The Creeping Terror, 1964

From Metropolitan International…Starring “Vic Savage” and Shannon O’Neil…
Produced and Directed by A.J. Nelson (aka Vic Savage, which is also not a real name)…for today’s B-movie feature, I bring you “The Creeping Terror”, released in 1964!
The film opens at night, POV through the windshield of a driving car, and we can hardly see anything except whatever the headlights hit. Then, like all “good B-movies”, the narrator reliably begins to explain things to the audience only moments later.
But I’m going to stop the film description there, for now, and delve into the making of “The Creeping Terror” a little bit because that’s actually what really reminds me of an Ed Wood production this time (though there are certainly Woodesque elements in the film itself, to be sure). 
It’s a bit difficult going into the history of the making of this movie for a few reasons, but basically because a lot is only based on rumour and hearsay. But I discovered through IMDb that there is a more accurate account: The Creep Behind the Camera (2014), which covers in detail the making of this film. I will not have a chance to view this before this feature is posted, but may do an update in future when I have a chance.
As far as I can tell, “The Creeping Terror” was directed, produced, and edited by this Vic Savage guy, which is an alias, and though he is listed as the star of the film under Vic Savage, he goes by another alias—A.J. Nelson—for the directing, producing, and editing credits. Not a shady guy at all, and totally someone you’d fork over your money to as a wannabe investor in film productions, right?
Robert Silliphant is credited as the writer, but the original story was written by his younger brother Allan (who later went on to write, produce, and direct 1969 soft core comedy “The Stewardesses” under Al Silliman Jr.)…but their more famous brother, Stirling, was the successful writer (credits including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, “Perry Mason”, “Naked City”, and “Route 66”). Savage actually exploited this family association to attract investors for the film. At any rate, Allan handed in a 9 page treatment, but was frustrated with the over the top direction Savage planned to take the film in, so they parted ways (Allan was also a little worried the film would hurt and not help the writing family reputation).
Savage also offered investors a small part in the film in exchange for receiving film profits for a few hundred bucks, btw, which is one of the things that reminded me strongly of Ed Wood and how he would sometimes rope in stars and investors, though I don’t think he denied them a share of potential film profits in exchange for being in films like “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. Selling roles to gullible Hollywood hopefuls is totally legit, right?
Principal photography began in late 1962 at the Spahn Ranch in Simi Valley, CA, rather than the beautiful Lake Tahoe location originally promised (which was in decline due to a lack of interest in westerns, but The Ranch was later infamous for being the Manson Family residence. Charles Manson was in federal prison during filming of “The Creeping Terror”, and the Family did not move to the Ranch until 1968, meaning rumors that you may or may not have heard that Manson and his cohorts were somehow involved in the production are untrue). It was filmed rather episodically over the span of about a year. 
Allegedly, when the film’s special effects creator was not paid for his work, he stole the original creature costume a day prior to shooting, so Savage and his remaining crew had to piece something together resembling a pile of shag carpets.
One of the most overarching and noticeable “choices” in “The Creeping Terror” is the minimal dialogue in the film, with nearly all vocalization provided by the narrator. So, we’re getting the whole plot explained to us. This could be because Savage either shot scenes without professional sound quality, or the sound was improperly transferred or not transferred at all, as a cost-saving measure. Or the original soundtracks were lost. Not having the money to pay for basic sound transfers or post dubbing, radio news reader Larry Burrell was hired to narrate the entire film. The narrator speaks over most of the dialogue in the film, even though we’re watching the actors’ lips move, and we’re cutting back and forth between actors, or watching them in two-shots chatting away. Then there are long scenes devoid of dialogue that also have no narration. So, contrast, I guess?
Another rumour says that Savage may have checked into a motel to quickly assemble the finished film (without the sound). Prior to the release of the film, Savage was repeatedly sued, faced possible indictment on charges of fraud, so naturally, Mr. Shady vanished. He was never heard from again, at least not in the context of movie production. Wikipedia says he reportedly died of liver failure in 1957 at the age of 41. His wife Lois wrote a tell-all book about her life with Savage…something I may have a look at in future, too.
The film probably didn’t receive a theatrical release. The main financier, William Thourlby (Dr. Bradford in the film) had an edited version created in an attempt to recoup some of his investment. Sound reels had gone missing, hence the need for lots of intrusive narration. It would have been relegated to runs in drive-in theatres, perhaps, then it was sold in 1976 as part of a syndication package of films for local television stations.
So, what actually happens in the film? Well, first…SPOILERS…but the plot is not the reason you watch this movie, so hey…
Picking up where I left off…while driving along a highway, sheriff’s deputy, Martin Gordon (Vic Savage) and his wife Brett (Shannon O’Neil) “without warning” are about to have their honeymoon become a nightmare when they meet Martin’s uncle, sheriff Ben (Byrd Holland), and together they investigate a reported plane crash site. At the site, the group encounters the abandoned truck of a forest ranger, the ranger’s hat, and the camping trailer that is apparently an alien space rocket. Previously, something like the most poorly designed Chinese dragon paraded out of the craft at slo-mo speed. I guess it’s creeping, eh? 😉 It’s like a tall shrubbery with a train. Anyway, it skidaddled at sloth speed prior to the group’s arrival. Uncle Ben enters the craft by crawling underneath it…but all we hear are the screams and the roars of some beast. Martin radios for help after making no real attempt to help Uncle Ben.

