John Agar in The Mole People (1956)


(director: Virgil Vogel; screenwriter: Laszlo Gorog; cinematographer: Ellis W. Carter; editor: Irving Birnbaum; cast: John Agar (Dr. John Bentley), Hugh Beaumont (Dr. Jud Bellamin), Cynthia Patrick (Adad Gizelle), Nestor Paiva (Prof. Etienne Lafarge), Alan Napier (Elinu, High Priest), Phil Chambers (Dr. Paul Stuart), Rodd Redwing (Nazar), Dr. Frank Baxter (Himself); Runtime: 78; Universal-International; 1956)
“The acting was stiff and the special effects were cheesy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There’s something whimsical to be said about Universal-International’s most strained sci-fi film of the 1950s, it sunk to new lows to get to its subject matter. As the egghead college professor, Dr. Frank Baxter, says in the prologue: “in man’s beliefs, which are as old as time, they always thought that the inner world was habitable.” In this heavy-handed message film, the main theme depicts how intolerant people could be who blindly hide behind their religious beliefs and continue to keep others ignorant of the truth. The story tells about three archaeologists who fall down a shaft and land in a subterranean civilization ruled by despotic albinos, who enslave a beast-like people called “the mole people” to work for them and gather food. The Earth-men will challenge the religious findings of this backward people and try to avoid being killed by them, all the while trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

John Agar plays Dr. John Bentley, who leads an Asian expedition in search of a lost tribe of Sumerians. They find a tablet with Sumerian writing that dates back 5,000 years. It tells of an ancient people who mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth long ago. Soon a shepherd boy finds an ancient Sumerian oil lamp on top of the summit, which depicts the story about Noah’s Ark.

When the men climb the 20,000 feet summit to explore for further Sumerian signs, the earth caves in and the three scientists fall into a cavern — Dr. Bentley, Prof. Etienne Lafarge (Nestor Paiva), and Dr. Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont). While trapped in the cavern, the sleeping men are attacked by the clawed mole people and brought further down into the earth, to a lost city ruled by the albinos. The evil priest (Alan Napier) tells them his strict beliefs: this place is the only world and the outside is only darkness. Heaven is where only the ruling god Ishtar resides, the one who gives them the power to rule the world. The king (Rodd Redwing) sentences them to death, because he realizes these strangers are different from his people and pose a danger in not accepting their answers as the truth. But the trio escapes and by accident they shine their flashlight on the pursuing albino guards, which makes them retreat in fear because they are not used to the light having lived all their lives in the dark. The king now recognizes them as messengers from Ishtar because they have the same fire he does to light up the dark.

The men side with the mole people who are constantly being abused and who finally rebel. A marked woman (Cynthia Patrick), who happens to be a blonde beauty, is given by the king to Bentley as a recognition of his godly powers. The two fall in love and when the scientists are poisoned with their mushroom dinner, she gets the mole people to help them recover and they begin the rebellion on their own–which leads to the scientists finding a way back to their own civilization.

The film was clumsily made and was too pedantic. The acting was stiff and the special effects were cheesy. But somehow there was fun to be had in all the silliness.