Fiend Without A Face - Great Atomic Fun

I've heard of some people that will only watch Criterion Collection films, which would brand them the ultimate in cinephile snobs - but little do they realize it harms their street cred because that would mean they hold films like Armeggedon and The Rock to be true cinematic classics as well. It doesn't matter what studio puts out a film, whether it's Janus or Lions Gate if it's good its good.  I will admit for some older classics I am a bit faster to track them down if they have the Criterion seal of approval, because overall they choose socially relevant films.

This leads us to Arthur Crabtree's 1958 SciFi classic Fiend Without A Face.  Here's a film with such an original premise and wonderful use of early gore that its hard to complain about a few wooden actors and monologue driven script.  These fiends, from the beginning are invisible creatures that attach themselves to you and suck out your brain and spinal cord.  We watch the actors struggle as if they were choking, and each one is left with a face mangled by terror.  The townspeople blame the nearby nuclear power plant, or a renegade G.I., but nobody could imagine the true 'fiend.'

Fiend was a British production filmed in Canada. When it was released in the UK, the British Board of Film Censors gave the film an X rating, even after forcing Crabtree to make several cuts.  We don't know exactly why the X was given but in 1958 it was probably due to the graphic nature in which the fiends died and the near apocalypse it caused the town.

The graphic deaths and the fact that the town is destroyed are reasons that make this film brilliant.  Especially up against the other atomic age films of the time: Donovan's Brain (1953), Them! (1954), Godzilla (1954), Creature With The Atom Brain (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), The H-Man (1958), and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) to name a few, Fiend delivers something extra.  You do not see these creatures until the end of the film and when you do, they are actually done with stunning stop-motion detail.  Its all more terrifying when you learn their origin: human thought.  A scientist has studied telekinesis over a lifetime and spent his time experimenting with creating something organic strictly by thinking it into existence.  He failed again and again, until the nuclear power plant opened and he was able to use the power to magnify his experiments till one day he had created something tangible from an idea.  The fiends existed yet they were invisible because they didn't have enough power to become corporal - that is until they develop an intelligence from sucking brains and decide to go straight to the plant.  Once visible, the film picks up pace.  While some moments fighting and killing the fiends look a little fake by todays standards overall the design of the brain + spinal cord creature looks pretty awesome.

Giving away the ending is necessary to impart the films final message - if thought created creatures start sucking your townspeople dry and you have a nuclear power plant nearby that provides them with the power they need to survive just take a tip from Major Cummings: blow up the nuclear power plant.  That's right, you will see the thought creatures die before your very eyes.

Rating III/V This film was very enjoyable and may be the only atomic 50's film that features great gore and semi-nihilism it's not for everyone - but look out a remake is on the horizon (not kidding)


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