Cast & Crew
High in South Dakota's Black Hill Mountains, robber Alex, his girl friend Gypsy and henchmen Marty and Byron pretend to be vacationing while planning a gold heist from a local bank. Alex orders Byron to plant charges in a nearby mine and set them off the next morning to divert the public's attention while they rob the bank. Alex has arranged for nature enthusiast and ski instructor Gill to take them on a cross-country ski trip to Gill's isolated cabin, where they will secretly rendezvous with an airplane to transport the gold to Canada. Feeling trapped in her relationship with bad-tempered Alex, Gypsy finds solace by drinking day and night and flirting with Gill, who knows nothing of the group's plan. That night at the lodge bar, Gypsy flagrantly dances with Gill, who is charmed by her intelligence, but wary of her drunkenness. Meanwhile, Byron takes barmaid Natalie, who is unaware of the planned robbery, with him to romance her while he is planting the timer for the explosives. As his back is turned, a huge spider-like monster covered in webs grasps Natalie and carries her away. When a stupefied Byron returns and tells his boss about Natalie's disappearance, Alex believes that a rampaging cougar killed the girl. The next morning, a sober Gypsy meets Gill at the trailhead to wait for the others and, at the top of the ski lift, confides that she has wasted her life with Alex. Soon after, the mine blows up on schedule and an elderly miner is killed in the explosion. Hearing the town alarm, Alex, Marty and Byron break into the bank vault, load their backpacks with six bullions of gold each and meet Gypsy and Gill high up on the trail, where the news of the robbery has not reached. After skiing the whole day, the group camp for the night and Marty stands guard. Hearing low groans emanating from the forest, Marty walks toward the noise and finds a deathly pale Natalie, with a gash in her neck, caught in a tree by a viscous web. Marty runs in fear back the camp, but realizing no one will believe him, refuses to disclose what he has seen. The next morning, Gill sees the beast's strange tracks in the snow but is unable to identify them. Reaching the cabin later that day, they meet the cabin's housekeeper, Imelda, and convince Gill to spend the night, so that they can meet their plane in the morning. That night, the group hears a radio report detailing the robbery and the death of a miner who died in the mine explosion, speculating that the culprits are most likely hiding out nearby. Gypsy, upset by her involvement in the miner's death, begins drinking again and suddenly kisses Gill. Alex hits Gill out of jealousy, but when Gill prepares to fight back, Marty threatens him with a gun. Finding Gypsy outside later, Gill asks why she does not leave Alex, and Gypsy explains that she would rather have Alex than no one at all. Meanwhile, Byron and Marty hear the monster's groans and find it outside the cabin where Marty shoots at it, scaring it away. The next morning, after Gypsy warns Gill that Alex plans on killing him, she asks to flee and live in the wilderness with him. However, Gill questions Gypsy's sincerity, reminding her that she could grow bored of living in nature and therefore bored of him, but nevertheless makes plans to escape with Gypsy that night. Meanwhile, Alex tells Byron he is going to kill Imelda, Gill and Marty, whom he has grown suspicious of because of his juvenile antics. That night, to explain Gill's absence, Gypsy claims that he is out hunting deer. When she then asks Alex if he is willing to give up his life of crime, Alex asserts he can never be law-abiding. When Gypsy, determined to leave her old life behind, walks out of the cabin, Alex orders Marty to follow her, but the monster attacks Marty, carrying Imelda away. Seeing the creature, Byron attacks it with his torch, allowing Marty to escape. Meanwhile, Gypsy meets Gill to begin their journey to safety, but sensing the approaching blizzard, Gill leads them into a cave where Marty is also seeking refuge from Alex. Realizing the storm will force Marty and the couple into the cave for protection, Alex and Byron head there armed with Gill's flare gun to scare off the monster. Deep in the high-ceilinged caverns, Marty finds Imelda and a barely conscious Natalie attached by webs to a cave wall. Imelda warns Marty to leave, but as Marty attempts to slice the web with his knife, the monster suddenly attacks and binds him to the wall as well. After the creature sucks blood from all three victims, Gill, hearing their screams, leaves Gypsy behind to shoot the monster, but the bullets do not deter the creature. When Gypsy throws rocks at it, the monster lumbers after her, forcing her farther into the cave, where Alex finds Gypsy and orders her to lead him to Gill. Knowing the monster is only yards behind her, Gypsy leads Alex and Byron straight into its path. After the monster attacks and wounds Alex, a petrified Byron fires Gill's flare gun into the beast, which bursts into flames and dies.
Charles B. Griffith
Beast from Haunted Cave
Shot in just twelve days on locations in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Beast From Haunted Cave juggles three storylines in its brief 72-minute running time. There's the gold heist plot, which involves a trio of thieves led by Frank Wolff. Then there's the promise of a heated love affair between Wolff's cynical mistress (Sheila Carol) and the hunky ski instructor (Michael Forest) who inadvertently aids the crooks in their getaway. Most importantly, there's a bloodthirsty monster on the loose, stalking its victims and dragging them back to its lair for periodic snacks. Hellman brings it all together, even tossing in a few moments of low comedy (a goofy romance between Forest's chubby housekeeper and one of Wolff's goons), before ending the movie in a surprisingly grim cliffhanger. After it's over, you'll be scratching your head, asking, "So who's left alive and who's dead?" That's just one of the reasons horror fans love this unconventional B-movie. The beast of the title is also an enigma. What is it? Part spider, part vampire, part wooly bully. You never get a really good look at it (smart move on Hellman's part). And the way it wraps its living victims up in cocoons and slowly feeds off them prefigures a scene that was shot and then cut from the final version of Alien (1979): Sigourney Weaver discovers the still living Tom Skerritt encased in an alien cocoon, a host to a new brood of creatures; she torches him.
According to the liner notes by Bill Warren, the Beast From Haunted Cave was constructed by Chris Robinson, who went on to become an actor in movies such as Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Stanley (1972), a killer snake movie. Robinson dubbed his creation "Humphrass," and "it ended up being almost seven feet tall with eleven-foot arms; Robinson wore the suit like armor - in one shot you can briefly glimpse what seem to be his jeans-clad knees....Robinson started with a plywood base, then "added a thin aluminum stripping to create the skeletal form. I then covered the skeleton over with chicken wire. After that I wrapped it in sheets and muslin, sort of like I was making a mummy. I had to waterproof the body because in this case it was going to be exposed to snow..." Whatever it is, it's pretty creepy looking, especially in the cave sequences when its movements are filmed in a jerky, high-speed fashion.
The Synapse DVD of Beast From Haunted Cave doesn't come with a lot of extras but does include the theatrical trailer and the aforementioned liner notes. The black and white film transfer looks great, is presented in an 1.85:1 aspect ratio and includes additional scenes not included in the theatrical release because they were filmed later for a television syndication package. That's why this is advertised as the "special extended version."
For more information about Beast From Haunted Cave, visit Synapse Films. To order Beast from Haunted Cave, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeff Stafford
Beast from Haunted Cave
After the opening credits, the following acknowledgment appears onscreen: "We wish to express our grateful appreciation to the people of South Dakota, whose cooperation made this picture possible." Location shooting for the film took place in the Black Hills of South Dakota and was likely shot at the same approximate time as another Filmgroup release shot in the area, Ski Troop Attack, with which it shares several cast and crew members. Beast from Haunted Cave marked the directorial debut of Monte Hellman.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959