On Blu-Ray, Roger Corman’s Beast from Haunted Cave Returns

… With Ski Troop Attack in Its Snowy Tow

Photo: Film Masters.

Halloween approaches—it probably has been so since Labor Day or earlier to judge from my neighbors’ elaborately decorated yards—and with it come all sorts of ghouls and goblins. Among them is the much feared, oft-maligned, and rarely seen Beast from Haunted Cave, the titular creature of Roger Corman’s 1959 cult classic, restored and repackaged in a new Blu-ray/DVD special edition from Film Masters, available on shelves October 24, 2023, just in time for Halloween.

Corman, now 97, would surely appreciate Film Masters’ loving packaging of his 1959 creature feature, offering up as it does an equally low-budget, equally charming bonus film, his Ski Troop Attack, a WWII combat-film-on-skis shot immediately after Beast from Haunted Cave, with the same cast and crew and in the same location. Known as the master of low-budget ingenuity, Corman was always looking for a bargain: Film Masters pairs these two inventive indies with a pleasing set of special features that make for a full six hours’ worth of filmmaking-on-a-shoestring.


Beast from Haunted Cave (1959) is the better known of the two films, directed by the to-become-legendary Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter), a film that launched a 15-year collaboration between him and Corman.

Acclaimed as the king of low-budget cult movies, Corman produced dozens of films that managed to be both trite and clever, comic and thrilling. Though uncredited, Corman executive produced the film, his younger brother Gene credited as producer, and Beast from Haunted Cave bears every hallmark of Corman’s low-budget creativity.

For starters, you get two film genres in one! The plot is that of the straightforward heist film, as a group of cutthroat gangsters plan to rob a bank in Deadwood, South Dakota, then abscond—on skis!—with the gold to a secret hideaway in the rugged Black Hills, where they’ll be airlifted out by private plane. Frank Wolff plays the head baddie, his hair showered with powder to make him appear graying. The impeccably handsome Michael Forest is the good-guy ski guide who’s a little slow to peg his patrons as bank robbers. Sheila Noonan (aka Sheila Carol) is the aging gun moll wondering if she chose the right man. (She didn’t.)

A man in flannel and a woman in a hoodie converse in a snowy forest.
Sheila Noonan and Michael Forest in Beast from Haunted Cave (1959). Photo: courtesy Film Masters.

That plot alone would make for a pretty decent heist flick, especially since a blizzard interrupts the gang’s escape plans and sparks some spicy intramural conflicts; but with Corman, there’s often a kicker, and here it comes in the form of … the Beast from Haunted Cave. When one of the gang’s flunkeys tries to impress a local girl by taking her for a makeout session to an abandoned gold mine,  she (not he, at least not yet) incurs the wrath of the Beast, a mostly unseen, arachno-adjacent wraith defending its territory.

The fact that nearly no money is spent on the project keeps the Beast mostly off camera, but his victims reappear onscreen, suffering slowly from the webs he traps them in. Hellman recalls that Corman basically was remaking his favorite film, Key Largo, except “in this case he added a monster to it.” The result isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a great film, but it’s awfully good fun, and Film Masters’ packaging and features (see below) offer up an engaging course in Filmmaking on a Budget 101, the Roger Corman Way, alongside the film.

Beast From Haunted Cave is presented in a newly restored 4K scan from its original 35mm, original theatrical 1.85:1, 65-minute format and an extended, 72-minute 4×3 TV version, with English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Ski Troop Attack reached theaters a year later than Beast from Haunted Cave, but it was produced immediately afterwards that prior film’s 13-day shoot. Using the same cast and crew and the same location, Corman gave them all one—one!—day off, then jumped right into an even more difficult production: shooting a WWII combat film in the snowy Black Hills, his actors forming a U.S. ski patrol taking on the Nazi Germans on the Western Front. If nothing else, Ski Troop Attack is probably the apex of Corman’s penchant for economy!

