What's not to like about a fright film featuring a stalking, scowling, murderous tree stump? Set on a remote South Pacific isle, this quick-jack horror tale is memorable solely for the moss-covered sneer of its twiggy menace.

Served up as part of a double bill with Disembodied, this opus detailing the revenge of a leaf-sprouting evil spirit is the responsibility of the Milner brothers. Dan Milner, here making his directorial debut, had been an editor in Hollywood for some years. He'd learned his craft cutting both top-drawer features (Tay Garnett's Cross of Lorraine) and bottom-rung programmers (William Beaudine's Oh, What A Night). Screenwriter Jack Milner took up the editing chores when brother Dan slipped into the director's chair. Together they fashioned what is undoubtedly the most fondly remembered walking plant film of them all, From Hell It Came.

This 1957 schlockfest centers around a tropical terror spoken of only in hushed tones by the 'ignorant' natives, Tabanga, evil spirit of the Earth. Fortunately for the hapless Polynesian brood, there are white medicine men on hand to dispel the superstitious nonsense.

When a native lad is killed in a heated exchange, his restless soul is reincarnated in the form of the troublesome tree called Tabanga. Emerging from the mossy soil, this revenge-bent walking log wastes no time in menacing the island's nubile maidens.

Our nominal hero is Dr. William Arnold played by Tod Andrews who starred as Maj. John Singleton Mosby on TV's Grey Ghost. He'd begun his career as Michael Ames, appearing in genre classics such as Voodoo Man and Return of the Ape Man, as well as A pictures like Now Voyager.

It should come as no surprise to true cut-rate monster devotees that this zombiefied bit of grimacing greenery was designed by ace creaturemeister Paul Blaisdell, justly renowned for fashioning the countenances of the Saucer Men, the cucumber creature of It Conquered The World and the buxom She-Creature. This time he's concocted a truly offbeat if none too frightening bag of bark. The fiercely jutting brows and drooping clown mouth owe more to Emmett Kelly than to Karloff.

And what of the hapless thespian who was actually fitted with the Tabanga threads? Former pro wrestler Chester Hayes has mixed feelings when recalling his stint as the stump. ''When inside the suit, the chicken-wired frame became a bit hazardous, cutting me at times,'' he told Filmfax magazine. ''I had a lot of trouble walking in the suit as it was splitting in the legs due to all the walking and moving I was doing. You can almost see my pants in one or two scenes."

Hayes had initially entered the biz through the mentoring of fellow ring masters Tor Johnson and George Wagner, a.k.a. Gorgeous George. Tackling bit parts in a number of productions, he became a familiar face around the Allied Artists lot. When the call went out to cast a burly young swain as a walking tree, Hayes was at the top of the list. In fact, the film afforded him more than one B film distinction. Also cast as an islander, he warns the village of his own approach: ''Tabanga come! Tabanga come!''

Though dismissed by one crusty critic with the now-classic jape ''and to Hell it can go,'' Tabanga wasn't moviedom's sole soil-born menace. Plant life-driven plots are nothing new to scare-film makers. Roger Corman's classic The Little Shop of Horrors is potted proof as to their staying power, as evidenced by this seedy sampler:

Day of the Triffids (1963)
Based on John Wyndham's classic sci fi novel, this film should have been far better than it is. The effects are passable and American stage star Howard Keel delivers as the hero. But whatever suspense the film manages to muster is undermined by talky stretches of exposition.

Acting: B-
Atmosphere: C
Fun: C

The Quatermass Xperiment (1958)
First in the legendary British film trilogy detailing the exploits of Prof. Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) a no-nonsense, pioneering scientist. In this initial outing, a returning astronaut's body is slowly assimilated by an alien plant, transforming the doomed pilot into a deadly walking cactus. Well done.

Acting: A
Atmosphere: A
Fun: A

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