Trog (1970)

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trog (1970)

Joan Crawford's extraordinary career encompassed over 45 years and some 80 films.  After a tough, poor childhood, she was spotted in a chorus line by MGM and signed as an ingenue (role of a naive girl or young woman) in 1925.  Her portrayal of a good-hearted flapper in her 21st film, "Our Dancing Daughters" (1928), made her a star.  Crawford maintained this status throughout the remainder of her career, but not without setbacks.  She successfully made the transition to sound films, her Jazz Age image being replaced by young society matrons and sincere, upwardly mobile, sometimes gritty working girls (memorably in "Grand Hotel" 1932) and her mien adopting the carefully sculptured cheekbones, broad shoulders and full mouth audiences remember her for.  Her MGM films of the 1930s, though lavish and stylish, were mostly routine and superficial.  Despite mature and impressive performances in "The Women" (1939) and "A Woman's Face" (1941), both directed by George Cukor, Crawford continued to be given less-than-challenging roles by the studio.

In 1943 Crawford left MGM and her career took a decided upward turn after she signed with Warner Bros. the following year.  In numerous Warner Bros. melodramas and "films noir", a new Crawford persona emerged: intelligent, often neurotic, powerful and sometimes ruthless, but also vulnerable and dependent.  Memorable roles in "Mildred Pierce" (1945, for which she deservedly won an Oscar), "Humoresque" (1946) and "Possessed" (1947) restored and consolidated her popularity.  In her nine "films noirs" for Warner Bros. and other studios, as well in most of her non-"noir" features (such as "Harriet Craig", 1950), Crawford gave expert and fully realized interpretations.

After this brief period of success, Crawford's career declined once again, and in 1952 her remarkable business acumen told her to leave Warners.  She freelanced thereafter, notably for RKO in "Sudden Fear" (1952), a performance which earned Crawford her third Oscar nomination for Best Actress.  She was also memorable as a female firebrand in Nicholas Ray's outrageously stylized Western, "Johnny Guitar" (1954).  With the exception of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962), Crawford's performances of the 60s were mostly self-caricatures in second-rate horror films ("Berserk!" 1967, "Trog" 1970).  Although these later features were poor vehicles for her talents, she was a resilient and consummate professional with an uncanny knowledge of the business of stardom who was fiercely loyal to her fans and who continued to impose the highest standards of performance upon herself. Crawford was married to actors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Franchot Tone and was portrayed as a cruel, violent and calculating mother by Faye Dunaway in the 1981 film, "Mommie Dearest", based on a scathing biography by her adopted daughter Christina.

  • Actors: Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, Bernard Kay
  • Directors: Freddie Francis
  • Writers: Aben Kandel, John Gilling, Peter Bryan
  • Producers: Harry Woolveridge, Herman Cohen
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Warner Archive
  • DVD Release Date: November 10, 2011
  • VHS Release Date: August 22, 1995
  • Run Time: 91 minutes

Trog is a 1970 science fiction horror film starring Joan Crawford in a story about the discovery of a caveman.  The screenplay was written by Peter Bryan, John Gilling, and Aben Kandel, and the film directed by Freddie Francis. Trog marks Crawford's last big-screen appearance.

While exploring a cave, students Malcolm, Cliff, and Bill are attacked by an ape-like beast.  When Bill is killed, the other two report the incident to the skeptical police and anthropologist Dr. Brockton (Joan Crawford).  The news media learn of the story, and a camera crew is sent into the cave to film the creature, but the beast chases them from the cave.  Dr. Brockton, who persuades the police not to open fire, shoots the beast with a tranquilizer gun and takes it to her laboratory where she discovers that it is a troglodyte, the missing link between man and ape. After Trog is calmed, a transmitter is inserted in its chest, and the beast begins to communicate with Dr. Brockton. One day a dog steals one of Trog's toys, and the creature kills the dog.  Consequently, Dr. Brockton is brought before a magistrate and told that the beast will have to be destroyed if it breaks loose again.  Sam Murdock (Michael Gough), a local land developer, and Dr. Selbourne (Jack May), a jealous rival of Dr. Brockton, conspire to free Trog, but when Murdock opens the cage, Trog kills him, goes on a rampage in the town, and takes a child back to the cave.  The British Army is called in, but Dr. Brockton requests an opportunity to try to save the child; she enters the cave and returns with the child, who had been treated kindly by Trog.  The army, however, will no longer allow the potential danger, and they destroy the cave and Trog with dynamite.

At the time of Trog's release, The New York Times panned the film but commented, "There is, however, a rudimentary virtue in that it proves that Joan Crawford is grimly working at her craft.  Unfortunately, the determined lady, who is fetching in a variety of chic pants suits and dresses, has little else going for her."

Ned Daigle later commented, "Trog is truly ungodly. The performances are rotten, the Trog makeup is so bad it looks, at times, like it will slide right off the actor's face, and everything proceeds at a snail's pace to idiotic situations.  It's really sad to see such a huge star [Crawford] be consigned to the Z-grade abyss of films like this. But, hey, a girl's gotta eat."

The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

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