What can you say about a monster movie featuring a walking, stalking, murderous tree on a wooden rampage? In the instance of From Hell It Came, you can say a whole heck of a lot just by saying very little. In fact, the most commonly referenced review of the movie was a six-word piece which read nothing more than “And to Hell it can go!” But ne’er fear, kiddies ‒ From Hell It Came has managed to uproot itself and terrorize unsuspecting filmgoers once again. This time, however, bad movie aficionados ’round the world will be able to fully immerse themselves in this hideously hilarious creature feature from 1957 thanks to a beautiful new HD scan of the flick by the part-time cinemasochists at the Warner Archive Collection.
The second and final production made by brothers Dan and Jack Milner (who had previously helmed the equally notorious 1955 sci-fi flick The Creature from 10,000 Leagues together), From Hell It Came opens with the doomed prince of a South Seas island being sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. But not before vowing to return to avenge himself, that is. And since this very Southern Californian-looking island happens to have been blessed with a wave of radioactive fallout (courtesy of the generous men of the United States Government), there’s a darn good chance he might just do so. Alas, nary a native on the entire island had ever heard of the classic idiom, “Be careful what you wish for,” and the dead prince soon returns as an evil killer tree.
Apparently, God isn’t the only superpower with a wicked sense of humor.
Seriously, folks. That is the story of From Hell It Came.
A runner-up for Most Ridiculous Movie Monster in Harry and Michael Medved’s legendary 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards: The Worst Achievements in Hollywood History, low-budget ’50s creature designer Paul Blaisdell’s infamous (uncredited, for some reason) creation most certainly deserved such an honor. It’s bulky, goofy, and extremely awkward to look at ‒ especially when you observe that round pulsating “air hole” (read: “anus”) directly above the phallic-shaped knife handle protruding from its heart, which makes the whole “walking wood” thing all the more absurd. Indeed, From Hell It Came‘s Tabonga fits right in with other disreputable bad movie creations such as Ro-Man from Robot Monster and the killer carpet of The Creeping Terror.
But if you think a walking hard-on critter is laughable, wait until you see the human monsters of From Hell It Came. At the heart (ha-ha) of the tale is Mr. Tod Andrews, whose career as a motion picture actor ‒ particularly as a leading man ‒ came to an abrupt end after this film premiered, although we would have the pleasure of seeing him make cameos in two additional cult favorites, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and The Baby (both from director Ted Post). Here, however, Andrews plays an alleged doctor whose unhealthy obsession with the female lead ‒ as played by Tina Carver, who only made a few TV appearances after this ‒ makes it all too clear he is a sociopathic menace and psychological manipulator. And mind you, he’s supposed to be the hero.
But when Andrews isn’t gaslighting Carver, whose character seems to be torn between being a scientist or being a statistic, we are also treated to a terrible, dubbed-over accent on Linda Watkins (another performer who would rarely show up in feature films following this misfire, with the notable exception of appearing in The Parent Trap) as a horny aging widow. But the underrated highlight of the tale is, limbs down, short-lived B-movie/TV doctor John McNamara (War of the Colossal Beast), who makes his film debut as a professor. And the only reason he is considered to be a highlight is because when he isn’t delivering lines in a very unique sardonic style, he’s standing in the background, staring heavily at the others, becoming one with the scenery.
But then, no one should be surprised a movie about a killer tree features wooden performances. [Ta-dum]
Toss in a heap of desperate Hollywood extras as “natives” (either the multinational islanders are an early example of Tinseltown diversity, or they too were affected by the radioactive fallout), continuity gaps/plot holes galore, some of the worst acting this side of a ’50s TV soap opera, and ‒ of course ‒ the very same special defects that have only gone to make From Hell It Came so legendary, and you have yourselves one of the most enjoyably bad movies ever made. And every unbelievable frame looks better than anyone probably ever thought imaginable in this stellar Blu-ray catalog release from the folks at the WAC, who not only dug up a fine-grain positive master, but put it through some extensive restoration (or Hell, if you prefer).
Despite all of what I had read about From Hell It Came as a young lad, this was truly the first time I was able to sit down and see the fabled guilty pleasure for myself. Frankly, I could not have waited for a better time to do so, as the Warner Archive Collection presentation is so crisp and clear, it just might make your staring at that mouth-hole all the more cumbersome. Not only will you be able to see how funky-lookin’ that Tabonga thing is, you’ll also note just how cheap the production values were on this low-budget class-ick ‒ which could very well result in having a minor brain aneurysm as you try to figure out precisely how this movie came to be made. I mean, this really isn’t the type of project you simply expect to grow a pair of legs and start walking, right?
Then again, maybe it is.
Accompanying the beautiful image on this Warner Archive offering is an above-average DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack, which has also been put through its fair share of restoration for this above-average release of a subpar movie. Apart from the included optional English subtitles, the only special feature to be found here is the film’s original theatrical trailer (also in HD), which erroneously (and rather appropriately) refers to the monster as the “Baranga” for some reason. Said mislabeling becomes all the more amusing when one realizes “baranga” is a Brazilian Portuguese slang word for “very ugly woman.” One can only assume that was the original name of the monster, and they changed it prior to release when someone informed them what the word meant.
Either that, or the folks at Allied Artists ‒ who had the dubious honor of being stuck with this dud for general distribution and marketing ‒ had an equally wicked sense of humor, too, as the Tabonga is most assuredly one fugly-lookin’ bitch.
Needless to say, this motion picture atrocity comes Highly Recommended by yours truly.
Enjoy. If you can.