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October 19, 2013

Movie Review: Octaman (1971)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed By Harry Essex

A group of cynical, drunk marine biologists (of which include such old Hollywood standbys such as Pier Angeli, Kerwin Matthews, Jeff Morrow and Buck Kartalian) stumble about the Mexican countryside investigating a new amphibious mutation, which is the result of radiation “leaking all over the world.” The life-size mutation is the dreaded Octaman, a part octopus, part human monster that walks on land. An early Rick Baker creation, the Octaman has a perpetually frozen face and sounds like someone sucking soup through a straw. There a re a series of haphazard encounters with the creature until our fearless scientists get sick of his ugly ass, whip out their trusty 45s and plug him full of lead. The poor, pathetic (and unarmed) Octaman stumbles and keels over dead, landing face first in a shallow, stagnant pond. Two seconds pass and then the words THE END flash on the screen.

The most ardent monster kid will be reduced to whimpering tears over this confused mess. Two steps removed from a Larry Buchanan retooled-for-TV sci-fi film, OCTAMAN is on par with THE CREMATORS for no-budget tedium. Full of actors and technicians who should have known better – Harry Essex was the man behind THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, for God’s sakes – OCTAMAN dispels the notion that bad horror movies can be rollicking fun.

The cinematography makes this especially hard to sit through. Grainy, oversaturated, hand-held scenes shot by photographers riding bicycles during earthquakes, OCTAMAN is an ocular assault on the senses. Day-for-night scenes with the camera set an “f” stop behind for a blue, overcast look recall similar efforts by Buchanan. Edited with a pickaxe, the film probably sent a lot of insomniacs back to bed for another chance at sleep when it played late night TV. Adding insult to injury is the stereotypical portrayal of Mexicans – one of whom is played by director and writer Essex, which speak in outrageous “Frito Bandito” accents.

On top of everything else is the fact that the DVD, from Cheezy Flicks has inexcusable audio problems. For the first full eight minutes of this disc, the sound is out of synch by a good 20 seconds! Cheezy Flicks does put out a lot of public domain films with some added “fun” elements, but this total disregard for quality control is beneath even them!

Wiping out any entertainment value for the film is the tragedy surrounding actress Pier Angeli who committed suicide while the film was in production. The onetime girlfriend of acting icon James Dean, Angeli would leave Dean to marry Italian-American crooner Vic Damone. Her marriage to Damone long since ending in divorce, the once pretty Angeli took stock of her life and career, noting that her most recent film was set literally in a Winnebago, and ended her life with a handful of barbiturates. Not even the promise of a role in THE GODFATHER (1972) could raise her spirits. Definitely give this one a pass --        

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