Let's talk poster: The only thing that is missing from this poster is the little leg thingies the fiends use to propel themselves.
If the artist had included them, this would have been a runaway. I will still award it an A minus and allow it to stay for tea and cookies. High five.
Let me first begin by saying this is the only B-movie I have ever seen that is set in Canada.
Others have mentioned Canada, still others have made reference to other countries existing (which would not exclude Canada) but this is the only one that says "This is all happening in Canada". Now, having said that, all you Canadians out there can put away your back bacon and your beer and quit waving around your flags. This was filmed 100 per cent in Jolly Old England. Well, doesn't that just knock yer hat in da creek, eh? What a bunch of hosers! Yes, and to be precise, the movie takes place in the fictional town of Winthrop, Manitoba.
How do I know it's fictional? I Googled it. It's literally Nowheresville, man. There is a Winthrop, Ontario but this is set in Manitoba. And as long as we're pointing out flaws: there are no mountains like this
in Manitoba. Canada, yes, Manitoba, no. Here's a photo of the area near Baldy Mountain in Manitoba.
Note lack of mountain. Here's another photo of Duck Mountain Provincial Park.
Again, no mountain. I'm not dissing on Manitoba. I'm saying the writers of "Fiend" needed to do a little fact checking. I live a thirty minute drive from the Rocky Mountains and I suspect that is where the footage was taken from. Alright! Enough griping! Let us commence!
Plot: A man is seen going for a stroll.
It turns out he is strolling close to a U.S. Air Force experimental station. Perfect place for a night-time jaunt.
At any rate, we soon hear the same thing an Air Force guard hears, which sounds a bit like an old man eating an ice cream bar. The guard comes running over and finds this:
Well, okay...the guard probably doesn't see the title screen. I think that was more for the benefit of the viewer. Now we have established there are strange goings-on going on (?) at this particular experimental station. In my opinion, if you are in the vicinity of anything that advertises itself as experimental, you should about-face and get out of there. No good can come of it. Now we have the obligatory footage to establish that this experimental station is both large and guarded.
Please note that the sign stuck to the building is the exact same sign that was stuck to the fence earlier. Recycling! It was a good idea even back in 1958! Now we need a hero...anyone have a heroic looking person?
Hmm....that's what we have, is it? Well, beggars can't be choosers, I guess. Let's move on. This is Maj. Jeff Cummings. Seriously? Your hero's name is Jeff? Well, that's what I get for complaining about the names of heroes in films. So, Jeff here is part of the team using atomic energy to boost signals used in radar.
No real reason is given for how atomic energy does this, but it does help move things along, plot wise. Jeff's right-hand man is Captain Al Chester.
I guess Jeff wasn't such a bad choice after all. Word of the strange death reaches Jeff and soon the dead man's sister is asked to meet with Jeff and his superior, Col. Butler. Colonel Butler is convinced the dead man was up to something and questions the sister.
She insists he only was getting evidence for his theory that the planes on the air base were spooking the milk-producing cows that are so prevalent in Winthrop, Manitoba. As proof she decodes her brother's notebook and explains why he was recording the take-off times of various jets. The Colonel
.....uhm, no the other Colonel asks Jeff to give Barbara
(the dead guy's sister) a ride back to her house. On the way, we notice two things: 1- Jeff has a hankerin' for the this supposedly French Canadian lady and 2- it's not always easy to keep the camera's shadow out of the shot.
After dropping off Barbara at her home in the middle of absolutely nowhere,
Jeff hastens back to further his research. I have to admire his tenacity. That boy is going places!
However, Jeff finds that his radar/nuclear fission combo isn't giving the results he would like. It's almost as if some unseen force is sapping the power. No matter. Plenty more where that came from. Jeff just calls his good buddy Pete
down in the nuclear power plant and tells Pete to crank 'er up! It's not like there's a danger of nuclear melt-down or anything!
Oh, wait...yeah, I guess there is. Anyway, it's only Canada! Crank it! Which Pete does. The radar receivers
get their 15 minutes of fame but the signal is still too weak. Cut to the Winthrop Memorial Cemetery, where dear old Buddy Whatsisname is being interred.
