Sunday, 23 July 2017

Monster from Green Hell (1958)


An average 50's giant bug film that peters out at the end.



Directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Produced by Al Zimbalist
Written by Endre Bohem, Louis Vittes
Music by Albert Glasser
Cinematography: Ray Flin
Distributed by DCA
Running time: 71 minutes


Cast

Jim Davis as Dr. Quent Brady
Robert Griffin as Dan Morgan
Joel Fluellen as Arobi
Barbara Turner as Lorna Lorentz
Eduardo Ciannelli as Mahri
Vladimir Sokoloff as Dr. Lorentz




video
Trailer

Spoilers follow below….


Journey into Green Hell

(Full account of the “Green Hill” incident from the personal journal of Dr Quent Brady)

Entry….

My colleague, Dan Morgan and I have been put in charge of a U.S. government program that has been designed to send various animals and insects into earth orbit to test the effects of exposure to space radiation.

Why do we do this?

"This is the age of the rocket, the jet, atomic power. When man prepares to reach for the stars. But before he dares to launch himself into space, there is one great question to be answered: What happens to life in the airless void above Earth's atmosphere? Will life remain untouched, unharmed by its flight through space? Or will it change into…what? There was only one way to find out and we were working on it."

And how will we do this?

Thanks to the former Nazi German rocket scientist bastards we spirited out of Germany at the end of the war, we have lots of V2 rockets with which to conduct our tests and prepare human beings for what lies beyond the comforting confines of our planet. It is into one of these rockets that we were able to “load the passengers” and at 10.15 minus 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 we sent them off “into the wide blue yonder!”

Entry…..

After what seemed at first to have been a successful launch, the radar operator informed us that the rocket was “out of normal radar range.”

Read on for more....





There was nothing for it but for Dan and I to consult the……COMPUTER! Who would have thought it possible? We live in an age where we can simply ask a computer something just like asking a person and hey presto, it tells us the answer! I bet one day we’ll wind up miniaturizing these suckers and everyone will have their own personal computer from which they can get answers to any of their questions. Gosh, we may never have to think for ourselves again! The computer will just tell us everything we’ll ever need to know. People will probably even be able to use these devices to communicate with one another! Imagine being so dependent on a piece of technology!


Upstairs in the computer room, Dan read the numbers into the computer: “Trajectory 319…burn efficiency…. friction coefficient.” The answer we received came out only as an approximation from which we were able to determine that the rocket would land “just off the coast of Africa” or more specifically, western Central Africa.

Author’s Note (added later after the “Green Hell” incident) …..

Unknown to me at the time was that in a remote part of Equatorial Africa near a place called Mt. Virunga, a certain Dr. Lorentz and his daughter, Lorna had conducted an autopsy on a native and determined that he had died of paralysis of the nerve centres caused by an injection of a massive amount of venom. It was concluded that the venom couldn’t possibly have been that of snake. Their able African assistant, Arobi was reported to have told Lorentz that a monster was terrorizing the people in an area known as “Green Hell,” as well as causing the animals to flee. Lorentz was of the opinion that this so-called monster was nothing more than “a thing of nature, not of evil spirits.”

Entry….

Months after the rocket incident, I have come across a newspaper account with the headline:” CENTRAL AFRICA IN TURMOIL.” It turns out that the turmoil in Central Africa involved riots caused by (as reported) the presence of gigantic monsters!


I reminded Dan Morgan that the failed rocket landed in Africa six months previously. I also showed Dan the side effects on test animals to exposure to cosmic radiation. Short exposure caused changes in coloration of the guinea pigs’ fur as well as behavioural changes in the lizards which seemed to be in a trance-like state. The baby spider crab was four times larger than its mother for crying out loud!

The “doubling of size of offspring” set me thinking about the wasps in the missing rocket that were exposed to huge amounts of cosmic radiation – “40 hours exposure” compared with the minimal overexposure of the test animals.

