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10 November 2015 @ 05:01 pm
Reviewed: The Mole People (post II of II)  
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Scene 40: Sometime later, Jud and Roger have buried their colleague.

[Roger says something brief and stupid, which we’ll ignore.]

They do more wandering down pitch black tunnels.

The tunnel ends up leading into a circle, and connecting them with the exit to the plateau outside of the Istarian City. As they discuss their lack of options, they’re come across by the searching High Priest. He states that he comes in peace this time, and asks them not to turn the burning light on them.

The High Priest goes on to state that the King has sent him to welcome them as Messengers since they have mastered the Fire of Ishtar. They are to be welcomed via a feast due to those of the gods.

The High Priest asks after Lafarge, but Bentley says he was called back to Heaven to attend other business. The Priest gives the impression of one who is not really buying the men’s divinity, though he can’t explain their mastery of the light obvs, or he would’ve explained it to the King already.


Scene 41: At the empty table where they are to have the banquet, the King asks after their business from Ishtar. Roger chooses to tell them that She sent them there to see how they live and what their needs are. The High Priest spouts some dogma about how Ishtar surely would already know all of these things via their prayers and her all seeing eye, but Roger counters that they are Her eyes. The King promises to show them everything, and therefore be found worthy and faithful to the goddess.

Serving women bring in bowls of food, though most of it seem to be the ubiquitous mushrooms. Alas for Adad, she has the clumsies and spills her bowl onto the floor before the King and High Priest.

This earns her lashings from a Guard’s whip, until Roger Bentley steps in to stay the guard’s hand - I notice that Jud was content to let the young women get whipped bloody.

The High Priest warns Bentley against interfering with the King’s Word, but he countermands the High Priest by reminding him that he wills the Fire of Ishtar, which is a higher law. The King submits to this higher power and after telling Bentley that Adad now belongs to him, she’s sent away.


Scene 42: Roger tries to impress on the people that the Goddess doesn’t like the trading of humans, but the High Priest doesn’t consider her to be such - as she wasn’t born with the albino trait. This marks her as unclean. The phenomena interests Jud who asks how many like Adad there are and they find out that it happens only very rarely.

They also find out more about the Ishtarian society, especially in how they maintain an appropriate population for their limited resources. The High Priest shares they use the Fires of Istar to sacrifice the extra mouths.


Scene 43: Further conversation is interrupted by another guard approaching the King. He states that the beasts in the dark desecrated the body of the soldier killed by the intruders. The Mole People stripped the flesh from the soldier’s bones. The King asks if they caught the ones responsible, and when the answer is yes, they’re ordered killed.





[Not being pretty and blonde, they don’t get benefit of Rog’s outraged interference.]


Commentary: Oh, my god. This is so dull. And predictable… would anyone hazard a guess on whether Adad will require Roger saving her? Does anyone think the Mole People are going to rebel by the end? Can anyone imagine a scenario where the High Priest doesn’t weasel a way to prove that Jud and Roger aren’t Ishtar’s messengers after all?

Can’t we shave about 15 minutes off of this and move it along, already? [The answer would be no, no we cannot.]



Scene 44: Later, Jud and Rog discuss how to get out, but realize they’ll never find a way to the surface without help. Assistance that will never come from the albinos or the mole people. Adad comes in to serve a decanter of milk and to provide musical entertainment with a lute.

Jud makes himself scarce so that Roger can begin asking Adad for clues on how to get out of there while they still can.


Scene 45: Adad reveals that since the King has ordered her belonging to Roger that she intends to stay in his suite with him. Roger offers her freedom, but she isn’t quite clear on the concept.

He chooses a different tack and tells her that she may be in danger remaining. He explains that his people are different from hers, and this causes fear. Her people may choose to harm them, and if she’s there with them, she may be harmed as well -- especially because she’s also different from the majority of her people.

She asks Roger that if he is in danger, what he intends to do and Roger tells her about returning to the ‘world of light’ above the darkness. She offers that there is nothing beyond the darkness above them. He begins to describe the surface world to her.

In the meantime, High Priest has been sneaking around and listens in on this conversation.


Scene 46: Some time later, Roger and Jud are allowed to wander around where they come across the smelting plants for forging melee weaponry using volcanic mud springs for heating the metal.


Commentary: Yay. Beefy muscular men without shirts… finally, something worth seeing. Which is, of course, why we don’t get to stay long… damn it.

Also? For everyone thinking these two are messengers from Ishtar, they’re awfully nonchalant about their presence. NOBODY acts like these two could bring blessings or destruction down on the civilization depending on what they report back to the goddess. In fact, everybody [other than High Priest and King] seem pretty bored with the strangers’ presence.

