Sunday 23 November 2008

Monster a Go-Go (1965)

This one screams a glorious low budget and if Mystery Science Theater 3000 hadn't done a version of it I'd have been seriously surprised. Of course they did, and considered it the worst film they'd seen up until that time. Manos: The Hands of Fate came later. Made in 1965 in black and white, it has bad acting, bad dialogue and bad music. It also has bad sound and bad lighting so it's often hard to tell exactly what's going on, even with a clear narration. Then again that may be a blessing. There's literally nothing good about this film: not only is it bad but it's boring. Bad is understandable in a film like this for many reasons, boring isn't.

To be fair the main reason that it's so bad is that it's really two films. Director Bill Rebane ran out of funding on his film Terror at Halfday in 1961 and couldn't finish it. It would have disappeared without a trace had Herschell Gordon Lewis not needed a second film to play alongside his Moonshine Mountain three years later. He bought the footage, shot some additional scenes to finish it off (with new actors given that the originals weren't available) and added a narration and a new title. He was so proud of the results that he didn't even put his name on them: he's uncredited as a director and listed under the pseudonym of Sheldon S Seymour for his additional dialogue.

It centres around a space capsule sent up by the Americans and which crash lands back on Earth in a rural area amazingly close to the space base in Chicago. Yes, this film is full of mysterious coincidences. The authorities find the capsule, but they don't find the astronaut who was inside: Frank Douglas is mysteriously missing. They do find the man who found the capsule though, dead at the scene, with his body shrivelled up and his blood turned to powder. There are mysterious burn marks on the ground nearby and soon a ten foot radioactive monster is killing off local teenagers.

It's hard to understand why a film like this exists, without having been there at the time. I was born in 1971 in England and didn't even see a drive-in movie theatre until 1999 when they were a dying breed. Yet back in their heyday the youth of America thronged to them, though generally not to actually watch the movies. This really is the epitome of a film that young couples could happily make out during and thus know as much about it when they leave as when they arrived. Plan 9 from Outer Space is terrible but it's highly watchable. Even The Beast from Yucca Flats had colour and Tor Johnson on its side. This doesn't have anything except the title.

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