The Neanderthal Man (1953)
With Dr. Jekyll nowhere in sight, we have a low budget substitute named Professor Groves dabbling in things best left alone.
Available on a double feature blu ray disc through Scream Factory (alongside The Beast of Hollow Mountain) our film begins with some stock footage of the High Sierras with no gangster by the name of Roy Earle in camera range. We do have a nasty Tiger with a set of saber tooth teeth terrorizing a hunter. Sounds like a tall tale to the locals.
Taking up the lead role is Robert Shayne as an arrogant Prof. caught up in his work and alienating those around him like his fiance Doris Merrick and daughter Joyce Terry. When he brings news of his findings to a board of science Professors they show nothing but disbelief in his outrageous claims. Claims of man and animal being pushed back in time through serums and needles to creatures long extinct. Hence the little kitty cat turned into a large saber toothed tiger.
“This is my cross. The penalty of being born into an era of little men!”
Out storms our good Doctor and back to the lab.
Into the area comes another scientist played by Richard Crane who at first doubts all those claiming to have seen the big cat. His tune changes after he and another hunter take the big cat down. The stock footage quickly changes from a roaming tiger to a large fuzzy stuffed animal with oversized fangs.
It’s budget restraints like these that forever make this genre of film good for a chuckle. That and the obscene amount of ham the actors throw at the camera in their overacting. A special award should be given to Miss Merrick for just that thanks to her confrontational scene with the mad Prof. who she wants to marry but knows it isn’t meant to be.
He’s already married to his work like any respectful nut in a white smock. Now it’s time to inject himself to see what his magic serum can do to a man. What we get is a set classic slow motion shots where man turns to beast. Or in this case an early prototype for a Planet of the Apes mask?
The most risqué scene of the film comes along when young and beautiful Beverly Garland comes stumbling in out of the woods looking like she’s been pawed and manhandled. Through the hysterics she tells Crane, “It was more animal then man. He chased me and then he………….” I’ll let you fill in the blanks.
At 78 minutes this is a fast moving drive in special that plays out according to the customs of all those Jekyll and Hyde type of movies that have come before and since. It’s a slice of silly fun fifties style with screaming beauties and a man behind a mask wreaking terror on the countryside.
This E.A Dupont effort would serve as solid training ground for Miss Garland as she would go on to be featured in other fifties fare with like minded titles. 56’s It Conquered The World, 57’s Not of This Earth and the 1959 thriller The Alligator People.
Special thanks to credited writers Audrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen for the customary Jekyll like fade out line……”He tampered with things beyond his province… beyond what any man should do… and if it was madness, well… those whom the gods would destroy… they first make mad! “