From Hell It Came (1957)
At least I found two brief references to Destination Inner Space (1966) in my vintage monster movie reference books. I found none for From Hell It Came (1957.) This made me realize how many genre films must have been “discovered” sometime after the 1980s. Not worth mentioning in two decades’ worth of publishing, it’s well known today. When did that happen?
Unfortunately, it’s well known for being a really bad movie: 3.8 on IMDb, 24% on Rotten Tomatoes… I can’t go on. Sometimes I feel like I’ve seen a movie that’s different from the one everyone else has seen. Yeah, I procrastinated watching (and didn’t do it for years) the dreaded tree monster, Tabanga; but when I finally did, I enjoyed the heck out of it.
I think this is because of the quality that everyone else criticizes about it: how talky it is. For me, long explanations and colorful language describing a creature that no cinematic representation could possibly depict, especially in 1957, contributed to making Tabanga more believable when he/it did finally appear.
Actually, I did locate a mention of From Hell It Came in Famous Monsters of Filmland #60, which is as fun as the movie, so I’ll share it here in full:
Deviltry was offered again in From Hell It Came (Allied ‘57) when an atomic research group went to a Pacific island to care for natives suffering from radiation burns. The local witch doctors blamed the Americans for deaths caused by the “Black Plague.” Even the chief died. Son of the chief was put to death by the power-seeking principal witch doctor, excuse to the tribe being that the young man had become too friendly with the enemy, the Americans. Before he died, the young chieftain swore: “I’ll be back! I’ll return from the grave for my revenge!” When the warrior returns he is no longer recognizable as human. He has become a were-tree! And you can bet a limb his bite is worse than his bark! The “it” from Hell returns from Death’s domain to - Stalk! Kidnap! Kill! Now here’s a strange thing: This is one of the rare pictures we happened to miss so we have to depend on reviews of the time. Well! “Nearl” of Variety reported on the demise of the tree-man thusly: “It is eventually toppled into quicksand by a bullet.” But James Powers of Hollywood Reporter tells us that - The death of Chief Walking Tree is “just a question of driving further and fatally into his heart the dagger that failed to keep him dead the first time.” So, you take your pick: bullet or dagger. Which did YOU see? (If you were aroused 12 or 13 years ago - or saw it since on TV.)
Even Uncle Forry hadn’t seen From Hell It Came! Nor did he provide any pictures from the movie in the article. For some odd reason, there were several pictures from Konga. Yeah, there are killer plants in it, but its monster of note is a giant monkey. The article also includes Day of the Triffids (1963,) The Angry Red Planet (1959,) and Voodoo Island (1957.)
I can stand a little talkiness for just over an hour when it culminates in a great Paul Blaisdell creature. I don’t know if writer Richard Bernstein injected a little more action in his other genre film, Terrified! (1963;) I haven’t seen it. But I know director Dan Milner made another low budget movie that I love, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955), because I’ve seen that one.
Finally, I want to return to the FM article. The big debate seems to be over the ending and what actually killed Tabanga. I have no doubt about that, and if you don't think firing a pistol at the handle of the knife sticking out of the tree monster, trying to hit it in order to drive it deeper into its heart is fun, well... I'm not sure you know what fun is!
Written by Richard Bernstein
Directed by Dan Milner
Starring Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Chester Hayes
RT 71 min.
Released in August 25, 1957
Home Video Warner Archive (Blu-ray)
Terrors of the Man Eating Plants: death's devil tree
Famous Monsters of Filmland #60
December 1969, United States, Warren Publishing Co.