My God! Did the Ruskies have to go through this when they beat us into space this year and then sent that dog up there? How come our rockets keep malfunctioning?

Entry…

“No-body was anxious to believe in my theory, not even Dan. On the other hand, no-body could afford to ignore it. I had written a report and sent it to project headquarters. They didn’t like it much there and promptly sent it on to Washington.

“Finally, my request for leave of absence for Dan and myself was granted. They gave us a letter for the Territorial Agent at Libreville and wished us luck.

“If there was anything in my hunch we were going to need it. We booked passage on TWA for immediate departure. Destination, Africa.”

It seems that once again we Americans feel called upon to venture into distant lands in order to clean up a mess wer’e responsible for creating in the first place!

Entry……

When we arrived in Libreville, equatorial Africa, the Territorial Agent helped us put together a plan to travel to meet Dr. Lorentz. The agent informed us that there are problems in the interior and that the situation is highly disturbed, possibly dangerous. The area in question is situated around Mt. Virunga, also known by the natives as “Green Hell.” The agent suggests we visit Dr. Lorentz before going to Green Hell. This will involve a 400-mile trek to Dr Lorentz’s hospital compound.

Entry….


“We are still here in Libreville. The Territorial Agent was co-operative but not too quick in arranging for our departure. As we sit around the hotel waiting, I find myself wondering just what is happening in the interior and to the natives and to Dr Lorentz.”

Author’s Note (added after the “Green Hell” incident)


We didn’t realize at the time that Dr. Lorentz and his assistant, Arobi had formed a small exploration party. While exploring, they heard strange buzzing noises which Arobi seemed to recognize. This was followed by a stampede of obviously panicked elephants. 


Two of the party then decided to make off and leave Lorentz and Arobi on their own. Both bearers were apparently killed in most unusual circumstances but no trace of their bodies could be found. All that could be found was an unidentifiable giant footprint and one of the missing men’s good luck charm.


Dr Lorentz decided to continue on towards Mt. Virunga despite Arobi’s protests. While instructing Arobi to remain behind, Lorentz justified his decision to go on despite the danger by his belief that “we’ve got to know” and that “knowledge drives out fear.” You gotta’ admire the old fella! By all accounts a regular Albert Schweitzer.

Entry….

As I peel away another scab of impatience from the month of March and Friday the 23rd becomes the weekend of the 24th & 25th, it has been ten days of champing at the bit in this hotel.  At least we have our supplies gathered for the safari as well as some little beauties: hand grenades or baby bombs which are “potent, portable, pulverizing.” They are the newest development of the US army. In the good old US of A, if we can’t solve a problem one way, we can solve it another way by blowing the holy shit out of it!

Entry…...


“On the morning of the 25th, our safari got under way. The best guide in Central Africa, an Arab named Mahri, Dan and I ….worked out a schedule. In order to reach Dr Lorentz’s hospital……we had to walk a little over 400 miles.

“Our schedule called for 15 miles per day on average. All things being equal, we figured to reach Dr Lorentz in about 27 days.”

Goddamn! Didn’t I cut a magnificent figure out there in my crisp white jacket with the huge padded shoulders! There I stood commanding and impressive, directing and encouraging the native bearers onward with the majestic sweep of my arm. I felt sure that under my sure-footed stewardship and command we would make good time and achieve our goal with ease!

Entry….

“I found out soon enough that being on safari involved putting one foot in front of the other and then repeating the process. The first few days were murder. It was obvious that working over test tubes was not the right way to train for a hike across the plains of Africa.”

Entry….

“A week went by and then another…I should have been pleased but I wasn’t. Something was eating at me. It started like a simple itch in my brain but as the days passed it grew into a feeling. I tried to put my finger on it but couldn’t. Instinctively I knew that something was going to happen. The only trouble was I didn’t know what….”

Entry….

