Tuesday, February 14, 2012
CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE (1966)
Damn NetFlix streaming and its listing for this film. Why did I watch it? Surely I knew what was in store.
The films of Larry Buchanan are completely terrible. That may read as a bold statement but anyone who has watched more than one of his low budget B-movies can attest to the fact that I tell the truth. Its not that Mr. Buchanan is a total incompetent or wholly without storytelling skills. He can string a fairly coherent, if plodding, tale together that moves slowly from point to point and place to place in a manner that mimics the natural progression that a good film usually has. While you could go on for hours about the amusing mistakes and silliness that his extremely poverty ridden productions have the real problems occur when you get into the details of his movies.
Let's take CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE (1966) as a case in point. It is supposedly a remake of VOODOO WOMAN (1957) and it certainly does follow the plotline of that pretty terrible film. Don't get me wrong- I enjoy VOODOO WOMAN. It is not a good movie but it does have Marla English. CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE has John Agar and while John Agar rules, he is no Marla English if you know what I mean. But I shouldn't denigrate this film for a lack of sex appeal. There are a couple of lovely ladies in Buchanan's film and they have their charms. Francine York plays mad scientist Victor Trent's wife and although she only has two outfits the entire film she fills them out expertly. I never bought her distraught act as she longs to be released from her hellish marriage but she is nice to look at. Indeed, none of the acting is very good but Agar is competent in an underwritten role, Shirley McLine as a murderous femme fatale is OK but Jeff Alexander is very entertaining as the crazed Dr. Trent. The fact is that it was Alexander's hammy, meticulously calm but slyly evil performance that kept me watching this silly mess. He's a study in amoral inhumanness and the film could have benefited from more time spent getting to know his character.
No. Even though most of the actors in this are bad, acting is not really the aspect of this film that weighs it down so heavily. Its real liabilities are the skimpy budget and flat, boring direction. I can forgive some of the crappy shot choices because its clear the sets were tiny and there wasn't much time to get things in the can. But the moments when the locations put the lie to statements made in the dialog are numerous, laughter inducing and turn the movie from bad to worse. Much is made about the mad doctor's house and laboratory being out in the middle of the swampy nowhere but the place has an obvious connection to the nearby electrical poles. The doctor keeps gators in his pool out back but the shots of the reptiles thrashing around are clearly from a muddy river far too large to be anywhere near that well manicured lawn. The 'rough' trail that leads to the hidden lair of Dr. Trent is so well worn it might be a bike path. The list of ridiculous elements is a mile long but I could forgive them all if the movie wasn't so damned dull. Not even the site of the final monster can do more than generate a slight grin.
So I can't recommend this one to any but the hardiest of B-movie aficionados. Its rough going with few joys and much tedium. You have been warned! Damn NetFlix streaming.