This scene is completely unnecessary and will not be commented on....damn! Too late. That was a comment. Cut to a local farmer and his wife
trying to get their chores done while still finding time to glare at the jets
as they take off from the nearby air base. That'll teach 'em! Maybe a good fist shake and a few well-chosen stern words! Canadians! This is why we aren't a superpower! Too nice! We should just invade the U.S. one day just for shiggles. No one would see it coming. We would be like the nice country that just snapped. The news would be interviewing other countries to ask them what they thought and we'd hear things like "Canada always seemed like such a quiet country. Mainly just kept to itself. Kind of a loner." Anyway, Mama (let's assume that's her name 'cause it won't matter in a minute) goes into the barn
to feed the chickens. As she does, we hear the ice cream bar sucking sounds again and see the straw on the ground being moved around.
And then...BLAMMO! Mama is accosted by some unseen beast!
Why, I may even go so far as to say it's a fiend! Only an invisible fiend! One without a face! Golly! Papa (probably his name) comes running in to see what the ruckus is all about and finds Mama
deader than Caesar's ghost on the floor. Lord T'underin' Jesus, boy! (That's Canadian for "Holy *bleep*!") Being Canadian, Papa grabs the only weapon at his disposal
(we're not allowed to have guns. Our Prime Minister says we'll put our eyes out) and pokes away furiously at the straw. He is soon rewarded with a nice bit of brain sucking of his own.
See, Stephen Harper? This is why we need guns! Don't come crying to me when invisible hopping brain monsters come to suck your brains out and I don't have a gun to protect you! Tough noogies!
soon gets the call about the peculiar deaths and sends Jeff over to the coroner's office to get the skinny.
Now we find out all the icky details. Like the victims had two punctures in the base of their skulls and their brains and spinal columns had been mysteriously removed. Spineless and brainless Canadians, eh? Hmmm....
No comment. Anyway, Jeff makes a comment about "Mental vampires" which for some reason goes largely unnoticed. He decides Barbara needs to hear about this and heads up to her house. But Babs is in the shower
and can't hear him knocking. As he knocks, he also notices the door is slightly open.
Being the hero of this picture, he is contractually obligated to ensure the safety of all pretty young women, so he goes in.
To be fair, Jeff does call out a few times and doesn't just go make himself a sandwich. But he still manages to be there when Barbara enters the room wearing only a towel.
Oh! My heavens! Apologies all around. Jeff acts sheepish, but his eyes give him away.
While Barbara goes and puts on a housecoat, Jeff notices a manuscript Barbara has been typing out for someone named Professor R. E. Walgate.
That's interesting. Mental vampires, and now this. Jeff manages to have a lengthy conversation with a pretty young woman who's house he just broke into,
(never works for me. I rarely get past the guard dogs.) and finds out the Professor is doing research on ESP and thought projection. Hmm...but it's not all near-nudity and plot progression as Constable Gibbons takes issue with Jeff being there.
As usual in these B-movies, punches are thrown
and after a short time no one seems the worse for wear and just goes about their business. Jeff returns to the base and asks Al
to find all the information he can on this professor. It isn't long before Al returns with several of the professor's books (apparently there's a great bookstore in the farmlands of Winthrop, Manitoba) and something interesting becomes obvious: the prop people had no idea how to spell "cybernetics".
Also, we learn the professor is a man Jeff wants to learn more about. Jeff doesn't seem to sleep at any point during the movie, choosing instead the 50's alternative of cigarettes and coffee.
Oh, and look, some nice person made Jeff some sandwiches. I wish I had some sandwiches. .....*cough*.....no?...nothing?....fine! Meanwhile, the Mayor of Winthrop, Manitoba prepares to turn in for the evening.
But he soon hears strange sounds outside. We get to "see" what's going on, as our invisible fiend knocks over a bucket of dirty water,
trudges it's way through the water
and then proceeds to tear a hole in the screen door.
