• The Mole People (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: February 26th, 2018.
    Directed by: Virgil W. Vogel
    Cast: John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, Nestor Paiva, Alan Napier, Cynthia Patrick
    Year: 1956
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    The Mole People – Movie Review:

    Dr. Roger Bentley (John Agar of Tarantula) leads a team of archeologists comprised of himself and associates Dr. Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont of Leave It To Beaver fame!) and Professor Etienne Lafarge (Nestor Paiva of The Creature From The Black Lagoon). While out on their dig in the middle of nowhere near a mountain in Asia, they uncover evidence of the existence of an ancient Sumerian civilization made up of mutants that lived underneath a massive glacier back in the age of Mesopotamia – quite a find!

    Inquisitive as they are, they keep poking around and then eventually come across a race of albinos, seemingly deathly allergic to light in any form. These albinos have enslaved a race of mutant mole men and now command a veritable army of them! The archeologists are thought by these people to be gods, given that their flashlights are interpreted as cylinders of fire. They’re given plenty of mushrooms to eat and a servant girl in the form of foxy Adad (Cynthia Patrick). High priest Elinu (Alan Napier) is none too keen on their arrival, however. But once Bentley and company decide that in order to set things right, they must free the mole men, the tide turns and they find themselves having to make a fast escape from this cavernous underground world!

    Every bit as goofy as it sounds, The Mole People is plenty entertaining in spite of itself. The cast all get credit for playing things completely straight. Alan Napier steals the scenes that he’s in, playing the high priest as it this were Shakespeare, while John Agar, B-movie stalwart that he is, does tough and macho quite well, managing to do so without showing any actual range.

    A doctor named Dr. Frank C. Baxter plays himself in a wonky introductory scene that uses some sort of pseudo-science to pique our interest, but it’s actually pretty dry and one of the duller aspects of the movie. Where the picture really gets fun is whenever the actual mole people are involved. The makeup and costume effects aren’t great, but they’re kind of neat in an old school way. Elinu’s costume is kind of great too.

    Direction from Virgil W. Vogel, who mostly directed in television but who also edited Orson Welles’ classic Touch Of Evil, is a bit stagey and things take a while to get moving but once they do, the seventy-seven-minute feature proves to be pretty entertaining in spite of itself.

    The Mole People – Blu-ray Review:

    The Mole People arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory in your choice of 1.85.1 or 2.00.1 widescreen aspect ratios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. Generally speaking, the picture quality here is pretty strong. There’s some mild print damage noticeable throughout but nothing too serious or distracting. There’s good detail here, solid depth as well. The black and white image shows proper contrast, never too hot, with good black levels. The image is free of obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction.

    The DTS-HD English language Mono track on this disc is also fine. It’s properly balanced and free of hiss and distortion. It is a bit on the flat side sometimes but for an older single channel mix from a low budget film, it’s hard to complain about much here. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras on this disc start off with an audio commentary featuring film historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter. These guys do a fine job of detailing the film’s history, offering insight and historical background information on the cast and crew, effects, locations and more. Lots of talk here about what works and what doesn’t, the track is delivered with some occasional humor but doesn’t resort to lampooning the film. It’s a good listen.

    Also new to this disc is Of Mushrooms and Madmen: The Making Of The Mole People, which runs just under nineteen-minutes in length. It’s a nicely put together piece that details the history of the project and places it into the context of the B-grade sci-fi projects that were popular with Universal and other studios of the day.

    Also included is the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode that took on The Mole People from February 15th, 1997. Presented in standard definition, here’s what Todd Jordan had to say about it when it was released as part of the Mystery Science 3000 Volume XXVI collection:

    “This time around they roast an old Universal monster movie starring John Agar (Shirley Temple’s one-time husband) and Alan Napier (Alfred from tv’s Batman). Archeologists find ruins on a mountaintop plus a deep dark hole that leads to a lost, underground city. That city is inhabited by pasty white folks and a “marked one” (you know, the girl different than everyone else), all of whom (at first) believe the archeologists are gods from the heavens. These fine white people have enslaved another race down there, with giant claws, glowing eyes and vagina-like mouths. The heroes soon become hunted and work to bust the slaves out of captivity, get the normal looking blonde lady out of there, and get to the surface.

    Although this one certainly has its moments, and it’s entertaining throughout the running time, it lacks some good solid laughs found in the three other episodes in the set. It mostly just maintains a medium level of humor with a snicker here and there, but nothing too memorable. That’s not to say it isn’t a good one though, because it is. Just not among the top shelf. Most of the good jokes involve a useless older gentleman in the archeologist party, one the call “Load”.

    One of the great things about MST3K is the fact that the jokes are all over the map, and some references you get, some you don’t. Five people watching the same episode might laugh at completely different things. The skits before, during, and after between Mike/Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo and the scientists making watch the movies are hit or miss (mostly miss in this viewer’s eyes) and usually are themed after the movie playing. Once in a while they do something pretty darn funny (ape fashion show), but not in this volume.”

    Rounding out the extras are a few still galleries showing off some movie stills, posters and lobby cards, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    The Mole People – The Final Word:

    The Mole People is, by all reasonable standards, a horrible film – but it’s not without its considerable wacky charm, and those who appreciate said wacky charm should appreciate seeing it presented properly in a nice high definition presentation and with some decent extras as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Mole People Blu-ray screen caps!