The Trollenberg Terror (aka The Crawling Eye, Creature from Another World, The Creeping Eye, and The Flying Eye) is both a 1956 "Saturday Serial" ITV UK television programme and a 1958 independently made black-and-white British science fiction film. Both versions were directed by Quentin Lawrence. The film version was produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman and stars Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Jennifer Jayne, and Janet Munro. The film was distributed in the UK by Eros Films Ltd. and in the US by Distributors Corporation of America.
The film's storyline concerns journalist Philip Truscott investigating unusual accidents occurring near a resort hotel on a mountain near Trollenberg, Switzerland. United Nations troubleshooter Alan Brooks suspects these deaths are related to a series of similar incidents that happened three years earlier in the Andes mountains, which involved an unexplained radioactive mist and cloud formation.
On a Swiss mountain, one of three student climbers is killed, his head ripped from his body. Two sisters, a London mind-reading act, are traveling by train to Geneva when one of them, Anne Pilgrim (Janet Munro), faints as they pass the same mountain. Upon waking, she knows that there is something very wrong, so she decides they should get off at the very next stop, Trollenberg.
UN Troubleshooter Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker), who was on the train with them, goes to an observatory a little way up the same mountain, where Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell) has asked for his help. Brooks is told that despite many climbing accidents, dead bodies are never found, and that a radioactive mist and cloud is always observed on the mountain's south face. Similar incidents took place in the Andes three years earlier before a similar radioactive cloud vanished without a trace. Rumors circulated that aliens from a very cold planet lived in the cloud's mist.
Anne is giving a mind-reading exhibition at the hotel when she "sees" two men in a base camp hut on the mountain: Dewhurst (Stuart Saunders) is asleep when the other man, Brett (Andrew Faulds), under some kind of mental compulsion, walks outside. Anne suddenly faints again. Brooks then phones the hut but no one answers. The cloud has now moved down to the hut's location.
A Trollenberg rescue party goes to look for both men. Anne is very uneasy and says the rescuers should stay away from the hut. They discover everything inside is frozen and that the hut was locked from the inside. Dewhurst's body is found under the bed with its head missing. As a spotter aircraft arrives, a man is seen off in the distance. When the first rescuer arrives at that spot, only a rucksack is found; a severed head is inside. He is then killed by Brett who also attacks and kills the second rescuer as he arrives.
Brett, still behaving oddly, arrives at the hotel and suddenly attacks Anne. He is subdued, but his head is sliced open during the skuffle; no blood comes from the wound, and he is locked away. Brooks recalls a similar odd incident which happened in the Andes. A man murdered an old woman with mental powers similar to Anne's. It was later discovered that the man's body had been deceased for 24 hours prior to his killing the old women.
Brett manages to escape, looking once again for Anne, this time with a concealed knife, but he is quickly shot and killed by Brooks. News arrives that the cloud is now moving down the mountain, so everyone retreats by cable car to the heavily fortified observatory.
In a thickening mist a large tentacled creature arrives at the hotel. Just as the guests begin piling into the cable car, one guest suddenly realises her young daughter is missing. Brooks rescues the child in the lobby, both narrowly escaping the one-eyed monster. They make it back, and the cable car proceeds up the mountain. The delay has given the thickening mist a chance to reach the platform. The motor and cables begin freezing as the car begins to sway under the strain. Four clouds then begin heading up to the observatory just as everyone arrives there safely.
Hans (Colin Douglas), who tried to leave the hotel by the mountain road, suddenly turns up at the observatory. Once inside, he begins exhibiting the same tell-tale mind control symptoms by searching for Anne. The group manages to stop him from strangling her, killing him in the process. The tentacled monsters in their mist are now almost at the observatory, but the men have been making Molotov cocktails to combat them. In the meantime an aerial firebombing raid has been ordered by radio against the observatory, which has heavily reinforced roof and walls that can withstand a fiery assault.
Journalist Philip Truscott (Laurence Payne) strikes one of the creatures with a Molotov cocktail, setting it ablaze, but he is then caught from above by one of the monsters on the flat roof. With another Molotov cocktail, Brooks sets that one ablaze, forcing the burning creature to release Truscott. Later, Truscott does the same as another of the one-eyed monsters manages to breech a thick wall, trying to get at Anne. The aerial firebombing assault finally begins, finishing off the remaining creatures.
Forrest Tucker as Alan Brooks
Laurence Payne as Philip Truscott
Jennifer Jayne as Sarah Pilgrim
Janet Munro as Anne Pilgrim
Warren Mitchell as Professor Crevett
Frederick Schiller as Klein
Andrew Faulds as Brett
Stuart Saunders as Dewhurst
Colin Douglas as Hans
Derek Sydney as Wilde
Richard Golding as first villager
George Herbert as second villager
Anne Sharp as German woman
Leslie Heritage as Carl
Jeremy Longhurst as first student climber
Anthony Parker as second student climber
Theodore Wilhelm as Fritz
Garard Green as Pilot
Caroline Claser as Little girl
The Trollenberg Terror was the final film produced by Southall Studios, one of the earliest pioneer film studios in the UK.
Actor Warren Mitchell's role was originally meant to be played by Anton Diffring, but Diffring pulled out of the part at the last minute.
Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin considered The Trollenberg Terror as "ok, if predictable", a feature that showed its humble origins being adapted by Jimmy Sangster from the British TV series "The Trollenberg Terror" about cloud-hiding alien invaders on a Swiss mountaintop. Maltin saw the film was "... hampered by low-grade special effects."
In popular culture
Under the title The Crawling Eye, the film was the first of many productions to be mocked on the TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was also briefly mentioned at the end of the final episode of the show. An episode of Freakazoid spoofs the opening credits of the film, as well as key elements of the plot (though with victims being turned into clowns instead of being killed). The film is mentioned in Stephen King's 1986 horror novel It as having been watched by one of its protagonists, and the Crawling Eye itself later appears as a manifestation of the novel's title monster.
A song called "Crawling Eye" is featured on American horror punk band The Misfits' 1999 album, Famous Monsters. The song's lyrics directly reference the plot of the film. The main title music from "The Crawling Eye" is featured on the album Greatest Science Fiction Hits V by Neil Norman and his Cosmic Orchestra on GNP Crescendo Records.