A South Sea naval base gets invaded by acid spitting trees in this science fiction yarn from the prolific pen of Murray Leinster(Land of the Giants).
It all starts with a two minute lecture on the wonders of the South Pole. This travelogue is a bit dull and comes off as the cinematic equivalent of one of those film strips we had to watch back in 1970’s classrooms. Luckily it only needs 120 seconds to remind us that the Polar region is harsh and capable of producing extreme critters. The action then switches to a plane returning from an arctic expedition.
The pilot is kind of goofy . He keeps sending people to check on the cargo. When they don’t return he sends someone else. By the time they send a may day to the south seas base the flier is the only one left and he promptly crashes the craft(that’s what happens when you neglect to put down the landing gear).
The island (ironically called Goa) houses a naval crew lead by the stiff Lt. Brown. He is ably assisted by a portly scientist, a “Dean Martin” wannabe aide named Chandler, and a va-va voom nurse (played by poster girl Mamie Van Doren). They all gather to greet the plane while it refuels but wind up going on red alert when it crashes. The scientist is thrilled to check out the arctic specimens and scoop up some corrosive jelly found in the cargo bay.
This is not one of your better monster movie scientist guys as he doesn’t explain every other word he uses and he fails to diagnose what’s killing the cast till the film is almost over. Meanwhile the crew are knocked off by the stiff gaited plants which rock a clever gizmo.
They release a small pod that crawls about like a crab ,which then lures people to the slower moving trees which them suck the life right out of the victims by laying a big hug on them with acid coated branches.
Most of the attacks are in the dark (which helps owing to the clumsy mobility of the tree costumes). Luckily there are a few good moments such as using a lost pet to lure Chandler to his doom(I felt sorrier for the dog than the dweeb) and a graphic assault that sees a tree rip off the arm of a slow moving sailor(played by Billy Gray who had been seen on ‘Father Knows Best ” as Bud, the gear head son). The film also benefits from lots of footage of Mansfield.
On the down side the it takes awhile to get started. Once it does there is some decent carnage but the last minute napalming of the island is kind of anti-climactic. it comes off as a cheapjack rip off of “Day of the Triffids’ but I figure there is plenty of room in the killer plant genre.
Worth a look if you keep your expectations low. I just felt bad for the pre-internet audiences who got lured into this by the excellent poster art which promised “acid bleeding monsters that multiply in the millions. “In reality there are only six of them .
Best Lines: ” He’ll eat anything, even other trees.”
“I wasn’t born inventive. Just persistent.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.