DirectorKenneth G. Crane
Release Date(s)1957 (March 8, 2022)
Studio(s)Distributors Corporation of America (The Film Detective)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B
Produced by Al Zimbalist, who also produced other low budget genre pictures like Robot Monster and Cat-Women of the Moon, Monster from Green Hell is memorable today for its poster art, as well as the term “green hell”, which fans of The Misfits and Metallica, as well as Italian cannibal films, will recognize to some degree. It’s a pretty basic monster movie despite nearly half of the film’s running time using footage from pre-code era jungle films, with new footage shot around it. To put it mildly, it’s not one of the crown jewels of the 1950s big bug monster movie cycle of films, but those who saw it when they were young or later on TV continue to appreciate it more than most, despite its deficiencies.
After a scientific experiment goes wrong, in which animals and insects are sent into space in order to test their survival, one of the rockets carrying wasps malfunctions and crashes in Africa. Due to cosmic radiation, the wasps grow to gigantic size and begin terrorizing and killing the local tribes and wild life. A pair of scientists are sent in to investigate, discovering that one of the area’s doctors has already been killed, leaving his daughter behind to pick up the pieces. Carrying high explosives and fire power, they head into the jungle with the intent of killing the oversized insects, not knowing that a local volcano has other plans in mind.
For many, Monster from Green Hell is going to be a tough sit. It’s not the most exciting film, especially when there’s a swath of stronger monster movie options to choose from. Jim Davis, who most know from TV Westerns of the 1950s, including Gunsmoke and Death Valley Days, and much later on the nighttime soap opera Dallas, is the biggest name in the cast. Following not far behind is Barbara Turner, who many today may not have heard of, but certainly know her daughter, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Die-hard fans of stop motion animation will eat up what little that Monster from Green Hell has to offer based solely upon the few minutes of it that exists, but it’s an otherwise dialogue-heavy slog with very little monster and a lackluster premise.
Monster from Green Hell was shot by director of photography Ray Flin on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (at least, to my knowledge). The Film Detective brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time in two aspect ratios, the original widescreen 1.85:1, and full frame 1.33:1, which is how a majority of folks have seen it over the years on television. No information is given about the source of this restoration other than that it was performed in 4K. Detail and grain are present, though grain can appear chunky at times. It’s otherwise tight with surprising clarity. The black-and-white footage offers good contrast with strong detail in the shadows and decent delineation. Other than scratches that appear frequently, it’s a mostly clean presentation. A minor frame or two here and there is missing, causing the picture to go out of sync briefly in one instance. The stock footage is rough with frequent scratches and speckling, as well as heavier, chunkier grain. This release also features the finale in color, which is also a little rough, but it’s the first time that it’s ever been included outside of a theater. There’s lots of head room in the full frame version, but neither aspect ratio appears definitive. In the end, it will all come down to preference.
Audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital. Subtitles include English and Spanish. The Dolby Digital track is slightly less flat than its DTS-HD counterpart, but only in a minor way. It’s also a little cleaner. The DTS track has occasional distortion and very mild hiss, as well as a few thumps and pops. Both tracks offer good dialogue reproduction and decent heft for sound effects and Albert Glasser’s score.
Monster from Green Hell sits in a blue amaray case with a 12-page insert booklet that features the essay The Men Behind the Monsters by Don Stradley and various posters and stills. The insert features the original theatrical artwork. The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Stephen R. Bisette
- Missouri-Born: The Films of Jim Davis (HD – 14:41)
Ballyhoo Motion Pictures provides this release with a couple of quality bonus materials. Film historian Stephen R. Bisette, who speaks about being a young man who was excited to see Monster from Green Hell for the few minutes of stop motion in it, takes up historical audio commentary duties. Besides discussing the careers of the cast and crew in detail, he also talks about the practice of building films around footage from other films in the 1950s, the use of footage from Trader Horn and Stanley and Livingston, the film’s co-headliner Half Human, the source of the term “green hell”, other films of the era that also featured giant bugs, the creation of the special effects, the recent re-dub of the film, and the color footage finally being available to be seen. It’s a very nice track. Next is the featurette Missouri-Born, which features author and film historian C. Courtney Joyner discussing the life and career of actor Jim Davis. The only thing that’s missing from this release is the theatrical trailer, which was included on Image Entertainment’s The Wade Williams Collection DVD release.
Monster from Green Hell is low rent, but many monster movie fans are bound to forgive its flaws and enjoy it for what it is. The Film Detective has given it a new life by not only bringing it back into print, but offering a new presentation with the original color finale intact, with a pair of vital and entertaining extras.
- Tim Salmons