Cult Movie: Trog an abysmal film that was star Joan Crawford's last screen outing

Joan Crawford and the trog in Trog
Ralph McLean

THERE are shoddily made, woefully scripted British B-movies and then there is Trog.

When Bette Davis found out that her arch nemesis Joan Crawford was starring in that clueless 1970 tale of a reactivated underground beast who rises to terrorise a sleepy English town with his cheap monkey mask and oddly fashionable Ugg boots her response was bitter but undeniably heartfelt.

If she'd been reduced to appearing in such a film, she mused gracelessly, “I'd commit suicide.”

Cruel as such a comment is, a swift viewing of Trog today suggests she may have had a point.

This is a frankly abysmal film, a poorly plotted sci-fi thriller meets horror hybrid that is neither thrilling nor horrific. Cheap and clueless, it marks a career low point, not just for Crawford – who makes her final movie appearance here – but also for director Freddie Francis.

He may have been an Oscar winner as a cinematographer but really should have hung his head in shame for Neanderthal nonsense like this. The special effects are pathetic, the make-up utterly miserable and the running time shamelessly padded with footage from a totally different film, Ray Harryhausen's The Animal World in case you're wondering.

It is, in summary, utter rubbish. Regular readers will perhaps be unsurprised to find out that I love it dearly all the same.

Enter with low expectations, and possibly a selection of refreshing libations of your choosing, and there's a ton of fun to be had here.

A trio of fairly camp potholers uncover a mysterious cavern deep in the English countryside that plays home to the Stone Age, half man half ape Trog of the title. Wearing what seems like half an ape costume, apparently liberated from the 2001 wardrobe department, and very little else, this angry monkey man attacks the dim-witted adventurers, leaving just two of them to escape and tell their unlikely story.

Crawford is Dr Brockton, a kind-hearted anthropologist who takes them in and immediately heads underground to see the beast for herself.

Crawford reckons it's the “missing link” and pleads with the authorities to let her take it in and study it in her conveniently positioned research facility. The cops aren't convinced, though, and reckon our overacting ape man looks like “something out of a students rag week”. Personally I'm with the law on this one.

There are interminable sequences where Crawford, who seems oddly detached and unbitchy throughout, tries to teach the beast to play ball and dance to classical music but when the always watchable Michael Gough (playing an angry local dignitary who wants to donate Trog to the nearest meat-processing plant pronto) breaks in and releases the monkey-masked one into the streets things really kick off.

Once out and about our hirsute hero attacks some locals, terrorises a playground full of bawling kids and retreats to the caves from whence he came, with the army on his tail.

It's a fittingly mad ending to a totally bizarre but wildly entertaining pile of guff.

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