Plot: Dr. Roger Bentley (John Agar) heads up an archaeological expedition, one that has just discovered an ancient Sumerian tablet. But there’s no time to bask in the warmth of the incredible find, as an earthquake rocks the dig site and while it exposes another valuable tablet, it also damages the expedition’s work to that point. As work begins to rebuild the crumbled elements, Bentley and his colleagues hire a guide and head to a remote temple. The tablets held some interesting information, but a hidden cavern in the temple proves to be the real landmark find. As it turns out, deep beneath the surface of the earth, an entire civilization has been established, perhaps the result of a city taken under by an earthquake. Those in power seem to be human, but there is also another presence here, a race of humanoid moles. These mole-people are used as livestock and of course, Bentley and his friends dislike this kind of abuse. The interlopers are seen as a threat, but as a simple flashlight is a powerful weapon against those weak to light, they’re able to wield some power. But what will become of this underground world and can Bentley ever return to the surface and his own world?
Entertainment Value: Although the promotional materials shill about “monsters from a lost age,” as is often the case with these kind of movies, the real monsters aren’t the monsters and instead, good old humans. The mole people are interesting and the design is quite cool, but they’re not killer mutants or what not, more sad, oppressed people forced into slave labor. The Mole People has those special 50s b movie vibes, thanks to the creatures, science lingo, and of course, the presence of genre legend John Agar. I do think the narrative at least hints at some social issues, but it isn’t heavy handed and is light in tone. The pace is brisk as well, so while there isn’t a lot of action involved, things never feel dull or drawn out. In addition to the expected sci/fi and horror elements, the movie offers up some light adventure and exploration, which helps it stand out from the crowded genre field. I also love the finale, as it is a much bleaker than usual spin and has a nice element of surprise involved. So while not as much of a monster movie as it might seem, there is still a lot of fun to be had here.
At the head of the cast is John Agar, who should be a quite familiar presence for those with a taste for 50s b movies. Agar turns in his usual solid performance and while he isn’t all that memorable here, he is a more than capable lead. I just think he seems so at home within these genre films, as he brings a sincere presence in most of them and that is the case here. So while perhaps his acting won’t light up the sky, he is a good lead and treats the material with respect. Cynthia Patrick is a passable damsel in distress, while Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva, and even Hugh Beaumont show up in fun supporting roles in this one. While the cast is decent, one of the real draws of The Mole People is the special effects work involved. The design on the creatures themselves is simplistic, but effective, while there’s some fun, hokey matte work involved as well. Fans of old school, b movie style special effects will appreciate those scenes. In the end, The Mole People is a solid slice of 50s b movie magic, well worth a look.
The Disc: Scream Factory has unearthed The Mole People on Blu-ray with two viewing options, either 1.85:1 or 2.00:1, so you can choose which one better suits the needs of your eyeballs. The movie looks good, certainly better than any DVD incarnations I’ve seen, but those hoping for a pristine version might be let down. The print looks a little rough at times with mild damage and debris, but the inherent grain texture is also intact, so that is a relief. I would rather have some specks and debris than an image scrubbed clean of grain, without question. I was also impressed with overall detail levels, especially in close up shots, though some of the long shots aren’t as crisp and of course, the stock footage/inserts are rougher. But overall, this is a capable treatment that fans should appreciate. The extras kick off with audio comments from film historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter, which has some interesting anecdotes, but feels a little thin for the time commitment involved. You can also find some still photos, the film’s trailer, and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode on The Mole People, in case you feel the need to riff on the b movie elements.