The story behind The Crawling Eye was originally released in 1956 as an episode of a UK television program called “Saturday Serial.” Director Quentin Lawrence then decided to make a full-length, black and white film version, which was released in 1958.
Both the television episode “The Trollenberg Terror” and its film adaptation follow the same premise:
Three students are climbing in the mountains around Trollenberg when one of them is mysteriously decapitated and killed.
Meanwhile, two sisters are traveling by train to Geneva. One of the sisters passes out, and when she wakes up she has somehow gained a wealth of knowledge about Trollenberg and about the accident at the mountain. She had previously worked in London as part of a mind-reading act, and she’s known for her spooky powers of the mind. She insists that their train journey must end at Trollenberg rather than going on to Geneva, and her sister hesitantly agrees.
There’s definitely something odd about the mountains, as locals including Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell) can attest to. There have been a number of climbing accidents on the mountain, but the bodies of the victims are never found.
Professor Crevett, along with sisters Sarah (Jennifer Jayne) and Anne (Janet Munro) and helpful train passenger Alan (Forrest Tucker), seek to find out exactly what type of monster is lurking in the mountains of Trollenberg.
I have an incredible soft spot for ’50s sci-fi, the cheesier the better, so I went into this film expecting to love it. I was also hopeful for it based on the fact that it was mocked by MST3K years after its release. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a dud in comparison to the corny greatness that I expected from it… but it’s still a decent watch.
The opening scene has some of the funniest screams, terrified declarations and overacted emotion that I’ve ever seen or heard in a film. This is an absolutely delightful way to kick off a piece of ’50s schlock. The opening credits are pretty great, too, full of geometric shapes that are trying so hard to be modern and cool. I was hoping this would set the tone for the film, but everything went slightly downhill from there.
The Crawling Eye seems like a few different films tossed in a blender: one true sci-fi where monsters take over, one psychological sci-fi about mind control and a crime drama about decapitated murder victims. Poor Trollenberg, enduring so much terror!
Unfortunately, the viewer can feel very little sympathy for Trollenberg. Despite the story-mixing, which should pack the film with action, The Crawling Eye drags on and on. Clocking in at 84 minutes, I felt like I was watching the film for three hours because it was so slow.
Pace can really make or break a “creepy monster terrorizing the town” film, and in combination with a serious lack of suspense here, it definitely brought the film down.
The Crawling Eye may be worth a watch if you’re working your way through the films that inspired MST3K or if you’re on a mission to watch as many ’50s sci-fi films as possible (which is the reason I don’t personally regret watching it). If you’re looking for a real hidden gem of the genre, though, The Crawling Eye is one that can be skipped. The score: 1.5/5