Movie Review: Beast from Haunted Cave

(1959)
Directed by Monte Hellman
Starring Michael Forest, Sheila Carol, Frank Wolfe, Wally Campo, Chris Robinson

I’m a sucker for monster movies from the ‘50s, and even more so when the creature is like something we’ve never seen before. Nothing against all the vampires and werewolves out there, but it is always refreshing to see something new and unique show up on the screen, showing how creative the filmmakers could be, especially with little or no money. That alone would be enough of a reason to watch this film. The fact that is actually decent story, well-acted, and well shot, is just bonus points. It’s a real shame that while a ton of the ‘50s monster flicks get remembered and discussed over and over, this one seems to be forgotten or at least not mentioned too often. Which is a damn shame, and why I decided I needed get a review of it posted now!

The story is about a trio of crooks, with the leader’s drunk girlfriend alone for the ride, planning a bank heist in one of the snow-covered small towns in South Dakotas, near the Black Hills. The plan is to set off a bomb inside one of the local caves, and while the whole town is out investigating that, they rob the bank of some of the gold its holding. They hire a local to give them ski lessons and plan on taking a trip into the mountains to their guide’s cabin, while in reality it would be to wait for their plane ride to pick them up. Of course, with the title being what it is, you know they will be running into something nasty while in the caves.

This was the first feature for cult filmmaker Monte Hellman, which might have been a little lowbrow for what direction he would be going, but he gives the film a little style than what we might have expected in a low budget film from that era. Produced by Gene and Roger Corman, and written by Charles B. Griffith, we get a simple story that has been used more than a few times but is played out well enough to make it a lot more memorable than it sadly is these days.

Michael Forest plays the hero, Gil, the local ski instruction that has enjoying life more of a priority those city folks seem to have. While he’s hired by these outsiders, it doesn’t take him long to realize something else is going on. Forest started in a few of the low budgeted films but worked steady since the ‘60s, even working on a ton of Japanese video games and anime, doing the English dubbed versions.

Sheila Noonan plays the drunken, ex-dancer (aka prostitute), and girlfriend of the leader of the gang. She only appeared in four films, three for Corman and one for Jerry Warren (The Incredible Petrified World, 1959). She makes it a little difficult to be that shallow of a character only to decide she’s going to fly straight and help their guide turn tables on the crooks.

Frank Wolff plays the leader of the gang, would move to Italy in the ‘60s and have a pretty successful career, appearing in a bunch of westerns and crime dramas, including Luciano Ercoli’s giallo, Death Walks on High Heels (1971), before taking his life the same year, at the age of 43 years old. Damn shame because he was a great actor.

Chris Robinson plays an extra at the bar the gang is hanging around, but he also created and played the titular terror of the title! Robinson would later star as the main lead in William Grefé’s Stanley (1972). It is the creature, after all, why we are here. Robinson created something very different than most monsters. While there are one or two shots where they super-imposed it over the background, which looks exactly like you think it would, the other shots are highly effective. The creature is sort of like a giant spider but is something different as well. To me, this is worth a watch alone, but as it turns out the rest of the movie is pretty good too!

You don’t see too many movies coming out of South Dakota, my birth state, especially in the ‘60s, so this one holds a special place for me. The fact that it’s a pretty entertaining monster flick makes it even better. Check it out. I think you’ll feel the same.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Beast from Haunted Cave

  1. I like how you enjoyed a movie that has most have forgotten, especially with with strong acting. The budget may have been low since there was no CGI or special effects back then. But the film still sounds interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to see this BEAST getting some love. It’s also an underrated fave of mine, and I offer up an indepth assessment / history of the film in my new SKI FILMS book (because, well, it’s a ski movie as well as a monster flick, lol).

    Liked by 2 people

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