We had a dog like that once. Except he wasn't invisible. It would be pretty cool to have an invisible dog, though. I would name my invisible dog "Claude" and take him to the park just so people thought I was insane. I'd roll around in the grass with my invisible dog and teach him how to sit...I think. Anyway, soon the Fiend Without A Face is on the Mayor's rug
making those weird sounds. And then....BLAMMO!
It's the Mayor's turn to feel the icy sting of death! (Ooh! Somebody write that one down for me!) Well, news travels fast in a small town and it isn't long before Constable Gibbons
is there to investigate. (Apparently there wasn't a budget for his uniform.) Constable Gibbons tells the crowd that they can't blame the air base for the Mayor's death. It's obviously a stealthy human murderer....on a side note, this crowd
isn't doing anything for Canada's image. But I live here and I can tell you it's fairly accurate. Gibbons decides he needs a gaggle of poorly-dressed slack-jawed yokels running around with weapons, so he hands out rifles. (Canadians could do that then.)
That's some good thinking, Gibbons. No wonder we aren't allowed to have guns anymore. Nice job, dumb ass! Meanwhile, Jeff decides to pay a visit to Professor R.E. Walgate.
Obviously, those books are selling well. Probably the only books in the Winthrop Book Store. I see how it is, now! Anyway, Jeff has a chat with Walgate
which starts off friendly but soon Jeff is accusing Walgate of knowing more than he is letting on, which upsets Barbara.
Having had their first tiff since Jeff broke into her house, saw her nearly nude and started a fistfight, Jeff is asked to leave. Women! Meanwhile, Gibbons and the rest of the fashion-challenged but well armed men are searching the woods
for their all-too-human killer. Not only do they not find one, they hear a strange noise and go to investigate. Never a good idea in these movies. Soon Gibbons is separated from the rest and we know what that means. Poor Mrs. Gibbons is just worried sick.
And the rest of the Thrift Shop Army return to say they can't find Gibbons anywhere.
Cut to a meeting between the townsfolk (some of them anyway) and Jeff, who is there to assure them that the air base is not the cause of all this.
Obviously, things aren't going well.
And then, the door busts open and a slack-jawed Canadian simpleton appears!
Well, no actually. I meant Gibbons.
Gibbons may have managed to escape the brain sucking fiends, but they turned him into a near vegetable. I'm not sure what happened to Pam. Probably stood too close to Tommy. Anyway, Jeff finds out that Walgate studies recently deceased people's brains to gain a better understanding of....science-y stuff. This leads Jeff to the cemetery where the Mayor's corpse lies. But a shadowy figure is there before Jeff!
Odds bodkins! Jeff moves in to check things out.
He finds a pipe that looks a lot like the one the Professor smokes
laying next to the semi-open casket of the Mayor. Well, this proves nothing. All professors smoke pipes in 1958. That could be anyone's. No time to fret, though, as Jeff hears the door to the tomb being slid shut again. Well, that's not good. Luckily, the Professor (I'm not saying it was him!) left behind a heavy candle holder.
Jeff uses it to try and pry open the door to the tomb, but can't. Soon he is exhausted and air is running out. But it's Al (and Barbara) to the rescue!
They find Jeff just in time and revive him.
Well, now Jeff is pissed! I can't blame him. He bee lines for the professor's house and confronts him.
The professor eventually admits it was he that sealed the tomb with Jeff inside and also admits that the invisible brain suckers are indirectly his fault. Finally! A little accountability! The Professor retells the story of how he had been experimenting with telekinesis when a lightning strike caused his equipment to deliver a huge surge of electricity to his brain. When he awoke, he found he could turn the pages of a book
without touching it. He amped up his equipment and began to experience blackouts.
Soon, strange things were happening in his lab and the Fiends were "born". Walgate's guess is that when the air base began using nuclear power to boost their radar, the Fiends used that energy to grow stronger and multiply....oops! After kissing Barbara (finally!)
Jeff dashes off to shut down the nuclear power plant. (How hard can it be?)
Well, pretty hard, actually. The rods are damaged (by the fiends, somehow) and the plant can't be shut down. The fiends know where their energy is coming from and protect themselves. This where we get the term "fiendishly clever"....No, not really. Anyway, Jeff heads back to the Professor's to protect his new squeeze. But the fiends are becoming stronger and bolder. They attack the house and grab This Guy.
