Trog – 1970

Director Freddie Francis
Screenplay Peter Bryan, John Gilling, Aben Kandel
Starring Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, Bernard Kay, Joe Cornelius

Trog is low budget film designed to take advantage of the fascination with pre-history and the possible connection between apes and Neanderthals. It’s not a good film. The script and the story are on the level of understanding of a toddler, which is just about the level of its titular character, demonstrated by wrestler Joe Cornelius. It’s not his fault, entirely. It’s clear that director Francis gave no more level of instruction beyond wearing a leftover ape suit from 2001: A Space Odyssey and use wrestling moves.

The story starts with three rather silly characters prancing around the English moors looking for…a hole in the hillside? In they go, and after being attacked, one dies and the other two come back with stories of a horrific nature to the clinic of Dr. Brockton (Crawford).Brockton, an anthropologist, works with one of the survivors to get proof of the beast. This leads to a media spectacle and then to the capture of the troglodyte.

There is questioning by some locals and one asshole in particular (Gough), but Brockton convinces the municipal court to allow her to work with the specimen, which she has named Trog. These sessions are cloying, but Crawford does a decent job of making it appear that she believes the pabulum she is spewing.

The story is familiar to anyone who is familiar with Frankenstein. There is no real attempt to push human understanding, but hey, it’s a monster flick Crawford was not real picky at this point. It’s clear she is a league above most of the people with whom she is sharing the screen.

Trog is a pretty average for its time, which was a pretty bland time for films in general. There are some who find this film enjoyable for its awful qualities. I do not enjoy it as much. Francis, ever the good cinematographer, was not as repudiated for his directing. This is a great sample of why. This movie knows it’s trash. It’s still trash. Except for Crawford, on both counts.

If one is interested in seeing something representative of the cinematic doldrums of its time, this is it.

(* out of *****)

From Ebert’s original review:
“The worst horror movies are those that don’t understand their own absurdity. “Trog!,” on the other hand, understands it all too well…”

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