Friday, February 15, 2013


"You looking at me?  You LOOKING at me?  I don't see
any other monsters here..."

"You're crazy if you think I'm gonna spend the night outside this stupid lake fighting off mosquitos waiting for you to get a stupid picture of a stupid monster that'll probably turn out to be a stupid log or something."

1) The first sign that this film is going to be glorious awful?  The title card that starts it saying it's based on a true story that took place in 1971....

2) I did a double take when I was looking for the release date for this movie.  It supposedly came out in 1980, but it's got that shot-on-16mm, lack-of-artisty look that makes it feel like a product ten or more years earlier.  The film looks primitive, and the writing (with its whole ecological concern subplot and sexual politics--more on which below), and acting gives it a the feel of one of those 'let's put on a show' exploitation films that would make its rounds on regional drive in circuits circa, well, 1971.

"Okay, I'm going to hang around naked in this lake.
Glad there's no monsters about...."
3) Another reason why this feels so retro is the way women are treated in this film--namely, as things to look pretty and sleep around with.  There's this strange sub-plot where every man who works for the multinational organization that owns the concrete plant this film is based around is apparently sleeping with his secretary.  And when Chris Mitchum (more on him below) shows up in his safari shorts to troubleshoot, he automatically falls in bed with the environmentally conscious reporter gal who is set up to be one of the opposition....well, just because.

4) Now here's a reason I can almost accept that this film was made in 1980....there are a couple of stylistic choices writer/director Kenneth Hartford makes that shows the influence of certain low-budget horror films from around the same time--in particular, the way the exposition is delivered directly to camera, as if the viewer and not Mitchum is Bill the Trouble Shooter.

5) Boy, does John Carradine act as if he's in an entirely different movie.  Granted, this is during the period in his career where he was drunk off his ass and taking any job that would have him, but his performance as the village priest here seems off for a film where everyone seems off.

6) All the women in this film serve almost purely decorative purposes, half of them are here only to sleep with the significantly older male leads, and one is here only to wear a bikini very, very well before being munched by the monster.  Oddly enough, the sexiest of these women is the helicopter pilot, who doesn't sleep with an older male lead or wear a bikini (and, to be fair, has a weird-ass accent that could be Columbian, could be some girl's idea of Columbian).

7) Here's an unintended benefit of this film being so low budget....since the bulk of the monster's scenes are shot in the dead of night, the primitive film stock makes the creature only perceivable in bits and pieces, and those bits and pieces seems pretty scary.
"I'm going to radio for a better script..."

8) ...which is why it's unfortunate that the climax takes place in broad daylight, because the ultimate monster is, ummmm, goofy as all Hell.  This thing, with its Fu Manchu mustache, gnashing jaws that don't join and goggly eyes, is just ridiculous looking.  I can't even decide if this was a full-sized model or a hand-puppet or some combination of both.

9) Chris Mitchum....sigh.  He certainly looks totally out of place in this film, and is the hero only incidentally.  He spends the majority of the film stomping around in some very unfortunate safari shorts (made even more unfortunate since he's the only one stomping around in those things, exposing his too-knobby-knees), and only takes some form of physical action at the very end, when he chases a trigger box in the lake for about five minutes.

10) This film counted in its cast residents of citizens in a town in Columbia, and in New Mexico...and damn, does it show given the number of very lame line readings and endless shots of a Columbia 'fiesta.'

Overall...with all its flaws--and its flaws are legion--this is a welcome and goofy throwback to a 50's monster movie, apparently made in the early 70's in spite of its 1980's origin.  If you're in a certain mood, this film can be entertaining for its faults.

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