Also - I’m beyond tired of wandering through dark tunnels with these two.



Scene 47: Roger and Jud next come across the loom room, where women are busy weaving cloth.

[Blah, blah, nothing scene except Jud reminding us he’d like to leave this place.]


Scene 48: While Roger and Jud are busy wandering to see how the city operates, High Priest is busy himself. He’s called together the holy men in order to discuss the intruders. Unlike the King, the High Priest is very certain that Jud and Roger have no divinity to them and worries that they’re being stripped of their power granted to them by Ishtar because of the King’s simple minded faith in the interlopers’ claims.

The power that Roger was shown wielding comes up, but High Priest dismisses this as the divinity residing in the object, not the men. He offers that their caste should have the power to control Ishtar’s Fire from the cylinder and plots as to how to gain it.

Once he has the power in hand, he promises the other acolytes that their caste will control the throne in place of an obviously faltering King.





Scene 49: Back with our wandering duo, they come across another false lead to the surface, putting Jud into a “it’s hopeless” funk. Behind them, one of our priestly acolytes follows along.

Our two come out of the tunnel system, returning to where they started again. All roads seem to lead straight back to the city.

Our men sit a spell and discuss the possibility that they’ll have to remain the rest of their lives. Jud brings up that at least Roger and Adad could make a go of things, maybe have children even. He jokes about some future expedition rediscovering this place and trying to explain an ancient Sumerian culture with little Bentleys walking around speaking in a Boston accent [oh… uh… was Roger using a Boston accent? I hadn’t really noticed].

In the meantime, Roger lays the flashlight down and Spy Acolyte makes a play to reach out and snatch it from behind an outcropping. He’s foiled when Jud and Roger get their second wind and decide to see if they can locate a path they haven’t followed yet.


Scene 50: Back with the Mole People, they’re harvesting more mushrooms while Guards lackadaisically and habitually whip at them. Goats wander around in the background, explaining where the milk was coming from.

Captain of the Guard comes through to check on his men. They ask about feeding the slaves, as they’re growing weak but Captain says they have their standing orders. No food until they hear otherwise.

Meanwhile, Jud and Roger are standing inside a cave and notice the treatment going on.

Meanwhile-meanwhile, one of the Mole People drops some mushrooms into a trough where they’re being collected. Thinking that nobody is watching, he steals one of the shrooms to eat, but alas for him Captain Guard happened to spot his theft.

He orders an immediate sixty lashes on the subhuman.

As the whippings begin though, Roger and Jud steamroll out of the cave, and stand in the way of the guards. Captain Guard asks them not to interfere, for the Mole Person committed an heinous crime. But Roger is indignant, as the poor soul is obviously starving. Captain Guard tells them that his orders are to keep the Mole People hungry, and that their interference will bring disaster down upon the Ishtarians and themselves.

He storms off after the now retreating Mole Person. Meantime, Roger - still incensed uses his Ishtar Messenger status to intimidate the anonymous guards.


Commentary: *Sigh* … so much spinning our wheels here. One can now see that the Mole People must rebel, it’s just a matter of whether it’s with the intentional help of our “Messengers” or as a byproduct of their interference in the Ishtarian society. But how we get from there to the denouement and what will happen between Rog and Adad is all talking, walking, talking, walking… nothing is happening!

What should’ve happened is having Roger and Jud on opposite sides of one another over shaping Ishtarian Society with one of them wanting to introduce more democratic concepts in their guise as Messengers of Ishtar and the other wanting to leave everything as unchanged as possible while they find a way out.

In the meantime, they could’ve been subtlety brought into the growing conflict between the King and the High Priest, not realizing they were each being manipulated in the power struggle until it was too late. What this tale really needed, I think, was more conflict and power struggles happening involving our protagonists or some underhanded intrigue going on in the Royal Court. But what we’re getting is a lot of Roger and Jud whining about being stuck there and endless shots of them wandering dark tunnels. It’s just too repetitive and feels like we’re coasting in neutral just waiting around for High Priest to overplay his hand and for the Mole People to get sick of being used and abused. But it’s taken us so long to actually get here to begin with, that the last thing we need is more waiting!



Scene 51: Following Captain Guard, we watch as he pulls out a dagger while chasing down the running Thieving Mole Person.

Captain Guard shouldn’t have gone after the errant slave alone however, because the Mole People have pretty much had enough. Captain Guard finds himself stepping into a pit trap of the Mole People’s and as he screams in horror, he’s pulled down into the underdepths.