In response to Martin’s request for assistance, a “special unit” of military troops, commanded by Col. James Caldwell (John Caresio) arrives at the site. According to IMDb trivia, “The truck the soldiers travel in has U.S. Army painted on the driver’s side only. All army vehicles have a star painted on them and have “U.S. Army” on both doors. Also the truck has a civilian license plate.” There’s also a weird sequence where the military personnel have to remove a branch in their path on the way to the site. It’s long and pointless. But I guess it takes up a few minutes, so hey! Two of the troops enter the craft, examine its contents, and report back to Caldwell the presence of a creature that is harnessed inside. The next day, “the world’s leading authority on space emissions,” Dr. Bradford (William Thourlby), arrives to direct the ongoing investigation, which includes examination of the creature with flailing vacuum tube arms and the spacecraft’s dials and knobs, all analog. I found the following in IMDb’s extensive list of the many errors in “The Creeping Terror”: “The instrumentation inside the alien spacecraft has English and Earth style lettering and numbering. Careful observation also reveals some Earth corporate names and/or trademarks on some of the panels.” Also, every time we cut to an exterior shot of the rocket, and sometimes the interior, too, we are treated to a rip off of the original “Star Trek” bridge sound effects.

And I have to spend a moment on Savage’s strange subplot agenda, best represented by a scene where the narrator explains why Barney, Martin’s bachelor friend and fellow cop, doesn’t comprehend how marriage changes a guy. The narrator is seriously spewing major matrimonial propaganda. Oh narrator, you are so wise in the ways of love and coming of age. And then the newly weds make out a bunch, turning Barney off altogether, so he just leaves. Barney just doesn’t get their pure and perfect love.

As the investigation proceeds, the creeping creature stalks the countryside and, despite its markedly awkward and slow pace of ambulation, successfully approaches, attacks and eats a bikini-clad girl, a housewife hanging laundry (and here is an example of the narrator helping us out by giving away parts of the story before they happen. He dutifully tells us that this wife is saying goodbye to her husband for the last time. Also, she doesn’t seem to have a name for her ailing baby (just referring to him as “poor baby”), but fun fact, the track used for this baby’s cry is also the same one used at the end of “Rosemary’s Baby”!), Grandpa Brown (Jack King), and his grandson Bobby (Pierre Kopp) who has wandered off to go catch lizards (I must say, I fully approve). Hard to believe all those people actually met their doom, though. Cuz creeping terror is very slow. My god, is it every floppy. And not very scary. Weird, yes. Scary…meh. 

Cut to a bunch of people at a picnic. One couple sneaks away to be alone. Of course, creepy attacks, but again, we’re only seeing the reactions, then the leafy crawling carpet leaves, but not before consuming one last guy who tries to beat it to death with his guitar. Then it dragon dances on top of the other picnickers. 

That, coupled with the other attacks, leads the doctor, military, and cops to conclude that there must be another monster besides the one inside the rocket, and it’s on the loose!
Next, creepy crawly is heading towards the local dance hall, because of course he is. We have to see some awkward white people try to do the twist in this film, too. One woman is even kinda dancing while seated at her table. It’s all very cringey, and we’re watching these people “dance” for far too long. The blonde girl in gold pants (Louise Lawson) is also WAY too enthusiastic, and a fight breaks out for some unrelated reason even as the creature attacks. Outside just prior to his attack, it’s kinda like creepy is doing his own version of the twist, too! Shake those vacuum hose locks! Girate for me!
Then, creeping terror is off to pursue couples in their cars at a lover’s lane (the narrator takes the time to say that “anyone who experienced that catastrophe, and survived, would never go there again.” btw). He really has a thing for traumatizing young lovers. Or punishing horny teenagers, as is still a fine tradition in many a horror film. I loved watching the monster squish itself into and overtop of the convertible to absorb one couple! Then it shuffled off. Onto the next car, then. But someone has actually figured out they can just drive away! Creepster is furious about being foiled. He tries for another couple, and they just decide to ditch the car and run away. Then another guy is unable to get his car to start, so the creature pushes the vehicle until it eventually flips over. Then an observer that pulled up in another car is just watching creepy do all of this—he’s not helping. He eventually drives away, so the creature is free to attack the victim of the rollover. He flips the car again! He’s really pissed. He’s just acting out. Then he eats the guy,

Following the lover’s lane incident, Caldwell orders his troops to attack the tree in a bridal gown, telling Bradford that the creature would be captured alive if possible (Dr. Bradford wanted the monster taken alive, because he’s a mad scientist, natch). The troops attack by standing close together, walking slowly toward the creature in a group, and firing their tiny, insignificant guns. Surprise, surprise, the attack is ineffective, and all but two of the troops are devoured. Caldwell then decides to throw a live grenade, which finally destroys the creature. After briefly examining the dead creature’s tissue, Bradford hurriedly returns to the spacecraft and therein somehow triggers an explosion. Although this explosion mortally injures Bradford, it does not damage the craft or its instrumentation, and it allows the harnessed creature to escape. As the creature prepares to devour Bradford, it is killed in a collision with Martin’s arriving police car. Bradford then explains to Martin and Brett (why does Martin keep bringing his wife to these dangerous scenarios?) that the creatures were “mobile” laboratories designed to consume human beings, analyze the bodies chemically to detect weaknesses, and from the spacecraft transmit the acquired information into outer space. 

