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Wednesday, May 30, 2012


In a surprising number of ways, Warner Brothers' Trog is like the half-brother to the films Bigfoot and Horror of the Blood Monsters. They have many similarities and parallels. Trog is the last big-screen appearance of acting legend Joan Crawford. The rest of the cast are British, a few have been in sci-fi films. Michael Gough, for example, was the lead alien in They Come From Beyond Space ('67). As a story, Trog lies at the periphery of sci-fi, but has just enough to merit inclusion in this study.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Three young men are exploring a cave. One of them goes deeper and is attacked and killed by an ape-headed shaggy man. The second boy tries to help but is hurt. He's taken to the lab/clinic of Dr. Brockton (Crawford). She's convinced there's something prehistoric in the cave. She and the other spelunker check it out. She takes a photo of it. Later, Trog comes out of the cave and into the media spotlight. Dr. Brockton tranquilizes him with her hypo-gun. Scientists study him. She tries to civilize him. They plant a chip in him that lets them (somehow), see what he sees in his mind. After showing him photos of dinosaur skeletons from a museum, Trog remembers live dinosaurs fighting. Doc thinks Trog lived millions of years ago but froze in a glacier. He only recently thawed out. Dr. Brockton spouts mumbojumbo about Trog being a missing link and proof of evolution. A court of inquest is held over the matter of Cliff's death. A local civic leader, Sam Murdock (Gough), has been fomenting to have the creature killed as it's bad for his housing project. The court adjourns for a few days. Meanwhile, Dr. Brockton and her scientists operate to give Trog a voicebox. He wakes up and almost sort of speaks. At the resumed inquest, Murdock objects one too many times and is ejected. The court adjourns again. Later that night, Murdock sneaks into the lab. He knocks out a guard, trashes the place and sets Trog free to take the blame for the damage. Trog beats up Murdock (to death) then flees into the foggy woods. He kills a couple of villagers. He comes upon a playground and captures a little girl with blond hair -- like the doll Dr. Brockton let him play with. He carries the fainted child to the cave and goes inside. The army arrive to kill the beast. Dr. Brockton goes into the cave and sweet talks Trog into surrendering the child. The army go in, guns ablating, and shoot up Trog as he stands on a ledge. He falls to his death on a sharp stalagmite. Roll credits. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
What is essentially another remake of the King Kong story on a lesser scale, gives Trog some interest. Other features of interest are cited below.

Cultural Connection
Missing Links, cavemen and dinosaurs were, apparently, hot stuff in the early 70s. It is interesting to note how many of these films posit that cavemen and dinosaurs were contemporaries. These date back to Lost World ('25) through One Million B.C. ('40) to Dinosaurus ('60), to One Million Years B.C. ('66) with many more in between them all.

Bigfoot Parallels -- Both this film and Bigfoot are remixes of the old King Kong story. In both films, the ape-man is touted as the "Missing Link" between modern man and Neanderthal. In both films, the ape-man is far more ape than even Neanderthal. Both ape-men take a shine to a platinum blonde. Both carry off their blonde to their private lair. Both are shot dead with many bullets after surrendering their blonde.

Horrors Parallels -- This film and Horror of the Blood Monsters, another film of 1970, share a significant stylistic parallel too. Both feature recycled footage from the mid-50s, which was tinted various colors to integrate it into the modern color footage. Horror used a black and white 1956 Filippino fantasy/adventure film about cavemen and really strange cavemen. For Trog, Herman Cohen arranged to use clips from a 1956 documentary by Irwin Allen titled The Animal World, also from 1956. It contains the museum skeleton shots and the stop-motion animated dinosaurs -- which were done by Ray Harryhausen.

Soames Parallels -- There are even some social commentary parallels to The Mind of Mr. Soames (another 1970 Brithish film). Both feature a primitive human who becomes enmeshed in a social tug-o-war. On the one hand, are the soft-hearted liberals, the doctors, who want to study him, rehabilitate and nurture him with toys. On the other hand are the hard-nosed conservatives who insist on justice, protecting the public and punishment. In both cases, the hapless subject gets loose into the 'civilized' world and runs afoul of civilization. Like Soames, Trog becomes an unfortunate pawn in the political power struggles. This trope will surface again in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Darwinian Blather -- As with most all missing link movies, the writers try to dress up their scenario with blather about evolution which usually makes an unintended mockery of Darwinism. For one, they all seem to accept that cavemen and dinosaurs walked the earth together. This gives modern evolutionists fits. Then there is the (now) quaint notion that modern humans descended in a single chain -- therefore the need for "links" missing in the chain. Evolutionists had long ago given up on the chain model, yet, such notions of evolution have percolated down into the culture such that even science-minded laymen will spew similar equally flawed darwin-blather with smugness. They may well have learned it from the movies.

Bottom line? Trog is not particularly good film. It has little science beyond evolution fluff. The caveman makeup is poor. Joan Crawford lends dignity to the film, but cannot save it. Trog is more interesting when viewed in context with its sibling films cited above. On its own, it's not worth much effort to find.


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