Forest plays, again, the straight arrow, Lieutenant Factor, leading a reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest. Wolff, sans hair powder, is his trigger-tempered Sergeant Potter, whose proclivity to start firefights directly contradicts his by-the-book troop leader’s commands. Noonan plays Ilse, a resistant German woman in whose cabin the troop seeks shelter. (Wally Campo and Richard Sinatra also star in both films.) Corman is hardly the only filmmaker to have worked with the same cast in different genres in consecutive productions (the prolific Rainer Werner Fassbinder made a career of doing so), but watching the two films back-to-back is both disconcerting and enlightening, demonstrating exactly how the king of the low budget could make the most of modest resources, even under difficult conditions.

Ski Troop Attack takes place primarily outdoors, the cast gamely trudging their skis and gear across the cold, snowy Black Hills. It’s a rough and rugged terrain that is made to look both beautiful and terrifying. And although Corman obviously was killing two birds with one stone on this production, there’s nothing easy about shooting in the snow. One take is often all you get, since you can’t have prior ski tracks or crew footprints spoiling the pristine mise en scène. I can’t imagine the cold and wind the cast and crew faced in a final scene where the Americans clamber up a railroad trestle’s icy girders to plant explosives: the sky is harsh gray, the wind whips their wardrobe, and the actors’ grimaces are probably at least as much pure frigidity as performances of willful determination.

If you’ve never seen a war film on skis, you could do worse than the sharp, action-packed combat film Ski Troop Attack. Ski Troop Attack is presented as a newly restored HD print in 4×3 aspect ratio, also with English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Blu-ray jewel case for Beast from Haunted Cave


Both discs include some delightful special features.

Audio commentary for Beast From Haunted Cave is provided by author and film historian Tom Weaver and filmmaker Larry Blamire, who focus on Corman’s penchant for economy, the film’s cast, and its production. With a mix of scripted and impromptu commentary, the two offer an insightful take on a film and filmmaker both clearly admire.

A full-color booklet features essays by authors C. Courtney Joyner and Tom Weaver with a special focus on Chris Robinson, a young actor just out of school who talked his way into Corman’s film by promising to create a monster on the cheap. Robinson would go on to some success in front of the camera, especially in the 1970s as a star of the TV serial General Hospital and a guest star on several primetime series.

Hollywood Intruders: The Filmgroup Story: Part One, a Ballyhoo Motion Pictures documentary, tells the story of the company the Cormans founded and ran for a decade, in part to save money (running their productions as non-union), in part to enjoy greater autonomy than Roger Corman had had with American International. It may have failed, ultimately, but Filmgroup employed such talents as Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, Curtis Harrington, Jack Hill, Robert Towne and Jack Nicholson, and it set the stage for the successes of New World Pictures. Joyner is the featured interviewee and the sprightly-paced documentary includes publicity and behind-the-scenes stills alongside footage from Beast, Ski Troop, and The Wasp Woman. My only complaint: it’s just 16 minutes long, and there’s no indication where, when, or how to see “Part Two,” which, my best guess is, will have to wait for a later Film Masters release.

Audio commentary for Ski Troop Attack is provided by by author Joyner and filmmaker Howard S. Berger in an impromptu, off-the-cuff dialogue full of interesting anecdotes and insights. These range from broad and scholarly discussions of the film in the context of the WWII combat film to some pithy critiques of its artifice (have you ever seen better-groomed soldiers, ones who take time every morning for a shave and trim, despite spending days on recon in the snowy forest?). Kudos to these two for melding together academic insight, passionate fanwanking, and some clever critique.

Additional features include a gallery of rare stills from camera negatives taken during the filming of Beast From Haunted Cave, courtesy of Tom Weaver; the original, 35mm-restored theatrical trailer for Beast From Haunted Cave; and new, recut trailers from restored both it and Ski Troop Attack using restored film elements.

And, finally, let’s not overlook a last special-feature treat, an Easter egg just in time for Halloween: look hard enough through the menus, and you’ll also find a surprise interview with a most distinguished guest—the titular creature of the 1959 feature himself!

Film Masters’ two-disc special edition of Beast from Haunted Cave and Ski Troop Attack is available now for pre-order on Amazon.

Written by J Paul Johnson

J Paul Johnson is Publisher of Film Obsessive. A professor emeritus of film studies and an avid cinephile, collector, and curator, his interests range from classical Hollywood melodrama and genre films to world and independent cinemas and documentary.

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