Fiend Without A Face (UK 1957)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/20/19
Director: Arthur Crabtree
Cast: Marshall Thompson, Kim Parker

A sudden series of mysterious deaths in a small Canadian town have the locals on edge and desperate for answers. They blame the incidents on a nearby atomic-powered US Air Force base that's conducting radar experiments so that The Pentagon can spy on Russia. The charismatic and level-headed Major Jeff Cummings (Marshall Thompson) is assigned to investigate the case and make peace with the townsfolk. In the process, he meets a smart and beautiful young woman named Barbara (adorable Kim Parker) who is working with an eccentric old scientist, and an awkward romance starts to bloom. But will they live long enough to do anything about it?

It's an intelligently written low budget sci-fi horror film that effectively plays on the public's fear of atomic energy and the paranoia of the Cold War. The Americans aren't portrayed in a particularly positive light, and their motivations for spying on Russia come across as criminally delusional. The acting is quite good, but the romance angle feels forced and the related dialog is cringe-worthy. Kim Parker is stunning, and while her gratuitous shower scene is delightful, it's also laughably out of place. The pacing is miserably slow for the first hour as the dramatic tension builds, and the film is padded with tiresome stock footage of military aircraft and radar dishes. However, it really pays off in the last ten minutes when the invisible fiends finally reveal themselves as disembodied human brains with creepy eyestalks and spinal cord tails. The stop-motion animation is a bit clunky, but definitely conveys a tangible sense of awe and horror. It's also surprisingly gruesome, as the brains erupt with blood whenever they're shot. Unfortunately, the final solution is outrageously absurd, and the film ends on a gag-inducing scene where Cummings is told to file his report after he's finished canoodling with Barbara. Ugh.