Although Martin fails to destroy the spacecraft’s transmitter equipment, the dying Bradford says that the creatures’ home planet might not even exist anymore, concluding that “only God knows for sure.” Yikes.

Here’s just some of the trivia treasures I found on IMDb:

  • The shot of an alien craft landing is just reverse stock footage of a spacecraft taking off.
  • At 6:00 the sheriff is seen to be driving the only two-door patrol car in existence. Hard to keep a prisoner in the back seat with no barricade between them as the prisoner simply has to push the front passenger seat forward to attack the police officer who is driving.
  • At 57:01 in Lovers’ Lane, a car drives away as the Terror approaches. This is the first logical self-preserving act in the film.
  • Given how slowly the Terror creeps, it’s mind boggling that no normal humans (except possibly the obese grandpa) can’t simply outrun it. Unless of course they’re “frozen stiff” from fear.
  • At 1:03:00 as most of the 6-man army obligingly lie down to be eaten, one soldier can be seen running away to the right. He thus becomes the only would be victim with the good sense to outrun the Terror.  
  • As the soldiers attack the monster, only sporadic gunshot sounds are heard, and the sounds don’t match the recoil motions made by the actors.
  • Bradford enters the ship at the end and is caught in the explosion but soon after when Martin enters the ship and goes to the same equipment there is no sign of any damage.
  • After the monster eats everyone in the corner of the dance hall it turns and a man is seen standing at the bar and the center aisle is empty. In the next shot the man at the bar is gone and there is a couple standing in the aisle.
  • When the police approach the spaceship right after it lands, the narration claims it is 5:30 a.m. but the sun is directly overhead.
  • The exploding grenade throws light-colored dust all over Barney, Bradford, Brett, and Martin, yet they appear clean in subsequent scenes, and Bradford and Brett’s hair remains perfectly coiffed.
  • When the creature is shot by the military, you can see the big rope they have attached to it that the crew yanks on to make it look like impacts.
  • When the monster flips over the car for a second time, a crewmember’s hand is visible in the upper right part of the frame helping to push the car over.
  • The filmmakers only paid cursory attention to normal Army protocol and chain of command. Although the unit apparently includes several sergeants, Col. Caldwell is seen driving the truck and personally ordering the enlisted men to move the fallen tree; under normal circumstances, a senior commissioned officer (a colonel) would always ride as a passenger while an enlisted man drives, and a sergeant would give orders to the lower-ranking personnel.
  • Shortly after the monster arrives at the dance hall, a woman running towards a door is thrown down by a man who grabs her arm. Her dress and brassiere are torn away, briefly revealing her breasts. The woman looks surprised, covers her chest and hides behind a man for the remainder of the shot.
  • Feet are visible underneath the monster costume.
  • The monster’s first victim is clearly climbing into the creature’s mouth.

Examples of the Narrator’s lines I simply, absolutely must share with you:

  • Barney and Martin had been bachelor buddies for years. But now that Martin was settling down to marriage, they were slowly drifting apart. Barney, naturally, was still dating all the girls in town, and he couldn’t understand why Brett and Martin didn’t pal around with him more than they did. He couldn’t comprehend that married life brought with it not only new problems and duties, but the necessary togetherness of husband and wife as well. Despite Brett’s most tactful considerations, such as inviting him over to dinner quite often, Barney was growing  resentful of her, or at least she felt that he was. Since time began this change in relationships probably happened to all buddies in similar circumstances. Life has its way of making boys grow up, and with marriage, Martin’s time had come. His life was now Brett, a life that he thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Despite Brett’s inquiries about what Martin had seen in the spacecraft, he avoided specific details for fear of distrubing her more than she was. If the truth were known, Martin was more than a little disturbed himself.
  • He slowly asked Bradford what was in store for humanity. Bradford was pessimistic, but implied that maybe all was not lost. After all, he told him, the vastness of the universe was incredible. If these monsters had come from its outer limits, their home might even no longer exist. Or if they do come again, perhaps Man will have advanced enough to cope with them, and those that made them. Only God knows for sure, were Bradford’s last words to anyone on this Earth.
  • In a remote part of the county, the first of a series of tragedies took place; tragedies that could have been avoided had the public been warned.
  • The Sergeant, a shaken man, returned babbling about what had happened. Realizing the full danger of the situation, decided he had only one means left to stop the monster: Grenades. Now Bradford made a drastic move. Acting on his superior authority, he forbade Caldwell to destroy the creature. The Colonel, more concerned with saving human lives than advancing Science, told Bradford to “Go to Hell.”