THE UNEARTHLY (1957) Reviews and overview

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‘Lured! – to the house of monsters… no escape from’

The Unearthly is a 1957 science-fiction horror film produced and directed by Boris Petroff [as Brooke L. Peters] (Anatomy of a Psycho) from a screenplay co-written by Jane Mann and John D.F. Black, with characters originally created by Edward D. Wood Jr. (director of Plan 9 from Outer Space; Night of the Ghouls; Bride of the Monster; Glen or Glenda; et al).

The AB-PT Pictures production stars horror icon John CarradineAllison Hayes, Myron Healy, Sally Todd, Marilyn Buferd and Tor Johnson.

The soundtrack score was composed by Henry Vars (House of the Damned; Womanhunt; The Leech Woman; Love Slaves of the Amazons). Carradine’s character also plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor.


At his psychiatric institute, Doctor Charles Conway (John Carradine) is experimenting with artificial glands to try to create longevity but instead, he creates hideous mutants. Along with his henchman Lobo (Tor Johnson), Doctor Conway sets his sights on an undercover cop determined to end his parade of monsters and madness…


“It was designed to be little more than background noise for teenagers, but it’s better than that thanks to its mile-a-minute plot and some neat make-up effects; the gruesome aftermath of Todd’s botched operation […] is particularly effective thanks to the work of make-up man, Harry Thomas, an unheralded workhorse who laboured on countless of this kind of movies.” 20/20 Movie Reviews

“Harry Thomas’ makeup work on Dr Conway’s hideously deformed human guinea pigs is the only worthwhile aspect of The Unearthly.” AllMovie

” …managed to keep me reasonably entertained for 70 minutes. Not that it’s particularly good, and it’s certainly not original, but it’s also not without merit. The acting is uneven, but passable, for the most part, the science is silly, there are a few (unintentionally) hilarious moments, the make-up FX work from Harry Thomas is good and the Island of Doctor Moreau-inspired shock finale is surprisingly potent after a slow build-up.” The Bloody Pit of Horror

“One of the great cheesy movies from the era of drive-ins and “B” flicks. John Carradine stars as a mad scientist who recruits sick people for secret experiments — he’s invented a new gland — which invariably turns them into freaks and zombies. Tor Johnson, best known for his roles in Ed Wood‘s films, plays Lobo the lumbering lab assistant, and sexy Allison Hayes (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) stars as the doctor’s latest find. Don’t miss the creepy final two minutes!” Combustible Celluloid

” …actually very watchable due to its fun cast and interesting assortment of oddities occurring in a typical house on a hill (complete with mad scientist lab and basement torture chamber/prison). Aside from Carradine (who hams it up to the hilt and plays spooky organ music for his dinner guests), there’s also the hulking Tor Johnson as Lobo, a carryover “idiot servant” character from several Ed Wood films.” DVD Drive-In

Tor Johnson is even given a few dialogue lines, but he’s not all that interesting, and neither are the ‘shocking’ makeups of Dr Conway’s victims. Sally Todd’s pasty wrinkles look exactly like what they are, something applied to her face in a big hurry. The bunch of overweight, hairy monsters left behind in his basement would be more appropriate if Conway were trying to create cavemen, not immortals.” DVD Talk

Allison Hayes does little more than fill out her costumes; she seems bored here, and for a woman who is supposed to be dealing with issues of fear, she never comes across as anything but bland. The movie mostly feels like a weak imitation of The Black Sleep […] A couple of creepy moments do help things, and Harry Fleer’s twitchy zombie is somewhat reminiscent of Herk Harvey’s character in Carnival of Souls.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“The various makeups were designed by 1950s effects artist Harry Thomas, and they are notable, even though they resemble the creatures from The Island of Lost Souls to a certain extent. One wishes more had been made of this motley group–they are only shown at the very end, and they do nothing but aimlessly lurch about. It would have made perfect sense for Carradine to get his just deserts at the hands of these creatures–or have them engage in a drag-out battle with Lobo–but it doesn’t happen.” The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog

” …most of the film is concentrated around the playing off of the tensions between the characters, at which the film often feels more like one of the B crime dramas of the era – escaped convict on the run hiding out in the house, the sympathetic girl he develops an interest in, he trying to find the doctor’s secrets and so on. As a mad scientist film, it stirs the assemblage of cliches but never lets the pot boil much until the climax.” Moria

“Surprisingly, Carradine makes a pretty effective bad guy in this low-budget offer. He’s more subtle, resisting the urge to revert to his usual “over-the-top” overacting. The few times Carradine raises his voice in anger, his sinister side is effectively revealed. Tor Johnson, as Carradine’s hulking helper, is actually allowed a few lines of garbled dialogue. There are a few shots of Allison Hayes in a low cut nightgown…” Plan 9 Crunch

“Interestingly for a film of this type, the mental patients are treated sympathetically, while Conway takes care of the dangerous madness aspect through his misguided and exploitative work […] The Unearthly isn’t particularly good or well made, but it carries a sense of faint amusement as it mechanically goes through the motions, and there’s an entertainingly sick revelation at the end.” The Spinning Image

“Though the film was obviously made on the cheap, the script was quite decent and everyone happened to put in a good performance, making the movie quite suspenseful and even engrossing at times. It is by no means a masterpiece of the cinema, but there are movies that are far worse than The Unearthly which managed to make for a very enjoyable seventy-three minutes.” The Telltale Mind

“Director Brooke L. (Anatomy of a Psycho) Peters gets a lot of mileage out of the creepy house location and brings a nice blend of claustrophobia and atmosphere to the picture […] the finale, in which a couple of cops go into Carradine’s basement and find a bunch of rejects from The Island of Lost Souls is a bit perplexing. However, it sort of adds to the movie’s charm.” The Video Vacuum

Cast and characters:

John Carradine … Doctor Charles Conway
Myron Healey … Mark Houston (as Myron Healy)
Allison Hayes … Grace Thomas
Marilyn Buferd … Doctor Sharon Gilchrist (as Marylyn Buferd)
Arthur Batanides … Danny Green
Sally Todd … Natalie Andries
Tor Johnson … Lobo II
Roy Gordon … Doctor Loren Wright
Guy Prescott … Police Captain George Reagan
Raymond Guth … Police Officer Miller (as Raymond Guta)
Harry Fleer … Harry Jedrow
Gloria Petroff … Screaming Woman
Paul McWilliams … Police Officer Ed
Karl Johnson … Monster in Basement (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Quality Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Technical details:

73 minutes
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Most image credits: The Telltale Mind

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