The Archivist #63: FROM HELL IT CAME (1957)… To Warner Archive Blu-ray!

Tabanga the Tree Monster has been resurrected in high definition.

The Archivist — Welcome to the Archive. As home video formats have evolved over the years, a multitude of films have found themselves in danger of being forgotten forever due to their niche appeal. Thankfully, Warner Bros. established the Archive Collection, a Manufacture-On-Demand DVD operation devoted to thousands of idiosyncratic and ephemeral works of cinema. The Archive has expanded to include a streaming service, revivals of out-of-print DVDs, and Blu-ray discs (which, unlike the DVDs, are factory pressed rather than burned). Join us as we explore this treasure trove of cinematic discovery!

Watch out! Here comes Tabanga! Or “Tabonga” or “Baranga,” if you please — all three have popped up in official contexts over the years, but I’ll stick with the first and most common spelling.

“Frightmare! Born of jungle witchcraft! Created by a curse!” — the film’s bombastic tagline can probably tell you all you need to know about this delightfully campy 1957 creature feature.

Wrongfully accused by a treacherous plot that includes the tribe’s witch doctor and even his own unfaithful wife, a defiant islander swears a curse of vengeance against his executioners with his dying breath. From his gravesite sprouts a monstrous treelike entity, which soon gains sentience and wreaks havoc on the island on a warpath of vengeance that doesn’t seem much concerned about collateral damage. He has become vengeance personified … Tabanga!

The natives of this South Seas island live in an uneasy coexistence with few handful of British and American scientists and merchants, and it’s these Westerners — slightly less wooden than Tabanga himself — who serve as our protagonists, first disbelieving, then studying, and then fighting the mighty shrubbery.

Like many films of this vintage, the film’s treatment of island natives is silly and racially insensitive at best, falling prey to obvious “ooga booga” stereotypes. The island’s inhabitants speak in comically halting, stilted English and are played by what seems to be a cast of mostly white actors wearing floral print swimwear. I’m glad this was filmed in black and white because it helps to remove skin tones from the equation.

Despite my derisive drubbing of the film, the fact is I actually enjoyed it a lot. It’s a very hokey creature feature with an iconically designed monster who manages to get in a few good revenge kills before he’s confronted.

The Package

From Hell It Came arrives in a pretty standard Blu-ray offering, with nifty poster artwork as the basis for the cover and only a trailer in the way of extras.

The disc sports a new restoration and it looks really nice, as can be seen in the included screenshots. The monster may look a bit more like a rubber suit in HD than in previous home video editions, but I’m certainly not complaining — this is a terrific transfer.

Special Features and Extras

Theatrical Trailer (1:56)

Parting Thoughts

My 2-year-old daughter likes to watch movies with me and lately I’ve let her start dipping her toes into the (very) mild end of the horror and monsters pool, as well as give her exposure to black and white films. I decided to let her watch the back half of From Hell It Came, when Tabanga makes his appearance.

Even as I was amused by the monster, her eyes remained glued to the screen as he lumbered around menacingly, and when the movie was over she was enthusiastic when I asked if she liked it. It’s certainly campy and dated, but I’m certain From Hell It Came will continue to entertain generations to come, as it did for us.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
From Hell It Came – [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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