Summer time is synonymous with Hollywood blockbusters — pictures that are jammed packed with big-name stars, expensive budgets, dazzling effects, and high-paced storytelling that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end credits. “Eegah” (1962) is not one of those films. It will never be one of those films. It almost isn’t even a film.
While driving through the desert on her way to a party, Roxy Miller (Marilyn Manning), just your average teenage girl, is frightened by a just your average seven-foot giant caveman (Richard “Jaws” Kiel) that appears in her path. After her father Robert (Arch Hall Sr.) learns about the giant from Roxy, he sets out to find it, only to be caught by the giant himself and taken back to its cave. When her father doesn’t show up at the allotted time, Roxy and her boyfriend Tom (Arch Hall Jr.), in lieu of calling the authorities (because that would be the sensible thing to do), go out into the inhospitable desert and search for her father themselves.
After a rather banal and simple music number by Hall Jr., Roxy is kidnapped by Eegah the caveman (who didn’t see that coming?) and is taken back to his lair and reunited with her father. After several half-hearted attempts to pimp out his daughter to Eegah fail to placate him (seriously, it’s kind of a messed up movie), Robert and Roxy finally manage to escape the cave, only for Eegah to follow angrily after them and proceed to terrorize them and then later the rest of Palm Springs, California.
Don’t get excited about that last bit, though. The actually “terrorizing” only comes at about the last ten minutes of the film, and simply consists of Eegah walking around menacingly and throwing a guy into a pool. So, yeah. He doesn’t so much “terrorize” the populace of Palm Springs as he just “annoys” them. Also annoying: the music numbers.
Envisioned by director Arch Hall Sr. (but credited to Nicholas Meriwether in order to hide his connection to the star) as a possible vehicle for his son’s singing career, “Eegah” boasts a few songs by Hall Jr. (whose lyrics and music have all of the nuances of a punch to the solar plexus), and a mindboggling number of close-ups meant to showcase his son’s “good” looks — and while it’s not quite professional for a critic to disparage an actor simply because they’re not as handsome as most leading men, it goes without saying that Arch Hall Sr. should’ve kept the close-ups to a minimum.
The pacing and editing are nigh-incoherent. A particularly notorious scene that exemplifies this is when Roxy, her father and Tom are about to walk into the desert when, without his lips moving, Hall Sr. says (in a voice that is inexplicable louder than the rest of the soundtrack) “Watch out for snakes”. As for effects and sets, the film mostly takes place out in a desert, whose stark beauty and natural wonders contrast sharply and noticeably with the cheap props and fixtures used in Eegah’s papier-mâché “cave”.
The acting, of course, is beyond redeemable. The dialogue is spoken by the “actors” as though someone is standing off-camera with a gun pointed at them, and emotions are conveyed more often than not through use of awkward facial gestures and tones that never seem appropriate for the situation they are used in. It would not be generous to describe the cast as “actors” It would be borderline unethically.
And yet, despite the film’s inane music numbers, it’s cheap sets, bad acting, and threadlike plot, “Eegah” could conceivably be just as entertaining as some of this summer’s more competently made blockbusters, if only because its “so-bad-its-good” aesthetic makes it absolutely hilarious and captivating. So if you wanted to be entertained, but don’t wanna have to deal with crowds, why not get some friends together and yuk it up over one of the worst films ever made. But please, don’t hold any hard feelings towards Arch Hall Sr. To quote the director himself: “It was always sort of a subject of laughter that the darned thing did so well.”
Find the nearest Blockbuster near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.