Plot: Susan (Gloria Talbott) has embarked on an expedition in Mexico, to search remote locales for her fiance, to find some closure after a mysterious plane crash that seems to have claimed his life. She is backed by Martin (Lon Chaney, Jr.), who fronts the cash for the trek as part of his plan to harvest the area’s rich uranium and make a killing off the natural resources. The two are also joined by guide Russ (James Craig), who is put to the test when the plane crashes and strands the group in a dangerous valley. The area not only seems to be radioactive, but also populated by strange, mutated creatures like giant birds and lizards. As if these dangers aren’t enough, the valley is also home to a giant humanoid with a disfigured face that threatens the expedition, but can anyone survive this lethal landscape?
Entertainment Value: If you’re a fan of the offbeat cinema of Bert I. Gordon, movies don’t get much more Bert I. Gordon than The Cyclops, a wacky saga that has all of his signature elements and then some. The radioactive mutations, oversized animals, killer animals, and of course the melted face giant would all appear in Gordon’s future films, but here we have it all in one place. This one runs just over an hour and is pure b movie magic, with a consistent flow of outlandish elements and Gordon’s ever present special effects. The special effects are about what you’d expect, but look decent considering this was made in the 50s and these kind of old school tricks have a certain charm. The giant with the half melted face is a highlight and Gordon must have been enamored with the look, since he brought it back in his later work. The narrative is thin, but at least makes sense and has that 50s sci/fi vibe that is always fun, but of course, the main draw is the campiness. I had fun going back to this one and for fans of old school sci/fi b movies, this one deserves a place in your collection.
This isn’t likely the kind of movie people will flock to in search of fine, restrained performances, but the cast of The Cyclops is competent and Lon Chaney, Jr. turns in the most memorable work. As a veteran of genre films, he knows when to dial up the camp and really chews up some scenes at times, so he is fun to watch and his over the top antics are in line with the material. His effort does stand out as odd since most of the cast takes a more reserved approach, but that is all the more reason he is the crucial piece of the puzzle. His performance doesn’t veer into absurd levels of ridiculousness, just wild enough to punch up the entertainment and kick up the b movie appeal. James Craig is passable in a prominent role, while Gloria Talbott is forgettable, but covers the basics of the role’s requirements. The cast also includes Tom Drake, Vincente Padula, and Duncan Parkin as The Cyclops.
The Disc: The Cyclops arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive and as usual, the label delivers a remarkable visual treatment. I expected the movie to look good here, but this is a superb effort that brings this b movie to life like never before on home video, with a much cleaner and more refined presentation. I was blown back by how crisp and clear the image is here, with so much more fine detail than I anticipated, while contrast is strong and bolsters that refined texture. I have to think fans of The Cyclops will be in b movie heaven with this masterful release. The lone extra is the film’s trailer.