Fiend Without a Face

Pseudo-science meets yet another budget- friendly invisible villain in 1958's “Fiend Without a Face,” starring Marshall Thompson as Major Cummings and Kim Parker as Barbara Griselle.

 

 

Fiend WITH a face if you ask me!!

You can watch Fiend Without a Face  on Youtube

Strange things are afoot at a not-so-secret US Air base in Canada (I think). As with any large military installation dabbling with nuclear energy in the 1950's or 1960's, it seems to be the heavy for anything that goes particularly wrong with the normal flow of life with the local townsfolk. In fact, one of the military characters points this very fact out. You know, usually, this type of thing generally causes garden pests (ants, locusts, roaches, women, etc) to grow to gargantuan size and terrorize the countryside.. but not this time. Well.. not directly! When several of the townies up and die by having their brain and spinal cords sucked out through the back of their heads, the town's ire and stern gaze are directed at the base's nuclear reactor that is powering some type of radar experiment seeking to peer longingly at those pesky Ruskies. You know as well as I do that nuclear reactors are very well known for their “brain sucking tendancies. OK.. as a side note, I know that the director wants to portray the townies as simple farm folk but COME ON! So, after several deaths, the dashing and rather pornographically named Major Cummings begins investigating and his attention swiftly turns to a rather eccentric but intelligent Professor Walgate.

 

The good Professor, as it turns out, has found a way to put an ace bandage around his head, run some electricity through it, and not kill the shit out of himself. His experiments are trying to produce, what we nerds call “telekinesis.” When lightening hits his house and it supercharges the ace bandage (and again, manages NOT to kill the shit out of him) he is able to get a positive result. So, he decides he needs what all eccentric scientists need...more power! He is somehow able to tap into the nuclear reactor at the Air base and that..somehow, creates these “fiends” which are initially invisible, but become very visible claymation brain-sucking horrors when the reactor goes critical.

I'm intelligent but eccentric!  Next, I'll test the telekenetic properties of leg warmers!  

This has so many elements of of the genre: the perils of pseudo-science, military experiments, crazy scientists, invisible creatures, atomic energy and its unknown mysterious effects, knuckle-dragging locals, and rather odd leaps-of-logic to help the plot along. I first saw this movie years ago on one of those Friday-night public access channel shows. I remember it creeping me out like nobody's business. The noises the creatures make is disconcerting. Sort of like a camel with a horrific sinus infection trying to snort cocaine while sucking up a jalapeno Slurpee.

 

There are a couple of plot points which bear scrutiny. While Major Cummings and his CO are performing a test on the radar equipment, they realize that the power is being siphoned off somewhere. He calls down to the reactor and asks for more power: to push it! The Engineer tells him that they are already over capacity and they have already exceeded design specs for the reactor. He insists and they push it up! Wait...Are you crazy? For a test? The ENGINEER is telling you that this isn't a smart thing to do. I'm beginning to sympathize with the townies... I think the military guys are kinda nuts.

II am ashamed to say that this scared the hell out of me as a kid.

GETOFFME, you DINK!  Cripes..Someone call Sigourney Weaver!

There is also another place where the dashing Major and his love interest are chatting about the Professor and for no apparent reason other than it conveniently pushes the plot along, the Major decides to investigate the cemetery? Wait... WHAT? I mean he literally stops mid-sentence while talking about shoe varnish or something, gets up, and announces that he's going to the cemetery. This is truly out of place as nothing has led him there and nothing indicates that there are clues there. When he suddenly proclaims that he has to go take a look in the cemetery, I recall asking myself “what.. did I miss something?” Did I fall asleep during some crucial moment or did I gloss over some subtle clue? No! It's just something he divines that he's compelled to do. Score one for the precognitive ability of the Major.

 

Once the fiends become visible, they become relatively easy to dispatch. With a "splurt" of claymation goo, a fiend dies in all of its claymation glory. The claymation is rather shoddy.. like it was done very quickly and cheaply. The movie is just a little over an hour long so don't get too emotionally invested in the characters. It's available on Youtube.

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"Fiend Without a Face"