Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)
Updated: May 17
Thankfully, the film's economy is not confined to its budget.
Released as a double-bill along with Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman, Beast from Haunted Cave is a fine example of low-budget horror, intelligently done.
Produced by Gene Corman (Roger's brother), the film is directed by Monte Hellman (director of the critically acclaimed Two-Lane Blacktop and The Shooting) This was the beginning of their friendship as they both collaborated on several films after this.
A group of thieves intends to steal gold bars from a bank in a small town. The plan is to create a diversion through an explosion in a mine and while the town is busy responding to it, the thieves will use a ski-run as an alibi to get to a cabin where a plane will pick them up from. They use Gil Jackson, a handsome local guide who is innocent of the robbery, to lead them to the cabin.
A few things go wrong, of course. The group leader's 'secretary' falls for the guide, the weather takes a bad turn and this party is confined to the cabin and last but not the least: the explosion meant as a diversion releases a spider-like beast from the cave which is a fan of human blood.
The film mixes a heist tale with a monster horror genre with amusing and ultimately satisfying B-Movie results. The acting could have been better with Gil Jackson trying to come across as suave and mysterious but only being as expressive as a log. The characters are otherwise well-drawn and some of them even have a convincing backstory and motivation.
The star of the piece is the monster itself. Hellman wisely chooses to keep it off-screen for most of the film's short running time, revealing it fully towards the end. The reasons for this might be budgetary but the tactic pays off as it creates more tension and fear - both adjectives comparative to most other low-budget pulp horrors.
Trivia alert: The beast costume is by Chris Robinson, who also turns up a bartender in a scene.
Like a spider, the beast holds its victims in a web, to come back and sup on them later. It is also shown to be very intelligent as it uses one of the victims, a girlfriend on one of the thieves, as bait to get the other. The makeup on the victims is great and even recalls German Expressionism.
Beast from the Haunted Cave is creaky in a lot of departments but most of its flaws will pass as quirks today. Its short running time ensures that not a lot of it is wasted.
You can currently watch the film here: