The Hideous Sun Demon
1959
Directed by Tom Boutross and Robert Clarke
Starring Robert Clarke
Available on DVD
The 31 Days of Halloween continues with a classic horror movie that you’ve probably never heard of. The Hideous Sun Demon stars veteran actor Robert Clarke, who despite having the looks and acting ability of a Hollwood leading man, never quite made it. The role is likely Clarke’s most famous, although he had bit parts in film and television right up until his death in 2005.

Clarke had previous worked on the Man From Planet X and various other low budget films and ultimately decided he could do it himself without the aid of the studios. Sun Demon became his own personal low budget project and using less than $50,000 he was able to put together a crew of mostly USC student actors and friends to make the movie. Surprisingly for a film that had a bare bones budget and mostly rookie actors, it’s a very solid entry into the horror genre.


The film starts out with an atomic research facility having a emergency and then jumps right into the story of scientist Dr. Gilbert McKenna who is exposed to a dangerous new radioactive isotope. We never see the accident and instead it’s simply explained by some of the other characters. This not only saved money, but is probably a more effective way of getting the story across.


Soon we meet lab assistant Ann Lansing and scientist Dr. Buckell, who believes that Gil’s accident is his own fault because he’s a drunk. Dr. Buckell gets the classic line, “Whiskey and soda mix, not whiskey and science”. If only I had a dollar for every time my 8th grade chemistry teacher told me that. Ann is concerned for Gil and clearly is infatuated with her former boss, but surprisingly McKenna shows no signs of radiation poisoning or giving a crap about Ann.


Gil likes two things: Booze and women. He’s feeling fit as a fiddle and tries to get into the pants of the resident nurse. This guy is probably the coolest character I’ve ever seen in an old horror movie.


Sadly things go awry when they try to give Gil some sun therapy. Seriously, why would you give a guy who had been exposed to radiation, sun therapy? Of course it was the 50’s and they thought the sun fixed everything! Cancer you say? Get some more sun! Broken arm? A suntan will fix it!


Gil turns into a horrible monster with lizard-like skin and scares the crap out of that old lady that was setting next to him. However, when he returns inside the hospital, he eventually returns to human. He’s sort of like the Wolfman, only any large amount of sunlight can trigger his transformation. The doctors are kind enough to inform us that tungsten light bulbs won’t do the trick… In case you’re an idiot watching at home and don’t understand.


Gil’s annoying friends Ann Lansing and Dr. Buckell want him to stay inside and live in the dark. Obviously Gil does not agree. For one thing, he’s a brilliant scientist… But more importantly, he’s a booze and poon hound. You can’t cage this wild dog!


Actually for a while Gil tries to figure out what’s wrong with him. The doctors give him some mumbo jumbo about how he’s de-evolving, but Gil can’t take the loneliness. The dude already has problems because he’s a massive alcoholic. Seriously, this guy makes Charlie Sheen look like Richie Cunningham. Every other move by Gil is to booze it up and try to get him a lady.


Thankfully in a late night bar, he finds one and boy is she a looker! Trudy is a singer and a whore for the mob. Gil manages to put the moves on her and offers her a ton of liquor and before long, Gil is fighting with a mob boss and taking Trudy off to bang her on the beach. Unfortunately for Gil, he’s up too late banging and so drunk that he passes out on the beach and BOOM it’s daylight!


Gil ditches Trudy and drives AS THE SUN DEMON back home. Once there, Ann shows up and tries to talk some sense into Gil. He’s got to stop going out because it’s dangerous. She flirts with him, but she’s too plain for this man. He just wants her to “Let me alone… Please just let me alone!” but she refuses and tells him there’s some special radiation doctor on his way to help him. Gil knows that this doctor can’t help him, plus he can’t bare to stay in the house any longer. He contemplates suicide, but ultimately, like Spudz McKenzie, he’s got to party!


Unable to get Trudy off his mind (who can blame him!) and in desperate need of a drink, Gil heads back to Trudy’s bar. She’s not so happy though and has some of her mobster buddies nearly beat him to death. Then she feels mighty bad about it and takes him home and bangs him again. Go Trudy it’s your birthday!


That’s all well and good until the mod boss shows up and plans on taking Gil to sleep with the fishes. Stupid mob boss doesn’t know that Gil needs sunscreen and soon Gil is killing the mobster! He goes on a rampage and maims and mangles his way back home. Trudy sees all this and presumably, loses Gil’s number. 99 problems and apparently, this bitch ain’t one.


Back home the radiation specialist arrives, but he’s absolutely useless and soon the cops are trying to take Gil in. He’s not about to go to jail and before long he’s back in his car running down the police! Sure, maybe he’s a monster, but he will also run the frak over you! DRUNK MONSTER BEHIND THE WHEEL! RUN FOR YOU LIVES!

Antoine Dodson says: “He’s climbin’ in your windows, he’s snatchin’ your people up, tryin’ to rape run ‘em over. So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cause they’re rapin’ running everybody over out here.”


Poor Gil is on the loose for a day or two, trying to stay out of the sun and hopefully not get into anymore car wrecks. Eventually some snot nosed kid finds him and ends up inadvertently ratting him out. Soon the cops are back out and the Sun Demon and the po-po have an epic battle that shows us that the Sun Demon has thick, bullet-proof skin like the HULK!


Eventually the cops get the Sun Demon where they want him and despite his best efforts… Well let’s just say he’s toast. Ann is heartbroken and that dick Dr. Buckell is basically just like “well he was a drunk” and roll credits!

Okay, so I know it sounds like I’m lambasting this movie… But I’m really not. This movie isn’t half as ridiculous as it sounds. I have no idea why this movie isn’t more well known or why it doesn’t have a better reputation. The acting ism’t terrible, the plot is a great twist on an old idea, there’s depth in the cinematography and the special effects are on par with many bigger budget Universal monster flicks.

Robert Clarke does an incredible job as the tortured Gil McKenna. His transformation is rather impressive as he becomes as much of a monster as the man, as when he’s the lizard beast. Unlike Larry Talbot, McKenna is clearly depressed and an alcoholic and it results into his descent into madness. He’s a victim of the times, more than anything. In today’s society, he could get some help for his chronic depression… Monster Rehab with Dr. Drew!

In the 1950’s, the best they can do is shove him in the sun and then tell him to go live in the basement, when the real issue isn’t his beast trasnformation, but rather his depression. The sex addiction and drunken behavior are merely side effects of the depression. With friends like Dr. Buckell, I can’t blame him for slowly going insane.


Check out this classic trailer for the movie, with narration by Dudley Do-Right’s Paul Frees!
Clarke invested a fair amount of his own money in this project and you can tell it was a labor of love. During production his father died and his son Cam (famed voice actor of Leonardo and 200X He-Man) nearly died as well. Sadly because of a bad business deal with a distribution group named the Millers, the movie did not get the proper exposure and they went bankrupt, taking with them any profit Clarke was to get.

Eventually some decades later Robert Clarke got his money back due to television rights and the film was even comically remastered (years before MSTK3000) with Cam Clarke and Jay Leno doing voice overs. Despite a somewhat crazy premise and it’s relatively obscure nature, The Hideous Sun Demon is not some crappy Ed Wood film. It’s a true gem of a vintage horror movie and one I definitely recommend for fans of the genre. It’s a bit slow at parts, but no moreso than any of the classic black and white horror films.

Seek this one out! Add it to your classic horror collection.

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