d. Virgil W. Vogel (1956)
The Mole People is a legendary b-movie, a sort of barometer of the psychotronic. It's cheap, ridiculous and has men grown dressed up as moles - but it is also inventive and entertaining and commits itself fully to the endeavour. There is no smirking, no camp, no sense that this film (about the discovery of a race of evil Sumerians who have survived for 5,000 years by living under an active volcano) is anything other than the greatest story ever told. This sense of purpose, this dogged belief, is essential in the creation of great b-movies, as any doubt or irony always shows on screen.
There's very little to dislike about this film, even if you're a historian, a Sumerian or, perhaps, even a mole. A catalogue of simple pleasures: the brief prologue in which the enthusiastic and engaging Dr. Frank Baxter runs through some hollow earth theories and introduces the film as a fable; the Sumerians themselves who still wear ancient costumes and have genetically mutated after years underground to become albinos, so much so that they are terrified by electric torches and are burned to death by direct sunlight; the fact that they have enslaved the original inhabitants of the volcano, the Molemen, who are whipped by the Sumerians constantly as they scrabble around in the dirt looking for the mushrooms that everyone eats for every meal EVERY DAY. I was also entertained by the interpretive dance set to an accompaniment of gongs and bongos and, perhaps most of all, I enjoyed Alan Napier* as the High Priest, caked in white face powder and wearing rheumy contacts and a straggly moustache, beautifully declaiming his lines with the dignity and diction of a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
I am smiling rather than sneering and quite sincere when I say that this is one of the high watermarks of low quality films. I absolutely guarantee that you will enjoy it more than anything else on telly this evening, so why not give it a go?
* Best known as Alfred the Butler from the Adam West Batman series.