Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Mole People (1956)

This is another movie that I probably saw on Not Quite Classic Theatre back in the 1980s. For those who don’t know, Not Quite Classic Theatre was a late night movie show that introduced me to many old monster movies (and other B-movie delights). I wrote about it a while back, to explain my use of the #NotQuiteClassicCinema hashtag.

I’m sure that I saw The Mole People (1956) many years ago, but I can’t say for certain that it was on Not Quite Classic Theatre. Whether it was or not is really beside the point. It is exactly the kind of movie that I was thinking of when I first conceived of the hashtag.

The Mole People is a type of story that I’ve always liked; the discovering of a lost civilization story. More specifically, it’s about a lost civilization deep inside the Earth. I remember seeing films like Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and old film serials like The Phantom Empire (1935), which was about singing cowboy Gene Autry discovering an ancient civilization buried beneath his own Radio Ranch. As a kid, I was fascinated by stories like this. And I was always on the lookout for caves that I could explore, hoping that they might lead to some exciting discovery, like a lost world – or, at the very least, some buried treasure. Unfortunately, living on the prairies there were really no caves to be found. 


Since posting about the movie last week, a few people have commented that they particularly like The Mole People. I like it a lot, too. Which is why I’m so puzzled to see that it gets a much lower rating on the imdb than some it’s 1950s B-movie peers (4.9 which is, technically, a failing grade). Tarantula (1955) gets 6.5, It Came from Outer Space (1953) gets 6.5, The Monolith Monsters (1957) gets 6.4, etc. In 1993, a writer at the Los Angeles Times called The Mole People “arguably one of the worst sci-fi films out of the Universal shop.” James O’Neill, in one of my favourite movie review books, Terror On Tape, says The Mole People is a “stodgy Universal programmer” and “one of the company’s weakest ’50s flicks.” He also notes that “The downbeat ending is especially unfortunate.” 

Maybe this is where the problem lies (for some people). I don’t like spoilers, so I’m not going to discuss any details, but the ending of the The Mole People could be described as a little “downbeat”. I must admit that I might have preferred a happier ending in some ways, but the final minute of the film did not erase my enjoyment of the previous 75 minutes (or so). And in thinking about it afterwards, I could understand why the filmmakers might have felt that it had to end that way. 

Whatever the reason(s) that some people don’t this film, I’m encouraged to see a quite a few users on the imdb saying things like “I don’t care what anybody says, this film is a hoot!” and “What is wrong with everybody, this is a good movie!”. Not to mention hearing from friends and acquaintances how much they like it. If The Mole People is the “worst” that Universal Pictures had to offer in the 1950s, then this is good news – because it means I have a lot of truly great movies left to see.

The Mole People (1956) is a wonderfully entertaining 1950s Sci-Fi Fantasy B-movie. It’s also a perfect choice for a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn and I welcome it to the ever-growing library of #Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema!