Inspiration comes from the strangest places and, oftentimes, when under pressure. To think that had Arch Hall’s movie, The Choppers (1961), not needed a second feature to go with it for a distribution deal, and had Richard Kiel not turned down Hall's idea for that second feature, Eegah! might never have been made! It was during a conversation about Kiel’s refusal that Hall began outlining it on a legal pad.
In an interview on the recent The Film Detective release of Eegah!, Arch Hall Jr. states that the importance of his father’s film was that it allowed The Choppers to be released. I haven’t seen The Choppers, and I only just watched Eegah! for the first time, so I can’t attest to the “importance” of any of this. Let’s just say I’m suspicious. In fact, this MST3K mainstay seems like an unusual choice for Blu-ray at all.
The movie is certainly not as bad as its reputation, but the crystal clear presentation sometimes serves to draw attention to the difference in quality when stock footage is used. I doubt that young Arch Hall Jr., not even 20-years old at the time, really faced a rattlesnake, a wolf, and various lizards in the Palm Desert locations where Eegah! was filmed.
In his book, The Fabulous Fantasy Films, Jeff Rovin compares Eegah! to The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1958):
Unlike the Creature (of the Black Lagoon) films, this picture was simply a monster-gone-mad story with no attempt at characterization or subtlety. Of the same school was Eegah!
In my mind, I’d place Eegah! in the same school as early 60s B-movies like Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Horror of Party Beach (1963), and Beach Girls & the Monster (1964). I’m fond of all those, and while I don’t feel quite the same way about Eegah! (I mean, a “giant” caveman isn’t really a “monster”), it’s nevertheless an entertaining, effort.
In the liner notes for the Blu-ray, Don Stradley, editorial advisor for The Film Detective, writes repeatedly about the success of Eegah! at the box office. My research couldn’t discover how much it made against its $15,000 budget, but with that price tag, it wouldn’t have had to make much to turn a nice profit. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s “only” $131,000, give or take, today.)
I couldn’t find much else about Eegah! in my reference library; however, in Horrors from Screen to Scream, Ed Naha provides a humorous synopsis:
A lumbering giant leaves his remote mountain home and makes his way to the city in search of the short-skirted, tennis-playing socialite he has fallen in love with. Finding her at poolside, it’s everybody into the pool as Eegah does his prehistoric thing at a teenage party. Home movie time.
Naha’s synopsis covers only about the last third of the movie. During the first two-thirds, the short-skirted socialite, Roxy (Marilyn Manning), her boyfriend, Tom (Arch Hall Jr.), and her adventurer father, Mr. Miller (Arch Hall Sr.), play hide and seek on Shadow Mountain and in Deep Canyon with the “giant” caveman she nearly hit with her cute little sports car the night before.
I keep placing the word “giant” in quotation marks because, although Richard Kiel is quite tall in comparison to most of the other actors, I wouldn’t technically classify him as a “giant.” The script by Arch Hall Sr. probably emphasizes it so father and daughter can refer, not once, but twice, to the Bible. Roxy first says, “There were giants; the Bible says so.”
Then, at the end of the movie when the characters question what they’ve just experienced, they can agree, “Yes, he was real. It says so in the book of Genesis.” How the story concludes is reminiscent of a real giant monster movie, King Kong (1933.) Instead of falling from the Empire State Building when he’s riddled with bullets though, poor Eegah falls in the swimming pool.
He never really does any damage, unless you count using his club to break into the house when he’s searching for Roxy. She’s wiser to pay attention to his lecherous ways than his temper. He’s spent an awful long time in a cave with his mummified relatives and he’d like to fondle this nubile young creature, even if her father is watching when, during the first two-thirds, they’re both held captive in said cave.
Tom wanders the rocky hills looking for them, missing out on such delicacies as sulfur water and the bone of some animal upon which Eegah gnaws. When they make their daring escape in a dune buggy, I daresay the movie is somewhat suspenseful. I’m just sayin’… dune buggies can get stuck in the sand and “giant” cavemen can… well, throw rocks at them.
Even though there’s a horny streak running through Eegah (the character and the movie), there’s also an innocent 1950s sense of humor. Mr. Miller is always cracking bad dad jokes and he has a nice rapport with Roxy. For example, as Eegah introduces Roxy to the remains of his family, Mr. Miller notes, “He can’t accept they’re dead.” She replies, “I’m not having any trouble.”
The biggest weakness of Eegah! is the acting, or lack thereof. At the same time, though, it contributes to the overall effect. It would probably seem much worse if good actors were playing the roles. Besides, these aren’t “real” actors; they’re friends and family of the Halls. As for the MST3K treatment, Hall Jr. is probably right. Skewering it “allowed the film to live on.”
Written by Bob Wehling Original Story by Nicholas Merriwether, aka Arch Hall Sr.
Directed by Nicholas Merriwether, aka Arch Hall Sr.
Starring Arch Hall Jr., Marilyn Manning, Richard Kiel, William Watters aka Arch Hall Sr.
RT 92 min.
US Release Date April 17, 1962 (Biloxi, MS)
Home Video The Film Detective (Blu-ray)
Jeff Rovin, The Fabulous Fantasy Films
1977, United States, A.S. Barnes & Co., Inc.
Ed Naha, Horrors from Screen to Scream
1975, United States, Avon Books
Don Stradley, liner notes
2019, United States, The Film Detective LLC