Directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Produced by Al Zimbalist
Written by Endre Bohem & Louis Vittes
Director Of Photography: Ray Flin
Music by Albert Glasser
Cast: Jim Davis (Dr. Quent Brady), Robert Griffin (Dan Morgan), Joel Fluellen (Arobi), Barbara Turner (Lorna Lorentz), Eduardo Ciannelli (Mahri), Vladimir Sokoloff (Dr. Lorentz)
A wasp hitches a ride into space on an experimental rocket, grows to mammoth size upon returning to earth and starts chomping on natives near the rocket’s African crash site. A team of scientists lead by Jim Davis heads to the Green Hell region to investigate — and finds a giant queen wasp and her colony.
Monster From Green Hell (1957) is a typical blend of stock footage (from 1939’s Stanley And Livingstone), pseudo-science dialogue, location work at Bronson Caves and decent special effects to create a fun entry in the 50s Big Bug sub-genre. It’s wonderful. (Why do I love movies like this so much?)
Producer Al Zimbalist had already done Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953), Robot Monster (1953) and King Dinosaur (1955). He would later give us Don Siegel’s Baby Face Nelson (1957) and Young Dillinger (1964). My kinda guy.
The giant wasps were built by the great Paul Blaisdell, without credit (or payment, according to Blaisdell). The stop-motion work by Gene Warren is quite good. The miniatures and full-size effects cut together pretty well.
Jim Davis narrates, smokes a lot of cigarettes and figures out how to kill off the great big wasps (while wearing an odd safari outfit to match Spencer Tracy in the Stanley And Livingstone footage), but the picture’s acting honors probably go to Joel Fluellen. Director Kenneth Crane was an editor making a career move here. DP Ray Flin shot hundreds of TV shows — this is one of his few features. And the score by Albert Glasser is up to his usual standards.
Distributed by DCA, Monster From Green Hell played theaters and drive-ins paired with Half-Human (1955), a Toho picture directed by Ishirō Honda. DCA’s American version added footage with John Carradine and Morris Ankrum — would you expect anything else?
The Film Detective folks have done their usual fine work on this one. It looks great, offered up in both the 1.85 and 1.33 aspect ratios. While it would’ve played theaters at 1.85, the 1.33 version gives us a little better peek at the monsters. I really liked seeing a line or two from the original print. They’re never distracting, and they’re gone in a few seconds, but to me that’s part of what film look like.
Monster From Green Hell played in its original run with a tinted climax — about two minutes. Since I’d only seen it on TV and VHS tape, with the ending in B&W, it was great to see the sequence restored here. What was shocking is that while the dying wasp shots are tinted red, the scenes with the actors are in full color! [Glenn Erickson, Robert Furmanek and Jack Theakston get to the bottom of this tinted vs. color business here.]
Of course, The Film Detective never holds back on the extras, and here we get a nice featurette on Jim Davis from C. Courtney Joyner, a commentary by Stephen Bissette and a nice booklet with an essay by Don Stradley.
It’s an excellent package all-around. For fans of this kind of thing, it comes highly, highly recommended.
One last thing: They say the wonderful Horrible Hamilton toy from 1964, which gave youngsters giant toy bugs and army men to feed to them, was based on the wasps in Monster From Green Hell. I always wanted one.