Saturday, August 12, 2006

John Agar Rules! Part 2

In THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956) Agar plays Dr. Roger Bentley an archeologist working on a dig somewhere in Asia. (That’s as specific as the film gets!) He finds a tablet fragment with indications of Sumerian origins and then comes across an ancient oil lamp that points towards a local mountain. Agar along with Hugh Beaumont mounts an expedition to the summit and after much stock climbing footage they reach a high plateau scattered with crumbling Sumerian buildings. After a member of the group falls into a deep crevasse the men descend into the mountain and make the archeological discovery of the century- a living Sumerian settlement cut off from the world for thousands of years! Most of the population has become albino with extremely pale skin and sensitivity to bright light while some have ‘devolved’ into hideous mole like humanoids. The mole men are used as slave labor and treated horribly. Using his still functioning flashlight Agar convinces the rulers that he’s a messenger from one of their gods and starts romancing one of the Sumerian ‘throwbacks’ i.e. a normal looking woman named Adad (Cynthia Patrick) with a great hair stylist. Finally Agar and Beaumont instigate a Mole man rebellion making good their escape with Adad in tow.

Silly, cheesy fun from start to finish THE MOLE PEOPLE never resembles anything close to reality. When our heroes encounter the Sumerians there is a very quick nod to Agars’ ability to speak the (very dead) language but then all the members of the party suddenly can as well. The mole men are treated as beasts and constantly beaten but never use their digging ability to escape their cruel masters. And of course, isn’t Agar lucky to run across that rare ‘normal’ girl to romance and rescue? But with all the crazed fun this film offers it is Agar’s character that gives the film its entertaining high points. Arrogant to the point of annoyance Bentley is so forward in the first third of the movie that it feels like he’ll be the villain of the story. Adding to the strangeness on display is some of the dumbest dialog of any film of the period with Agar getting the lion’s share. That he was able to utter lines like “In archeology all things are possible” with a straight face shows a real acting skill.

In the right frame of mind THE MOLE PEOPLE is a blast and while never actually good it still stands as a great example of the qualities fans love about 50‘s Science Fiction movies. I love this film the way you love a not too bright pet that might chew up your shoes but is simply too cute to strangle.

To be continued...........

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