The Mole People (1956) [Blu-Ray]

I’ve never seen a movie so apparently short on a script that it purposely pads the run time to compensate. I’ve seen movies waste time on screen, but director Virgil W. Vogel’s science fiction adventure obviously had a script comprised of maybe forty pages of actual narrative and writing. The rest of the seventy seven minutes is obvious empty filler, and padding that tries to run out the clock for the sake of the feature length credibility. Set in the general vicinity of Asia, we meet (two of the most grating heroes ever put to film) archaeologists Dr. Roger Bentley and Dr. Jud Bellamin, both of whom are dedicated to finding a mythical race of Sumerian Albinos living deep in the Earth.

When they stumble upon the race, they’re taken prisoner by whip wielding soldiers, and learn of their hidden society. For survival, they keep mutant humanoid mole men as slaves to harvest mushrooms, which are their primary food source, apparently. Because they don’t require daylight, you see. It makes sense in this kind of science fiction, I guess. Living in a subterranean civilization subsequence floods that destroyed ancient Mesopotamia, they keep slave women, and sacrifice older citizens to the Magic Eye of Ishtar. Using their only weaknesses, the—uh–flashlight, the group of men seeks to break free one  of their slaves, while also ending the rule on the mole men, as they begin to rebel against their masters.

“The Mole People” really is a master class in wasting time to help expand the run time on the entire film. There’s a four minute prologue from Dr. Frank Baxter extolling the idea of discovering ancient civilizations, how some of the film’s ideas are plausible, and how the Earth is so big and mysterious. Next, there’s an opening credits sequence that also clocks in at four minutes. Pair that up with a lot of the padding within the movie itself, and there’s not a lot substance to be mined. We get an exciting four minute scene of the characters climbing down a steep cliff of rocks. They climb, and climb. There’s also the exciting close up of a character tying a knot! Buckle up, folks. Considering “The Mole People” is relatively regarded as a fifties science fiction cheese, the expectations are rock bottom, but there are at least some fascinating ideas here.

The whole concept of slavery in a society of white skinned people is genuinely glossed over most of the time, especially in the vein of Adad, a slave girl who isn’t an albino that is genuinely shunned by her people. There’s also the distractingly ridiculous relationship between the men and women in the film. Particularly once Adad befriends and romances Jon Agar’s Dr. Bentley. Their relationship is built around him “teaching” her things in a child like tone, but none of the big dramatic tension and defeating the civilization matter once the laughable final scene proves to be literally all for nothing. Appreciated as a bit of cheap science fiction, “The Mole People” fulfills the appetite; it’s silly, filled with plot holes, and objectifies its female characters more than the actual mole men.

Featured in the Blu-Ray there’s an audio commentary with film historians and authors Tom Weaver and David Schecter who discuss the creation of the film, and its cult appeal. There’s the eighteen minute “Mushrooms and Madmen: The Making of THE MOLE PEOPLE,” by the authors, both of whom discuss Universal during this era, the cheap sci-fi films, and quotations of the film. There’s the original theatrical trailer, and a still gallery, a gallery with lobby cards and various posters. Finally there’s the complete, uncut “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episode where they riff on “The Mole People.” It’s one of their all time funniest episodes, and one of the earliest of the series that I can ever recall seeing.