Cast & Crew
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.
Dr. Frank Baxter
Arthur D. Gilmour
Yvonne De Lavallade
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
Carl J. Lawrence
Jay A. Morley Jr.
Robert E. Smith
Joan St. Oegger
Thomas N. Thompson
TCM Remembers - John Agar
Popular b-movie actor John Agar died April 7th at the age of 81. Agar is probably best known as the actor that married Shirley Temple in 1945 but he also appeared alongside John Wayne in several films. Agar soon became a fixture in such films as Tarantula (1955) and The Mole People (1956) and was a cult favorite ever since, something he took in good spirits and seemed to enjoy. In 1972, for instance, the fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland mistakenly ran his obituary, a piece that Agar would later happily autograph.
Agar was born January 31, 1921 in Chicago. He had been a sergeant in the Army Air Corps working as a physical trainer when he was hired in 1945 to escort 16-year-old Shirley Temple to a Hollywood party. Agar apparently knew Temple earlier since his sister was a classmate of Temple's. Despite the objections of Temple's mother the two became a couple and were married shortly after. Temple's producer David Selznick asked Agar if he wanted to act but he reportedly replied that one actor in the family was enough. Nevertheless, Selznick paid for acting lessons and signed Agar to a contract.
Agar's first film was the John Ford-directed Fort Apache (1948) also starring Temple. Agar and Temple also both appeared in Adventure in Baltimore (1949) and had a daughter in 1948 but were divorced the following year. Agar married again in 1951 which lasted until his wife's death in 2000. Agar worked in a string of Westerns and war films such as Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Breakthrough (1950) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). Later when pressed for money he began making the films that would establish his reputation beyond the gossip columns: Revenge of the Creature (1955), The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Invisible Invaders (1959) and the mind-boggling Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966). The roles became progressively smaller so Agar sold insurance and real estate on the side. When he appeared in the 1988 film Miracle Mile his dialogue supposedly included obscenities which Agar had always refused to use. He showed the director a way to do the scene without that language and that's how it was filmed.
By Lang Thompson
DUDLEY MOORE, 1935-2002
Award-winning actor, comedian and musician Dudley Moore died on March 27th at the age of 66. Moore first gained notice in his native England for ground-breaking stage and TV comedy before later building a Hollywood career. Like many of his peers, he had an amiable, open appeal that was balanced against a sharply satiric edge. Moore could play the confused innocent as well as the crafty schemer and tended to command attention wherever he appeared. Among his four marriages were two actresses: Tuesday Weld and Suzy Kendall.
Moore was born April 19, 1935 in London. As a child, he had a club foot later corrected by years of surgery that often left him recuperating in the hospital alongside critically wounded soldiers. Moore attended Oxford where he earned a degree in musical composition and met future collaborators Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. The four formed the landmark comedy ensemble Beyond the Fringe. Though often merely labelled as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus, Beyond the Fringe was instrumental in the marriage of the piercing, highly educated sense of humor cultivated by Oxbridge graduates to the modern mass media. In this case it was the revue stage and television where Beyond the Fringe first assaulted the astonished minds of Britons. Moore supplied the music and such songs as "The Sadder and Wiser Beaver," "Man Bites God" and "One Leg Too Few." (You can pick up a CD set with much of the stage show. Unfortunately for future historians the BBC commonly erased tapes at this period - why? - so many of the TV episodes are apparently gone forever.)
Moore's first feature film was the 1966 farce The Wrong Box (a Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation) but it was his collaboration with Peter Cook on Bedazzled (1967) that's endured. Unlike its tepid 2000 remake, the original Bedazzled is a wolverine-tough satire of mid-60s culture that hasn't aged a bit: viewers are still as likely to be appalled and entertained at the same time. Moore not only co-wrote the story with Cook but composed the score. Moore appeared in a few more films until starring in 10 (1979). Written and directed by Blake Edwards, this amiable comedy featured Moore (a last-minute replacement for George Segal) caught in a middle-aged crisis and proved popular with both audiences and critics. Moore's career took another turn when his role as a wealthy alcoholic who falls for the proverbial shop girl in Arthur (1981) snagged him an Oscar nomination as Best Actor and a Golden Globe win.
However Moore was never able to build on these successes. He starred in a passable remake of Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours (1984), did another Blake Edwards romantic comedy of moderate interest called Micki + Maude (1984, also a Golden Globe winner for Moore), a misfired sequel to Arthur in 1988 and a few other little-seen films. The highlight of this period must certainly be the 1991 series Orchestra where Moore spars with the wonderfully crusty conductor Georg Solti and leads an orchestra of students in what's certainly some of the most delightful television ever made.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - John Agar
Archaeologists are underpaid publicity agents for deceased royalty.- Dr. Roger Bentley
Do you think anybody's ever tried to smoke dried mushrooms?- Dr. Roger Bentley
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.