The Unknown Terror – USA, 1957 – reviews

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‘They dared to enter the Cave of Hell to explore the secrets of Hell and find the…’

Unknown Terror – aka The Unknown Terror – is a 1957 American science fiction horror film directed by western specialist Charles Marquis Warren (Back from the Dead) from a screenplay by Kenneth Higgins (Ghosts on the Loose). The Emirau/Regal Films production stars John Howard, Mala Powers, Paul Richards and May Wynn.

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The mysterious disappearance of Jim Wheatley (Charles Gray), while exploring the “cave of the dead” near a Mexican village, brings his sister, Gina (Mala Powers), and her husband, Dan Matthews (John Howard), to the territory to search for him.

Embittered, crippled Pete Morgan (Paul Richards), insists on going along and reminds Dan that his condition is Dan’s fault since it happened in an accident in which Pete saved Dan’s life. Plus, Gina was Pete’s sweetheart before the accident.

Things become tense when native wife Concha (May Wynn) arranges for the men to be led to a place where they can hear the voices of the dead crying from beneath the earth and, while they are gone, a grotesque, demented man apparently covered with a foamy fungus attacks Gina and chases her into the jungle…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“We get the standard issue romantic triangle coupled with “the-natives-have-a-secret-and-are-restless” setup and enhanced by the “scientist-with-a-secret” plotline. Throw in a particularly disappointing monster that is only scary if the Scrubbing Bubbles terrify you, and you have an exercise in utterly routine science fiction/horror.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Yes, it’s just soap suds, and yes it takes an hour before the suds start foaming… but if you can get into it, you might find it enjoyable watching the stuff flow down from the cavern walls, into little rivers at the bottom, over the long-haired natives and other hapless victims […] I wished that the zombies had been featured earlier, and more often. But I was otherwise reasonably entertained.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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” …Unknown Terror is not a good film. However, it doesn’t miss the “fair to good” category by much. A sprinkling of lackluster performances and some missed plot opportunities might be forgiven, but the special monster effects that induce giggles instead of gasps are the final nail in the coffin.” Films from Beyond the Time Barrier

“The best part of the movie is the “fungus”. It is essentially soap bubbles and the evil creatures in the cave are just people covered in soap bubbles. I remember the creatures being kind of scary to me, but even then realizing they were pretty ridiculous. Of monster movies, The Unknown Terror isn’t much of one […] The movie isn’t very good and even as a child I knew it…” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects

” …singularly unimaginative trash […] includes Mala Powers (she runs through phoney foliage in flimsy negligees), John Howard (he climbs into the Cave of Death without even a flashlight) and Paul Richards (he watches the heavy bosom of Indian girl May Wynn). Now you know the real terror.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“Nothing new in the mixture but short enough to be entertaining, although the fungus itself looks like over-keen bubble bath.” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

“Warren directs briskly enough but the monsters are unintentionally hilariously funny – they are simply actors entirely covered in soap suds.” Phil Hardy, The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction

“In this variation of the mad doctor gambit, captives held in a cave are dosed with foaming, bubbling mold creatures. They wind up in a mess and so does the plot.” Variety, 1957

Cast and characters:

  • John Howard as Dan Matthews
  • Mala Powers as Gina Matthews
  • Paul Richards as Peter Morgan
  • Gerald Milton as Doctor Ramsey
    May Wynn as Concha Ramsey
    Duane Gray as Lino
    Gerald Gilden as Raoul Koom
    Sir Lancelot as Sir Lancelot (Zombies on Broadway; I Walked with a Zombie)
    Patrick O’Moore as Doctor Willoughby
    William Hamel as Mr. Trainor
    Charles Postal as Higgs the Butler
    Martin Garralaga as Old Villager
    Charles Gray as Jim Wheatley

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