My sense of dread and foreboding was soon realized with the rhythmic sound of war drums in the distance. “There wasn’t anything we could do except hope we hadn’t been spotted but if we had, the natives would permit us to pass through without causing trouble. It didn’t take long before we learned we were wrong on all counts.”

Why is that local inhabitants of a place get so annoyed when outsiders enter their territory armed and without permission and proceed to violate their sovereignty? I just don’t get it. After all, Dan and I are Americans, for goodness sake!

Like an advancing carpet of soldier ants, the native horde advanced towards us while all we could do was flee to higher ground. We then hit upon a tried and true tactic when faced with having one’s back against the wall: scorch and burn! We set fire to the surrounding countryside and hoped that the resulting conflagration and devastation would prevent the advancing hostile natives from reaching us. The plan worked. The natives took to their heels and fled the scene helter-skelter.

Entry….

“To avoid any more native tribes, we changed course which added another 75 miles of hot wide-open country. The sun beat down as though it hated us. And then we began to run out of drinking water. In Africa, that means running out of time…..”

Entry…

It wasn’t long before Dan began to succumb to the effects of dehydration. Brave little bastard! I actually had to force him to drink. We later stumbled upon a watering hole, but Mahri warned us not to drink. The reason was the presence of vultures “which only come when death is near.” In this case, a dead lion which had been poisoned after drinking the water. One poor desperate fellow defied the warning and drank the lethal water which caused him to scream and foam at the mouth before quickly expiring.

Entry….

On we trudged, dehydrated and almost defeated until the heavens opened up and a rainstorm brought us much needed relief. The effect on me was instantaneous. I began to giggle hysterically and was overcome with an irresistible urge to rip open my jacket, bare my chest to the world and slowly and sensuously rub my torso with my hands, much to the amusement of the native onlookers and local wildlife I think.

Entry….

“The rains kept coming, more than we needed. Africa is a crazy place. It either tries to dehydrate you or drown you. We sat it out for two days. Dan recovered nicely, but I was getting restless.”

Author’s Note (added after the “Green Hell” incident)

I don’t remember much after the rains because after a few more days of trudging onward I had developed a fever and had to be carried on a stretcher. I also seem to recall a lightning strike and a tree toppling over and then…. nothing! 


I next remember waking up at Dr Lorentz’s hospital and catching sight a woman – a white woman, the only one for perhaps hundreds of miles! I learned that she was Lorna Lorentz, the doctor’s daughter. She was not exactly a beautiful woman nor even all that attractive. In fact, throughout most of the time I spent in her company, she seemed to mope about with a semi-permanent frown and scowl on her face. Still, there was something about her……

Entry….

It wasn’t long before I was declared fever-free. In the meantime, I learned that Dr. Lorentz had left on an expedition to search for the source of all the problems that were being experienced in the area.

“After a shave and a shower, I began to feel like myself. I watched Lorna play a few lonely notes on the organ. I wondered how long we had to wait before Dr Lorentz returned from his expedition. I wanted to learn of his findings before Dan and I started on the job that had brought us to Africa.”

Entry….

We finally received news about Dr Lorentz but in the worst possible way. Arobi returned to the hospital and reported that Dr. Lorentz was dead or as he put it, “he’s with his God.” He died on the path leading down to the volcano where according to Arobi, a monster killed him and he lay there in the dust, “his life fled away.”

Arobi then showed us a fragment of a larger object that was embedded in the doctor's shoulder. I was able to analyse the object and determine that it was part of a stinger -from a giant wasp!  In addition, Dan discovered that it contained venom.

All that remains for us to do is to go down into Green Hell and try to do something about the giant insects. The fear is that if the monsters breed and get out of Green Hell, the entire world is endangered.

Entry….

Lorna by this stage felt that she had “no tears left.” I tried to explain to her that “experiments sometimes fail” but that “they have to be done.” My words sounded rather hollow when Lorna told me that they wouldn’t make her father live again.

