Universal Pictures' and director Virgil Vogel's "The Mole People"(1965) is a classic science fiction movie, highly entertaining and packed with child-like wonder and thrills. The movie opens with a professor telling us about several different hollow-earth theories, preparing us for what to expect in the movie that is about to start. As the movie begins, we have a team of archaeologists who discover some mysterious relics in one of their digs. They believe these relics point to an ancient Sumerian civilization that settled high in the Himalayan mountains after a great flood. They are bound to find this ancient city so high into the mountains they go. After a lot of mountain climbing, our scientists find some ruins of a city on a plateau. The earth cracks beneath one of the scientist and he falls through. Soon we find ourselves on a magnificent adventure beneath the surface of the earth.
What we find is an underground society consisting of the mole people (who are very menacing indeed) and an ancient civilization that worships Ishtar. In this underground world, there is no sunlight. A chemical in the rocks gives off a glow to light the taverns. There is a delicate balance in their ecosystem. Not many things grow without sunlight, so food is limited. Mushrooms are the main food source, but the supply of mushrooms can only sustain about 150 people. When the population grows beyond that number, people must be sacrificed to Ishtar. You see, sunlight is deadly to our underground dwellers, so the sacrificial victims are put in a small room where a ray of sunlight shows through. They are left there to die. The mole people are slaves in this society. They are whipped and beaten harshly. Their sole purpose is to harvest mushrooms.
The archaeologists are viewed at first as enemies, but then they are later viewed as gods. Why, you may ask? Because they have a flashlight. They harness the deadly light rays of the goddess Ishtar. What happens when these archaeologists try to tamper with the delicate balance of this society? What happens when the mole people revolt against their masters? All chaos breaks loose, leading to a climactic, breath taking ending.
Is this a perfect movie? No. The underground sets are beautiful, but at times are obviously fake. You must go into this film with a willing suspension of disbelief, as not all things in this movie make sense. But the good outweighs the bad. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous. The pacing of the story is excellent. You truly are drawn into the story of this underground civilization, and you can't wait to see what happens next. The presence of John Agar in this movie is very welcome. His acting is at times hammy, but works well. His character is the most interesting in the movie.
The Mole People is a film that I find myself coming back to again and again. There is a certain sense of wonder and innocence that this movie holds that is hard to find in cinema these days. Highly recommended, a true classic of the genre.