Friday night at the home drive-in: The Neanderthal Man (1953)

Poster for The Neanderthal Man (1953) The Neanderthal Man (1953) by #EwaldAndréDupont
w/#RobertShayne #JoyceTerry #BeverlyGarland

A scientist regresses a cat to sabre-tooth tiger and a man to Neanderthal.

“What mad desires drove him on…?”

“The world’s gone completely mad. Sometimes I think I’m the only rational being left in it…”

#Horror #SciFi

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of monster movies made in the late 1950s. 1957 and 1958 were both particularly good years for mad scientists and giant mutant beasts. The trend continued through 1959 and into the 1960s, with plenty of good sci-fi horror films still left to come. I was surprised to discover that The Neanderthal Man (1953) predated all of those great movies by several years. And yet it feels very much like it’s part of the set.

I suppose it’s like Black Christmas (1974) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) coming out four years before the slasher genre officially kicked off with Halloween (1978). But unlike Black Christmas (1974) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Neanderthal Man Is not a well remembered and loved fan favourite. In fact, I don’t think I had ever heard of it before I first watched it a few years ago. And soon afterwards I forgot that I’d ever seen it. Considering that I seem to be obsessed with 1950s horror and sci-fi movies right now, I figured it was high time that I checked out The Neanderthal Man again.

Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of sci-fi horror films made in 1953 and earlier – but not nearly as many as were coming out in the later 1950s. Two of my childhood favourites were released in 1953: The War of the Worlds and Abbot and Costello Go to Mars. I suppose those ones are a bit more sci-fi than horror, but they are also quite different from The Neanderthal Man and most of other monster movies I’ve been watching lately. And I suppose that’s what I’m getting at. The Neanderthal Man is a lot like I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), or Blood of Dracula (1957) or even The She-Creature (1956). All of those movies deal with the idea of “regression”.

Regression seems to be a technique that mad scientists use to try to return a human being to some more primitive form of life. Their idea seemed to be to “help” mankind in some way. But as any fan of #NotQuiteClassicCinema can tell you, what these mad men always wind up doing is creating a monster. And for that we thank them.

The Neanderthal Man is not the best of these movies. But it’s got enough entertainment value to keep B-movie aficionados watching for 78 minutes. It’s also got Beverly Garland in a small role. Six years later she would star in the superior The Alligator People (1959), which I wrote about a while back.

All in all, The Neanderthal Man (1953) is a fun, if somewhat forgettable, example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. It would be a fine choice for a second or third feature at your next all night monster movie marathon on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.