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The Beast with a Million Eyes

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The Beast with a Million eyes
Theatrical release poster
by Albert Kallis
Directed by
Written byTom Filer
Produced byDavid Kramarsky
Starring
CinematographyEverett Baker
Edited byJack Killifer
Music byJohn Bickford
Production
company
San Mateo Productions
Distributed byAmerican Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • June 15, 1955 (1955-06-15) (United States)
Running time
75 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$33,000[1][2] or $20,000[3]
Box office$100,000[3]

The Beast with a Million Eyes (a.k.a. The Unseen) is a 1955 independently made American black-and-white science fiction film, produced and directed by David Kramarsky, that stars Paul Birch, Lorna Thayer, and Dona Cole. Some film sources have said that the film was co-directed by Lou Place.[citation needed] The film was co-produced by Roger Corman and Samuel Z. Arkoff.[4] and was released by American Releasing Corporation, which later became American International Pictures.

The film's storyline concerns a space alien that is able to see through the eyes of a large array of Earth life that it can also mentally control, part of its plan to conquer the Earth.

Plot

Allan Kelley (Paul Birch) and his family struggle to survive on their small date ranch, located in the bleak California desert landscape well away from civilization. His wife Carol (Lorna Thayer) hates living so far from civilization, often taking her frustration out on their daughter Sandra (Dona Cole). The only bright spot in Sandra's life is her boyfriend Larry Brewster (Dick Sargent).

After a mysterious object, initially thought to be a plane crashes nearby, both wild and domesticated animals begin attacking the family. Soon, the farm's handyman (Leonard Tarver) turns on the family, attacking them.

It is finally revealed that a space alien (the "beast" of the title) has taken total control of the area's lesser animals and is working its way up to humans, all part of its master plan to conquer the Earth.

In the end the family bond together, fighting against the alien menace. They must unite their minds in a show of love to have a chance of finally thwarting its plan of conquest.

Unable to counter this attack, the alien flees into the mind of a snake, where it is promptly killed and carried off by a hawk. [5]

Cast

Production

Reportedly the film was based on a script called The Unseen by Tom Filer. Roger Corman was attracted to the project because in the original draft of the script, no monster was seen, which meant the film could be done cheaply.[6] Executive producer Arkoff insisted on a visible monster and space ship, but there was very little in the budget to realize these effects. [7] Corman's original idea was an alien that was incapable of being seen.

In April 1955 it was announced in Variety the film would be the first for Pacemaker Productions, a new company formed by Roger Corman. By that stage the film had been renamed The Beast with a Million Eyes. It would be produced and directed by David Kamarsky, Corman's former aide, while Corman would executive produce. Corman was meant to direct Cobra in India instead (that film was never made).[8] Paul Birch's casting was announced in April 1955.[9]

The Beast with a Million Eyes was the third of a three-picture deal Roger Corman had with the American Releasing Company following The Fast and the Furious (1955) and Five Guns West (1955).[10] Reportedly, cost over-runs on Five Guns West meant only $29,000 remained to make the film for Pacemaker Productions. [11][12]

The title Beast with a Million Eyes reportedly came from American Releasing Company president James H. Nicholson. His title and treatment had film exhibitors signed on before seeing the finished film. The million eyes of the title refers to the alien's ability to see thru the eyes of those animals and people it controls. [13]

Reportedly The Beast with a Million Eyes was a non-union filming of a script originally titled The Unseen, with Lou Place set to direct. After one day's filming, the union threatened to shut down the production unless everyone signed with the Guild. Roger Corman, who was producing, took over the film's directing chores and replaced the cinematographer with Floyd Crosby; however Corman took no official screen credit.[1] However, another version of this story has Corman allocating directing duties to Dave Kramarsky, his associate director on Five Guns West.[10]

Filming took place in Indio and the Coachella Valley, California.[14] Corman shot 48 pages of interiors in just two days at a studio on La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles.[10]

The movie is also noteworthy for its promotional poster. It features an eye-catching monster different from that seen in the movie. [15]

