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Fiend Without A Face (1957)

Because of the makers' desperation to appeal to the huge American market, sometimes a Brit horror is in danger of slipping through the radar. Fiend Without A Face is one of these films - it's definitely British, but you'd be hard pressed to tell. It's set in Canada, it's full of people doing (variable) "across the pond" accents, and it's a "bug eyed monsters on the rampage" B-movie in the best 50s style.

But it's also a strangely empty experience. All the ingredients are there - nasty (unseen) deaths, effective monsters, plenty of shooting and even some nearly-tense scenes. But for some reason it left me feeling a bit flat.

The scene is set pretty quickly, as a guard at a Canadian airbase hears slurping noises and a scream. A dead man is found - he's a chap from the nearby village and he's been spying on the airbase because the villagers reckon the place is irradiating their cattle. Already we've got those two staples of sci-fi schlock, the unseen monster and the paranoia about radiation. Our square-jawed hero, Major Jeff Cummings, pontificates: "Who could forget the look on that dead man's face? Maybe Doc Warren has the answer…"

But the Doc doesn't, because the Mayor of the village has carted off the body before an autopsy could be carried out. These "backward" people seem to have a point about the danger they're being put in, however… the base is running on atomic power, power which is also being used to spy on those pesky Russians. The power keeps being drained off, and no-one can work out why.

As more people get offed by an invisible foe (cue more disgusting slurping sounds), Jeff manages to pack in an unprovoked fight with the village nutter and a bit of wooing of the local totty, whilst discovering that the victims' brains and spinal cords have been sucked out, by something "like some mental vampire!" (I'm assuming he means "mental" as in "of the mind", as opposed to a vampire who wears slippers in the street and has an imaginary friend called Beans who lives in a matchbox).

His theory is ignored by the locals, however, who decide there's a maniac on the loose and break out the shotguns, pitchforks and flaming torches.

It's not an escaped loony, of course, it's something much more stupid than that. The local Professor has accidentally created "invisible thought beings" which are busy sucking people's brains out and stealing atomic power (like they do). Luckily, as they ingest more power they become visible, and appear as mobile brains-and-spinal-cords which like nothing better than jumping on unsuspecting locals. As the creatures suck more brains they get cleverer, but luckily they're pretty susceptible to bullets and axes, leading to some remarkably graphic (for the time) gore effects.

"We're facing a new form of life that nobody understands…" gibbers the Prof, as Jeff starts formulating a plan to deal with these fiends (without faces).

Fiend Without A Face ends in a welter of gore, odd science (since when did hiding behind a nearby jeep save you from an exploding atomic power station?) and mixed messages - is atomic power the problem, or free will?

With a bit more thought, a British setting and more scares, Fiend Without A Face could have been okay, but as it is it's just an excuse to watch stop-motion animated brains get the crap blown out of them. Which is fun, for about five minutes, but does not a great movie make.

Last updated: February 22, 2010

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Fiend Without A Face 1957

Fiend Without A Face 1957

Fiend Without A Face 1957

Fiend Without A Face 1957

 

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