Trog

1970
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!
A delightful flashback to prehistoric times featuring stop motion dinosaurs is lifted directly from Warner Bros.’ The Animal World (1956). It's wonderful, but also obviously a way for Mr Francis to pad out the film. Trog’s highlight, when we finally get to it, is the sight of the titular creature bounding through a quaint English village, pushing jolly greengrocers through plate-glass windows and hanging inquisitive butchers on their meat hooks. There’s even a scene where he frightens off a group of small children and proceeds to traverse their climbing frame. Bad Trog! The rabble of journalists, villagers and policemen who pursue Trog back to his cave appear to have been told by director Francis to simply ‘run around a bit’, such is the ineptness of the climactic scene.

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.

Comments

Unknown said…
Well, I know that average 6th graders loved this film when it came out. The theater was full of nothing but youngsters who were having a screeching blast. I recall one of my female classmates asking why Trog wore houseshoes. So what of the overall story was ridiculous? Heck, we were 11 years old, we didnt care. The adults hated and degrated the movie which made us prepubescents cling to Trog even tighter. I just bought the DVD and, since I formed my deeply impressed opinion on it waaay back in 1970, that opinion still stands, ridiculous story be damned.
Unknown said…
Well, I know that average 6th graders loved this film when it came out. The theater was full of nothing but youngsters who were having a screeching blast. I recall one of my female classmates asking why Trog wore houseshoes. So what of the overall story was ridiculous? Heck, we were 11 years old, we didnt care. The adults hated and degrated the movie which made us prepubescents cling to Trog even tighter. I just bought the DVD and, since I formed my deeply impressed opinion on it waaay back in 1970, that opinion still stands, ridiculous story be damned.

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