Tuesday, June 24, 2008


First, let me get this out of the way: Greatest. Title. Ever.

Unfortunately, this 1964 cult favorite from Ray Dennis Steckler expended so much creativity on its moniker that there was none left over for the movie itself. Oh, it's chock-full of groovy ideas--how could it not, being the "world's first monster musical"--but Steckler never cultivates them, sticking to the run-and-gun method that's marked pretty much every film he's ever made (granted, the miniscule budgets he's had to make do with haven't helped, but to see a potentially cool concept wither on the vine just gets to me).

Steckler, in his hoodie-wearing persona Cash Flagg Jr., stars as proto-slacker Jerry, who gets involved with an exotic dancer named Carmela (who isn't all that exotic, nor does she really dance) and her sinister hypnotist sister Madame Estrella (who keeps a mutated henchman named Ortega in her back room). Estrella uses hypnosis--a black-and-white swirl effect that kept me on the verge on nausea--to turn Jerry into a zombie, sending him on an unmotivated killing spree.

If that sounds a little too . . . I don't know, exciting, for your personal tastes, rest assured that the story barely gets out of first gear. The hypnotism/killing spree element comes in fairly late, following a seemingly endless barrage of stock carnival footage and the most stultifying "dance" numbers ever committed to film (you'd find more spirited performances at seedy strip clubs twenty minutes before closing). Although the movie's general incompetence is good for a laugh--the costumes alone supply more chuckles than those stupid Friedberg/Seltzer parody flicks, as does Jerry's Latka Gravas-esque buddy--but its lack of forward momentum does it in long before the mutant zombie whatsits attack the supporting cast.

Steckler (here resembling the bastard love child between Nicolas Cage and Max Schrek from NOSFERATU) built his reputation as a drive-in auteur with this $38,000 epic, but it wasn't enough to keep from later churning out porno schlock like DEBBIE DOES LAS VEGAS and WEEKEND COWGIRLS. Though apparently enough of a classic to warrant a recent screening on Turner Classic Movies, it belongs more in the Good Title, Bad Movie camp of BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS and THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES.


Diana said...

You didn't mention the MST3K treatment of this movie. It's really the only way to watch it.

Scott Emerson said...

You're right, though even Mike and the 'bots had their hands full with this one.