Story: As scientists seek to learn about the effects of cosmic radiation, their experiments include sending various animals and insects into space. The results of the tests have been predictable, with no kind of mutations evident whatsoever, though radiation levels have been tightly controlled. Their latest effort to glean scientific data involves a rocket full of wasps being sent into space, but the mission spirals into failure and the rocket is doomed to crash land. What should have been forty seconds of radiation exposure turned into forty hours, so the wasps on the rocket endured far more radiation than intended, more than any previous experiment. Can a crew recover the wasps and if the rumors near the crash are true, can they even survive the wasps?
Entertainment Value: If you’re into stock footage, hokey dialogue, and wild, low rent monster special effects, Monster from Green Hell is your ticket to a cinematic buffet. The narrative has a lot in common with the usual b movies of this kind, though the switch from atomic radiation to cosmic radiation adds a fun new wrinkle, I think. This one has a good deal of stock footage and scenes borrowed from other movies, with the 1939 film Stanley and Livingstone being the main source, so this is kind of a patched up production. The stock footage is used to try to open up the scope and take the adventure to Africa, while keeping costs low, of course. Much of the movie, whether stock footage or new scenes, is rather slow and quite low rent, so even at 71 minutes, it feels a little drawn out. But I enjoyed the b movie charms and the monster effects, while crude, are fun to watch. I have no idea how the concept of mutant wasps turned into these ant like creatures, but I wish they had more screen time. Monster of Green Hell is low-fi, b movie cheese by any definition, but if you appreciate clunky monster effects and stilted dialogue, give this one a shot.
The mutant “wasps” are the real stars of this one, but the human cast has some highlights, especially if you like wooden performances. Jim Davis takes the lead role seriously, but the script makes it tough to take his performance seriously. He has to deliver some of the hokey, cheesy lines and spout off typical science talk in the vein of b movie cinema science, of course, all of which he does and while I wouldn’t call his effort an award level one, he does what he can do. His turn isn’t as wooden or phoned in as some in the movie, so that is something, at least. I think the science scenes are the most entertaining, as Davis is fun to watch, as he tries to make this cheese seem serious. The cast also includes Vladimir Sokoloff, Barbara Turner, and Robert Griffin.
The Disc: This new restored edition from The Film Detective looks great, with a super clean print and a colorized finale to end the flick with a little punch. The print shows some wear signs, but they’re minor and I found detail to be quite good. The contrast is on the mark as well, with smooth shadows and no detail loss I could pick up on. As for the extras, we have a look at the career of Jim Davis, which is a good watch, as well as an audio commentary from author/artist Stephen R. Bissette.