The Mole People (1956)

77-78 mins | Horror, Science fiction | December 1956

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HISTORY

Although the closing credits list Cynthia Patrick’s character’s name as “Adad,” she is referred to as “Adel” throughout the film. The film begins with an onscreen appearance by Dr. Frank Baxter, a professor of English at the University of Southern California, whose previous experience as a commentator on the CBS television network had earned him national recognition. Baxter discusses the various theories that scientists and artists have put forth over the past 200 years about the possibility of life in the center of the earth, calling the film “more than a story; a fable with 20th-century significance.”
       The Mole People marked the directorial debut of former Universal film editor Virgil Vogel. Vogel used stock footage of a mountain-climbing expedition during the scenes in which the team climbs “Kuitara.” During the scene in which the archaeologists eat poisoned mushrooms, “Roger” asks “Jud” if he has ever heard of “anyone smoking dried mushrooms.” Some modern sources rank The Mole People as the worst of the many science fiction films Universal produced during the ... More Less

Although the closing credits list Cynthia Patrick’s character’s name as “Adad,” she is referred to as “Adel” throughout the film. The film begins with an onscreen appearance by Dr. Frank Baxter, a professor of English at the University of Southern California, whose previous experience as a commentator on the CBS television network had earned him national recognition. Baxter discusses the various theories that scientists and artists have put forth over the past 200 years about the possibility of life in the center of the earth, calling the film “more than a story; a fable with 20th-century significance.”
       The Mole People marked the directorial debut of former Universal film editor Virgil Vogel. Vogel used stock footage of a mountain-climbing expedition during the scenes in which the team climbs “Kuitara.” During the scene in which the archaeologists eat poisoned mushrooms, “Roger” asks “Jud” if he has ever heard of “anyone smoking dried mushrooms.” Some modern sources rank The Mole People as the worst of the many science fiction films Universal produced during the 1950s. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Nov 1956.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 1956
p. 1.
Daily Variety
26 Oct 1956
p. 3.
Film Daily
31 Oct 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1956
p. 1, 17.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1956
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1956
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Nov 1956
p. 130.
Variety
31 Oct 1956
p. 6.
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1956
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 21 November 1956
Production Date:
2 April--late April 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
6 September 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7224
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
77-78
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18077
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Asia, archaeologist Dr. Roger Bentley leads a team, including Dr. Paul Stewart, Dr. Jud Bellamin and Etienne Lafarge, on a dig for Sumerian artifacts. They discover a 5,000-year-old stone tablet bearing cuneiform writing, which describes the dedication of a temple to the goddess Ishtar. During a sudden earth tremor, the tablet is broken, but the next day a worker uncovers an oil lamp whose inscription tells the tale of Sharu, who constructed an ark to rescue his people from a massive flood. The ark came to rest on top of the mountain Kuitara, and Sharu and his people built a civilization there. Ignoring his colleagues’ misgivings, Roger arranges for an excavation on top of the mountain, and they set out on the treacherous winter climb. Led by guide Nazar, they struggle up the mountain, narrowly surviving an avalanche, and after finally reaching the summit, they encounter the ruins of a Sumerian temple. Just then, however, Paul falls through a crack in the ground, disappearing into a deep shaft. The others go after him and, after a long descent, find Paul dead. They prepare to climb out, but when Nazar taps a loose rope tether, a rock slide commences, killing the guide and trapping the other three inside the mountain. Noting that the caves they are in have been previously excavated, Roger leads them on a search for another way out, while Etienne grows progressively weak and nervous. Finally, they reach a huge, dimly lit cavern, and discover a piece of a statue of Ishtar, which indicates to Roger that they have stumbled into Sharu’s ancient, buried city. The men lie down to rest, but are quickly attacked by ... +


