Hideous Sun Demon, The (1959)
Cast: Robert Clarke, Patricia Manning, Nan Peterson, Patrick Whyte
Director: Robert Clarke
Nutshell: Scientist gets zapped by a nasty form of radiation that mutates him into the lizard when exposed to sunlight.
Struck down by a burst of the most virulent radiation, scientist Gilbert McKenna develops an unprecedented and terrible new affliction which appears to turn his cells into those of a lizard with horrifying effects. Recuperating in hospital and seemingly making a decent recovery “Gil” is wheeled out by the nurse on duty to catch some sun with some of the other convalescing patients. Moments later, as the sun rays penetrate his skin a dreadful reaction takes place and he dashes to the bathroom and is shattered to see a once handsome face now resembling that of the most ferocious and irate gecko-monster.
Mortified and deeply depressed at his condition McKenna decides to flee from the city. Haunted by suicidal thoughts he lands up taking up refuge in a bottle and at a local dive bar he finds some soothing solace in the seductive voice of a curvaceous and sultry blonde who croons her sexy tunes every evening at the piano. In the company of the Cut Price Marilyn Gil is able to momentarily forget about his condition and he fights off the local Don to romance the beauty at the beach in the wee hours of the morning. Passion fuelled by a night of heavy drinking consumes the two and they end up intertwined at the beach where they pass out until the sun rises the next morning. Once again Gil starts to morph into the Hideous Sun Demon and flees the beauty and the beach in a mad anxiety attack.
When the floozy rises to find herself lying alone in the middle of a public beach at 6am in the morning she is none too pleased and trudges back with some difficulty to the safer environs of the bar and her piano. She apologizes to the goon whom she ditched to go off with Gil disclosing to the Don just how poorly Gil had treated her. Later when Gil returns to the bar to continue his romance with the siren, she isn’t quite so enthusiastic and has him turned over to her old boyfriend the Don who has him taught a lesson the hard way.
Meanwhile, Gil’s girlfriend at home has managed to get the finest specialist in the land to treat his condition but it takes a huge effort to convince the increasingly Hideous Sun Demon to return to the hospital. However, it remains to be seen if Gil can be cured and returned to his normal self of whether he will continue to rage as a crazed Lizard each time the sun shines anywhere near him.
A chilling climax follows where there is a fight to the end, and Gil’s friends and colleagues watch in horror as the police follow the reptilian man up the dizzyingly high stairs of a huge gas dome where the final battle takes place.
Robert Clarke wrote, directed and acted in this well-intentioned take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when he struck gold with his previous effort and felt he was ready to cash in. He shot this shocker in 12 consecutive weekends with a budget that soared from the miniscule $10000 to the still tiny $50000 once the film had been completed. The film was shot using mostly friends and college students and the memorable monster costume was done on a rubber diving suit with brilliant skill even if poor Clarke was normally in pools of sweat having worn it and in danger of major dehydration. The film’s distribution breakthrough came when Clarke did a “William Castle” and came dashing out into a bored audience wearing his Sun Demon suit and the riot that followed resulted in the film being picked up and distributed by AIP far and wide.
A sort of goofy re-mix version of this dubious cult classic came out decades later called Revenge of the Sun Demon where the film has been dubbed over and given the MST3K kind of treatment keeping the film relevant and even fairly popular to a whole new generation whacky monster movie watchers.
The Hideous Sun Demon is typically silly 50’s sci fi monster movie romp with its heart in the right place even if the execution is a little left of centre. Yet it is goofy enough and reasonably entertaining to stand the test of time and remain potential viewing for drugged out Pyjama Party viewing once in a while. Not really exhilarating enough when the Lizard Man is off screen but when he is tearing it up, the movie is great entertainment. Not the best of the 50s monster movies by far but with enough charm to make it watchable in the right circumstances.