Horror heap from the nuclear trash!
Year of Release: 1971
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time: 78 minutes (1:18)
Director: Harry Essex
Kerwin Mathews ... Dr. Rick Torres
Pier Angeli ... Susan Lowry
David Essex ... The Indian
Jerome Guardino ... Johnny Caruso
Robert Warner ... Steve
Read Morgan ... The Octaman
An eminent scientist has long been involved in a series of experiments in rural areas of Mexico. He is conscious that man is rapidly destroying himself and all his natural resources through the advent of underwater nuclear testing and pollution. Out of the slime and trash of the contaminated swamps arises a monstrous mutation, half human, half octopus with man's intelligence and bestial strength.
Octaman... the movie that begs the question: are they still considered furries if the suit's hairless?
An speakin' of people who enjoy dressin' up in latex bodysuits an bein' flogged with foam rubber, I gotta say - after a week of havin' guys in '70s cop shades wanderin' around the yard 24 hours a day, occasionally stoppin' their patrols to pound on the door an demand I turn down the volume on Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS cause it's causin' "emotional distress" to the endangered freeloadin' rodents livin' in my Coronet's engine block, even the most ardent introvert starts wantin' to get out of the house. I had been spendin' a lotta time over at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks so I wouldn't hafta deal with 'em, but on Thursday B.J. Wilder came outta the kitchen an said I hadda leave if I wasn't orderin' cause, apparently, sittin' around the counter nursin' the same cup of coffee all day is restricted to old guys who pull their pants up to their armpits an start every conversation with "ya know what's wrong with..." It got so bad that by Friday mornin' Sadie Bonebreak came over an found me yellin' at Drew Carey on The Price is Right. Which wouldn't normally be all that weird, cept the TV wasn't on an I was standin' on the front porch watchin' Apollo an Shankles fight over half a dead gopher at the time, so Sadie, bless 'er heart, called up the resta the guys an we all decided to go check out the classic car show over in Elgin. She knew I'd been wantin' to see that red '58 Plymouth Fury like the one in Christine ever since the flyer showed up at Walleye's Topless Dancin' & Bait Shop, so me, Billy Hilliard, Cleave Furguson, Sadie an... that woman Sadie's been rasslin' with the last few years... I'm pretty sure 'er name ends with a "y," or maybe an "ie," I forget 'er name, anyway, we piled into Sadie's Ramcharger an motored on over to the show to gawk at all the oversized fins an suicide doors to help me forget my problems (one of them BLM guys told me they might hafta pack up the rodents an move soon cause they've got reports comin' in from Arizona about some lunatic capturin' Mojave desert tortoises, flippin' 'em upside down, an usin' 'em as pucks for his roller hockey league, so fingers crossed there).
We were all havin' a pretty good time too, right up until the part where Sadie took what's-'er-name over to see the Tesla demonstration, which is where these out of work carnival barkers open up the hood to show ya how the engine's practically silent so you'll buy one an do your part to cut back on noise pollution. Now, I don't wanna be rude or nothin', but I just gotta come right out an say this: that woman's dumber'n the southern end of a northbound mule. Seriously - how stupid do you hafta be to lean down next to a Tesla battery when you wear so much hairspray that your head hasta be zoned "industrial" to avoid citations from the EPA? The doctors say the bimbo's hair should grow back in about a month or so once all the skin on top of 'er head peels off. Course she got so much attention from folks worried about 'er bein' scarred for life that even if she'd known in advance this was gonna happen she prolly still woulda done it. I tried tellin' 'er in the hospital that cars were a lot like movies, in the sense that she'da never gotten burned if she'd stuck with the classics, cept while I was sayin' that Sadie came back into the room carryin' a bowl fulla Jello that ended up bein' deposited on toppa my head an obstructin' my vision while she proceeded to beat the crap outta me. Fortunately they gave me the room right across the hall when the nurses decided I should prolly stay overnight for observation to make sure the bleedin' in my nose'd stopped for good. I'm gonna get me one of them Plymouth Furys someday though, cause they're pure Americana on wheels. I'll prolly start savin' up for that once the doctor's paid off - shouldn't be more'n 4, 5 years tops, with a little creative belt tightenin'.