In Asia, archaeologist Dr. Roger Bentley leads a team, including Dr. Paul Stewart, Dr. Jud Bellamin and Etienne Lafarge, on a dig for Sumerian artifacts. They discover a 5,000-year-old stone tablet bearing cuneiform writing, which describes the dedication of a temple to the goddess Ishtar. During a sudden earth tremor, the tablet is broken, but the next day a worker uncovers an oil lamp whose inscription tells the tale of Sharu, who constructed an ark to rescue his people from a massive flood. The ark came to rest on top of the mountain Kuitara, and Sharu and his people built a civilization there. Ignoring his colleagues’ misgivings, Roger arranges for an excavation on top of the mountain, and they set out on the treacherous winter climb. Led by guide Nazar, they struggle up the mountain, narrowly surviving an avalanche, and after finally reaching the summit, they encounter the ruins of a Sumerian temple. Just then, however, Paul falls through a crack in the ground, disappearing into a deep shaft. The others go after him and, after a long descent, find Paul dead. They prepare to climb out, but when Nazar taps a loose rope tether, a rock slide commences, killing the guide and trapping the other three inside the mountain. Noting that the caves they are in have been previously excavated, Roger leads them on a search for another way out, while Etienne grows progressively weak and nervous. Finally, they reach a huge, dimly lit cavern, and discover a piece of a statue of Ishtar, which indicates to Roger that they have stumbled into Sharu’s ancient, buried city. The men lie down to rest, but are quickly attacked by mole-like creatures, who drag them through the soil into a cave prison. There, skeletons of some unfortunate mole people are shackled to the wall, and the scientists examine the skeletons' large skulls and long, clawlike fingers. Soon, the men are beckoned to a temple filled with the underground civilization’s other inhabitants, Sumerians whose 3,000-year-old ancestors were trapped underground after an earthquake, and who have remained faithful to their ancient customs. After centuries of living inside the mountain, the Sumerians have evolved into albinos who cannot tolerate direct light. The archaeologists are brought before the head priest, Elinu, and the king, Sharu, who believes the strangers to be evil spirits and sentences them to death. The guards attack, but after Roger shines his flashlight on them, they fall in agony, and Sharu declares the strangers to be holy messengers bearing light, or what they call “the fire of Ishtar.” Roger and Jud flee into the tunnels and stumble upon the mole creatures’ hellish lair, where they are whipped and starved by the Sumerians. A panicked Etienne attracts the attention of a mole person, who kills him and then runs off. Elinu then finds Roger and Jud in the tunnels and, although he remains skeptical of their divinity, invites them to a feast. There, Roger and Jud learn the history of the Sumerians, who, because they can grow only enough mushrooms to support 150 of their people, must kill the rest. Roger stops the guards from cruelly whipping a non-albino, Adel, whose relatively dark skin has condemned her to slavery. The next day, Roger and Jud tour the working facilities and marvel at the society’s inventiveness, while at the same time Elinu rouses his priests to steal the flashlight and stage a coup against the weak king. Later, the Americans again stop a guard from beating a mole person, unwittingly causing the death of one of the guards. Over the next few days, while Roger searches for a way out of the cave, and begins to fall in love with gentle Adel, the mole people grow more rebellious. Sharu asks Roger for the flashlight to use as a weapon against the creatures, but Roger refuses, and instead Sharu orders three of the creatures whipped to death. Roger and Jud drain the flashlight’s battery in order to put a stop to the beating, after which one of the mole people tries to communicate its gratitude. The creatures slow down their food production, and in response, Sharu orders three women to be sacrificed to the light of Ishtar, which is actually a crack in the surface through which sunlight pours in, instantly burning the albinos’ flesh. Soon after, Elinu discovers Etienne’s body, proving that Roger and Jud are also mortal, and orders them killed. To restrain them, the men are fed poisonous mushrooms and then pushed into the lighted area, which, unknown to the Sumerians, poses no threat to them. Meanwhile, Adel notifies the mole people, who attack the Sumerians and gain control, and then help Adel into the lighted area. Roger, Jud and Adel easily climb the shaft to the surface of the mountain. As they leave the area, however, an earth tremor occurs, killing Adel and, once again, completely sealing the entrance to the city below. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.