... aka: Secret of Silverdale, The
Well now here's something a little different. Naive small town sheep rancher Eduardo "Eddie" Etchavaria (Richard Marion) arrives in "The biggest little city in the world;" Reno, Nevada, wins a few hundred bucks on a slot machine and decides to accompany a few people (including Erica "Vixen" Gavin) to the small town of Virginia City for a party. He gets in a minor scuffle at a bar after a hooker steals his money and ends up broke and in a jeep with Dr. Cyrus Clemens (E. Kerrigan Prescott), head of a local university's anthropology department, who drops Eddie off on a farm so he can spend the night in a pen full of sheep. The following day when Dr. Clemens and his research assistant Mariposa DeQuill (Karen Ingenthron) show up to check in on him they find Eddie in a state of shock and a bizarre, bloody half-formed sheep's embryo lying next to him. Clemens grabs his tape recorder and notes, "I think we all stumbled onto an amazing event, almost incredible from a scientific standpoint" and adds their findings are "possibly the result of chromosomic breakdown and cross fertilization." They transfer both the embryo and Eddie to their private test laboratory at Indian Flats for observation.
Meanwhile, Virginia City Mayor Charles Silverdale (Stuart Lancaster), who helped revive the historic Comstock area and restored it to resemble an 1800s Wild West town, runs the local "601" secret society. Christopher Barnstable (Christopher Brooks), working for a billionaire in the tool and mining industry trades, shows up wanting to buy up all the mine leases in the country, and the locals bound together to stop him. The Mayor's right hand man, Phillip Maldove (Steven Kent Browne), whorehouse madam and fake medium Madame Alta (Peggy Browne) and the local authorities, led by the slovenly Sheriff Gordon (Robert Hirschfeld), all get to work on trying to drive the corporate invader out of their town. They set him up to make him think he shot the sheriff's dog and then hold a mock church funeral (!) for it ("He was only a dog, but he filled us with joy and gayety until a bullet struck him down.") When that doesn't work, Phillip invites him over to his home, cracks a bottle over his head and shoots himself so that Christopher's thrown in the slammer and charged with attempted murder.
Back at the lab, Dr. Clemens, Mariposa and Eddie all tend to the embryo, which has rapidly grown into a large-sized monster that they keep docile with steady injections of tranquilizer. Yes folks, it's a giant, mutant, bipedal sheep monster. While most viewers will look upon it as a laughable creation, it's definitely different (it walks on its hind legs) and even somewhat abstract (one arm is a lot longer than the other). Two things it is decidedly not are scary or threatening. Opting for martial law to cover their tracks, Mayor Silverdale and his cronies drag Christopher out into the desert to hang him, but he's rescued by Madame Alta, who's recently taken a liking to him. They end up at the lab, a shoot-out ensues and the creature kills a guy and escapes into the desert. When Dr. Clemens (who wants the monster kept alive) theorizes about the creature's smarts, the Mayor, who wants the creature captured and put in their museum, tells him, "This is ridiculous. I can't accept this concept of intelligence. I say it's a damaged mongoloid beast!" The pitiful, slow, awkward creature doesn't get to do much aside from scaring children having a picnic and blowing up a gas station, before a bunch of cowboys lasso it. Things ends with a small scale revolutionary ending and some out-of-left-field profundity.
This one's gone down as a minor footnote in film history books as an obscure, insignificant, inept monster movie, and in many ways it is, though there are clearly ecological and sociopolitical objectives at play in here. I'm not saying these aspects are necessarily well-executed (for the most part they're not), but they still make this somewhat more interesting than other cheapie monster / schlock flicks of the day. It's quirky, sometimes amusing and the western town setting gives it a fun and unique backdrop. Prior to making this, Hobbs (a military vet, graduate of Cornell and renowned artist, teacher and writer) was on the fast track to art film success with the well-received surrealist comedy Troika (1969). Godmonster, which was filmed on a budget of 135,000 dollars and only booked a couple of showings upon completion before being shelved for decades, completely derailed his further film plans after a promising start.
It went unseen for years until Something Weird unearthed it for a DVD release. Extras on the set include the nudie horror PASSION IN THE SUN (1964; aka The Girl and the Geek) and a truncated 'soft' edit of the awful Bigfoot porno the THE GEEK (1971). Hobbs' other genre offering - Alabama's Ghost (also 1973) - had already long been available on VHS on the ThrillerVideo label in the 1980s (with Elvira commentary) but now it's the more difficult of the two to track down.