This 1958 classic was directed by Arthur Crabtree, a young filmmaker at the time whose association with MGM allowed him to reach a wider audience, though he had to make some concessions. The movie strangely features a monster that doesn’t come from outer space but the inner depths of the human mind. Mysterious deaths in Manitoba Canada prompt locals to accuse the newly constructed nuclear power plant as the cause. Investigations turn up nothing but more questions until an Air Force Major hears of some unusual experiments in telekinesis. Visiting Professor Walgate, he discovers that the invisible enemy that is killing innocents may be inhuman, but it is from the human mind.
Fiend Without a Face is an incredible film that has retained a strong following for its strange special effects. The Fiends themselves are outstandingly presented in stop motion and steal the show as soon as they appear (though an early glimpse of the lovely Kim Parker in a towel comes close). Apparently the film makers promoted the movie by including an actual Fiend prop mounted in a glass cage outside the cinema that could be brought to life remotely. Passers by would come up close to get a good look and leap back when the creature sprang to life.
Director Arthur Crabtree had planned to mount a remake of Fiend Without a Face for years, taking advantage of new special effects wizardry. However, he admitted on the DVD commentary that the possibility is less interesting now as a remake that was too far off from the original would miss the point and one that clung too close to the original would be pointless and possibly hokey. I share his disappointment in the current trend of style over substance as CGi gimmickry has removed some of the charm and tangibility of special effects. I also don’t think that the world needs another Fiend Without a Face and hopefully we won’t get one from some other director.
In a similar vein to Them! and the Blob, Fiend Without a Face is one of the essential classic science fiction monster movies of the 20th Century. If you are unfamiliar with it, give it a look. It’s amazing.