I really need to stop setting my expectations so low for certain Joan Crawford movies because they keep turning out okay. Her last movie, Trog, is a sci-fi monster movie of sorts, but the then-blonde star does a great job in this otherwise mediocre story.
When a few cave divers discover an untouched cavern and the murderous half man-half ape “with the strength of 20 demons,” as the trailer suggests, that has been trapped there, Crawford’s Dr. Brockton apprehends the monster and cages him in her lab. Brockton is a paleontologist who believes this thing is a troglodyte who had been frozen under the earth for millions of years and had been thawed and reanimated recently. He is the missing link between man and his ape ancestry and must be studied. Others in this British town, however, think the creature must be destroyed.
Brockton works to educate the thing she has named Trog by offering him toys and teaching him to use them. He shows much progress but can be enraged by loud music and the color red. Land developer Sam Murdock (Michael Gough) is the biggest opponent of keeping the creature alive as it will frighten away prospective buyers. He conspires with Brockton’s colleague Dr. Selbourne (Jack May), who is jealous and annoyed that the lab has been neglecting its other work, and sets the beast free. While on his walk-about in town, Trog kills a man by throwing him through a window and another by hanging him on a butcher’s hook. He eventually works his way back to his cave after picking up a child and Brockton goes in after him. She rescues the girl but Trog does not meet a happy ending.
Crawford’s performance was good. She did not overact as might be easy to do in such a film, but kept her cool as a brainy scientist. Her appearance even with the blonde hair was also not as freaky as she has been known to look. The monster was only moderately hokey. The face mask offered great animatronics and was decently creepy looking, but the man wearing the get-up, Joe Cornelius, wore only some fake hair around his shoulders and a loin cloth and moccasins of fur to give the impression of a part-ape creature. I’m not sure if the loin cloth was meant to be what it looked like or if we were supposed to accept that the beast had fur in that area of his body. Otherwise, the actor was very hairless. One would think a hairier man would have been hired to give the creature a better look.
Trog is far from a masterpiece and certainly not the best way for a superstar like Crawford to end her career, but it is not without its merits. It primarily succeeds, as mentioned, in the face prosthetics of the creature and in Crawford’s performance but otherwise fails to realize its full potential.