Teenage Monster – USA, 1958 – reviews

‘Wild! Wanton! Weird!’

Teenage Monster is a 1958 American science-fiction horror feature film about a boy mutated by a meteorite who turns into a killer teenager.

Produced and directed by Jacques R. Marquette (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman; The Brain from Planet Arous) from a screenplay written by Ray Buffum (Island of Lost Women; The Brain from Planet Arous) in 1957 and released 8th January 1958.

The movie stars Anne Gwynne (House of Frankenstein; The Black Cat; Black Friday), Stuart Wade (Monster from the Ocean Floor), Gloria Castillo (Invasion of the Saucer Men; The Night of the Hunter), Chuck Courtney and Gil Perkins (Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941; Mummy’s Boys; King Kong 1933); Howco International distributed it in the USA. It was also shown on TV as Meteor Monster

Jack P. Pierce created the teenage monster makeup. The soundtrack score was composed by Walter Greene (War of the Satellites; The Brain from Planet Arous and many Pink Panther Show cartoons such as The Inspector in Transylvania Mania).

Plot:

In 1880, a young boy named Charles is exposed to the effects of a meteorite and becomes a wild, hairy mutated teenage monster. Meanwhile, after discovering a vein of gold in their family mine, Charles’ mother Ruth hides him in her new house and tries to stop his murderous ways…

Review:

Like its most memorable line – “This is no time for hysterics; there’s a killer terrorizing this town” – this drive-in also-ran is one long non-sequitur. The title suggests a conflation of two of the most popular trends in Fifties cinema – juvenile delinquency and science fiction – but what transpires is a primitive creature feature in western duds, with the titular tearaway played by a fifty-year-old stuntman in a fright wig, hairy gloves and bad teeth; a rebel with claws, if you will.

Seven years previously, in 1880, young Charles was injured in a meteorite strike, which killed his father and afflicted the boy with an unexplained mutation. So far, so sci-fi, but the fireball (actually, it would seem, a children’s sparkler) is the extent of the film’s dalliance with the genre.

The rest of the plot is taken up with the efforts of Ruth, Charles’ mother, to keep her hulking offspring’s existence a secret, not easy when he repeatedly sneaks out (in the daytime) for adolescent high jinks, from killing cattle to throttling passers-by. Then the bitchy waitress Kathy discovers the truth, blackmailing Ruth and manipulating Charles’ undeveloped affections.

If the film-makers were hoping to elicit sympathy for the eponymous man-child and his jealousy of mom’s new boyfriend, the town sheriff (played by Stuart Wade), this is dashed by the sheer zaniness of the premise.

This has the giant actor Gil Perkins, already burdened by comical creature make-up (this was a bad day at the office for Jack P. Pierce, who had designed Frankenstein’s monster for Universal since the Thirties), communicating in muffled grunts and groans (somehow his mother and the minxy Kathy can understand him), interspersed with the occasional intelligible word. “No Charles, don’t talk like that,” rails Ruth during one of his diatribes, and Perkins probably wished he hadn’t been obliged to.

Appearing in Teenage Monster perhaps hastened the retirement plans of Anne Gwynne, a minor star in the Forties, whose displays of maternal devotion as Ruth are nevertheless persuasive. The real star, in a film, predicated, at least in the title, on youthful petulance, is twenty-year-old Gloria Castillo as Kathy, who turns on a dime from demure to devious, ensnaring the love-struck Charles with her doe eyes one minute; flashing them maliciously at Ruth the next. Whether venting her spleen or trilling coquettishly – “You love me, Charles? More than you love your mother…?” – she is far more frightening than the wolfman-like protagonist, who is a far cry from the “teenage titan of terror” proclaimed by the posters.

Kevin Grant, MOVIES & MANIA

Buy DVD: Amazon.com

Other reviews:

“It was initially felt that Charles sounded way too articulate for a mentally challenged moron, so the decision was made to have Gil Perkins loop in some hysterically stupid whimpers and whines that never match the filmed lip movements. Even funnier is the fact that Anne Gwynne and Gloria Castillo still appear to be able to make sense of every grunt he mumbles!” DVD Drive-In

“The same four interior sets carry the entire film, and exterior scenes frequently jump from day to night. Marquette’s action direction is terrible. The people on horseback ride as if they had their first lesson half an hour before. Plodding from event to event, the film barely holds our attention.” DVD Savant

“There’s actually a whole lot of plot and side-plots, some of them unseemly (particularly for the 1950s), but you won’t care. The monster is involved in a lot of long dialogues, even though he’s become a moron and is unintelligible. There’s some truly laughable bad lines and some bad line readings as well.” Down Among the Z Movies

” …the movie fumbles the idea on practically every level; the direction by cinematographer Jacques R. Marquette shows a total lack of good judgment, the actors and actresses have no chemistry with each other, and the performances range from the merely adequate to the stunningly awful, and the script is full of howlingly bad lines.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

” …if the idea of a mashup of so many different genres sounds interesting, well, you’re probably wrong.  But it isn’t too painful, and worth a look if you want to be able to say you’ve seen it.” Rivets on the Poster

” …the atypical setting helps offset the crummy “Monster”.  I have to say I haven’t seen too many horror westerns (other than Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula), but this is a pretty good one.  Plus, at only 65 minutes, it moves pretty fast and is a fairly amusing slice of 50s cheese.” The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:

Sheriff Bob Lehman: “I don’t know whether it’s a monster or not but there’s a killer loose. A killer that kills without reason.”

Cast and characters:

  • Anne Gwynne … Ruth Cannon
  • Stuart Wade … Sheriff Bob Lehman
  • Gloria Castillo … Kathy North
  • Chuck Courtney … Marv Howell (as Charles Courtney)
  • Gil Perkins … Charles Cannon (as Gilbert Perkins)
  • Norman Leavitt … Deputy Ed
  • Gabe Mooradian … Fred Fox
  • Stephen Parker … Charles Cannon as a Boy
  • Jim McCullough Sr. … Jim Cannon (as Jim McCullough)
  • Frank Davis … Man on Street
  • Arthur Berkeley … Man with Burro

Technical details:

  • 65 minutes
  • Black and white
  • Aspect ratio:  1.85: 1
  • Audio: Mono

Other taglines:

‘A teenage titan of terror on a lustful binge!’

Trivia:

  • Cinematographer Jacques R. Marquette needed a very inexpensive feature to fill out the bottom of a double-feature package with the previously shot The Brain from Planet Arous (1957). Marquette kept production costs as low as possible by shooting the picture himself and hiring an inexpensive director. However, the day before principal photography was to begin, the director quit the production, after apparently being offered a fourteen-week contract by a major studio. Marquette had no time–or money–to hire another director, so he took over the job himself, making this his only film as director
  • The original title was Monster on the Hill and the shooting title was Meteor Monster. When it was released to U.S. television, the title was changed back to Meteor Monster for the television syndication prints.

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