Scene 52: Later, Roger makes his way back to his guest quarters to find Adad there strumming to herself on her lute.

Roger, since Jud isn’t under foot for the moment, puts the romanti-moves on Adad, despite her confusion because she’s accepted that she’s a “marked one” and ergo has little value inherently. Roger asks Adad to come to the surface world with him if he can ever find a way to get out of there. She agrees.

They’re about to kiss, when Random Ishtar Albino Dude butts in. Roger is told that the King has sent for him.


Commentary: Ugh. Even for the cliché romance subplot that must seemingly always end up in primitive society/modern man stories, this one was ridiculous. There was practically zero foundation laid to lead Adad to throw everything that she’d grown up accepting away over Roger, and his sudden “love” for her was equally tenuous at best. This was such a paint-by-numbers development that it wasn’t even developed -- just shorthanded and shoehorned. I’m actively hating this film.

It’s not horrible - acting, directing and set wise. There are some interesting things being done with costuming and the pasty white skin makeup and the subhuman Mole People being more than the beasts of burden that they seem could’ve been interesting -- but the script is just so hackneyed and the plot progression is so, so derivative that the entire thing seems designed to be forgotten as soon as you switch it off. And boring is the greatest cinematic sin there is.



Scene 53: Jud and Rog haven’t even made it into the Throne room, when the King and High Priest lay into our scientists about the Mole People having murdered Captain Guard. They’re worried that the Mole People are thinking of revolting because of the upheaval caused by their presence and interference in internal matters.

They call on Roger to use his Cylinder of Fire to bring the beasts back under control, but after checking with Jud, the request is refused.

Roger and Jud are barely out of earshot before High Priest starts in on the “they’re evil and not from Ishtar” spiel to the King. He tells His Majesty to take the Cylinder of Fire by force so as to cow the Mole People back into passive compliance.





The King however isn’t about to risk Ishtar’s anger. Instead he orders three random Mole People be beaten until dead as collective punishment. High Priest gives pissy-face, but complies.


Scene 54: Cut to the dungeon, where Mole People have been chained to the walls. The first starts getting his beating, until Jud and Roger once again intervene. This time, Roger uses the flashlight against the Ishtarian guards to force them to stop what they’re doing.

The guards barely make a run out of the cell, before the flashlight goes dead - finally having used up the battery. Jud warns that they’re dead if that tidbit is discovered.

Against Jud’s better judgment, Roger chooses to release the Mole People from their captivity, believing that the only reason they were attacked before is because the guards had forced them to do so.

He appears to be correct. As the Mole People blend back into the darkness, one of them seems to try to speak to Roger and Jud. Presumably to thank them, but since they don’t have much power of speech, Roger says that they can only hope that the Mole People will be willing to return the favor later if needed.


Scene 55: Back at the Ishtarian Compound, The King tries to tell the High Priest that Ishtar has hidden her face from them for their sins, implying now that the reason the Mole People’s rations have been drastically reduced is because the Ishtarians themselves have been going hungry recently as production has failed.

The High Priest argues that the intruders are the ones who’ve brought this current crisis upon them and it is they who are encouraging the Mole People to stop working hard enough to feed them all.

The King isn’t ready to cross the Messengers, however. He tells the High Priest that if food has grown scarcer than their sacred scrolls tell them how to handle it. He orders that the population be culled in order to reduce their numbers by arranging a sacrifice to Ishtar.


Scene 56: Cut to the High Priest intoning with the Golden Rods held above his head. Before the King, three young ladies kneel as they await their being given to Ishtar for her favor. But first -- Interpretive Random Dance!!

After a minute and a half-ish, the brides are consecrated by the Spirit Dancer. They’re marched through a doorway. In the room beyond, bright sunlight streams, causing everyone to look away but the High Priest who is now wearing a black hood over his head, and the brides who presumably have been drugged up for the occasion.





The women, one after the other, disrobe and step into the stream of sunlight where their bodies will burn. Once they’ve entered the chamber it is resealed and the population is less three mouths to feed.


Scene 57: Sometime later, the door is reopened only to reveal darkness now. Servants carrying litters move in to collect the horribly blistered bodies.

High Priest continues wearing sour-puss face.


Scene 58: New Captain Guard arrives and insists that he must show the Old Priest something.

This is a body, but what is so special isn’t known as the High Priest immediately rushes off to collect His Majesty.


Scene 59: Upon returning, we find that the body which has now caused such a fuss are the remains of poor Dr. Lafarge… the “messenger called back to the Heavens on another matter”. High Priest points out that this puts severe doubts on their other two guests’ divinity.