Everyone gets to work blocking doors
and nailing boards against windows.
Why do people in these movies always have hammers, nails and boards just laying around inside their house? If this happened at my place I'd be "Yeah, that stuff is out in the garage. You go get it, I'll wait here." Meanwhile, the fiends are on the offence down at the power plant and invisibly assault Pete.
He's the last actor who has to thrash around looking like a moron, though, because as the power plant moves slowly into meltdown, they absorb the power and become visible.
Behold! The power of atomic energy! It can make things visible/invisible, make ordinary people gigantic
and move brains from cats to people!
You remember that the next time you flick on a light switch, people. At any rate, Jeff and the rest look outside and see lots of the now visible fiends milling about,
going to PTA meetings and tending their lawns. Oh, and trying to kill them. I mean, they are fiends. They find the fiends can be killed simply by shooting them,
but there are too many fiends and not enough bullets. (Sounds like a spaghetti western.) Jeff decides to go to the nuclear power plant and blow it up....no, really. Well, he had better hurry because the fiends are finding their way in
and picking off the boring characters.
I forget what the reasoning is, but Professor Walgate decides he must go and help Jeff.
Yeah, I'm sure a frail old man is just what Jeff needs to help him defeat hopping brain monsters. Well, it's just an excuse for the fiends to kill off their creator anyway. Which they do
with a certain amount of gusto.
Jeff finds his way to the shed were the easily obtained dynamite is kept (there's the third appearance of that exact same sign on the left)
and breaks the single padlock off using a twig. (Not really, but I was appalled at their lack of security.) The fiends have a go at Jeff, too
but he's not Canadian! Jeff is allowed to carry a pistol! And uses it, too!
Stupid fiends didn't see that one coming! Jeff shoots his way into the power plant and prepares to set the charges. (For the record, I still don't think this is a good idea, Jeff.)
Meanwhile, back at the house, the fiends have figured out
they can use their eye stalks to break the boards nailed across the windows.
This leads to some special effects guy standing outside and hucking rubber brain monsters through the hole.
(And you thought your job was stupid!) Not to disrespect Local Brain Huckers 321.
I'm sure they do a fine job. But the fiends are gaining ground and even dare to latch on to Barbara! Luckily, the unarmed Canadian is there to pull the fiend off of her
and bash it into the floor. See? Gun or no gun don't screw around with the Canadians. We will mess you up! Jeff sets the charges,
ducks for cover behind a Jeep (!)
and blows the ever-loving crapola out of the nuclear power plant.
Good thing that Jeep was there or he would have been killed! Immediately, all of the fiends die
and, for reasons unknown, begin to melt into goo.
Jeff hops into the Indestructible Jeep and drives back to the house, where he
is reunited with his now terminally happy girlfriend.
The rest of the cast, having met their contractual obligations, smile knowingly at the couple as Jeff takes his much-too-young-for-him girl in his arms and kisses her passionately. Eew! Gross!
Things I learned from this movie: 1- sticks and stones may break my bones but thoughts can turn into creepy brain monsters,
2- while walking through the cemetery with Barbara, Al actually says "You sure this is the place?"....No, maybe we should check the other five cemeteries in this small town in rural Manitoba,
3- the "fiends" were created using stop-motion technology. That's fairly unusual in B-movies because it takes a long time and can be costly. K. L. Lupel in Munich, Germany was the stop-motion animator,
4- this film caused an uproar after it's U.K. premiere in London. The British Board Of Film Censors demanded several cuts before they finally granted it an "X" rating for blood and gore. Ironically, the only blood or gore shown
is when the fiends are shot or axed, not against any human actors,
5- this film also caused an uproar at it's New York premiere but for a different reason. The producers put a cage out on the sidewalk in front of the theatre that contained a "real" brain monster.
6- "Betty? OMG, My parents finally got me a cell phone! I'm so excited!"
Time for "Guess That Mess"! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere we go: