One of the best comments I have found on imdb’s profile of “Monster From Green Hell” indicated that “Big wasps are fun, but walking across Africa isn’t”.
I find this one-sentence long review one of the most precise, to-the-point descriptions I’ve read.
You see, “Monster from Green Hell” is set in Africa. As it is with most of the monster movies from the last century, there are white, American scientists, who embark on a dangerous mission to the beating heart of Congo. Their mission is to find the hive of gargantuan wasps, an effect of some nuclear tests conducted in the region.
Phenomenal use of the African tribes. After the plot is explained to the audience with every piece of dialogue possible, there isn’t much to do with the gigantic insects. The solution to this problem is… a fine piece of road cinema. The main characters embark on a journey to the volcano, during which they are attacked by the locals (for no explainable reason), they are tormented by rain and drought etc. It obviously has nothing to do with the monsters themselves. But it’s a decent portfolio addition for the cinematographer, who uses the African setting resourcefully.
The Manichean Motif of a Porter. This requires a little bit of explanation. So, while we were watching the film – me and two of my friends – it became obvious that the director Kenneth Crane imbued his masterpiece with what we unanimously called “the porter’s motif”. You see, almost every scene of the film includes someone carrying things. Even the wasps – made from high-quality cardboard – are only swift enough to pike victims on their fangs. Only then these bodies are carried by the wasps elsewhere. The two scientists carry grenades. And all of the actors carry the heavy burden of the film.
The monster appears right away. When you watch a certain amount of bad movies from the 40s and 50s, you notice that the suspense orders you to wait a significant amount of time before the terror is finally revealed. Usually, the monster appears for a few scenes only. In “Monster from Green Hell”. the beasts are presented early in the film, with plenty of time to appreciate them in all the kitschy glory.
The “walking across Africa” argument makes sense. While the cinematographer deserves applause to bring National Geographic to a cheap, Hollywood monster movie, the 20-minute location shot, cut into random pieces, is a bit of a let-down.
The film has been racist towards wasps. The film has never mentioned the good things that the wasp community has done to the world. They were shown as deadly predators.
There was no comedic relief. Usually, the monster movies used a supporting role that could be generally called “a comedic relief guy”. In many cases it was slightly racist (as many of them came from Mexico or were given a strong foreign accent), but seemed like must. These characters usually throw the lamest jokes and serve as an unnecessary addition to the group of main characters (mostly consisting of white, middle-aged men and a white, middle aged woman). In “Demon from Green Hell”, the much-needed comedic relief guy has been traded for a Yoda-kind guide whose appearance suggested his Indian roots.
Most notably, Kenneth G. Crane had the decency to throw some nice shots of the gigantic monsters his team constructed. But other than that, “Monster from Green Hell” isn’t revolutionary on any ground. It’s fun, but the glorious 50s can do better.
Monster from Green Hell
Dir. Kenneth G. Crane
Monster Movie Hate Grade: 3/10