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Octaman (1971)

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Score: 2/10

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 19 min.

Release Date: November 3rd, 1971 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Harry Essex Actors: Kerwin Mathews, Pier Angeli, Jeff Morrow, David Essex, Jerome Guardino, Jax Jason Carroll, Robert Warner

S

ince the beginning of time, men have roamed the earth, searching uncharted areas for adventure. Scientists are the new adventurers, however, as they scour the world seeking methods of combating pollution and curing disease. In just such a quest, in a desolate Latin American country, Dr. Rick Torres (Kerwin Mathews) studies samples of blood from the local population.

As suspected, the tests confirm that faraway, underwater detonations of atomic materials have reached even this remote locale, where the people’s heavy diets of fish have caused excessive irradiation of their bodies. When Torres, with the help of randomly beautiful assistant/lover Susana Lowry (Pier Angeli), finds a tiny, bizarre aquatic animal (or, rather, take credit for associate Raoul’s discovery), they bring it to the International Ecological Institute’s Dr. John Willard (Jeff Morrow) – who calls the discovery a squid, when it’s so obviously an octopus – for further analysis. But the oddity poses no interest to the expert, who turns them away, forcing the determined Torres to pursue extra financing from Johnny Caruso – a freakshow enthusiast who is far more interested in the legends of a half-sea-serpent-half-man abomination rumored to live in the area than additional research on the small octopod specimen.

“Octaman” is the absolute epitome of cheesy, low-budget, man-in-a-suit monster movies. Its utter crappiness is matched only by the unpredictable seriousness with which the cast approaches such pathetic filmmaking. This is surely helped by the bad dubbing, which actually counters the likelihood of the original recording sounding phony. The octopus prop is a soft toy, set into motion by strings attached to the legs and embellished with sound effects reminiscent of a crying kitten. But the crown jewel of awfulness is the Octaman costume itself, which makes no efforts to conceal the human legs and shoes inside the tentacled appendages. The crew is clearly proud of it anyway, since most of the shots in which it appears are in broad daylight or paused for lengthy close-ups of its face.

“You’ve got talent,” compliments a man who was just handed a plain, blank, whittled wooden oval, from Davido the native guide (David Essex). Later, when a group of survivors trapped in a cave are concerned about dwindling oxygen, Davido whistles merrily in the corner to pass the time. The dialogue is unintentionally hilarious, racist, sexist, and hopelessly cliched, while the many supporting-role victims can barely act. But there are a few amusing scenes of violence, where fake blood and dislodged eyeballs demonstrate an intention of genuine horror – even if it’s so goofily executed that it couldn’t possibly be effective. The inclusion of a poisoning-the-earth morality tale (and references to Hiroshima) and a “Beauty and the Beast” subplot are also curious, but only insomuch that writer/director Harry Essex bothered to put unnecessary gravity into a picture of so little depth. Fortunately, though “Octaman” is a total disaster, there are enough accidental laughs (such as from moments when the monster’s efforts to capture the girl, a la “Creature from the Black Lagoon” or “Tobor the Great,” are so awkwardly unmanageable) to keep this silly thriller mostly afloat – even if only for the sake of giggling at a very, very bad movie – for its relatively short runtime.

– Mike Massie

 



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