Director: Freddie Francis
Tagline: “From the boiling rages of a world hurled back one million years comes… Trog”
Plot: Somewhere in a sleepy corner of England, there’s a cave, a wondrous place untouched by humanity. Or so it appears to a group of three explorers who, in Trog’s near-endless opening sequence, walk to the cave, enter the cave, descend into the cave, then amble around and talk about the majesty of the cave. Then two of them strip down to their underwear to explore an underground stream leading to one of the cave’s deep recesses. And there, their troubles begin: That pocket belongs to Trog.
Who’s Trog? None other than the missing link between humans and apes, we’re later told. But really he appears to be the missing link between a Halloween costume and legitimate movie make-up. Though distributed by Warner Bros. and helmed by cult-favorite Freddie Francis—who directed horror movies when not serving as one of the world’s greatest cinematographers for Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and others—Trog features a barely passable monster. It’s hard to be too frightened of a beast that—apart from an ape mask, a bushy loincloth, and hand-me-down mukluks—looks like a paunchy key grip drafted for monster duty. But why describe the baffling ineffectiveness of Trog when you can see for yourself? Here, high-spirited anthropologist Joan Crawford, in her final role, decides to see for herself what left one of those explorers dead and the other two badly shaken:
Take a moment to compose yourself if you must.
Sensing the beast might be tamed, Crawford takes down Trog with a tranquilizer gun then brings him into custody where, working with daughter Kim Braden, she tries to civilize him. Or turn him into a little girl. It’s not clear:
But it’s not all pretty dollies for our Trog, whom Crawford treats like, and later compares to, a retarded child. Turns out Crawford’s enemy (Michael Gough, a staple of Hammer horror movies and later Batman’s butler), has it in for the ape-man, letting him loose to wreak havoc. Which he does, first killing Gough then teaching all of us about man’s inhumanity to Trog. Or something.
Key scene: In a peculiar scene—well, all the scenes are pretty peculiar—Crawford straps a drugged Trog to a chair and shows him pictures of dinosaur skeletons, causing him to trip out and see four straight minutes of stop-motion footage from the 1956 movie Animal World. Here’s a sample:
It’s all part of a plan to help Trog communicate, but if Trog could talk he’d probably just note the cheapness of the world around him.
Sign that it was made in 1970: Aside from the fact that Crawford has seen better days, one scene has Trog flipping out when played rock music. The takeaway: Even a primitive man-beast has better taste than the kids today.
Timeless message: If you must make a monster movie, first find a decent monster.
Memorable quotes: “Trog! Stop it! Trog!”