THE CYCLOPS (1957)
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Warner Archive Collection


In the 1950s, cinemagoers were treated to a huge ensemble of giant monster movies, which at this point in time, seemed to be at their peak. Most of these big screen creatures were created by the atomic bomb, while others were released from their tomb after hibernating for millions of years. Drive-ins were packed with fans dying to be either scared or entertained by large creatures of destruction in films ranging from GODZILLA to THEM to THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. These were the good “classic” monster movies. The stories were coherent, the effects were fantastic and the monsters had characteristics of their own, as they were given life by some of the best effects people in the business (such as Ray Harryhausen and Eiji Tsuburaya).

In the midst of all these great ones, *B* films containing monsters, now known as the popcorn movies (they're all popcorn movies to be honest) were also being produced. Filmed on miniscule budgets with brief running times and average to below average effects, these films also generated a large population of the monster movie audience. And to this very day, these lower budgeted efforts are still beloved by thousands of fans all across the world. The two biggest pioneers of the nickel and dime film making during this era were Roger Corman and the man who made the movie I am now discussing: Bert I. Gordon. Many of you may know Mr. Gordon’s work on films such as KING DINOSAUR, BEGINNING OF THE END, FOOD OF THE GODS, NECROMANCY and THE MAGIC SWORD (among countless others).

Bert I. Gordon – known as Mr. BIG in some circles – was quite similar to Roger Corman in terms of their filmmaking style (at least during the 1950s), but the big difference was Bert was not only writing and directing the picture, but doing the special effects work on them as well. Corman was more into themes and deep thinking characters (as shown in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD and TEENAGE CAVEMAN), while Gordon was more into making a simple story with the main focus on the monster and the effects work. Arguably, Gordon’s biggest and most well known films are THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. These achieved big heights for Mr. BIG, but before these two were even made, a lesser known effort containing an oversized mutilated man was unleashed to drive-ins by Allied Artists: THE CYCLOPS.

Released in 1957, just before AIP's COLOSSAL MAN, the plot of THE CYCLOPS is farily simple. Susan Winters (Gloria Talbot, GIRLS TOWN, I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, THE LEECH WOMAN) is in search of her long lost fiancé, Bruce Barton (more on him later), and is able to get together a scouting party to do so. She hires pilot Lee Brand (Tom Drake), scientist friend Russ Bradford (top-billed James Craig, THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER, THE REVENGE OF DR. X, THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE) and the overzealous Marty Melville, played by the late GREAT Lon Chaney Jr. Chaney is of course an absolute legend among horror and cult movie buffs, and his role here as Marty is just so vile; he plays an absolute self centered nut that gets more and more batty and greedy as the film marches along.

The group takes a small plane and flies to some remote place in Mexico where the fiancé was last seen. There they encounter a number of massively overgrown animals (snakes, rats, lizards, etc.) and finally the titular Cyclops. The Cyclops was played by Duncan “Dean” Parkin who went on to be the Colossal Beast the following year and his voice (or rather his growls, moans and snores) were done by none other than Paul Frees. This enormously mutated creature turns out to be Bruce Barton, and like the animals, he's grown to massive proportions due to the incredible amount of radiation that is in the area. Marty thinks its uranium and wants to quickly fly out with his findings, but they soon discover that it's actually radiation. Knowing Bruce is the Cyclops, Susan realizes there is nothing more they can do, deciding that the expedition is over and it’s time to go home. They divert the Cyclops (including a shocking – at the time scene of a piece of wood spearing his one eye) and return home in the grand finale.

THE CYCLOPS may not be Bert’s best or most well known effort, but it’s still 66 minutes of harmless fun with giant monsters, great dialog and Bert’s charmingly cheesy effects. As many of have waited patiently for an official DVD of the film, it now arrives as an MOD release from the Warner Archive Collection. Previously available on VHS through Thriller Video (and hosted by Elvira) as well as the bootleg DVD-R copies sold on eBay and other markets, Warner gives us the film in an attractive remastered widescreen (1.78:1) anamorphic transfer. The black and white image is sharp and mostly clean, aside from some dirt and debris mostly on display during optical effects. The mono English audio is pretty good, with only a few pops here and there. One drawback is that here the presentation is slightly trimmed, as a scene where the Cyclops removes a spear from his bloody eye and cries, is not to be found in this “definitive” version.

Overall, if you are a fan of this film or a fan of Mr. BIG, I’d say this is a no-brainer. I purchased it when it was on sale for $13.96 and at this writing, it’s still on sale for 30% off. A lot of people complain that Warner charges too much for their MOD offerings and they have a point, but when you’re getting a remastered widescreen edition, in certain cases, I’ll make the exception. But moving forward, Warner should at least have some quality control and make certain these releases are fully uncut, even if it’s only a matter of seconds that are missing, and it wouldn’t hurt if there were some extras once in a while (in the case of this title, we would have loved to have seen a video interview with Mr. BIG himself). (David Steigman)

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