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Volumes one and Two of the Universal Science Fiction sets, that were once available for a limited time at Best Buy retailers are now avialable in one wonderful set for a decent price. Many of the films featured on here are Monster movie favorites ranging from Classic to mediocre, but not really a less than entertaining one in the bunch.
The films include:
Tarantula(1955)-Clearly an imitation of the superior, "Them!(1954)", this film is the best of it's rip-offs featuring a good cast led by Sci-Fi stalwart, John Agar and the ultra hot, Mara Corday. The effects are quite good in this one and the subplot involving the experiments of the doctor who made the Tarantula is actually interesting. It's also fun to see Clint Eastwood as the Fighter Pilot who drops napalm on the Tarantula at the end! A good effort from Universal.
The Mole People(1957)-Mediocre effort with interesting plot, involves a few archaeologists who get stranded underground and discover a lost civilization of albinos(!) who have enslaved a race of mole people(!) and there growing rebellion. The Mole people are pretty cool looking but the film is burdened by a lack of action and a out of place, downbeat ending.
The Incredible Shrinking Man(1957)-The best film on the set and one of the best Science Fiction films ever made. Grant Williams is excellent as a man exposed to a strange radiation that causes him to shrink mysteriously. A thought provoking script by the great, Richard Matheson and surefire direction by Sci-Fi favorite, Jack Arnold combine to make this an all-time classic. Great effects, too!
The Monolith Monsters(1957)-The award for weirdest Monster concept goes to this moody thriller about mysterious rocks from space that have a life of there own, taking in the body fluids of people and turning them to stone. They also grow giant if exposed to water. Ooh-Oh. Surprisngly tense and well acted, this one is the sleeper of the set.
Monster on the Campus(1958)-Preposterous film has Doctor Arthur Franz recieve a Cyleocanth and finding that exposure to it's blood causes one to revert to a primordial state! So this includes a German Shepherd becoming a "wolf"(he's just wearing fangs, kids) a giant dragonfly and Franz turning into a ape man!(the same make-up that make-up artist recycled WAY too many times from Abbott and Costello Meet Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde(1952). Well directed and Franz is sympathetic, but strictly average.
Dr. Cyclops(1940)-Bizarre film that is totally out of place on this set. It's the only Color film. It's the only film not made by Universal(it's made by Paramount) and it's made in 1940! Why is it on here? Who knows. However, it IS an actual Science Fiction film as opposed to a Monster film and is actually pretty good. Albert Dekker makes a memorable mad scientist, experimenting with ways of shrinking people and animals. Great effects from the director of the original King Kong(1933). It's not a classic , but very entertaining little adventure film nonetheless.
Cult of the Cobra(1955)-Noir influences abound on this sleeper about American GIs who witness a strange ritual where beautiful women become cobras(!). The soldiers break up the cult and escape, only to have one of the lethal babes on there trail, picking them off one by one. Faith Domergue is gorgeous as the exotic femme fatale, but is not a great actress. Marshall Thompson, a vet of Sci-Fi classics, fares better. The romance between the two adds a level of tragedy to the film that keeps this Monster flick above average.
The Land Unknown(1955)-Universal makes there own "lost World: adventure flick with this entertaining little feature about a helicopter crew that crash land in an arctic jungle land, where dinosaurs lurk! The effects are fun and the acting is adequate(Though leading lady Shawn Smith should have STAYED a brunette. She was way younger looking in It, The Terror From Beyond Space(1958). The film never seems to gain any momentum, though and when compared to the best of it's type, remains just mediocre. The sets are cool, though and it looks nice in widescreen. Enjoyable, but no classic.
The Deadly Mantis(1957)-Very fun Monster Movie about a GIANT prehistoric Mantis unleashed from the ice in the Arctic attacking an army base and than Washington! The effects are first rate and some scenes are genuinely chilling(that scene with the Mantis appearing out of the fog, swallowing a bus on a road is right out of a nightmare) and the climax is a good one. The romantic sub-plot between Craig Stevens and Alix Talton is actually funny and enjoyable, rather than distracting. This is one of the more underrated Monster movies of the period.
The Leech Woman(1960)-Sort-of hilarious satire(in a way) on female vanity has Colleen Grey afraid of losing her looks, so she goes on a sfari to obtain a magic powder to make herself beautiful once more. However, it's only temporary and she needs blood to stay young! The actress is quite good in this, but the film never quite rises above it's material with the amount of drama and wit that could have made this a minor classic. In otherwords, it's just okay.
This is one fun set of Monster Movies and is reccomended to both B-Movie hecklers and serious genre fans, since there is a nice mixture of the two and both parties will have many pleasant surprises. Some may appear corny, others may feel dated, but the entertainment value has not diminshed from these classics one bit.
Buy the set and have fun!