Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Joan Crawford (r.) taking a refreshing pause on the set of Trog (1970)

TCM celebrated Joan Crawford in Summer Under the Stars about two weeks ago. I finally got around to watching Trog again. Thankfully, it's available from the Warner Archive, so I can feel comfortable doing a full-length post on the film even if it's not coming up on TV soon.

Even though Crawford is the star (well, one of the two stars), she doesn't show up for a good 10 minutes or more. Instead, the movie starts off with a sequence of three guys going cave exploring. Malcolm (David Griffin), together with his friends Cliff and Bill, finds an impossibly bright cave somewhere in the English countryside and decide to go down into the caverns. They have a fairly easy time of it, at least until they get to a subterranean stream. Bill, ever curious, decides to strip down to his undies and get into the stream to see where it goes, which happens to be to another cavern. Cliff eventually follows him, while Malcolm is a bit of a coward. That cowardice, however, is going to save his life: Bill suddenly and with no warning whatsover gets attack by what looks like a prehistoric forerunner of man! Cliff gets attacked to, but not to the point of death.

Cut to the Brockton Institute. Dr. Brockton (Joan Crawford) is a scientist, although what the original purpose of the intstitute was is never made quite clear. However, when Malcolm and Cliff wind up at the institute, Brockton is incredibly intrigued. She wants to know what the heck attacked the cave party, and dammit, she's willing to go down the hole to find out. Amazingly, in that dark cave, she's able to get a perfect flash photograph of what she'll eventually call "Trog" (Joe Cornelius). Unsurprisingly, this brings publicity, both good and bad. Brockton thinks it's great for the institute, but the locals, led by land developer Sam Murdock (Michael Gough), don't like the idea. Their suspicions may be confirmed when the TV crews stir up poor Trog to the point that he attacks the ones that went in the cave and then climbs out of the cave! Thankfully, the good Dr. Brockton has tranquilizer darts and is able to subdue Trog, take him back to the Institute, and keep him in a cage there while she and the other great scientists of the world can investigate him.

Murdock begins court proceedings to try to have Trog destroyed, especially after Trog kills a dog that takes Trog's bouncy ball. Meanwhile, Brockton is still trying to teach Trog and learn about man's distant past in so doing. When the court proceedings don't go as fast as Murdock would like, he takes matters into his own hands....

Trog was Joan Crawford's final feature film, and it's often considered incredibly bad. It's certainly not notably good, and there's a lot that you can laugh at that the producers surely didn't intend as comedy. Gotta love Joan's fashions, as well as the short skirts her daughter/scientific assistant (Kim Braden) wears. Trog is pretty much only made up in the face, with the rest of him looking much too human and not hairy enough. The thought that Brockton could get through to Trog as quickly as the movie implies is nonsense, as is her wearing red long after it's established that the color red drives Trog mad.

But as I watched it, I couldn't help but think about movies like Village of the Damned, which also have the theme of whether we should study something that has the power to destroy us or whether we should preƫmptively destroy such things. Trog is obviously nowhere near as good as Village of the Damned, but it's also not nearly as bad as the black-and-white B movies of the 1950s in the same genre. Granted, a lot of those tend to be entertaining even if they're bad, but I think you can say the same about Trog.

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