Sunday, 27 December 2009

Octaman (1971)

Monster of the deep movies can be fun, but it’s a sub-genre that has produced more than its fair share of spectacularly bad movies. Some of the really bad ones are the most fun, but for every inspired camp masterpiece like The Horror of Party Beach there’s an equally uninspired clunker.

I have a nomination for the worst ever monster of the deep movie. Octaman, unleashed on an unsuspecting world in 1971. If fact I'm going to nominate it for an all-round achievement award. It has a dopey title, a silly premise, lousy special effects, poor cinematography, leaden pacing, bad acting, embarrassing dialogue, uninspired direction and a lame script.

Plus it commits the one unforgivable sin. If you have a really crappy monster you really should try to avoid showing the monster too often, especially early in the film. Especially in broad daylight. Especially in close-up. But that's what Octaman does.

It also has no suspense since we know what the monster is, what it looks like, and what created it within the first five minutes.

As a special bonus it includes lots of clumsy speechifying about ecology, and about philosophy, life, the universe and everything. All the acting is terrible, even from Pier Angeli (who had been a real actress at one time). And it has the most beloved of horror movie clichés - the fairly small party is constantly splitting up into smaller groups to make it easier for the monster to pick them off.

The plot, if anyone cares, involves a team of ecological scientists who discover a giant half man/half squid created by radiation. They want to capture it for study, but it wants to capture Pier Angeli, although possibly not for study.

This is one of only a handful of movies that Harry Essex made as a director, although he wrote a considerable number of screenplays, and indeed wrote the script for this effort as well. There’s nothing here to suggest that he had any great talent in either area.

This 1971 Mexican/US co-production is almost silly enough to be entertaining. If you’re in the right mood, you might actually manage to enjoy this one. But you really will have to be in the right mood. I love guy-in-a-rubber-suit monster movies as much as anyone, but this is not exactly a classic of its type.

It’s included on a Region 4 DVD double-feature which is still worth buying because the other movie, First Spaceship on Venus (an East German-Polish science fiction film), is truly excellent.

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