31 Days of Hell: From Hell It Came (1957) - Reviewed

If there’s one thing the post-nuclear age science-fiction horror genre pictures of the 1950s proved, it’s that there were as many classy and nuanced terror shows being created as there were cheap and campy drive-in double features.  Falling into the latter camp (no pun intended) is the 1957 demonic walking tree movie From Hell It Came, a film critics at the time infamously quipped ‘And to Hell it can go!’. 

The second and final film production of the Milner Brothers and final directorial effort of Dan Milner better known for The Phantom of 10,000 Leagues, this double bill to the equally whitewashed and hilariously xenophobic The Disembodied fits in perfectly with the so-called ‘so bad it’s good’ subgenre of thrown together high camp.  Where films like Poltergeist, The Guardian and Charisma illustrated rare examples of the effective otherworldly killer tree trope, From Hell It Came sits at the very opposite end of the spectrum eliciting unabashed unintentional snickers instead of screams.

Set in the South Seas on a remote island jungle amid one of the most nakedly whitewashed Polynesian tribes depicted on film ever, From Hell It Came concerns a village prince unjustly executed by his fellow natives who places a vengeful curse on the tribe moments before his death.  Not long after, a hulking anthropomorphic tree (i.e., poor sap stuck in a mostly immobile rubber costume) dubbed the Tabanga rises from the grave site of the man which wreaks holy terror on the natives and American doctors stationed nearby the village.  Amid witch doctor superstitions is some measure of post-nuclear fears involving the island being downwind of atomic testing but for the most part this is a movie about scantily clad “natives” and western doctors running away from a murderous walking tree.  If this sounds like something ripe for the MST3K boys to heckle to death (who reportedly rejected the film from their show), it probably is.

Starring a cast of primarily western actors including Baynes Barron (The Ten Commandments) as the evil tribal chief responsible for invoking the killer tree’s wrath and former professional wrestler Chester Hayes as the hulking Tabanga, this film like Night of the Lepus isn’t the kind most involved with it will look back on fondly.  Outside of an interesting visual effect involving the beating heart of the killer tree and a somewhat gruesome stabbing scene, From Hell It Came is some pretty silly fare that has only grown funnier with time as the low budget drive-in creature feature of the 1950s in retrospect evolved into a wholly original subgenre. 

While reasonably well shot with some intentional humor added in by an overly chatty nurse, most of the rest is a hoot which will tickle your ribs.  Where most low budget creature features now aim for canned camp, From Hell It Came was made at a time when people thought a guy in a thick rubber tree costume with an expression akin to someone making a bowel movement would frighten audiences.  As such, it’s a curious object of a movie that for all it’s awfulness should give fans of the kitschy 50s camp a fun time.  No, this is not a good movie or a scary one but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a blast watching this cheese fest.

- Andrew Kotwicki