EBONITE & CULT 50'S SCI FI FILMS

Posted by STEVE M on

 

 I just love this advert from 1926 for Ebonite from Trelleborgs which is only sold by high class dealers.  That quaint phrase puts me in mind when a military radio collecting friend and I were branded high end dealers but I digress.   Some of you - those with or even without a Brownie crystal set may wonder precisely what ebonite is........well....

 

Ebonite is a brand name for very hard rubber invented by Charles Goodyear in 1842 that is resistant to solvents, acids, alkalis and halogens whilst stable between ambient temperatures of -10º to +90ºC with an expansion coefficient 7 times that of steel along with a dielectric constant  over 1000  Ohm cm-1.  Ebonite contains natural rubber,  between 25–80% sulphur and linseed oil.  The sulphur content affects strength, rigidity and dielectric properties - for radio work approx 35% sulphur content is optimal.  

The name ebonite came about as the intended use for this material was as a substitute for ebony, however, it has also been known as Vulcanite - you may recognise this name for the hard covering on your prized Leica cameras!  

Although in the main, Ebonite is not labile, exposure to air and ultraviolet light will see it degrade as evidenced by a greening or greying of the surface with the liberation of sulphuric acid - so now you know why your Leica covering chips and fractures and the tips of your fingers get burnt when you use the camera!!!!!!!!!!

Turing now to the maker rather than the Ebonite itself, Trelleborgs, a Danish company are still on the go today, after 112 years in business and still counting.  They are a World leader in the manufacture of polymer engineering and still manufacture Ebonite today although it tends to now be used for shipping and storage tank protection.  That said, the company name reminds me of a smashing 50's sci-fi film, never mind Dr Who, as a child, this film gave me the willies, it is of course The Trollenberg Terror.

And what a film this is The Trollenberg Terror (a.k.a. The Crawling Eye in the United States) is a 1958 British black & white film produced by Robert Baker & Monty Berman.  The plot goes something like this and there is no mention of Ebonite whatsoever in this film...

On the fictional Swiss mountain Trollenberg, one of three student climbers is suddenly killed, his head ripped from his body. Two sisters, Anne  and Sarah Pilgrim, a London mind-reading act, are travelling by train to Geneva when Anne faints as the train passes the mountain. Upon waking, Anne insists that they must get off at the next stop.

UN troubleshooter Alan Brooks (), in the same train compartment as the sisters, goes to Trollenberg's observatory, where Professor Crevett  (Warren Mitchell) explains that, despite many climbing accidents, no bodies are ever found; an always-stationary radioactive cloud is regularly observed on the mountain's south face - probably the work of a "silly moo". Brooks learns that similar incidents took place in the Andes three years earlier, before a similar radioactive cloud vanished without a trace. Local rumours circulated that something nasty was living in the mist.

Anne is giving a mind-reading demonstration at the hotel when she "sees" two men in a base camp hut on the mountain then Anne suddenly faints murmuring that the men are in danger so Brooks phones the hut but no one answers.

A rescue party goes out to the hut looking for both men. Anne, in a trance-like state, urges the rescuers to stay away. Inside the hut, the group discover that everything is frozen solid, despite the hut being locked from the inside. Dewhurst's body is found under the bed with its head missing.  A plane arrives and circles overhead, and a man is seen off in the distance. At his location, the first rescuer there finds a rucksack with a severed head inside. He is quickly set upon and killed by Brett, who later attacks and kills a second rescuer.

Now at the hotel, Brett storms in and launches an attack on Anne. The men manage to subdue him, and during the struggle Brett sustains a severe head gash, but no blood flows from the wound. Brett is heavily sedated and locked away. Brooks recalls a similar incident in the Andes that followed a similar pattern: a man murdered an elderly woman who allegedly possessed psychic abilities just like those displayed by Anne. The killer's body was discovered to have been deceased for at least 24 hours prior to his murder of the old women. Brett escapes his improvised cell and resumes his hunt for Anne, this time armed with a small hand axe. Before he can reach Anne, he is quickly shot and killed by Brooks.

The cloud has begun to move down the mountainside towards the hotel, so the group retreats to the heavily fortified observatory. As they enter the cable car, a mother realises that her young daughter is missing. In a thickening mist a giant, multi-tentacled creature with a single huge eye appears at the hotel, smashing down the front door. Brooks manages to rescue the child from the lobby, both of them narrowly escaping its grasp. They return to the cable car, but the delay has given the thickening mist a chance to reach the car platform. The transport motor begins to freeze, starting and stopping, the cable slipping, but the cable car arrives safely. The single cloud has now split to become four whilst converging on the observatory.

Hans  who left the hotel, suddenly turns up at the observatory. Once inside, he begins exhibiting the same obsession with Anne. Hans tries to strangle her, but the group manage to stop this by killing him. As the tentacled monsters near the observatory, everyone makes Molotov Cocktails to combat them. By radio, Alan orders an aerial firebombing raid against the observatory, which has a reinforced concrete roof and walls that can withstand the assault.

Journalist Philip Truscott (Payne) strikes one of the creatures with a Molotov cocktail, setting it ablaze. He is caught from above by one of the tentacled monsters on the observatory's roof. With another Molotov cocktail, Brooks sets that one ablaze, forcing the burning creature to release Truscott. Later, Truscott does the same as another one-eyed monster manages to breach a thick wall, trying to get at Anne. The aerial firebombing assault begins and is successful at torching the remaining creatures.

-The End -


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