Well, the King is more than a bit pissed to have been played for a Royal Fool. When High Priest asks for the leeway to act in their civilization’s best interest against the intruders, he’s given Carte Blanche.


Scene 60: Which leaves Jud and Roger a bit screwed in their guest room, as Adad comes in to serve refreshments to them. Roger is going through tobacco withdrawal, while Jud is dying of boredom.

Adad mentions that the Food Keeper was very generous when she went to fetch them something to eat and she’s brought an entire plate of the ubiquitous mushrooms. Roger invites Adad to eat with them, but she refuses as the Royal Mushrooms are apparently not for the likes of her. Roger disputes her still calling herself a servant.

As he reminds Adad that he told her she’s no different from he and Jud, Roger starts getting a confused look on his mug. The mushrooms have been drugged!

Which causes confusion, fear and consternation in Adad, but not in the High Priest who now strolls into the room. He goes straight for the flashlight, while the Ishtarian Guards bind Roger and Jud.

In the meantime, Adad rushes off to find help among the rebel contingent who have been biding their time, unknown to the King and High Priest.


Commentary: Now, right here, if the filmmakers really wanted to do something different, they could’ve had Adad remind Roger that she’s a servant of her people and that she had no choice but to poison him. But of course, they don’t.

Instead, poor Adad had no clue that her new patron and his friend were to be drugged with the Food Master’s generosity and she’s frightened when the men collapse.

I was really hoping that Adad would’ve been in on supporting the High Priest this entire time, or shown loyalty to the King despite her servant status, just because it would’ve nicely short circuited the nauseating luuurve subplot. Alas.



Scene 61: Adad now rushes into the Mole People Pits where the creatures are again being whipped seemingly randomly.

She hides near a particular sand pit, and the Mole People grab her and drag her under. The other Mole People suddenly leave as well -- leaving the Pit Guards standing in a state of confusion over where everybody went to so suddenly.


Scene 62: Meanwhile, in the throne room, High Priest is putting on his Black Hood again to protect himself from the sunlight beyond the Sacrifice Door.

Roger and Jud have come to, but their hands are still bound behind their backs. Several Black Hooded Guards scoop them up and propel them into the sunlight room beyond.

As Roger and Jud are - or so the Ishtarians believe - being turned into blistered sacrifices to the goddess, the Mole People are busy digging their way up through the ground near the throne room unnoticed.

High Priest gets “OH SHIT” face when he sees the gathering hordes. He immediately orders the guards to kill them, but he’s already described them before now as cowards to Roger and it turns out that when faced with resistance, they quickly fold in defeat.


Scene 63: High Priest quickly makes is way over to the Throne, and places himself at the King’s side. He assures him that they have nothing to fear, as he now controls the Cylinder Light.

Yeah. Since the batteries on the flashlight are dead, that doesn’t actually work out.





High Priest is tackled to the floor, while King gets himself manhandled by clawed hands.


Scene 64: In the meantime, Adad rushes to the Ishtar Sacrifice Door and struggles to free Roger and Jud from their impending deaths. She can’t open it and folds into tears. But the Mole People are a bit stronger than one servant girl. They smash through the doors.

Adad, for the first time sees real sunlight. And since she’s not got the lack of melatonin problem, she’s not burned painfully by its rays.

[How exactly her eyes aren’t dazzled and blinded by the suddenly bright, harsh light in her face isn’t explained. Apparently the triumphant soundtrack is protecting her.]

Inside the room, she finds that Roger and Jud are also just fine, of course. And better, they now have a way to get to the surface as the sun is pouring down through an Ishtar Symbol Shape cut into the mountain above their heads.

Hooray!


Scene 65: After a long, arduous climb, our trio find themselves back on top of the mountain. But OH NOES! An earthquake!

With this sudden, ill-timed trembler, Adad suddenly decides that the surface world blows. She rushes off with Roger and Jud calling after her to stop. Adad falls down a set of stairs. A column rolls down after her, and she gets crushed to death!?!





Commentary: Okay… so that was completely out of the blue! And I’d really, really like to give them a point for originality for this unexpected twist… but alas I can’t. Y’see the only reason that Adad was killed off so suddenly like this was because it was the 1950’s and somebody somewhere got cold feet that there was an implication that maybe Roger and Adad ended up together having mixed-race sex. They even stated the possibility by Jud earlier when the two scientists were considering that they weren’t going to find a way out of IshtarLand.

