Two 1950s B-movie science fiction/horror films licensed from United Artists make their high def debut courtesy of Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory label, The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) and The Neanderthal Man (1953). Both films would be fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000, filled with unintentional laughs.
Distributed By: Scream Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 20 Min., 1 Hr. 18 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDDual-disc keepcase
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 01/28/2014
The Beast of Hollow Mountain: 2 out of 5
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
At its core, The Beast of Hollow Mountain is a by-the-numbers B-movie western, at least for the first 60 of its 80 minute running time. Jimmy Ryan (western staple Guy Madison) and his partner, Felipe (Carlos Rivas), run a cattle ranch in Mexico, but are being intimidated by neighboring rancher Enrique (Eduardo Noriega) to sell their ranch before taking their cattle to market. Enrique stoops low enough to scare the workers at Jimmy’s ranch by telling them a tale of a giant monster living in the mountain surrounded by a swamp that is devouring the lost cattle in the area, and may come after them next. Enrique is also overly jealous of a possible budding relationship between his fiance Sarita (Patricia Medina) and Jimmy, so much so that he picks a fight in the center of town. As things escalate, the monster finally makes his grand appearance at the 60 minute mark (by way of rubber boots shaped like dinosaur feet), and eventually appears on-screen as a Willis O’Brien-inspired creature (O’Brien received a story credit on the film). The main problems with The Beast of Hollow Mountain are its generic western plot that build little to no tension between its main characters, its shift in tone (and genre) during the third act, and again its lack of suspense and believability in the creature (even by 1950s standards).
The Neanderthal Man: 2.5 out of 5
Fairing only slightly better, The Neanderthal Man tells the story of Professor Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne), an anthropologist experimenting in devolution. The film begins with attacks by a large, menacing tiger in the California Sierras. As Dr. Ross Harkness (Richard Crane) and game warden George Oakes (Robert Long) investigate, it is discovered that Groves has created a serum that, when injected into a subject, causes them to devolve into a previous species. House cats are being changed into sabre-toothed tigers, and Groves turning himself (and his deaf mute house servant Celia, played by Tandra Quinn) into neanderthals. Things go too far when Groves begins killing innocent visitors to the State Park while transformed into a neanderthal, and his eventual fate is much like that of The Wolfman. The film works because it knows that it is a B-movie creature feature, and tells its ridiculous story from beginning to end, with some suspense, yet never veering off course or into a completely different genre. The creatures are a bit ridiculous. A bengal tiger is used as a double for the sabre-toothed tiger during live shots, but the fangs don’t appear until the creature is killed, and the neanderthal makeup on Robert Shayne looks like something out of I Was a Teenage Werewolf.
The Beast of Hollow Mountain: 3 out of 5
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
This is a problematic transfer, due mostly to the source material itself. The print contains a lot of minor vertical scratches, and detail is virtually lost during any optical effect. That being said, the transfer provided by MGM to Shout! Factory (compressed using the AVC codec and retaining the film’s intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio) is still very good, with vivid colors, good detail (when an optical is not being used), and decent blacks.
The Neanderthal Man: 3.5 out of 5
The transfer provided for The Neanderthal Man is sourced from much better elements than the previous feature on this disc. Compressed using the AVC codec, the transfer retains the film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This is a black and white film, and the transfer sports acceptable contrast with whites that never clip, but blacks that never get too inky. Detail is quite good, particularly in the transformation sequences where you can see the hair growing on Robert Shayne’s face and hands. some dirt and scratches are evident, but mostly during the stock footage used during much of the picture.
Both films are presented in their original mono soundtracks using DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Dialogue is clear and understandable, as well as the additional score and sound effects. The lossless tracks do reveal the limitations in the recording technology of the day, but that is to be expected on films such as these.
Audio Rating: 3/5
DVD Copy: The films are also provided on a DVD in standard definition.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Not sure how large the fan base is on either of these films, which may be why MGM licensed them to Shout! Factory, and why they are presented on a double-feature Blu-ray/DVD combo. The presentations are acceptable, and although there are no special features, I really can’t think of what special features (other than original trailers) would or could be included on this disc.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
Support HTF when you buy this title: