The Eye Creatures directed by Larry Buchanan film reviewsThe Eye Creatures directed by Larry Buchanan

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJust recently, I wrote some comments on director Larry Buchanan’s abysmal sci-fi outing Zontar, The Thing From Venus (1966), a made-for-TV product that was a scene-for-scene remake of Roger Corman’s infinitely superior It Conquered the World (1956). But Zontar wasn’t the first time that Buchanan had turned a beloved piece of sci-fi shlock into televised dreck. In 1965, he had taken the tacky but enjoyable 1957 film Invasion of the Saucer Men and transformed it, for AIP, into The Eye Creatures, and the resultant picture is one that manages the near-impossible feat of being even lamer than Zontar, and, concomitantly, even harder to sit through… while awake, that is. As was the case with Zontar, Buchanan’s The Eye Creatures is a completely unnecessary remake that is an affront to a beloved original; one that is vastly inferior in all departments, as well. And like the 1966 film, TEC is virtually a scene-for-scene rehash of its original, with even lamer special FX, weaker acting and all-around inept filmmaking, as compared to its predecessor; the use of color film in both does absolutely nothing to improve on their B&W originals.

In The Eye Creatures, the titular invaders from outer space land their flying saucer in the heartland of good ol’ U.S.A. (No, wait a minute… strike that. It’s impossible to say whether or not these alien beings are “invaders” or not, as all the poor things do is land their craft, get out and lumber around. Their only real crime is their alien physiognomy…) While the military blunders around trying to track the ship and later vainly attempts an entry, a pair of teens, Stan (John Ashley) and Susan (Cynthia Hull), actually smash into one of the aliens while driving on a nighttime country road. This leads to all sorts of problems with the local cops, a crusty old nearby hermit, and a pair of drifters in town, all culminating in a showdown between Stan and Susie, their fellow teens, and the doddering starmen, who, as in the original film, have an unfortunate Achilles’ heel in the form of… automobile headlights! Even Jim Stark and his gal-pal Judy never encountered a situation like this!

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, director Buchanan is now a very solid 4 for 4 with me; besides TEC and Zontar, the other films that I’ve seen from this “auteur” — 1966’s Curse of the Swamp Creature and 1967’s Mars Needs Women — have also been rock-bottom deplorable, practically comprising a loosely connected quartet of sci-fi crud. And sad to say, The Eye Creatures may very well be the worst of this sorry lot. But don’t blame John Ashley; he is as likable as ever here, and the only real pro in this cast of amateurs. Ms. Hull isn’t quite as bad as she might have been, but her character is a shrill, weak and unattractive mess; Stan could have done SO much better. (On a side note, the real-life Ashley apparently DID do a lot better, as this DVD features a lengthy interview with his former Mrs., who turns out to be both beautiful and well-spoken.) All of the film’s other actors are simply embarrassing; Tony Huston, who was so remarkably bad in Zontar, appears here again to discomfit and appall the viewer.

The film insists on regaling the audience with “comedy” segments of a very low order, all of which bomb completely. Thus, we see Houston and another Army imbecile use their infrared scanner not to look for the alien craft, but rather to peep on the teenagers necking in their cars on Lovers Lane, and are treated to the sight of a bald, goofy-looking general emerging from his bedroom wearing a leopard-skin bathrobe! The FX in the film, as mentioned, are also horrendous (you’ll wonder just what the picture’s reputed $40,000 budget was spent on!). Just observe the sight of that alien spaceship orbiting the Earth; it looks like a child’s top set against a cardboard diorama, the kind of thing a 4th grader might come up with for a science project. (The exact same special effect, flabbergastingly, was used in Zontar to depict the “laser satellite” that that film’s alien hitches a ride in!)

And as for those eye creatures themselves, they are something of a sorry misnomer; white, bipedal and covered with innumerable lumps, not eyes, they fail to engender even the slightest shudder. (But I suppose a title such as The Lumpy Creatures might have smacked a little too much of Leave it to Beaver!) Paul Blaisdell’s memorable monsters for It Conquered and Saucer Men are in another league entirely compared to those found in the two remakes, to put it mildly! As in the Saucer Men film, TEC gives a nod to the 1946 horror classic The Beast With Five Fingers — as well as to the 1963 shlocker The Crawling Hand — in the form of a detached alien, um, crawling hand, and poorly done as this special effect is here, it yet serves to generate the film’s only moment of suspense, as we await Susie’s inevitable, hysterical scream of terror when she discovers the darn thing on her. Surprisingly, the revered Maltin Movie Guide calls The Eye Creatures, inept sci-fi dreck that it is, a “gory horror film,” when in fact there is only a single scene with any blood whatsoever, and even that is hard to discern during one of the nighttime lensings. What’s more surprising is the fact that Maltin gives the film 1 1/2 stars to begin with, rather than its lowest BOMB rating. Go figure!

For those who care, The Eye Creatures comes to us today via a RetroMedia Entertainment DVD. Residing on the flip side of this disc is the Zontar film itself, resulting in one truly deadly double feature. I have said elsewhere that these two awful films result in a disc only suitable for use as skeet, but perhaps I was being a bit unfair. This DVD disc can also serve as a decorative cocktail coaster, as well!


  • Sandy Ferber

    SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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