Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)


(director: Monte Hellman; screenwriter: Charles B. Griffith/ also story by Charles B. Griffith; cinematographer: Andrew Costikyan; editor: Anthony Carras; music: Alexander Laszlo; cast: Michael Forest (Gill Jackson), Sheila Carol (Gypsy Boulet), Frank Wolff (Alexander Ward), Richard Sinatra (Marty Jones), Wally Campo (Byron Smith), Linné Ahlstrand (Natalie, the bar-girl), Kay Jennings (Jill Jackson,Gil’s sister), Chris Robinson (The Beast/A Bartender); Runtime: 64; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Gene Corman; Sinister Cinema; 1959)

“This one had about as much chance of succeeding as a snowball in hell.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Monte Hellman’s (“Ride in the Whirlwind”/”The Shooting”) feature film debut as a director was with this cheesy horror/crime thriller Z film, a shoestring budget remake of another Roger Corman film from two years earlier called Naked Paradise. It was shot on location near Deadwood, South Dakota, in the Black Hills. Though the script by Charles B. Griffith is lively and Hellman does a good job building character, the huge spider-like monster covered in webs was a bad joke that didn’t work. The monster was played by Chris Robinson (later went on to fame as the star of TV’s General Hospital).

At a ski lodge in the Black Hills of South Dakota that borders on a gold mine, a Chicago gang headed by crime boss Alex Ward (Frank Wolff), his world-weary 26-year-old boozy girl friend Gypsy Boulet (Sheila Carol) and henchmen Marty Jones (Richard Sinatra, Frank’s nephew) and Byron Smith (Wally Campo), pose as vacationing skiers when their real purpose is to rob the administration office of a nearby gold mine. They hire the nature loving local Gill Jackson (Michael Forest), who owns the ski shop and they disdainfully nickname Cowboy, to be their cross-country ski trip guide to take them to his isolated cabin on top of the mountain. On the Saturday night before their trip, Marty sets a timer to explode the mine on Sunday morning as a diversion. He takes along hot barmaid Natalie (Linné Ahlstrand) to score the innocent but slutty girl in the mine shaft after he secretly plants the explosives, but wouldn’t you know it–she’s attacked by a spider-like monster and taken away to a haunted cave in the mountains. The crime boss is upset with his boy Marty, who has flipped out over seeing the monster but is not believed and is called out further by the boss because his tawdry actions might endanger their scheme. Natalie’s disappearance gets the attention of the police, but the heist goes according to plans. The three gang members flee with the valuable two gold bars each in their backpacks and join Gill and Gypsy on the ski trail. Their plan is for a small plane to meet them at Gill’s cabin the next morning and whisk them away to Canada. But a number of things go wrong including Gypsy falling in love with the 30-year-old Gill and willing to dump the bad-tempered career criminal Alex to start over fresh as a country girl; Gill suspecting his rude guests to be the robbers and killers (a lone man died in the mine explosion) when he hears of the crime on the radio, and plans to turn them in by going to town; the next morning a blizzard is about to strike which prevents the plane from arriving and Gill from going to town with Gypsy; the monster attacks the Indian housekeeper Imelda and takes her to the haunted cave, where it cocoons her with his other vic Natalie to the cave walls and they are covered with the same web-like filament that covers its own body. The helpless victims are being prepared for a gruesome end while still breathing but barely conscious, as the beast goes vampire and sucks out their blood. When the couple uses the haunted cave to sit out the storm, the gang finds them there and things boil over to an unconvincing action climax.

This one had about as much chance of succeeding as a snowball in hell.