I think I’m beginning to understand what I see in that girl. It made no difference to her that the natives were reluctant to come on the safari as bearers. Nor was she fazed when I suggested to her “this isn’t the kind of thing for a girl.” Lorna simply shamed several local villagers into helping as “they couldn’t admit their fear was greater than a woman’s.”  She also insisted on accompanying us to Green Hell. Never try to argue with a woman is what I always say!

Entry…

The next morning, we set off on our trek to Mt. Virunga. Along the way a monkey thought it would be a great idea to chuck coconuts at us from high up a coconut tree. Yeah, we sure laughed it up but I was thinking as my finger itched and hovered over my gun’s trigger, ‘laugh it up hairy legs. I won’t miss from here.’ I decided to resist temptation and the likelihood of Lorna’s scowl deepening and taking on additional accusatory dimensions.


Amid reservoirs of perspiration rapidly filling up around our armpits and salt water canals forming on the backs of our shirts, we pressed on ever deeper into the heart of Green Hell. And suddenly we came upon a scene straight from Dante’s Inferno: a village full of dead natives, whose bodies were lying every which way, enveloped in the eerie kind of silence that presses and suffocates the heart and mind.

What is that old saying? “A stampeding herd of water buffalo are not stopped by an arrow or a word.” It seems that our native bearers had never heard of it before as they unceremoniously departed the scene with great alacrity. Cowardly swine!

And so, with the African and the Arab left to bear our burdens (as it always seems to be the case in these kinds of situations for some reason) our depleted party set off for Green Hell with ominous sign posts as our guide: the giant footprints from an ungodly creature and the angry rumblings of a volcano. Perhaps Arobi is right about the volcano: “She is angry today.”

Entry…..

That evening in a camp-fire scene more reminiscent of an outdoor camping scene involving the toasting of marshmallows and the telling of ghost stories, I gave our small party a brief but highly informative lecture concerning the subject of wasps. I informed them that “wasps are insects that form a colony with the queen at the head. The queen mates, lays eggs, multiplies even more rapidly than any other form of life. The creatures we pursue are wasps. No matter how changed their shapes, no matter how large they’ve grown, they’ll multiply as rapidly as the tiny insects from which they spring. They will overrun all of Africa unless we destroy their colony or more importantly, their queen.”

I then went on to explain to Mahri that ‘we’ve brought weapons from our country”: small bombs filled with a special explosive to use against the monsters we encounter. Yesiree, ‘Made in America!’

Lorna posed an interesting question when she asked me, “Why should you be so concerned about what happens to us?” I simply told her, “a feeling of responsibility, I guess.” I guess! Are you kidding me! None of this would have happened if we had been more concerned with the consequences of our actions for others in the world!

As I made my notes by the fire before retiring, my attention was diverted by a  buzzing sound which Arobi recognized. Upon investigation of the source of the sound, we came across an unbelievable sight: A titanic battle raging between a gargantuan snake and a behemoth-sized wasp. The snake was soon dispatched with the wasp’s venom.


Suddenly our camp site was surrounded by a number of giant wasps. Our adversaries, however failed to launch an attack. It then occurred to me that “maybe they don’t like fire.” There was only one thing for it! We proceeded to pour kerosene on the fire and set the surrounding jungle ablaze. If it worked for us earlier against the hostile native horde then it might do the trick on our six-legged foes.

Entry….

The next morning “I could see no sign of the beast or creatures that surrounded our camp the night before. Luckily, I was right. Whatever it was, didn’t like fire, and we kept ours brightly burning until the night faded into the dawn.

“As I looked out over the plain, I could taste the fear I felt: not only fear for myself, but for everyone else in the group. I felt certain we were going to discover what killed Dr Lorentz and I wondered when we found it, would we be able to stop it?

