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  Fiend Without a Face Brain Drain
Year: 1958
Director: Arthur Crabtree
Stars: Marshall Thompson, Kim Parker, Kynaston Reeves, Terry Kilburn, Michael Balfour, Gil Winfield, Stanley Maxted, Peter Madden, Robert Mackenzie, Launce Maraschal, James Dyrenforth, Meadows White, Lala Lloyd
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: There are strange things happening on this U.S. Air Force Base situated in Canada, and they appear to begin when one of the guards is found dead in the surrounding forest with no apparent cause. Major Jeff Cummings (Marshall Thompson) is on the case, and first wants to have an autopsy performed but finds that the local village doctor and the soldier's bereaved sister have taken the body and are refusing to hand it over for examination. They are also rejecting the notion that the dead man was a spy - so what could have killed him?

Fiend Without a Face may have been a modest little British science fiction picture, but it's the horror elements that have stuck in the minds of many a viewer of late night television over the years. It was scripted by Herbert J. Leder from a story by Amelia Reynolds Long, and sets out as a typical fifties genre effort, with military men struggling to overcome a puzzle that is growing more devastating by the day; mix in a spot of mad science and an invisible monster and you have the ingredients for a routine shocker along familiar lines.

Indeed, many will say that this film does not really kick into gear until the final fifteen minutes and the attack sequence, but really that's not the case, and it is no more mediocre than many of its peers. In some ways, it is better as it will build up the tension mainly by having a scene which establishes the plot a little more, then offer us a thrill scene where a bit part actor will look around to see where the curious, heartbeat-like sound is coming from, then grimace and clutch at their neck when something unseen grabs them and does something unspeakable to their person.

What is going on? Well, an autopsy on a fresh victim discovers that their brains are being sucked out through two holes in the back of their heads - and their spinal chord, too - but what could possibly commit such a horrendous act? We don't really find out till the end, but the revelation is worth waiting for, therefore there's a lot of stock footage of aeroplanes flying over and a somewhat dutiful romance between Thompson and Kim Parker as the first victim's sister to get through. The film wisely keeps the extraneous business brief, and prefers to concentrate on more sinister goings-on.

It's all to do with a mad scientist, Professor Walgate (Kynaston Reeves), who appears to be ailing although you do not find out why until later. When you hear he is investigating psychic powers alarm bells should be ringing, and his confession is the cue for all hell to break loose. Earlier, there have been more traditional horror-style bits and pieces, with the death of the unfortunates, one of whom survives as a shambling near-vegetable, and the Major even gets trapped in a crypt at one point, but this is nothing to preprare you for the outrageous siege that climaxes the action, with some truly excellent stop motion effects to animate the monsters for gory thrills. OK, it's this that you will always recall if you've seen Fiend Without a Face, but it's satisfying in its construction as well, not much more than a standard creature feature though well presented for all that. Music by Buxton Orr.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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