The Neanderthal Man (1953)


*. A very cheap return to the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, transplanted to California’s High Sierra and juiced with some facile nods to human evolution.
*. Yes, Neanderthals did have big brains. But as one of Dr. Groves’ stuffy academic critics correctly points out, brains size wasn’t what was most important. Most people today believe that what defined our species was our ability to use language.
*. A note: On the timeline Professor Groves uses to make his case he has Piltdown Man as one of the steps of human evolution. In fact, Piltdown Man was a hoax, only finally exposed in 1953, the year this film was released.


*. A bit of a surprise to see Stanley Cortez in the credits as director of photography. The same man who shot The Black Cat, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Night of the Hunter and The Three Faces of Eve. I guess any work in Hollywood is nice work if you can get it.
*. I don’t think Cortez exerted himself on this one very much. Among the opening shots of the Sierra Nevadas are several that are obviously just postcards.
*. It really is ridiculous that all of the shots of the tiger in action clearly show that he has no “tusks.” Instead, we only see these in close-ups of what is obviously a stuffed tiger’s head.


*. But I do have to say that the final attack of the tiger on the Neanderthal Man looks pretty good. He really seems to be going at that stunt man!
*. The film was originally called Madagascar. I have no idea why.
*. Professor Groves’ fiancée doesn’t look any older than his daughter. Though in fact Doris Merrick was ten years older than Joyce Terry.
*. I’m not sure why they even introduced the character of the fiancée in the first place. She has nothing to do, and Professor Groves acts as though he’s not sure who she is or what she’s doing in his house.
*. Then again, why do they bother with the character of the deaf-mute housekeeper? We never see her transform into a beast and she serves no purpose in the story.
*. Is Nola raped? “He ran after me, he started to pull me by my hair, and then he . . . and then he . . . [breaks down sobbing].” I mean, he immediately kills the men he meets, but he keeps the women alive for some reason.
*. Wait: Dr. Harkness gives his eulogy over Professor Groves’ body before Groves is even dead? Pump your brakes, man! Just give him a moment to pass quietly.


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