TITLE: Fiend without a Face
YEAR RELEASED: 1958
DIRECTOR: Arthur Crabtree
CAST: Marshall Thompson,, Kynaston Reeves, Michael Balfour, Kim Parker
REVIEW BY TERRY SHERWOOD
Long before the Ridley Scott/Dan O’ Bannon picture Alien (1979), there were these little brain sucking, spinal cord ripping creatures that terrorised an American military base in the Canadian province of Manitoba.
Fiend without a Face (1956) opens effectively with noir-like images of a military base in Canada. This changes to a solitary soldier on guard duty intercut with a man walking in the woods, all shot with no music making the silence play the scene. You get to hear the scrape and ignition of his cigarette as the soldier lights up while resting. Suddenly the air is filled with gurgling, thumping sounds and the moving of grass for no reason – followed by a scream. The soldier runs into the woods, finding the body of the man we saw lying on his back, dead, with a look of fright on his face. Fade in the titles in frantic lettering and music for a promising 50s Science Fiction film.
We are introduced to American Major Cummings (Marshal Thompson) and his sidekick Captain Al Chester (Terence Kilburn), as they try to come to terms with overwork and the mystery of people disappearing. The story precedes meeting of an attractive female assistant (Barbara Griselle) to the real (pun) brains behind the events: Prof. R.E. Walgate (Kynaston Reeves). We all know the story of these thrillers, the piling up of bodies, the unanswered questions, the blaming of atomic power, the romance between the lantern-jawed hero and the career female.
The highlight is the romp towards the finish line of special effects as the ‘fiends’ are revealed effectively and slowly. The attack on the house with all the principals inside brings to mind a similar moment in a church in Island of Terror (1966).
Interestingly, this is an independent film which had second unit work actually shot in Canada with some Canadian actors and the bulk completed in the UK. Director Arthur Crabtree, who according to Marshal Thompson, had no interest in the film, so it became Thompson himself who finished the job. Fiend without a Face is economically yet effectively shot. It also contains the worst ‘fist fight’ sequence since Plan Nine From Outer Space (1959). Aside from that, as a viewing of a pre-cold war thriller in Science fiction with strong monster effects for its time, give it a try. Munch your snacks loudly at the end.
Born in Ottawa, Canada, TERRY SHERWOOD is a lifelong fan of “Classic Horror” film and literature that inspired them. He is a contributing Writer/film reviewer for DIABOLIQUE online magazine and CLASSIC FILM UNION BLOG on TCM SITE.