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The Creeping Terror
Directed by Vic Savage (as A.J. Nelson)
Produced by Vic Savage (as A.J. Nelson)
Written by Robert Silliphant
Narrated by Larry Burrell
Starring Vic Savage
Shannon O'Neil
William Thourlby
John Caresio
Music by Frederick Kopp
Cinematography Andrew Janczak
Editing by Vic Savage (as A.J. Nelson)
Distributed by Crown International Television
Release date(s) United States 1964
Running time 85 min.
(TV versions 75 min.)
Country USA
Language English

The Creeping Terror is a 1964 horror/sci-fi film, which was lampooned in September 1994 in episode 606 of movie-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000. It has the dubious reputation of being hailed as one of the worst films of all time. The film is also known as The Crawling Monster and Dangerous Charter.[1]

Contents

Plot

A newlywed deputy, Martin Gordon (Vic Savage), encounters an alien spacecraft that has crash landed in fictional Angel County in California. A large, sluglike, omnivorous monster emerges from the side of an impacted spaceship. A second one, still tethered inside, kills a forest ranger and the sheriff (Byrd Holland) when they independently enter the craft to investigate.

Martin, now temporary sheriff, joins his wife Brett (Shannon O'Neil); Dr. Bradford (William Thourlby, the original Marlboro Man), a renowned scientist; and Col. James Caldwell, a military commander and his men to fight the creature. Meanwhile the monster stalks the countryside, devouring a girl in a bikini, picnickers at a "hootenanny", Grandpa Brown (Jack King) and his grandson while fishing, a housewife hanging the laundry, the patrons at the "community dance hall", and couples in their cars at "lovers' lane".

The protagonists ultimately deduce that the monsters are not intelligent. They are mindless biological-sample eaters. The bio-analysis data is microwaved back to the probe's home planet through the spaceship.

At the end of the film, both creatures are destroyed, but not before the signal is sent, boding ill for the human race, but perhaps a threat that may not come for another two million years. The galaxy to which the transmission was aimed is a million light years away, in the opinion of the dying scientist character.

Production

It was directed, produced, and edited by Vic Savage under the alias A.J. Nelson. Although Robert Silliphant is the credited writer, the original story was written by his younger brother, then 23-year-old Allan Silliphant, who went on to write and direct the nudie 3-D film The Stewardesses (1969), the only micro-budget film of the sixties to become the #1 film on the weekly Variety box-office chart (it finally grossed over $100,000,000 in 2005 US dollars).

Silliphant's half-brother, Stirling Silliphant, was already a successful writer at this time, having already worked on TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City and Route 66 (he would go on to write works that served as the basis for films like In the Heat of the Night, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno among many others). Allan Silliphant was therefore famous by association, a fact used by Savage to draw in potential investors. The younger Silliphant brother had no idea that the family name was being used to influence potential investors. Savage reportedly offered many of the investors a small part in the film for a few hundred dollars each, in exchange for a part of the profits. However, just before the film's release, Savage was sued repeatedly, even possibly facing indictment on charges of fraud, and vanished. He was never apparently heard from again in the context of film production, and reportedly died of liver failure in 1975, aged 41.

Savage paid Allan Silliphant $200,[2] for the story, and Silliphant returned in three days with the original nine-page film treatment. Later in the production, there was conflict between writer and director, with Silliphant growing frustrated that Savage did not seem to share his vision that the story was "supposed" to be over the top. Furthermore, instead of shooting at scenic Lake Tahoe, as Silliphant had intended, a muddy pond at Spahn Ranch had to do. The assistant director was Randy Starr, who later achieved notoriety by providing Charles Manson with the gun used in the Sharon Tate murders.[3] Silliphant saw that the direction the film was taking would harm his reputation, rather than enhance it, so he bowed out after the studio scenes were done. The production went on as a week-end affair for several more months, with Savage raising the money by selling small parts to star-struck plumbers etc. One story says Savage checked into a motel with a silent picture-only Moviola to do a quick assembly of the film. All this may be hearsay, since nobody connected with the film ever went on record with that issue.

A strange point concerning the narration, about which the robots in the MST3K episode joke, is that the narrator speaks over much of the dialogue in the film while long bouts devoid of dialogue have no narration (similar in style to many of the educational films of the '50s and '60s). Reportedly the original sound tracks were lost (one suggestion is that they literally fell into Lake Tahoe, which is almost certainly wrong since the movie was not filmed there), although William Thourlby has said that the film was shot without sound as a cost savings measure, and that dubbing was to have taken place after production.[4] Therefore, there is only a limited amount of dialogue in the film, because Savage supposedly shot scenes without professional regard to the sound quality, or even transferring it properly to 35mm mag stock. Apparently, having insufficient money to pay for basic sound transfers, he finally hired a local radio news reader to narrate the entire movie in post-production.

Special effects

There were two creatures, one trapped in the spaceship, and one that slipped into the lake. Unlike all previous cinema "space aliens", these aliens were essentially giant, sexually hermaphroditic slugs that just wanted to swallow and digest prey. The first creature, which Silliphant designed with Jon Lackey, was lost to the production (possibly stolen), and Savage had to recreate the creature without professional help. The dry-carpet version, with shaggy "hobbit feet", was the best that Savage could pull together. The monster in the film somewhat resembles a rug or thick blanket, hence has been called the "carpet monster". The back half of the monster is rather quilt-like, and obviously has several extras under it. The front half of the monster is a man in a bulky suit, physically comparable to Gumby. The monster's mouth is a hole located between the knees of the puppeteer in front. The monster is barely mobile (moving at an unbearably slow crawl). In some scenes you see shaggy "hobbit feet" under the creature, as it creeps. Also, the creature has no real way to grab onto its victims, meaning that all the people who get eaten in the course of the film actually appear to be crawling inside its mouth of their own volition.

References

  • Medved, Harry and Michael (1986). Son of Golden Turkey Awards New York: Random House/Villard Books. ISBN 0-394-74341-5.

Footnotes

  1. ^ IMBD
  2. ^ Medved, Harry and Michael. Son of Golden Turkey Awards, p. 197
  3. ^ http://www.charliemanson.com/starr-1.htm
  4. ^ Medved, op.cit., p. 198

External links








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