A strange bullet-shaped object smashes into the desert, and soon birds, the family dog, and farm animals go berserk and begin terrorizing Paul Birch, his shrewish wife, their affable teenage daughter and her boyfriend, and the neighborhood yahoos. The comic relief is killed by a cow, and the mentally-handicapped handyman (a rarity in a non-Sam Katzman film) is controlled by the alien intelligence as well. Can humankind survive?!?!?
Oh, I could talk about this movie for HOURS. Maybe YEARS.
After giving Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson The Fast and the Furious and Five Guns West, Roger Corman was asked for a science-fiction movie; Nicholson had coughed up the name The Unseen but that tested so poorly that he scrawled The Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes and sketched out the poster (shown on Blu-ray above). Based on whom you believe, the budget was somewhere between $23,000 and $29,000; because it was a scab film, Corman kept his name off it (David Kramarsky, one of Corman's pals, got the credit). In the grand scheme of things, probably okay for Roger to stay anonymous if he did indeed direct this thing, which is shabby and cheap and yet has something about it that's rather winning. The darn thing isn't a good movie, but it's a SINCERE one. Much of the running time concerns family drama between Birch, unhappy wife Lorna Thayer, and restless daughter Dona Cole; the handyman is creepy beyond words, and nobody seems to notice; the "space ship" is trying to attract victims into it, but it's shown to only come up to the Paul Birch's waist, and the ship's up on what appear to be paint cans (it looks like, and probably was, some sort of coffee pot). The "beast" was originally not shown, but when exhibitors balked after a preview, Corman was given about $250 to add monster footage; he got Paul Blaisdell to make him a puppet with tentacles and big fangs (but only two eyes). The musical score is classical standards blaring too loudly and at inopportune moments.
Some of these people went on to bigger and better things; Miss Thayer was the waitress whom Jack Nicholson suggested hold the chicken salad between her knees; the daughter's deputy/boy friend is Dick "The OTHER Darren" Sargent; Art Direct Art Ruddy won an Oscar for The Godfather(!). Oh, and Chester Conklin is one of the doomed townsfolk.
Wife: "Such a lovely day outside. Much too nice for all these crazy animal revolutions."
The film was a hit but Sam 'n' Jim realized they weren't making enough money by supplying the bottom half of double features, and made the corporate decision to produce two co-features for their next sci-fi offering, and before long they'd restructed American Releasing Corporation as American International Pictures and big things were ahead.
The new Blu-ray boasts a new HD master that looks terrific with robust sound, really a stunning presentation. Tim Lucas provides a very interesting, fact-filled commentary track, and the extras include a rather beat-up trailer for Beast and nearly a half-hour's worth of United Artists sci-fi and horror trailers of the 1950s that look great.
The Beast is nobody's idea of a great picture, but it's fun in that 1950s B&W low-budget sci-fi way, and this new Blu-ray is terrific. Highly recommended. You can order it from Ronin Flix.