[box cover]

The Crawling Eye

"Giant, tentacled eyeballs from outer space use their alien powers to reanimate corpses and send zombies to murder telepathic earthlings!"

With PR like that, what's not to love? For aficionados of old, low-budget genre movies grades B-through-Z, the DVD age is a godsend. Studios are releasing their dusty-basement back-catalog items, and often in no-frills, priced-to-sell editions that give fans and collectors guilty pleasures and fodder for deep-geek analysis. Sometimes gold can indeed be found in creaky sci-fi or horror, um, "classics." Other times ... well, a bad movie can have its charms and still be acknowledged as a bad movie. The U.K.'s The Crawling Eye (1958) is a bad movie — but it's the good kind of bad, with not a mean-spirited bone in its gelatinous, pimple-shaped, tentacled, one-eyed body.

On an Alpine mountain under a radioactive cloud hide a squad of ill-tempered space aliens (bulbous blinkers anticipating The Simpsons' Kang and Kodos). They exert telepathic influence over some local humans, notably a pair of mind-reading sisters (Jennifer Jayne and the lovely, well-chosen Janet Munro). Before long, with headless corpses and killer zombies entering the mix, American investigator Alan Brooks (genre go-to hero Forrest Tucker) is on the case right up through the climactic siege battle between the humans and the aliens.

The Crawling Eye moves through its 84 minutes at a good clip, often with mood and atmosphere. When the titular monsters finally reveal themselves, a more affably laughable use of papier-mâché cabbage heads can't be found anywhere. Meanwhile, crisp DVD resolution reveals the wires moving the tentacles about.

Jimmy Sangster, one of England's best postwar horror film writers (Revenge of Frankenstein and other Hammers), adapted this screenplay from a 1956 BBC TV serial called The Trollenberg Terror. Like Britain's Fiend Without a Face (also from '58), this is silly, formulaic stuff, in black-and-white, but well-brought-up kids and sincere grown-up appreciators of vintage low-budget genre cinema will find plenty to enjoy here. All others should probably opt for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.

*          *          *

Image Entertainment's DVD release of The Crawling Eye maintains Image's reputation for quality presentations. This is nothing less than the original "Widescreen European Edition" that debuted in England as The Trollenberg Terror in 1958 with an "X" rating certificate — a significant improvement over every edition that's been shown on television over the decades. The new film-to-video transfer (1.66:1, anamorphic) used an original source print supplied by the British Film Institute, so it looks great (expect some minor specks and grain), and its monaural audio track sounds fine. The theatrical trailer is here, but it's in dreadful shape. Within a fold-out insert, two pages of production notes are appropriately respectful. Keep-case.

—Mark Bourne



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