‘New horrors! mad science spawns evil fiends!’
Fiend Without a Face is a 1958 British science fiction horror film directed by Arthur Crabtree (Horrors of the Black Museum) and produced by John Croydon (The Projected Man; First Man Into Space; Grip of the Strangler).
The film’s screenplay by Herbert J. Leder (director of It! and The Frozen Dead) was based upon Amelia Reynolds Long’s 1930 short story entitled “The Thought Monster”, originally published in Weird Tales magazine.
The story is set on an American airbase in rural Manitoba, Canada. Mysterious deaths begin to occur in the small town near the base, and post-mortems reveal that the brains and spinal cords of the victims are somehow missing; only marks on each victim’s neck are left as a clue. But the locals become convinced that nuclear fallout from radiation at the base is causing the strange deaths.
Jeff Cummings, an Air Force major, soon becomes suspicious of Professor Walgate, a British scientist living near the airbase, who has succeeded in developing telekinesis. The nuclear power experiments at the nearby base have enhanced it well beyond his intentions, and in the process created a new, malevolent, invisible life form that has developed its own intelligence and escaped his laboratory.
This intelligence soon begins to multiply its numbers by claiming more local victims. These creatures later become visible while continuing to feed on the higher levels of power now being generated at the airbase. Their mutated “bodies” are revealed to be the missing, now enlarged brains and connected spinal cords removed from their victims; the spinal cords have become very flexible and have sprouted feelers. These mutations allow the creatures to move quickly and even to leap; each brain has also developed a pair of small eyes on extended eyestalks…
” … the climax is a moment where the film reaches a kitsch lunacy. The truly bizarre image of the military besieged in the house by stop-motion animated brains hopping around on their spinal columns and being shot down in a series of quite (for then) gory b&w meltdown effects reaches a real pulp science-fiction intensity.” Moria
Attack from Planet B review: ‘…use of stop-motion animation, combined with the underlying political overtones, make Fiend Without a Face something of a rarity in 1950′s British cinema. A monster film with a great cast, a solid plot and excellent special effects…’
BlogCritics.org review: “From George Romero’s barricaded zombie holocaust survivors to J.J. Abrams’ series Fringe, the influence of Fiend Without a Face keeps rearing its wrinkled little head, hungry for brains and still giving the jitters to my inner eight-year-old.”
DVD Savant: “Although none of the action is particularly well-staged, an every-shot-a-new-monster feeling of panic takes over for a minute or so as bouncing, disgusting brain monsters assault the cringing humans from all sides. This ending has kept fans happy for 40 years, it’s true, but it’s no masterpiece as claimed by Criterion. The amusing animation is nowhere near the quality of Ray Harryhausen even during his high-school fairy tale years.”
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“The climax, where the brains smash their way into the house and attack the occupants, has a genuine nightmarish quality, and the special effects, featuring some clever stop-motion photography by Puppel Nordhoff and Peter Nielsen, are first-rate.” John Brosnan, Future Tense: The Cinema of Science Fiction, St. Martin’s Press, 1978
Cast and characters:
- Marshall Thompson as Major Jeff Cummings
- Kynaston Reeves as Professor R. E. Walgate
- Michael Balfour as Sergeant Kasper
- Kim Parker as Barbara Griselle
- Terry Kilburn as Captain Al Chester
- Gil Winfield as Captain Warren, M.D.
- Shane Cordell as a nurse
- Stanley Maxted as Colonel G. Butler
- James Dyrenforth as Mayor Hawkins
- Kerrigan Prescott as an atomic engineer