A film about an American airforce in Canada but shot in England with many Scottish people putting on funny accents, Fiend without a Face is not your typical 1950s creature feature.
Back in the heady days of drive-ins when the Americans ruled the world as far as monster and sci-fi B-movies were concerned it was difficult for anyone else to get a foot in. So when us Brits decided to make a sci-fi horror movie, to stand any chance of competeing with the yanks we had to play them at there own game. Oh and pretend we were American. But in this case we took it too far, and made one better.
Fiend without a Face starts off as an average U.S. B-movie. It has all the standard tropes: a tough jawed American soldier, a glamorous girl, a nutty professor and, of course, experiments with atomic energy. But there’s all sorts of weird details. For example, the hero Major Cummings (!) hardly has any sleep because he’s so busy, so keeps himself awake by taking speed. He freely admits this to his work collegues who all seem to think its perfectly fine, although he doesn’t talk too much or grind his teeth so maybe it’s only the mild stuff. Also, the heroine’s brother dies early on but on the way back from his funeral she is already flirting outrageously with the emphetamine addicted major. Is she not bothered at all about her loss? Maybe they do it different in the English country side, I mean the Canadian countryside. Because really, this isn’t fooling anyone. The farms that are attacked by the fiends without their faces couldn’t be in anywhere but Britain. putting a sign up saying “Canada 2 Miles” aint gonna fool anyone.
So the first two thirds of the film rumble along at quite a slow pace. The creatures are invisible so you just feel cheated by them, there are various US Airforce experiments which mostly consist of gerenals looking at spinny dials while we cut to stock footage and it’s only the comedy accents that seem to keep us going. But then the truth about the monsters is revealed in plain sight, as indeed are they, and the final act suddenly shifts into high gear.
Now we are in a cottage-under-seige film, not unlike a precursor to Night of the living Dead. But instead of zombies we have stop-motion brains with stalky-eyes that push themselves along snake-like with their vertebrae. And they’re great. They wrap themselves around people’s necks, throttling them to death, they launch themselves through windows, and when they are shot they split open in a bloody splattering of brains and gore. In fact between the excellent stop motion, design and outragious violence it’s like we’re watching a different movie from a different era.
For the final act alone this is a film worth hunting down if you like this kind of thing. Just say no to the speed though.