Universal Pictures would round out 1956 with another sci-fi horror entitled The Mole People, which these days may evoke visions of The Underminer from The Incredibles.
The production house’s only other genre feature that year was the final instalment to the Creature series, The Creature Walks Among Us. Retrospectively looking back now, I find that The Mole People has little residual effect on my cerebellum. This says a lot about the feature and it’s slow demise from horror into science fiction, a mantle that would give way to upcoming British horror production outfit, Hammer Films.
Loosely based on the concept of a hollow Earth where an alternate human race has evolved and existed deep beneath our planet’s surface.
Part of its dissociation from the audience stems from the narration at the beginning of the movie, detailing the premise of life underground, by Dr. Frank Baxter to add weight to the theory and ironically ground the movie in a hypothetical truth. Instead it just distances us from the story with an unnecessary breaking of the fourth wall.
When the story does pick up however, we follow John Agar as Archaeologist Dr. Roger Bentley who along with his associate Dr. Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont) discovers a Sumerian albino race. This ancient race keep mutant mole people as slaves to harvest mushrooms to er ahem.. serve as a “food source”. Yeah right.
This primitive race is devoted to Ishtar, Goddess of Love, Fertility and War, and it is to this divine presence that they sacrifice young women from their tribe. This also paves way for the love interest in the movie when Bentley falls for intended oblation, Adad (Cynthia Patrick), a fair-headed damsel in distress.
Apart from their blind devotion, these underground dwellers are also addled by any source of light. Their choice of abode, in the darkness, has led them to be afflicted, and it is through the archaeologists’ flashlight which keeps them at bay; at least until the High Priest (Alan Napier) discovers the use of this tool and that their Godly pretence is a falsehood.
It is the film’s climax however that potentially leaves the biggest mark of ambiguity, when fleeing towards freedom and life above ground, Adad who has chosen to joining Bentley and Bellamin, is suddenly stuck down, when she begins to question her intent. A feeling of unease swiftly follows when the realisation that there will be no happy ending, and the wonderment around the exact purpose of the film.
The Mole People is currently available as part of a blu ray double feature alongside, The Land Unknown at Umbrella Entertainment.
- Saul Muerte