“As we broke camp, I told Arobi and the others to check on the ammunition. I kept asking myself the same question: If we found it, would we be able to destroy it? I didn’t know the answer, so I did the one thing everyone else does when they face the unknown – I quietly prayed……”

Author’s Note (added after the “Green Hell” incident)


Mt. Virunga was becoming more and more active. Dan summed it up by observing that the “old girl is really smokin’ this morning.” We proceeded to enter a valley accompanied by the cacophony of sounds coming from the giant insects. When we got to the area the sounds were coming from, I went on ahead alone to reconnoitre. Soon after I identified the queen and colony, we made good use of the grenades and went on the attack. You can imagine our disappointment when we discovered that the explosives had no effect on the insects. In fact, our actions only served to enrage them. Next time I pray it will be for the kind of Mother Of All Bombs that could take out any number of insects, a mount Virunga and a sizable chunk of central western Africa!!!!!


Not being in possession of such a product of American know-how, we just managed to escape with our lives by ducking into a nearby cave. I had to lob one of the grenade-bombs into a box of bombs to prevent one of the giant insects from harming us. The resulting explosion succeeded in closing the cave entrance.

There we were, entombed in a sealed cave illuminated only by the light of torches. After considerable time spent rummaging around and exploring our subterranean prison, Morgan and Mahri finally managed to discover an exit.

As we emerged from the tunnel, Mt. Virunga erupted with lava. The hot magma flowed down into the area containing the wasps, finally destroying them. Just like that!

I could only stare aghast and observe, "Well, it took a volcano to do what we failed to do." Dan added, "Nature has a way of correcting its own mistakes." As I watched the growing lake of molten lava, I couldn’t help but silently ponder how all our efforts to correct a wrong we had committed were virtually for nothing. No matter what we did, the result would have been the same……...

*******************************

Points of Interest

Monster from Green Hell was originally shown as a double-feature with the film The Brain from Planet Arous. It was also distributed in 1958 on a double bill with the English-dubbed Japanese film, Half Human.

The stop motion animation for the monsters was, considering the small budget, quite well done, especially during the scene where a giant wasp and snake do battle. 

The film had quite a lively start but gradually became duller, especially with all that interminable trekking through the jungle done punctuated by a substantial helping of stock footage scene at the expense of featuring more of the giant wasps committing acts of carnage and mayhem. And that all too frequent voice-over narration!!!!! AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!


WASPS FACT FILE


By Trounce - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1999896




Importance
  • Nearly every pest insect is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as a host for its parasitic larvae.
  • Wasps also consume dead insects and eat flies around the garden.

Dangers
  • Wasps can present a threat to those who are allergic to their sting. Their sting causes anaphylactic shock which can be fatal.
  • The venom in wasps contains a pheromone that causes other wasps to become more aggressive which can pose a problem if we try not to swat them near their nest or other wasps.

Stingers

  • Unlike bees, wasps can sting repeatedly. 
  • Only females have stingers, which are modified egg-laying organs. 

Habitat & Organization
  • Wasps live everywhere except Antarctica
  • They live in colonies forming self-contained communities with each following a caste order of queens, males and workers.
  • A colony can grow to 50,000 wasps in one summer.

Life-cycle & Habits

  • A male wasp is called a Drone whose function is to mate with the Queen. After they have fulfilled this function, they die soon afterwards.

By Alvesgaspar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2659081

  • Wasps feed their young meat such as insect larvae.
  • The only wasps that survive the winter are young fertilised queens as the cold weather kills the males, workers and foundation queen.
  • The new queens emerge in the spring to build new nests. Initially the queen lays up to a dozen eggs and when they hatch into larvae she feeds them until they become workers. 
  • The workers forage for food, feed the new larvae and defend the nest.
  • In late summer, the colony produces males and new queens. They then fly away to mate and the queens find a place to hibernate. 
  • Wasps make nests from paper by chewing up strips of bark and spitting it out again to form a rough paper. 
  • Some wasps make nests in basements, sheds or dark, cool places.
  • In Australia and elsewhere there is some concern about European wasps and their aggression. People are warned to be careful about drinking from soft drink cans and at picnics when wasps are around.








©Chris Christopoulos 2017