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Creeping Terror, The

Entry updated 6 March 2023. Tagged: Film.

US film (1964; vt The Crawling Monster). Metropolitan International Pictures. Directed by Vic Savage (as A J Nelson). Written by Robert Silliphant and (uncredited) Allan Silliphant. Cast includes Larry Burrell, John Caresio, Byrd Holland, Shannon O'Neil, Vic Savage and William Thourlby. 76 minutes. Black and white.

A Spaceship lands in Angel County, California and a creature resembling a giant, flattened legless bug slithers out. The local sheriff (Holland) goes to investigate, to be joined by his nephew, senior deputy Martin Gordon (Savage) and his wife Brett (O'Neil), who have just returned from their honeymoon. The sheriff enters the spaceship; shortly after the couple hear growling and then screams, so they call for the army. Colonel Caldwell (Caresio) and several troops arrive, entering the craft to discover a Monster secured within. Washington sends a Scientist, Dr. Bradford (Thourlby), to investigate: an expert on "space emissions", he has been developing "systems that might lead to Communications with other forms of life". The government orders a news blackout, so local people carry on with their normal lives – many end up swallowed by the Alien wandering the countryside. Studying the monster in the spaceship, Bradford deduces its survival in our atmosphere means it comes from outside our Solar System, as none of the other planets' air is like ours (see Life on Other Worlds); whilst the lack of food aboard meant it must have been in Suspended Animation; he also postulates they are an engineered lifeform (see Genetic Engineering).

The number of missing person reports – of courting couples, housewives and attendees at a hootenanny – leads to the realization there is a second alien: after it wipes out revellers at a community dancehall the decision is made – despite Bradford's protests – to kill it. They eventually find it wreaking havoc at the local lovers' lane: a group of soldiers who fire at it without effect are swallowed, but Caldwell kills it with a hand grenade. After studying the corpse, Bradford suddenly departs – Martin and Brett follow – and enters the spaceship: whilst he examines the control panel it explodes, freeing the other alien. Martin runs it over, but Bradford has been mortally wounded: before he dies he tells Martin what he had discovered. The creatures are "mobile test laboratories ... that consumed human beings to analyse them chemically, undoubtedly to detect weaknesses in the human species ... the information fed into a Computer in the spacecraft"; now that both creatures are dead the computer will be transmitting the data collected. Martin tries to stop this, but fails (we see three minutes of him pointlessly hitting machinery). Bradford consoles him with the suggestion the aliens may have come from so far away that their home no longer exists, or if they do eventually invade (see Invasion), by then humanity might have advanced enough to cope with them: his final words are, "Only God knows for sure". The film ends.

The making of The Creeping Terror was beset by many problems, including the intended monster costume disappearing just before shooting – possibly connected to the man in charge of special effects not being paid – with a new one being quickly cobbled together using what looks like a large carpet. After filming, Savage vanished to avoid debtors (he appears to have been something of a con man). Thourlby, the main financier, found himself having to arrange the film's post production, including resolving major problems with the sound recording. Aside for a few re-dubs, this was resolved by having most scenes without dialogue; a narrator (Burrell) was hired to explain what was being said and to provide not necessarily pertinent detail (such as reflections on marriage and its effect on a newly-wed husband's buddy).

The monster is absurd and holds no threat to anyone who can maintain a walking pace: its victims usually have to remain stationary as it approaches, though some provide variation by falling over or allowing themselves to be cornered. The preamble to an attack is often long drawn out: presumably intended to build up the tension, ennui is usually the result – the assault upon a portly fisherman and his nephew being a particularly memorable example. With its poor acting, script and film-making, The Creeping Terror is an enjoyably bad movie that often appears in lists of the worst ever films. Those seeking positives could justifiably argue that Dr Bradford's hypotheses are interesting sf ideas, if largely irrelevant to events. The backstory to the making of the film is an interesting one and was the subject of a drama/documentary, The Creep Behind the Camera (2014), which received mixed reviews (the negative mainly for the drama element). [SP]


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