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Reviews in Brief: Fiend Without a Face (1958)

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A Year after Fiend Without a Face, Arthur Crabtree directed Horrors of the Black Museum, yet another movie that made me uneasy/queasy as a child. The latter film features a woman's death by spiked binoculars, in a movie soggy with sadism.  And while Fiend Without a Face takes its own stab — so to speak — at stomach-churning, it remains more of a Gothic grab-bag of ideas and effects.

The urge to toss in whatever works is fitting: It was produced by a company actually named Amalgamated, and the picture lives up to its company's name.Fiend Without a Face manages to toss in Cold War hysteria, nuclear power issues, angry villagers, a crackpot scientist, echoes of Frankenstein and Dracula — and of course the original brain-eating brains, cleverly invisible for most of the picture. Just when you thought they were going to cheat you out of a good look, the monsters become startlingly visible, stop-motion-animated little fiends without faces, but with tendrils and inchworm-like spinal columns, bubbling black blood when shot by the dead-eye Air Force men in a gorefest finale that remains disturbing and scary, the brains hanging from tree branches, tearing their way into the boarded house, generally exerting an Id-like influence on everyone they get close enough to creep out, including the audience.

From George Romero's barricaded zombie holocaust survivors to J.J. Abrams' series Fringe, the influence of Fiend Without a Face keeps rearing its wrinkled little head, hungry for brains and still giving the jitters to my inner eight-year-old.

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About Paul J. Marasa