Paul Blaisdell

When the company vice-president Samuel Z. Arkoff received The Beast with a Million Eyes he was unhappy that it did not even feature "the beast" that was implicit in the title. Paul Blaisdell, responsible for the film's special effects, was hired to create a three-foot-tall spaceship (with "beast" alien) for a meager $200. Notably, the Art Director was Albert S. Ruddy, who would later win two "Best Picture" Academy Awards for The Godfather (1972) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).[16]

It was Blaisdell's first monster made for the movies. He later said:

The creature seen in the last reel... was actually the slave of The Beast, which had no physical being. It used a being from another star system to pilot its ship, but that fact doesn't come across very well in the script. The creature was an automaton and he was quite capable of doing a lot more than he was allowed to do in the film. He was about eighteen inches high - built to the same scale as King Kong. Unfortunately, all of his scenes were shot in about ten minutes, with the wrong camera angles and everything. But it's just one of those things which happens on a low-budget picture.[17]

According to Alex Gordon, when the film was first shown, Joseph E. Levine, then a distributor, offered Nicholson $100,000 to junk the movie and make a new one more in line with the advertising campaign. Gordon says James Nicholson spent two weeks analyzing the film and scratching over the negative to make it seem like lightning strikes to add to the dramatic qualities of the film.[18]


Music

The tiny budget meant music in The Beast with a Million Eyes, credited to "John Bickford", is actually a collection of public-domain record library cues by classical composers Richard Wagner, Dimitri Shostakovich, Giuseppe Verdi, Sergei Prokofiev, and others, used to defray the cost of an original score or copyrighted cues.[19]

Reception

Film historian Leonard Maltin called The Beast with a Million Eyes, "Imaginative though poorly executed sci-fi melodrama with desert setting; a group of people is forced to confront an alien that can control an unlimited number of animals, hence the title." He further described the film as, "(an) early Roger Corman production (that) features Paul Blaisdell's first movie monster."[20]

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction found the movie to be minimal and the effects unconvincing, but noted this was one of, if not the first, movie to feature animals attacking humans, predating The Birds.[21]

TV Guide called the movie a turkey. [22]

Moria gave the movie 2.5 stars, liking the idea and the setting, however the animal attacks are not viewed as scary and the direction was seen as pedestrian. It did however also note the similarities with Hitchcock's movie The Birds.

Home media

In 2007 Metro-Goldwyn Mayer released The Beast with a Million Eyes as part of its Midnight Movies DVD catalog as a double-feature with The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955).

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b McGee 1996, pp. 24–27.
  2. ^ Harmetz, Aljean. "The dime-store way to make movies-and money." The New York Times, August 4, 1974, p. 202.
  3. ^ a b "$65,000 'Day' may hit $1,000,000". Variety. 22 February 1956. p. 16.
  4. ^ Lentz 1983, pp. 608, 629.
  5. ^ http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/beast_with_a_million_eyes_the
  6. ^ Palmer p 20
  7. ^ http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/beast_with_a_million_eyes_the
  8. ^ "Science Fiction Stress in Pacemake Films". Variety. 13 April 1955. p. 3.
  9. ^ War Buddies Alex Nicol, Mickey Knox to Costar; Kennedy to Stage-Direct Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 13 Apr 1955: B11.
  10. ^ a b c Smith 2014, pp. 18–19.
  11. ^ "The Beast with a Million Eyes". Turner Classic Movies.
  12. ^ Palmer p 19
  13. ^ http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/beast_with_a_million_eyes_the
  14. ^ The Beast with a Million Eyes at the American Film Institute Catalog
  15. ^ http://www.moriareviews.com/sciencefiction/beast-with-a-million-eyes-1955.htm
  16. ^ Smith 2009, p. 21.
  17. ^ Palmer, Randy. "Stateside Shocker". Halls of Horror. p. 27.
  18. ^ Gordon, Alex (July 1983). "The Pit and the Pen of Alex Jacob". Fangoria. No. 28. p. 28-29.
  19. ^ "Movieland events; Gig Young obtains 'A Man in Eritrea'." Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1955, p. B6.
  20. ^ Maltin, Leonard. "Leonard Maltin Movie Review." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: March 23, 2015.
  21. ^ "Beast with a Million Eyes, The". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. April 4, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  22. ^ https://www.tvguide.com/movies/the-beast-with-a-million-eyes/2000273568/

Bibliography

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