It’s a critical cliché to knock the monster design in such a barren, impossibly cheap Roger Corman production, yet even by his standards, Beast from Haunted Cave is a dismal creation. A spider… thing, it has arms that flop like pool noodles and a face covered by hair or webs – which isn’t exactly clear. That assumes it has a face at all. Whatever the case, there isn’t a decent look at this thing for the entire movie.
Partly that’s because it’s so rarely in the movie of its namesake. Beast from Haunted Cave follows a ski instructor unknowingly giving lessons to gold mine thieves who inadvertently unleash this critter. While waiting for the monster, which occasionally growls somewhere in the distance, they talk. And talk. And talk.
Beast from Haunted Cave doesn’t have a full hour of material, much as it might want someone to believe otherwise. In 65-minutes, there isn’t a single notable shot, the dry, quick, certainly single take cinematography typically static as the limited story grows. Hero Gil (Michael Forest) fends off a few attacks from the criminals, but generally tries keeping the leader’s wife Gypsy (Shelia Noonan) sober. That’s a greater struggle than anything against the creature.
In the (mercifully so) final five minutes, the cast gathers in the cave, some certain victims, others fighting back. A few rounds of gunfire and conveniently foreshadowed flare gun shots later and it’s over, a true non-event. Beast from Haunted Cave isn’t the worst ‘50s sci-fi/horror film, but it’s lacking any material to generate unintentional laughs either. Outside of a bizarre moment where a crook tries to make milk and graham crackers, struggling with the task as if in a dopey late night infomercial, Beast from Haunted Cave isn’t worth a look.
A pleasing presentation has a few faults to conquer, but in general, Beast from Haunted Cave’s presentation looks great in HD. The print shows an insurmountable level of damage, but restoration minimizes things the best it can. Same with gate weave, which is rough around the 42-minute mark.
Resolution and clarity surprise considering the budget and age. Fluctuation in the grain structure suggest a few different sources stitched together, some a generation or two removed from the best (and possibly some 16mm? That’s a guess though).
While grain jumps in severity, the encode is an impressive one. Beast from Haunted Cave doesn’t fall to any digital noise, at least not in any visible way. Moderate gray scale keeps up with what’s typically flat cinematography. Shadows bounce from pure black to gray with clipping contrast on the regular.
Both DTS-HD and Dolby Digital mono are on offer, although why there’s a need for a compressed track at all is a mystery. There’s no harm in its inclusion; it’s just odd. The hollow sound is pure Corman cheapness, every line indoors clearly recorded on minimal sets, echo and all. While never satisfying, Beast from Haunted Cave is at least stable, barring a few skips on the track due to damage.
This lavish special edition includes a bonus movie shot on the same locations, Ski Patrol Attack. There are also two versions of Beast from Haunted Cave, a theatrical and TV edit. The best-in-the-business Tom Weaver is joined by Larry Blamire on a great commentary (theatrical version only). Original still from the actual filming set follow. Also, inside the case, Weaver pens an essay as does C. Courtney Joyner.
Update: There’s also an easter egg in the menu. Scroll all the way to the right while in the main menu, which highlights the monsters eyes and select them for an additional bonus.
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Beast from Haunted Cave
A slog even at barely an hour long, Beast from Haunted Cave is pure Roger Corman cheap filmmaking at its most infamous.
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