The Hideous Sun Demon is a 1958 American science fiction horror feature film written, produced and directed by actor Robert Clarke.
In his 1996 autobiography To ‘B’ or Not to ‘B‘ (co-written by Tom Weaver), Clarke revealed that he made the movie for less than $50,000, including $500 for the rubberised lizard suit he wore. He shot the movie over twelve weekends to get two days’ use of rental camera equipment for one day’s fee.
The movie was featured in the 1982 satire It Came from Hollywood and with Clarke’s permission was re-dubbed as the 1983 comedy Revenge of the Sun Demon aka What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon featuring the voice of Jay Leno and new scenes starring veteran voice actor Cam Clarke reprising his father’s role with the nuclear accident origin turned into a mishap with an experimental sun tan lotion.
A book, Scripts from the Crypt: ‘The Hideous Sun Demon by Tom Weaver, was published in 2011.
When research scientist Doctor Gilbert McKenna falls unconscious after accidentally being exposed to radiation during an experiment with a new radioactive isotope, he is rushed to a nearby hospital. Attending physician Doctor Stern is surprised to find that Gil shows no signs of burns typical to a five-minute exposure to radiation and informs Gil’s co-workers, lab assistant Ann Lansing and scientist Doctor Buckell, that he will keep the patient for several days of observation.
Meanwhile, Gil is taken to the solarium to receive the sun’s healing rays, but while he naps, the sun’s rays metamorphose Gil into a scaled creature, horrifying the other patients. Seeing his own skin, Gil flees to the bathroom to confront his new appearance.
Later, Stern explains Gil’s affliction to Lansing and Buckell: Humans have evolved from a chain of living beings beginning with one-celled organisms that progressed into fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and finally humans. Stern assumes that the radiation poisoning has caused a reversal of evolution changing Gil into a prehistoric amphibian and that the catalyst for the regression is sunlight.
“ …Hideous is a Z-er with good intentions and some solid results; the makeup on the demon is quite effective, meant to resemble a lizard, but coming out more bedrock than bedeviled. But it works and the seams don’t show, which is a micro-miracle unto itself.” Daily Dead
“Another classic 1950s monster movie with Robert Clarke as a scientist who becomes a lizard when exposed to the rays of the sun. Ultra-cheap, with a highlighted scene of Clarke transforming while fighting a man outdoors as a blonde woman from an apartment building above looks in the sky and acts terrified.” DVD Drive-In
“Unfortunately, the cut-rate production values make the Sun Demon a poor cousin to his cinematic antecedents. To make matters worse, the film spends far too much of its short 74 minute runtime on dull scientific exposition and clunky dialog, while showing the hideous monster only sparingly until the denouement.” Films from Beyond the Time Barrier
“The Hideous Sun Demon is a lot of fun; it’s campy, sexy, and is probably best enjoyed with a few adult beverages on hand – yet the film has an interesting subtext that makes it almost (if not quite) on a par with similar sci-fi classics from its era, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Libertas Film Magazine
“Wordy dialogue, poor acting, uneven photography and substandard sound all add to the disadvantage of a hopelessly illogical plot.” Monthly Film Bulletin
“The Hideous Sun Demon is usually spoken of in dismissive terms but is a film that has some undeniable promise, even if never fully transcending the B-budget ghetto. The makeup on the transformed Clarke looks effective and for once does not belie the ‘hideous’ promise of the title. The script though seems to have little clue what evolution is.” Moria
Buy The Hideous Sun Demon: The Original Screenplay from Amazon.com
“Some might laugh at this film, and perhaps it deserves a little for its cheap production values and whatnot, but at the end of the day it is a solid little science-fiction film that never fails to entertain.” The Telltale Mind
” …has the benefit of a pretty convincing monster and a solid performance by Clarke, but little else. Despite showing the creature rather early, Clarke doesn’t turn the beast loose into much later in the picture. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but most of the scenes that take place in between the monster’s appearances play like a grade Z soap opera.” The Video Vacuum
Cast and characters:
Robert Clarke … Doctor Gilbert McKenna
Patricia Manning … Ann Russell
Nan Peterson … Trudy Osborne
Patrick Whyte … Doctor Frederick Buckell
Fred La Porta … Doctor Jacob Hoffman
Peter Similuk … George Messorio
William White … Police Lt. Peterson (as Bill Hampton)
Robert Garry … Doctor Stern
Donna King … Suzy’s Mother
Xandra Conkling … Suzy
Del Courtney … Radio Deejay
Richard Cassarino … Barfly / Man on Beach with Kids / Policeman (as Cass Richards)
Boarding House, Lafayette Park Ave., Los Angeles, California (interiors: McKenna home)
Long Beach, California
Santa Monica, California (bar)
Signal Hill, California (oil fields and gas storage tank)
Trancas Beach, Malibu, California(beach)
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1