Horror (and sci-fi) movies back in the good old 50’s were silly, real silly at times, literally anything you can think of was most probably at some point used in a horror/sci-fi movie. Almost every type of bug you can think of, crabs, bats, octopuses, blobs, giant people, tiny people, bipedal lizards, X-ray vision, rocks, dinosaurs, ape men with space helmets on etc…The list just goes on, but here we have something a bit different, original for sure. What else could you possibly make a horror movie about when even killer rocks have been done? How about a killer walking tree? sound stupid? Not on your nelly sir, lets review this fucker!
So there’s this killer tree, it hobbles around and kills people, somehow, and that’s your story folks. Oh you want more?? well there isn’t really much more to tell, OK lets look a bit deeper. On an unknown south seas pacific island a Prince is put to death by having a knife driven into his heart for supposedly killing his father. The thing is he didn’t murder anyone, the real murderer was the local witch doctor who didn’t like the good relations the Prince was having with American scientists on the island. This was his dastardly scheme to get rid of the Prince and hopefully the Yanks too. The Prince is buried in a hollow tree and that’s that, well it was until his body gets reanimated by nuclear radiation (always with the nuclear radiation). The Prince (or his body at least) comes back from the dead as the Tabanga, a well known myth in the local folklore that is said to allow someone revenge if they are wrongfully killed.
Right there you already have a plot hole. In the local folklore it is said that the Tabanga only comes back when a person is wrongfully killed, so surely all the locals in the tribe would know straight away (going by their own folklore) that someone has been wrongfully killed, and all evidence probably points to the recent killing of their Prince. Also, if the local folk know about and believe in this myth, why provoke it by doing exactly what you’re not supposed to do?! Then of course you have the old plot problem with many of these old black and white horror pictures, why is the monster killing everyone??
If the Tabanga is the Prince and he’s come back to enact revenge on the ones who killed him, why he is killing anyone and everyone?? As for the radiation, not really sure about that, they seem to discover the ground is full of it where the Prince was buried. I’m guessing fallout from nuclear testing going by the location. Again I’m not really sure but I think the Princes rotting corpse has slowly transformed into this gnarly, rotten wooden log and starts to grow from the grave in order to free itself. Not sure why it needed to grow though, couldn’t it just dig itself up? The large stump also has an actual beating heart and the same knife used to kill the Prince still lodged in it.
Anyway the Yanks dig up the Tabanga after wisely coming to conclusion that something is just not right with this. Yep this definitely isn’t a new species of tree (you idiots), clearly the local folklore has been proven right in this case. Large tree stump with a heartbeat, green ooze, clearly visible beating organ and the same dagger that was used to kill the Prince lodged in the heart. Yep that’s definitely a supernatural event in progress right there people, time to pack. Just one thing that still bugs me, did the Tabanga come back from the dead because of supernatural powers or because of the radiation? I suppose it was supernatural powers because back in the lab the Yanks discover the radiation is killing it, that’s why the lead female scientist decides to inject a new anti-radiation formula into the stump to help it. Yep they’re trying to save a living tree by injecting it?? How do you do that exactly?
In all honesty, all sideswipes aside at the immensely ludicrous plot this movie isn’t too bad. Lets be frank, if you enjoy corny black and white horror flicks then this will really rock your world. Watching this obvious man in a rubber suit waddle around the location awkwardly, is a pure joy to behold. You can almost see the blokes trousers in some scenes because the suit had split in the legs. This monster suit is beautiful in a terribly shitty way, it doesn’t move at all, the arms only go up and down (just about), and the facial expression is fixed, although it is a tree so…The lack of movement could be seen as realistic (ahem!) but its hilarious when its trying to actually kill somebody.
Most of the time it just leers and leans over the victim, they scream and die for no real apparent reason. Basically you could say this is the perfect representation of a walking, stiff lump of wood. But we all know its simply because the suit was limited and there wasn’t the money to make anything better. Overall the suit is effective and it does actually look a bit eerie in some scenes, mainly when its by its grave, like some large spooky overgrown headstone.
The casting is unknown to me but as with many of these movies its all highly predictable. The leads are all middle aged men and they are accompanied by one female for a bit of sex appeal. Totally sexist of course but you come to expect this in these old flicks. The same can be said for the blatant racism and stereotyping of the locals, all of whom seem to be played by white people (the main characters at least), oh the horror! You’d never get away with this these days of course but I can’t deny it does make the film so much more amusing. LOVE the actors trying their best to speak in native tongue which basically sounds exactly like a 1950’s impression of a native American in a western. I also just adored all the lame cliched trinkets they’ve stuck on the natives costumes. One guy (and many of the male natives) has a headpiece made of clearly plastic large teeth, by the looks of it. Like what the hell?! Where did he get those from a saber-toothed tiger?? The chief has little seashells dangling from his headpiece because of course you would have that living on an island in the pacific. They all look like prehistoric tribes people, oh and all the women are hot in mini skirts.
Its a shame that with something so unique and quirky as a killer walking log, you don’t really see much killing or action. There is an amazing amount of boring dialog and exposition is this movie, watching American scientists discuss what to do, how to go about it, methods, their experiences, their loves, their lives in general…ugh! It can be quite painful and dull for most of the run time. When the monster pops up things inevitably get much more interesting but for obvious reasons these scenes don’t last too long. The finale is anti-climatic and makes no sense (wood floats right? right??!!), the music seems to be merely stock, the acting is pretty dire or bog standard and the fact that the monster moves slow, SLOW slowly begs the question, why can’t anyone simply run away from it? Its literally never gonna catch you. Yet despite all the crud there is something about this movies monster that does appeal, it actually looks like a live action version of Treebeard from Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated flick ‘The Lord of the Rings’.