Y'know, when I was a kid, I watched a ton of monster movies, especially on the weekends. Besides my beloved Sammy Terry on Friday nights, there was Baron von Wolfstein a few years later, and the incredibly eerie Creature Features, which somehow was able to scare the bejeesus out of us all with only a picture of Lon Chaney from London After Midnight and Henry Mancini's chilling theme from Experiment in Terror. Moreover, Channel 32 would pepper their Saturday and Sunday line-ups with various movie shows like Screaming Yellow Theater, Sci-Fi Theater, and others. It was during those years that I grew to love Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and the rest of the Toho crew. It was also during those years that I first saw a little film called Carnival of Souls that stayed with me for the rest of my life (and I'm not the only one).
There were other movies shown at that time that equally affected me and have crept and crawled and slithered around my consciousness since then, too. One of them was a movie that, at the time, was probably called "Invasion of the Animal People," one of the English titles it was given. The name for it I prefer, though, is Terror in the Midnight Sun, and folks, let me tell you the images from that film have branded themselves into my psyche and refused to let go for almost four decades.
Terror in the Midnight Sun (or Rymdinvasion i Lappland, aka "Space Invasion of Lapland," if you prefer) is a Swedish film from 1959 about an alien craft that lands on Earth and releases a huge furry creature that runs amok. That's really pretty much the plot. But that's really all that it needs. The real drawing point of the film is in (A) the beautiful scenery and cinematography of the snowy slopes and tundra, filmed in glorious black and white, and (B) the creature himself.
And let's talk about the creature. What a marvelous creation, especially for the late fifties. I saw a blog where a guy referred to him as "Spitbacca" (I guess like the lesser cousin of Chewbacca), but that really doesn't give this big ol' lug the respect he deserves. The monster here is approximately 12-15 feet tall, and to simulate it, the FX team (such as it probably was at the time) built a number of half-sized dwellings for him to tear up. Because they're to about half-scale, though, they make the whole rampage look much, much more real than your standard giant monster flick.
Beyond that, though, the creature just looks cool with his fur-covered body (this guy could give Cousin It a run for his money), his bizarre clawed hands, his sort of cloven feet, and those cute little boar-like tusks coming out of his mouth. I really dig his close-ups, too, as you can see both the humanity in his eyes and a sort of dog-got-caught-peeing-on-the-rug kind of look.
There's even a cool scene at the end where the villagers chase down the creatures with torches, but since this is Lapland, they're all ON SKIS!
Unfortunately, American distributor Jerry Warren messed with the flick in U.S. distribution, adding inexplicable new scenes, and tossing in John Carradine for star power and not much else. Try to see the "real" version if you can.
Below is a clip from the film, and you can watch the whole thing for free at lycoscinema.com (it's in the public domain). If you're the monster movie nut that I am, you should check it out. Maybe it'll stick with you like it's stuck with me.