Mack Williams: B-movies made for sleepless nights

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 12, 2011

Iím not really totally sure, but this recollection couldnít have taken place much later than 1957.
We went to visit Grandmother Hamlet in Statesville and stayed overnight. I think I remember my mother telling me that her mother lived for a while in Salisbury when she was young. She also told me that it was said of my grandmother by many of the Salisburians of those earlier years, that ěShe was the most beautiful lady in Salisbury!î
I remember seeing from early on, a small, oval-shaped picture of my grandmother as a young lady. It sat on my motherís ěwhat notî in our house on the Old Concord Road. In looking back now, that picture, in a way, seemed to evoke the ěGibson Girl.î My grandmotherís maiden name was ěMiller,î and she possessed what my mother referred to as the ěMiller nose,î along with natural shadows around her eyes, as did my mother, my brother, Joe, and I. While others had to purchase eye shadow for that fashionable look of dark eyes in the late 1920s, my motherís ěeye-shadowî was something with which she was born.
During our visit with Grandmother Hamlet, we decided to take in an evening movie at a downtown theater in Statesville. The movie being featured was entitled ěThe Mole People.î It was one of those low-budget science fiction-horror films of the 1950s, which are now referred to as ěcheesy.î
To a young child, though the primitive special effects of such films were low-budget, it still seemed that the studio had spent enough money to provide a good scare.
All that I remember of the plot, or what little plot there was, was that ordinary people were walking through a cave, but then these ěmole peopleî would all-of-a-sudden burrow up from the cave floor, or out of a cave wall, grab them, and then the hapless individuals would disappear as the earth closed around them.
At that time, and even now, I wasnít sure what the mole people did with those people once they had them. To me, the most frightening thing was just the thought of being suddenly grabbed and ětaken away.î
Following the movie, we went back to Grandmother Hamletís home to spend the night with her before returning home to Salisbury the following day.
The nature of the movie, ěThe Mole Peopleî was such that it involved darkness, the darkness of the cavernous earth. What we returned to, following the film, instead of dealing with the geological darkness of cavities wihin the earth, had its own darkness which was man-made.
I remember Grandmother Hamletís house as being furnished with furniture built of the darkest wood, with walls which were as shadowy as those home furnishings which they surrounded.
On one of those walls, was the picture of a Dutch windmill on a cloudy, somber day, painted with the most somber colors, the clouds seeming to forebode a storm.
People always think that little boys sleep soundly, once they finally ěcrashî from their daily portion of the spent energy of boyhood.
My sleep that night was not so sound. We had come from a movie filled with caves and shadows, and here we were in this dark old house, in whose darkness I could easily imagine the mole people reaching out from those shadows, almost effortlessly, to ětake us away.î