Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966)

Directed by:
Larry Buchanan

Larry Buchanan's American International Television package deal - very-cheaply-produced, shot-on-16mm color remakes of various black-and-white AIP releases of the 50s - continues with this horrendous reworking of Edward L. Cahn's VOODOO WOMAN (1957). [I've not seen Voodoo so I cannot compare them right now.] Prospector Driscoll West (Bill Thurman) shows up in a small Florida town hoping to scour the Everglades in search of oil. He ends up crossing paths with a trio of con artists; hotel owner / bartender Frenchie (Roger Ready), his bookkeeper / lover Brenda (Shirley McLine) and Brenda's dimwitted boy toy Ritchie (Cal Duggan), instead. Ritchie breaks into Driscoll's hotel room looking for some kind of map, is caught and then a horribly choreographed fight ensues. Driscoll ends up dead after being stabbed, everyone decides to sink his body in the swamp (where's its rendered unrecognizable with some kind of thrashing machine) and Brenda comes up with the idea of posing as the dead man's wife. Geologist Barry Rogers (John Agar) flies in the following day to meet up with Driscoll and instead has to make plans with his "wife," Ritchie and their guide Rabbit Simms (Charles McLine). The four then head out into the swamps for a few days looking for oil.

Meanwhile, evil, arrogant, murderous Dr. Simon Trent (an amusingly dry Jeff Alexander) is busy at work doing the usual mad scientist things at his secluded home like kidnapping people and experimenting on them. Once he's done with the bodies, he simply feeds them to a bunch of hungry crocodiles.... which he keeps in a swimming pool in his backyard! Also living in the same home are Simon's med school student assistant Tom (Tony Huston, who also scripted this), his faithful black servant Valjean (Ted Mitchell), another black man named Tracker (Bill McGhee) who's treated little better than a guard dog and his attractive wife Pat (Francine York), who is somehow completely oblivious to what he husband has been up to. There's talk of gill transplants and crocodiles being devolved back to fish, but we don't really get to see any of this. Because all of Trent's experiments have failed, he decides to experiment on Tom. He injects his with a sedative, puts him in some large foggy fish tank ("the preserver") and tries to turn him into some kind of lizard monster.

Nearby, Barry and the others ride a boat, camp and track through the forest. Just because he knows they're around, Dr. Trent sends his servant to fetch them and bring them back to his home. Pat's been causing trouble, so her husband has locked her up in her bedroom, but he lets her come out to hobnob with the guests. She finally gets fed up with the experiments and pulls the plug on Tom ("My beautiful indestructible fish man!"), which leads him to select one of his new guests as a test subject. Meanwhile, the "native people" of the swamps (i.e. a bunch of black folks who behave like they live in Haiti) do some kind of ritualistic dance around a totem pole with a skull on it, burn an effigy of the mad doctor and practice "snake magic." One of the visitors attempts to rape a dancer so she pushes him into a pit of quicksand. The titular "Swamp Creature" (a terrible-looking googly-eyed thing) finally makes an appearance during the last 5 minutes and doesn't even really get to do anything.

If the abysmal acting, terrible dialogue, talky / slow-moving / aimless plot, laughable monster suit or horrible photography don't do you in, then the constant beating of bongo drums on the soundtrack will. You won't see much worse than this one, folks. Other films Buchanan made for this same series include The Eye Creatures (1956), a remake of INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957), ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS (1966), a remake of IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956), CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION (1967), a remake of The She Creature (1957) and In the Year 2889 (1967), a remake of DAY THE WORLD ENDED (1955). Mars Needs Women (1967) and "IT'S ALIVE!" (1969) appear to be - gasp! - original stories (in the case of the latter, Buchanan was allowed to use an unfilmed Richard Matheson script).


1 comment:

kochillt said...

This was the film where I had to wonder what John Agar was thinking, as he gets to walk, sit, relax, smoke, and not much else; in ZONTAR he inherited the Peter Graves role and had to do SOME acting! Jeff Alexander was truly mean as the cat fancying janitor Mr. Griggs in Larry N. Stouffer's HORROR HIGH aka TWISTED BRAIN, shot in Irving, TX.

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