A tragically bad last act to an otherwise largely exemplary career, Freddie Francis’s Trog (1970) ends the cinematic tenure of Joan Crawford on a note of distinct misfire that, couple with Christina Crawford’s scathing novelized account of life with the grand diva effectively labeled Crawford a colossal joke for several decades that followed.
While it is perhaps prudent to reiterate that Crawford’s private life hardly mirrored the one she portrayed to the public, the body of Crawford’s cinematic work cannot be discounted or ignored. She was and remains a very potent figure in movies. Her films are widely revisited by fans and historians. In short, her legacy as a star endures.
All evidence to the contrary on this deeply flawed outing. Trog opens with a gaggle of male students hiking through the English countryside where they discover an ape-like creature (Joe Cornelius in a really bad make-up job). Trog kills one of the boys and sends the rest dispersing in fear. The survivors are rescued and brought to a nearby research institute where they regale Dr. Brockton (Crawford) with their harrowing experience.
Brockton takes a particular interest in Malcolm Travers (David Griffin) account of the confrontation, perhaps because he is one of her students and therefore not subjected to her more critical skepticism and assessment of the boys’ story. Indeed, with Travers help, Brockton journeys to the moors to investigate the original sighting.
Brockton’s research thus far has been focused on the troglodyte – a prehistoric cave dweller and missing link in man’s evolutionary chain of development. Travers manages to get a snapshot of Trog for Brockton who thereafter presents the findings to the research institute in the hopes of acquiring funding for further study.
Unfortunately, the discovery is met by violent denouncement from religious zealot, Sam Murdock (Michael Gough), who declares Trog a monster and whips the nearby town’s folk into a frenzy to seek out Trog and kill him before he kills someone else. Eventually lured from his cave by all the commotion, Trog is tranquilized and taken to the institute for study.
The rest of the film plays like a serious attempt at Harry and the Hendersons with Crawford performing basic tests on Trog who is, at first, most cooperative and congenial – hardly the expected behavior for a man-eating monster. Murdock, angry that the public’s fascination has blossomed into curiosity for this beast, decides to break into the lab and free the creature.
Trog kills Murdock. He then goes on an uncharacteristic slaughter of some of the locals before abducting a child (Chloe Franks) from her playground equipment and returning to his cave. Brockton makes chase and eventually convinces Trog to give the child up. The police intervene and assassinate Trog in a hailstorm of bullets.
This is not Crawford’s finest hour. Indeed, as a horror movie Trog is regrettably cheap and unconvincing – its special effects so transparent that we are frequently reminded the creature is actually just a man in a goofy monkey suit. One can only guess what was going through Crawford’s mind when she accepted this assignment. She was, at this point in her life, suffering from cancer and the onset of age. The script by Peter Bryan, John Gilling and Aben Kandel is so poorly written it wreaks of first year film school quality, and even that is an insult to all those currently enrolled in such sophomore academics.
Warner Home Video has released Trog as part of their Cult Classics Collection. The anamorphic image exhibits dated colors, flat pasty flesh tone and weak contrast levels. Blacks are rarely solid or deep but rather exhibit a dull brown patina. Whites register a slight bluish or yellow haze. Age related artifacts are evident throughout. A hint of edge enhancement is also detected. The audio is mono and strident in spots. There are No extras. Not recommended.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)