The actual story begins with archaeologist Dr. Roger Bentley (John Agar) working on a dig somewhere in Asia. (That's as specific as the film gets!) He and his team find a tablet fragment with indications of Sumerian origins. After a small earthquake they are shown an unearthed ancient oil lamp found at the base of a local mountain. Convinced of the possibility of a major find, Bentley and Dr. Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont) mount an expedition to the mountain's summit. After much stock climbing footage — shades of 1951's Lost Continent! — they reach a high plateau scattered with crumbling Sumerian buildings. When a member of the team falls into a deep crevasse the men descend into the mountain and make the archaeological discovery of the century: a living Sumerian settlement cut off from the world for thousands of years! Amazingly the inhabitants have survived through the ages and maintained their culture and history. Most of the population has become albino, with extremely pale skin and a high sensitivity to bright light, while some have 'devolved' into hideous mole-like humanoids. These Mole Men are used as slave labor and are treated horribly by their masters.
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 other 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 incredibly 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 highlights. Arrogant almost to the point of annoyance, Bentley is so forward in the first third of the movie that it felt like he'd be the villain of the story. A pushy, arrogant ass, he really seems to be the guy most likely to get a harsh comeuppance until the final third when he slides jarringly into hero mode. I love the fact that the Sumerians mistaken assumption of divine powers meshed so well with Bentley's character. It didn't take much for him to start acting like a deity. I'm surprised his swelled head didn't give off a radiance of its own!
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 archaeology all things are possible" with a straight face shows real acting skill. I love that someone asked an actor to say, "The thing that impresses me the most is the complete and utter silence — you can almost hear it." I live for this kind of wackiness.
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 '50s science fiction movies. It's very well produced, with all the right elements to make it a fun Saturday afternoon matinee. 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. They don't make them like this any more... And maybe that's a good thing.
Now- Bring on the Blu-Ray!