Dir. Freddie Francis
After the discovery of a prehistoric troglodyte in a cave in primmest, quaintest England, Dr Brockton and her team of anthropologists attempt to communicate with it. The local townsfolk however, are not happy about a potentially dangerous Neanderthal residing so near to their quintessentially quaint English village. A botched plan to get rid of the creature results in it causing all sorts of havoc and mayhem in the local village. Can Dr Brockton put a stop to Trog’s antics before civilisation crumbles? Can she heck!
Trog is really only significant and of any remote historical interest because it marked Joan Crawford’s last ever big-screen role. It was the second film she worked on ‘as a favour’ for her friend, filmmaker Herman Cohen. Hey, a girl’s gotta eat, right? Their other outing together was Berserk! Despite the absurd material, she still throws herself into her role as Dr Brockton - a dedicated, unflappable, chic pant-suit wearing anthropologist - with gusto.
Director Freddie Francis, who was already a reputable cinematographer and director of such horror titles as The Skull, Paranoiac, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave and The Evil of Frankenstein, doesn’t fare much better, failing to inject any sort of life or sense of momentum into the laborious tale. His direction feels stunted and uninspired, and aside from the mildly creepy opening, in which several men fall foul of the titular beast as they explore an eerily lit cave in the English countryside (!), exhibits no flair or imagination whatsoever, and his obvious indifference to the material ensures events simply trundle along at a corpse’s pace.
The film begins intriguingly enough with the same uneasy, stiff English malaise that wafts throughout the likes of Amicus and Tigon films; that bizarre juxtaposition of contemporary setting with an oddly cold, slightly gothic atmosphere. After our jaunty spelunking team are set upon by a briefly glimpsed ‘thing’, events quickly move on as Dr Brockton arrives with her hypogun and tranquilises the cave-man-beast and takes him back to her clinic for research. Henceforth the film becomes a combination of scenes featuring Crawford ‘civilising’ the troglodyte and a bizarre series of court hearings in which disgruntled villagers demand the creature is exterminated. After all, his presence runs the risk of bringing property prices down.
Hammy acting, over enthusiasm and hopelessly overwrought emoting soon become the order of the day, ensuring Trog falls firmly into the category of ‘so bad, it’s genuinely entertaining.’ In what other film would you see a montage of Joan Crawford playing catch with the Missing Link? Said montage also features Trog listening to music, playing with toys, being rewarded for good behaviour, and gently reprimanded when he gets a little rough (“Bad Trog!” scolds Joan Crawford, and we really believe she means it).
|“Get me my hypogun, quickly!”|
There is a whiff of social commentary thrown into the mix. No, really! Dr Brockton is constantly having to prove herself and defend her decisions to her male colleagues because they believe that she, a woman, cannot be trusted to run the experiments and maintain control of Trog. For so many women working in industries traditionally dominating by men, they have to work even harder just to prove they can do the same job (something that continues for too many women to this day). The authorities only listen to Dr Brockton's suggestions when several male scientists step forward to confirm and validate her approach, which was regarded by many as too 'sensitive'.
A few mildly interesting debates about Darwinism and Creationism are tossed into the already wordy mix. There is some subversive humour in how the civilised society Trog finds himself in, through no fault of his own, treat him in such an uncivilised way. The conclusion? Trog is a sentient being who can actually be reasoned with, but not in the opinion of civilised society, who only want to destroy him. Oh the irony.
Best enjoyed with a stiff drink.