The Beast of Hollow Mountain / The Neanderthal ManOverview -
The Neanderthal Man - A mad scientist transforms himself into a prehistoric caveman, his cat into a saber-toothed tiger, and his housekeeper into an ape person, which does not enhance his popularity. Starring Robert Shayne, Joyce Terry, and Richard Crane.
The Beast of Hollow Mountain - Handsome Guy Madison portrays an American cowboy living in Mexico trying to find out what has been happening to his cattle. Little does he suspect that the local legend about the beast of hollow mountain is true. A Tyrannosaurus Rex has been munching on the herd. This rare stop-motion epic combines the genres of Western and Giant Monster. Based on a story by Willis O'Brien of King Kong fame. Starring Guy Madison, Patricia Medina, and Carlos Rivas.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
The Beast of Hollow Mountain
Deep in the heart of Mexico, a ferocious creature from the prehistoric age terrorizes local villagers in the quaintly amusing matinee monster flick 'The Beast of Hollow Mountain.' However, the main attraction, a fast-running dinosaur made possible by a unique stop-motion process developed by the film's director Edward Nassour, can't be bothered to make an appearance until about the last quarter. In the meantime, audiences are placated with the drama and politics of cattle ranchers bickering over land rights and the love of a woman. Once the beast makes its grand entrance, a standard western plot evolves into sci-fi horror, as cowboys set aside their differences and battle the ancient creature back into extinction.
Bursting at the seams with a variety of bad performances, the story follows American cowboy Jimmy Ryan (Guy Madison) trying to make a living in a town where he's largely unwelcomed, especially by the richest land owner Enrique Rios (Eduardo Noriega). Fans of Italian westerns and macaroni combat films will instantly recognize Madison, a name more deserving of attention when either genre is mentioned, and he does terrific, though a bit overdramatic, playing opposite a great Mexican actor, who achieved some notoriety as Don Francisco in 1981's 'Zorro, The Gay Blade.' Hostilities between the two men keeps the narrative moving, particularly when the affections of Sarita (Patricia Medina) are involved, but as the title suggests, the movie exists only to deliver some dino mayhem.
When frictions and mutual animosities between the ranchers reach the boiling point, the giant prehistoric reptile roars its way amid the ruckus, promising stunned chaos for the ill-prepared country folk. How well it lives up to that promise will be up to each viewer to decide, but for me, the film's charm comes from Nassour's humorous blend of my two favorite genres. Co-directed by Ismael Rodríguez, 'The Beast of Hollow Mountain' goes down as one of the first to mix the western with sci-fi horror tropes, two genres which were at the height of their popularity at time. The 1956 feature is also memorable for taking inspiration from special-effects wizard Willis O'Brien ('King Kong'), writing under the pseudonym El Toro Estrella. A decade later, it would be reimagined as 'The Valley of Gwangi,' with creature effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Movie Rating: 3/5
The Neanderthal Man
Arguably, the best part of 'The Neanderthal Man' is the filmmakers' attempt at employing real evolutionary science, as opposed to the hilarious pseudo-science often seen in these sorts of drive-in features. Though that doesn't go without saying several segments and conversations verge on the edge of the comically hyperbolic, meaning the plot takes some fantastical liberties with its themes. Neanderthals, at that time, were commonly associated with the cartoonish stereotypes of the cave man and believed to be more animal ape-like rather than the extinct hominid species we now know it as, a very close relative of the modern human. Ultimately, the movie's charm is this wild mingling of ideas while a man in a button-down shirt and a monkey mask wreaks havoc in a sleepy town.
From legendary German filmmaker E. A. Dupont ('Varieté,' 'Piccadilly'), the story follows a few characters, but they all converge on the experimental activities of Prof. Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne). Wanting to prove his theory that Neanderthals are early evolutionary ancestors of humans, he creates a serum that causes animals to regress to their primitive ancestors. And here's where the movie mostly pays off: the onscreen transformation sequence. Using the same editing transition techniques seen in earlier Universal Monster classics, the professor changes right before our eyes into an ape-like beast. It all looks quaint from a modern perspective, but amusing nonetheless, made all the more comical when we're also expected to accept a Bengal tiger for a saber-toothed cat.
