The Sadist, The Nasty Rabbit).

What's it about: An enormous, primitive man (Kiel) wanders out of his cave and encounters a young woman (Manning). When her father (Watters) goes missing while searching for the giant, the woman and her boyfriend (Hall Jr.) go looking as well.

How is it: I was going to try and be all hardcore about this and watch the movie straight, but about ten minutes in I realized that I was going to need Joel and a couple of robots to help me through. I switched to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode and it went down much easier. I'm going to review just the movie though, not the MST3K performance.

The problem is that the whole thing is a vanity project by Arch Hall Sr. (as are follow-up films The Sadist and The Nasty Rabbit). He came up with the story after meeting 7'2" Kiel and directed the film himself under the name Nicholas Merriwether. He then adopted another alias - William Watters - to play the role of Robert Miller. Miller's daughter Roxy was played by Hall Sr.'s secretary and her boyfriend Tom was played by Hall Jr. To be fair, the movie was much more a vehicle for Hall Jr. than for Dad. Tom is the hero of the story and there are a few musical interludes as Tom plays guitar and sings with his band, Arch Hall Jr. and the Archers.

The music's the best part of the movie, but that's a really low bar to get over. Hall Jr. has a pleasant voice and the musicians are competent, but there's nothing remarkable about the generic '60s surf tunes and love ballads they're playing.

The only professional actor in the group is Kiel and he does a nice enough job in his quieter moments as Eegah the caveman, but he's no action star and never poses a convincing threat as he lumbers after the younger, faster characters. There are some genuinely creepy moments when he captures Roxy and her dad and then sniffs and paws the girl while her father doesn't just helplessly watch, but actually encourages her to make nice with Eegah as a distraction until they can escape. There's a moment where it looks like Eegah's going to go too far and Dad looks legitimately horrified, but it was too long in coming. The rest of those scenes in the cave unsuccessfully tried to blend humor with the horror and turned the whole situation into a farce.

That said, the cave scenes are among the most interesting in the film, the rest of which are mostly Roxy, Tom, and Roxy's dad walking around or driving in the desert. Or Tom singing. There are some cool images towards the end though when Eegah follows Roxy back to civilization and we see the gigantic, beastial man invading homes as he looks for the girl, but again, it's too little and far too late. There are some good ideas in Eegah, if only the film's makers knew how to bring them to life with any skill.

Final Grade: D-

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