Trog
U.K. | 1970
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring
Joan Crawford
Michael Gough
Robert Hutton
Color | 91 Minutes | PG
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
Warner Home Video
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
5
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
Yet another cheesy 'ape-monster on a rampage' flick, the kind cranked out in abundance during the 1940s and '50s. Trog, however, was released in 1970 making it almost as much of a throwback as the titular caveman.
   
Three college lads on an amateur spelunking expedition in the English countryside stumble upon the entrance to a heretofore uncharted cavern. Keen to be the first to explore it, the trio descends below and discovers an underground stream. Two of the party allow enthusiasm to trump good sense, stripping off and jumping in to follow the stream as far as physically possible; the third, Malcolm Travers (David Griffin), possesses a cooler head, electing to stay behind. "It's your funeral," he chides only half-jokingly... which for one of them it literally is. The stream leads to a hidden chamber where the men are attacked by a savage creature with the body of a human and the head of a prehistoric ape. One of the explorers is killed. The other emerges traumatized, in total shock. Travers didn't see the monster himself but in an amazingly prescient move takes his wounded, delirious friend to the nearby Brockton Research Centre, an institute dedicated to anthropological studies.
    Based on the injured man's vague description of his attacker, the institute's director, Dr. Brockton (screen legend Joan Crawford), decides she must see for herself before the police are involved. Escorted by Travers, she enters the cave without having to do any of the crawling the guys did, apparently and is able to snap a photograph of the creature. This evidence, along with Brockton's prestige in the scientific community, convinces the authorities to attempt capturing the ape-man rather than killing him outright. The creature is flushed from his cave up to the surface and eventually subdued, albeit not without incurring a few casualties. (Policemen amusingly stand by as a couple of TV technicians are pummeled by the monster.) Amid a media frenzy and much public controversy the captive is transported to a holding cage at Dr. Brockton's institute, where the scientist nicknames her astounding discovery "Trog", short for troglodyte.
    An enthusiastic Brockton immediately sets to work studying Trog, determining that the ape-man possesses the rudimentary intelligence of a "retarded" child. (He's apparently an NPR fan as well, as evidenced by a violent reaction when his classical music is switched with rock.) Brockton theorizes that he is, in fact, the long-sought Missing Link, a previously unknown life form that bridged the gap between prehistoric apes and Neanderthal man. Frozen in his cave for millions of years, Trog must have survived in suspended animation until recently thawing out. Hoping to learn as much as possible from him about the evolutionary process, she calls in a group of internationally renowned scientists to help. Among these is a famous American surgeon (The Slime People's Robert Hutton) who, by implanting an electronic device in Trog's body, hopes to give him the power of speech! Unimpressed by the vast potential for knowledge that Trog represents, local land developer Sam Murdock (Michael Gough) tries to turn the community against Brockton and her institute. He fervently believes that the presence of a dangerous "ugly demon" in the area will negatively impact commerce. Unable to make headway with the media or the courts, Murdock resorts to crime he sneaks into the research lab and opens Trog's cage. With the monster at large and on the loose (as he vehemently warned could happen), perhaps people will start listening to him...
    Produced by Herman Cohen, the Yank responsible for such made-in-Britain genre flicks as Horrors of the Black Museum and Konga, Trog would just be a sad waste of talent if it weren't for the semi-steady stream of unintended laughs. The production looks cheap and the trite, clichéd dialog is sub-comic book level material (when not outright ludicrous). Like virtually every other killer ape-man pic I can think of at the moment, it is the actors that make or break its entertainment value alas, Bela Lugosi couldn't be in all of them. (Being dead was something of an impediment, I suppose.) Oscar winner Joan Crawford, whose career was pretty much over after What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962), tries to give a sincere performance in this thing despite its inherent silliness (and her off-camera drinking), which does add to the fun. The go-to guy for Cohen whenever a despicable, scenery-chewing villain was required, the delightfully over-the-top Michael Gough easily walks away with the movie even though his scenes are relatively brief. (This being his fifth Cohen film, he knows the drill well and serves up the ham as thickly as possible.) I was taken aback to learn that Trog was helmed without little to no enthusiasm, obviously by the great cinematographer Freddie Francis. Based on some of his other forays into directing (The Evil of Frankenstein, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, The Doctor and the Devils), this one was purely for a very quick paycheck. Surprisingly, he didn't use an alias.
    But what of Trog himself? Whether playing with dolls, hurling rubber boulders or tipping over cars (which instantly burst into flame and explode), he's simply laughable as a monster. The body count is low and his rampage, with the exception of an out-of-nowhere meat hook kill, strictly a G-rated one. The animatronic monkey mask is actually quite good for 1970 Trog's lips move and curl, something the celebrated makeup artists on the original Planet of the Apes weren't able to achieve just two years earlier but sticking it atop a hairless, normal human body doesn't only smack of cheapness but stupidity as well.

Trog has been released as part of Warner's Cult Camp Collection, Vol. 2: Women In Peril triple-disc box set Caged (1950) and The Big Cube (1969) are the other included films but is also sold individually. The DVD offers a terrific 1.85:1 widescreen transfer (16x9 enhanced) which, apart from some mild image shimmering during the opening credits, looks fantastic. Visuals are complimented by a strong, distortion/hiss-free mono audio track. The only extra on hand is the theatrical trailer, which goes amusingly overboard with the ballyhoo. 7/16/07
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