The Cyclops Blu-ray Review

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Of (Giant) Mice and (Giant) Men

There’s a sense of loss and anxiety to The Cyclops. Susan Winters (Gloria Talbott) heads into a Mexico desert in search of her fiancee who disappeared after a plane crash three year prior. Unbeknownst to anyone, the desert is rich in uranium. Cyclops doubles up on post-WWII fears – one of denial as Susan keeps hope alive her loved one survived, and radiation as the catalyst for action.

Susan’s portrayal of a widow, even in this writer/director Bert I. Gordon sci-fi lark, speaks to a loss experienced by thousands of the era. Although WWII’s fighting ceased over a decade before The Cyclops ran in theaters, the emotional toll even amid economic recovery didn’t stop. That’s Susan, refusing to let go, certain her fiancee was simply lost, a then pertinent theme for a Z-grade chiller.

Note The Cyclops isn’t a grand piece of horror; it’s routine and even terrible. Bert I. Gordon spit these things out with rapidity. The Cyclops was his third after an intolerable bomb King Dinosaur and cornball killer cricket movie Beginning of the End. And soon, Gordon delivered his better giant-radioative-man two-fer with The Amazing Colossal Man and War of the Colossal Beast.

… an oddly observant, honest effort from Gordon

That leaves The Cyclops handicapped by history, knowing the ideas here were taken to a greater extreme in the same year (Colossal Man also released in ‘57). In The Cyclops, Gordon takes a Lost World approach, turning this Mexican desert into a landscape dotted by oversized insects, birds, rodents, and lizards. Abysmal compositing turns a real iguana large, cruelly forced to fight a monitor lizard for show.

Of course, those reptiles don’t represent the highlight. That’s the cyclops, with a radioactive scar and bulging eye. Paul Frees voices the monster, growling and mumbling while staring down the adventuring team. He’s so disfigured, Susan doesn’t even recognize this is her fiancee. That’s another step in how this exploitation dud finds a way to capture the angst of wartime America – those left scarred by wounds returned home, rejected and distraught.

Although The Cyclops is easy to lay into for the plodding pace, animal cruelty, and sloppy characterization, it’s also an oddly observant, honest effort from Gordon. It’s a movie seeking to lure teenagers into the theater through a slapdash monster movie, yet leaves behind a kooky monument to grieving and acceptance. It works too, inexplicably. Susan admits she empathizes with the enlarged, mutated man. That’s earnest drama, soon undone by a loopy finale that’s all z-grade spectacle. At least The Cyclops tries.

Video

The Blu-ray debut for The Cyclops comes from the Warner Archive. Kudos to them. From a spotless print, The Cyclops presents with substantial resolution. The level of fidelity and detail is well beyond the expectation for something so low-grade.

Shots of “jungles” as characters call them reveal exceptional definition. Close-ups on the Cyclops make-up make it look phonier than it once did, even down the seams in the bald cap. Sharpness only wavers during chemical dissolves and effects, as is the norm.

Beautiful grain resolves well courtesy of the encode. At barely over an hour, The Cyclops gives the disc room. Natural gray scale affords the presentation depth and density. High points of contrast merge with deep black sans any problems.

Audio

Regular Gordon composer Albert Glasser provides an eerie score to The Cyclops, presented with superior fidelity in this DTS-HD mix. The numerous highs from horn sections hold up without wavering or loss.

Any instances of scratching or popping were cleaned up. Dialog crisply jumps from the mono mix.

Extras

Just a trailer, and oddly textless, missing the best part from ads of the era.

The Cyclops
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Movie

Bert I. Gordon’s first of three giant man movies, The Cyclops, is a cheap effort but it’s not without some thematic weight.

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