All the while, the town's sheriff, game warden and a few gun-toting locals are on the hunt for what everyone believes is a dangerous, man-killing animal on the loose. Dr. Ross Harkness (Richard Crane), another scientist also investigating the possibility of capturing a prehistoric creature, and the professor's daughter, Jan (Joyce Terry), join the pursuit once they realize who's actually behind the attacks. Harkness' discovery is another unintentionally funny bit because he decides to experiment the serum on a caged cat and the photos of the housekeeper Cecilia (Tandra Quinn) are hysterical. In the end, and like most Z-grade material of the 1950s, 'The Neanderthal Man' can never be taken too serious, and its enjoyment comes from its silly pseudo-science themes and cheap attempts at horror. Movie Rating: 3/5
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'The Beast of Hollow Mountain' and 'The Neanderthal Man' to Blu-ray as a double-feature two-disc combo pack under the distributor's Scream Factory line. The Region A Locked, BD50 disc is housed inside a blue, eco-elite case with a second DVD-9 disc on the opposing panel. At startup, the disc goes to an animated screen where viewers can choose either movie while music plays in the background.
The Beast of Hollow Mountain
Presented as is in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 'The Beast' tramples Blu-ray with a good 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Although the source could benefit from an extensive restoration, the elements have aged surprisingly well, showing lots of sharp, fine lines in the quaint houses and the surrounding foliage. Individual stones and bricks are distinct, and there are plenty of visible textures in the cowboy clothing and the monster. Of course, the video does come with its share of blurry scenes, scratches, blue blotches and white specks, but it's understandable considering the source's condition, age and the optical effects.
The CinemaScope photography offers bright, vivid primaries while secondary hues are cleanly rendered and accurate for the most part. Contrast is on the average, sometimes dull side but stable, yet blacks are deep and generally spot-on. With an appreciable thin layer of grain, giving it a nice film-like appeal, the horror western gem looks good in HD. Video Rating: 3/5
The Neanderthal Man
Looking a tad better and stronger than the first movie, primitive man pounds his chest on Blu-ray with a fantastic AVC-encoded transfer. Although presented as is in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the source used is in great shape and condition, boasting sharp, well-defined lines along the trees, individual blades of grass and in the leaves of various plants. Each hair in the hilariously bad ape mask is distinct, every wrinkle in the clothing is visible and facial complexions reveal lifelike textures in close-ups. Contrast is well-balanced and comfortably bright with crisp, brilliant whites throughout while blacks appear accurate and inky rich with deep, penetrating shadows that add appreciable dimensionality. Video Rating: 3.5/5
The Beast of Hollow Mountain
The prehistoric monster roars its way to home theaters with an average but pretty stable DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack. For the most part, the lossless mix delivers the action with good clarity and definition. Vocals are well-prioritized and never drowned-out by the rest of the action. Imaging is decent and welcoming with a fairly clean mid-range and adequate bass. However, the track also feels narrow and uniform in several spots, most noticeably when the score kicks in and the action intensifies. Seeming constrained in the center, noise and distortion is quite evident, especially every time the beast roars or someone shots their gun. It's not a complete disaster, but like the video, a full restoration of the original elements should yield better results. Audio Rating: 2.5/5
The Neanderthal Man
As with the video, so to the accompanying audio track, making this Z movie classic all the more delightful to watch. The DTS-HD MA mono track delivers pristine, crystal-clear vocals without a hint of noise or distortion. Each overly dramatic line and histrionic piece of dialogue comes in with great intonation, making every nuanced performance all the more hilarious to watch. With a detailed and surprisingly extensive mid-range, imaging provides a fairly wide and welcoming soundstage, generating a few pleasing-enough off-screen effects. There's not much going in the bass department, but it's appropriate to the film's age. Audio Rating: 3.5/5
This is a bare-bones release.
Scream Factory presents a pair of creature-feature matinee schlock films promising to satisfy one's thirst for the cheesiest in sci-fi horror. 'The Beast of Hollow Mountain' is one of the first to blend the western with science-fiction when a dinosaur is discovered in the mountains of Mexico. 'The Neanderthal Man' takes pseudo-science to the level of absolute absurdity when a scientist unleashes his inner caveman to the horror of locals. Both are contained on the same Blu-ray disc, and they come with a generally pleasing audio and video presentations but no supplements. Nevertheless, enthusiasts of Z-grade schlock will want it in their collection.
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