Well, despite Adad being Caucasian and Blonde… she was still considered technically another race because of being Sumerian and that meant that her and Rog couldn’t possibly be allowed to fuck in the outside world… let alone having mongrel children, so the direction came from On High that Adad had to be killed off before the closing credits and thus this very quick and awkward ending was filmed to ensure that her and Roger couldn’t break the laws of god and man and suchlike….

Because Fuck You, 1950’s Racism!

I mean, EWW. No, no points for killing off Adad unexpectedly you 1950’s Studio Executive Cretins.



Scene 66: In the now dying city the quake is also felt as this lost world is shook, rattled and pummeled. The entrance just taken by Roger, Adad, and Jud collapses and the lost world of the Ishtarians is snuffed out by “The End”.


Commentary: Blurgh.


The Good: Nestor Paiva did some nice work as Professor Etienne Lafarge and Phil Chambers as Dr. Paul Stuart and Rodd Redwing as Nazar gave us some personality.

I did like the part where the doomed Dr. Stuart falls into a crevasse and the others have to climb down to find him/his body. It was nicely filmed, gave off a feeling of claustrophobia and seemed appropriately grueling to get to the bottom. And I liked that the lack of soundtrack allowed us to get a feel of the effort needed to scale down the tight space by the men's labored breathing.

A lot of the lighting work was really well done, so props to our lighting director and crew.

It was unexpected to see the Brides offered to Ishtar [I'm sorry, is Ishtar lesbian... because that'd be the only way that calling the unlucky female sacrifices "brides" would make sense], after they're time in the sun. That was pretty neat and had some gnarly looking makeup effects.


The Bad: The pacing... good god of mercy, the pacing. It's... glaciel. And it starts with that ridiculous "inner earth" lesson from the Professor and NEVER intensifies throughout the picture.

The stock footage, the climbing and the tracking through pitch black tunnels is repetitive, dull, unnecessary and just adds to the feeling that nothing is ever going to actually happen in this flick. Pacing continues to be abused for the sake of stretching things to 77 minutes.

Hugh Beaumont is a complete blank throughout the picture. Why he was chosen to live through to the end when he has no personality, I'm sure I don't know. But even worse, John Agar is bored out of his mind... and it shows.

The "romance" between Roger and Adad is nothing and goes nowhere and there isn't a drop of chemistry between them. It's rote. The whole sorry story is all so by rote.

Obviously the sudden death of Adad at the end would've been a welcome, horrible twist in this tale... except the real-life reason for her fate really, really sucks. They cannot be given credit for acting on paranoid, racist ideology.


Other Thoughts: I want to give more props to the Mole People, but I really can't. The faces and hunchback are good, but as soon as the claws are focused on, the prop effect falls apart and they stop looking good. In addition, we get hints that the Mole People slaves are more intelligent and aware than anyone in the movie believes... but this goes nowhere. We never even get any of the scientists asking questions about their clearly non-human, bipedal nature. They're just in the background and to act as a deus ex machina later, rather than having development to make them interesting.

I also liked the effect of watching people be dragged down into the ground below the Ishtarians, especially when the person isn't a willing participant. That was creepy on watching it the first time it happens, but again, we never get any indication of where the people are being dragged to and we don't get any indication at all that the Mole People have a society of their own set up in a world beneath the world beneath the world, as hinted at in the opening spiel by our visiting opening professor.

And as part and parcel of the lack of details about the Mole People, later Adad will escape using the Mole People and their tunnel systems, but we have zero indication of why she'd think they wouldn't kill her or how she communicates with them or why they'd actually help her to get away from "her people" when they can't know that she's trying to garner help for Roger. There isn't even an attempt to connect Adad or the underclass with the inhuman slave caste before they're suddenly just helping Adad and then rising up to overthrow the Ishtarian High Priest and the King.

I was going to put the mat painting of the ancient buried city of the Ishtarians in the good. But then I remembered it, and so it goes here instead: It's okay, and I've seen worse.

The entire thing with Roger and Jud being considered Messengers of the Gods is really haphazardly used or ignored as any particular scene demands. It's really just so that there is an excuse not to kill the strangers immediately, but barely anyone actually acts as if these strangers from The Goddess are actually awe-inspiring or interesting or ... anything that you'd expect God's Messengers to be perceived as when they show up commanding light that brings pain. Everyone just kinda shrugs until it's time to realize their not divine and then try to kill them... except for High Priest, who you'd think would be the one protecting them with The King being the one who doesn't believe they're from Ishtar. Whatever though, forget the weird role reversal because so little is done with it, anyway.


The Score: 2.0 out of 5 stars


It avoids an "anti-recommendation" barely, but I still wouldn't bother with it.



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