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Trog is cutesy for troglodyte: a primitive missing-link cave-dweller portrayed by a burly actor in an Alley Oop-like caveman get-up and an over-the-head, dime-store Halloween mask. Discovered by a hunky and shirtless, albeit unfortunate, team of spelunking college students, Trog is captured and put under the observation of Dr Brockton (Joan).
The true villain of this piece is Michael Gough (also slumming it), a representative of the opposing townspeople who, in a public confrontation with Joan, causes her to explode in a moment of impassioned fury. Regrettably, she does not give Gough her trademark slap in the face.
Trog eventually escapes to wreak some customary monster-movie havoc and Joan hunts him down with her "hypo-gun" across the bleak fields of the northern English countryside and down into his cavern, dressed in a smartly tailored tan jacket, slacks and boots ensemble.
Hollywood Royalty? Joan tries to maintain her dignity and poise despite having to deliver lines like, "Put the child down, Trog!" and occasionally looking a little woozy. This sad swan song to a long, brilliant career, amid the preposterous mise en scene, gives "Trog" the feeling of a tragi-comedy. Like one of her memorable screen characters, the real Joan Crawford endeavors to be strong and, ultimately, to triumph against all odds.
P.S. Keep an eye out for an early appearance by cult actor David Warbeck, who went on to Hammer's 'Twins Of Evil', Russ Meyer's 'Blacksnake!' and Fulci's 'The Beyond'.
My first big problem with the movie wasn't the horrible sets. It wasn't even Trog, who couldn't even get makeup from the waist down. Brockton Research Centre is run by Dr. Brockton, who just happens to be Joan Crawford. Here's my big problem. Of all the actresses (drunken or not) in all the world, why in the heck would someone pick Joan Crawford to play an anthropologist? Does she even know what one is? Hearing her discuss Neanderthals makes me shudder. I don't know anything about Neanderthals, and I don't think Joan can teach me a darn thing about them either. "Conceivably, Trog was frozen solid" etc. etc. etc. What?!? I simply cannot believe Joan would waste her breath talking about cavemen. It's wrong. Even more incredible, she has earned a research center with her name all over it! What did she do to get that? Paint the sign herself? I'm slamming Joan myself now, but still. This is weird casting.
As for the acting in the movie (this is a movie, not a film), Joan did better than the movie deserved. That was something she had a gift for. Giving more than she got. She didn't get anything with this one, but she still gave it her all. That causes people to snicker and laugh, saying "Joan must be stupid to think this movie merits all this." No, the movie doesn't, but Joan's mind needed the knowledge that she always did (and looked her best). We may laugh when she gets overly attached to what looks like a wrestler being attacked by a monkey, but we should give her some credit for trying. That's why I think that one moment at the end of the film is quite good. She refuses a newsman's microphone, and you can almost forget how awful this movie is when you see the weariness on her face.
Joan Crawford out-acts everyone else in the film to the point that she seems to be parodying herself, especially during the pseudo-philosophical scenes where she speculates about what makes us human. And Michael Gough is outstanding in his complex role as "the guy who wants Trog dead".
But Trog himself is the funniest part of the movie. Whether he's swaying to classical music, over-turning cars, walloping someone with his hairy forearms, or just dreaming about the good old days, Trog will have you in stitches. And if you don't find it funny, at least you'll be completely bewildered that someone actually made this movie.
How seriously can you take a movie about a prehistoric missing link that pops up in the 20th Century and has Mommie Dearest caring for it? Well, Crawford is actually quite good and takes her part seriously; if there was any regret in her mind doing this type of movie, it doesn't show on the screen. She plays a doctor who takes an interest in the primitive half-ape, half-man (she names him Trog, short for troglodyte) who is prone to savagery when provoked, but who can be tamed with love and care. Michael Gough, England's always over-ripe bad guy, is deliciously sinister as a selfish Realtor who wants to destroy the misplaced creature, and he's got some good villainous dialogue at times (for example, when Crawford says she wants to study Trog, he rants: "Kill it first... THEN study its hide!!").
There are actually some pretty graphic "kill" scenes for this type of film (the butcher shop scene comes to mind, long before there was a certain CHAIN SAW MASSACRE flick), and Trog himself is capable of being not only fearsome, but also a pitiable victim at times. His simian face is enhanced by an electronic muzzle that manages to move and twitch much like an actual ape's, and that's something not even the exceptional PLANET OF THE APES makeups did during this same period. I also like the visual look of the movie, as directed by Freddie Francis (himself often underrated in this genre), and this includes one really cool "jump shock" sequence featuring Gough's nightly encounter with the beast ... but I won't spoil it. High cinematic art? No, of course not -- but a fun way to enjoy a campy monster film one night when you're in the mood for one. That is all this movie needs to be. ^^1/2 out of ****