Track of the Moon Beast should have been great campy fun. After all, this 1976 production is a movie about a man who gets hit by a piece of moon rock and thereby turned into a monster, so it has all the ingredients of a schlock classic. Unfortunately the end result is rather dull.
A meteor is on a collision course, not with the Earth but with the Moon. The impact sends moon rock debris into space and the debris falls on the southwestern United States. One piece falls onto the head of Paul Carlson.
Now you might think that getting hit by a chunk of rock from the Moon would be the end of poor Paul (and you might be relieved at the idea of seeing no more of him because he’s such a crashing bore) but in fact Paul ends up with nothing more than a slight headache.
At least he appears to suffer no more than a mild headache. In fact he has a piece of moon rock embedded in his skull. And we all know what that means. Yes, it means he’s destined to turn into a ravening monster every time there’s a full moon, just like in the local Indian legend.
Johnny Longbow knows all about such things, being a local Indian. He’s also a professor of anthropology at the local college. Paul had been a student of his before he changed his major to mineralogy. Johnny Longbow has always been puzzled by one particular legend, of a lizard monster who is impervious to arrows and goes around killing people. Now he knows the meaning of the legend - it’s about a guy who got hit on the head by a piece of moon rock! Being a professor of anthropology means he can figure stuff like this out.
The local police chief is keen to get Johnny Longbow involved when a series of grisly murders takes place. Johnny explains that the strange footprints and handmarks found at the crime scene mean the crimes were committed by something resembling a tyrannosaurus rex. The police chief decides this is an entirely plausible explanation because after all there could be a tyrannosaurus rex living in the hills nearby.
Pretty soon Paul’s girlfriend Kathy is getting really worried by Paul’s headaches so she takes him to the local hospital. Sure enough it turns out he has a chunk of moon rock in his skull. And since the Moon affects the tides it makes sense that the moon would have an even bigger effect on a guy with a piece of the Moon inside his head. Naturally that would tend to make him turn into a savage lizard monster whenever there’s a full moon. That’s the only possible scientific explanation for his headaches.
The doctors decide to call in a lunar scientist from NASA, because lunar scientists are experts in these sorts of cases, having lots of experience with men turned into monsters by moon rocks. It turns out that the moon rock sets up a kind of energy field. But is there any way of saving Paul?
Yes I know, it all sounds like great fun, and it could have been. Sadly director Richard Ashe falls into the most common trap of low-budget film-making - his movie is much too long and it’s painfully slow. I mean it’s really really slow.
The excruciatingly dull acting doesn’t help. Bad acting would not have been a problem, but this cast is just deadly dull without being fun. The makeup effects are OK by low-budget movie standards but there’s a decided lack of excitement and a lack of action.
This one is in the public domain and the copy I saw was pretty terrible - very very dark. Maybe it would have been more enjoyable had it been a better print but I don’t really think anything would make this movie wildly exciting.
There is a certain amount of fun to be had here, if you’re in the mood for bad 70s science fiction horror movies, but the deadly pacing stops this movie from being the schlock classic it could have been.