I really envy all the folks who got to check out Octaman from the comfort of their Furys back in '71, cause even if I can get my hands on one nobody's ever gonna let a classic like this fall into the public domain, an I'll be stuck watchin' it on an itty-bitty indoor midget screen for the rest of eternity. They just don't make flicks like this anymore. Never again will we find a writer with enough gumption to write the line "they say the octopus is supposed to be the most intelligent species in the ocean," or a director who'll tell his actor to look that camera right square in the eye an read it like it was the eulogy at his mama's funeral. Admittedly, part of the reason this won't happen again in our lifetime is that the writer an director were the same guy an both died in 1997, but the other part, the truly salient part, is that all the crapola comin' outta Hollywood these days hasta be "state of the art" crapola. There's just no room in today's cold, clinical world for amateur cowflop anymore. Only the finest, top-shelf, $150,000,000 diarrhea will do in 2017. Don't sweat it though, cause there're thousands of these old turkeys to sort through before you even gotta *consider* doin' anything desperate like goin' to the theater, so let's take a minute an have a looksee at just a few of the ways that our lives can be enriched by experiencing this miracle of early '70s schlock. First, Octamen tend to prove less than understanding when you capture their young 'uns usin' stew pots in place of specimen jars. Second, if the highlight of your soundtrack is a guy whistlin' the Mexican Hat Dance, it's possible your movie may not be enjoyed in the spirit that you intended. An third, it becomes pretty clear that the world's gone to Hell when the International Ecological Institute refuses to offer any grant money for your research into human/octopus mutants because they've had to spend it all on more pressing matters.
This movie ain't all octopus slap fights an body slams though. Matter of fact I got a pretty big gripe about it, cause if there's one thing I can't stand it's a director who thinks he's smooth enough that he can just throw conventional wisdom out the window an assume he'll be saved by his presentation techniques. Seriously, does this guy really expect me to believe that a half-man/half-octopus type critter could survive in the wilds of Mexico without endin' up in the crosshairs of the cartels? I mean, what the heck is this shyster tryin' to pull here? You're tellin' me that this Octamang's out there livin' in the middle of an ideal smugglin' route, killin' anyone who steps on its turf, an the banditos're just gonna look at each other an go "eh, he was 'ere first"? Cause I'm thinkin' Pablo Escobar an El Chapo'd prolly have about 3000 guys with automatic weapons out in the jungle trackin' this thing down, cornerin' it, an proceedin' to blow it into 19,000 pieces. We'd be talkin' squidchilladas an octalupas smothered in guacamollusk sauce fryin' on campfires all over Northern Chihuahua at an impromptu cartel picnic. Essex shoulda set this thing in Florida or California, cause there's just no way Mexico works. Japan'd be the obvious choice if not for the Yakuzas, but anyway, guys: DO NOT try to pull that kinda asshattery over on me cause I *will* expose you for the con-men you are. I don't *wanna* do it, but this's a job I take *very* seriously, so let's try keepin' these plots at least in the BALLPARK of rational storytellin', alright?
The movie begins with a declaration from the narrator that we should all forget about astronauts an daredevils an what not cause the new trailblazin' badasses of the 21st century're gonna be scientists. Yes, scientists; manliest of men, the women want them an men... will prolly continue to run their pants up the flagpole after gym. I get the distinct impression this speech was written by a guy who took a lotta atomic wedgies in school when the English teacher'd leave in the middle of a pop quiz. That's not really important though. What is important is that we got a local Mexican folk legend steeped in terror, an who just happens to be a delicacy when sauteed in butter: The Octaman, who stumbles around in the dead of night with his arms outstretched like a Central Park flasher who's just ripped open his trench coat. For the moment though, Dr. Ricardo "Copshades" Torres is down in Mexico puzzlin' over why all the nuclear contamination in Lake Shittycaca seems to be gettin' worse despite the Mexican president's recent deregulation of the nuclear power industry. Only Ric gets interrupted when his lab assistant/travel agent (Mort) brings 'im this pail with a green octopus in it that keeps squallin' like a seagull that just swallowed an Alka Seltzer tablet as though it were tryin' to say: "Wait! Don't eat me! Cthulhu's my father, he'll pay the ransom!" Unfortunately, Ric an Morty don't speak Octopean, so they take it back to camp with 'em while the little guy's calimadre watches from a patch of cattails gettin' more'n more P.O.'d. Eventually, Octomom can't stand bein' separated from 'er little sushi sampler a minute longer, so she sneaks into the doc's camp under cover of nightfall an tentaclubs one of the scientists an leaves sucker marks all over 'im so it'll look like he got mauled to death by a pack of sex-starved zoology groupies. The next mornin', Ric goes to the International Ecological Institute to show the head nerd his discovery, only the specimen ended up gettin' a little octosmooshed by a coupla Tijuana baggage handlers an didn't survive the trip, an since the guy's never seen Godzilla an fails to realize how similar to man the thing seems to be on a molluskular level, he hasta tell Ric that there's no grant money left cause they spent it all tryin' to figure out why sea slugs don't melt in salt water.
Now Ric's either gotta find another financial backer or get a real job, so he gets in touch with this Mexican P.T. Barnum character (Johnny) who wants the critter for his Cirque du Ole!, an the two of 'em strike a deal so Ric won't hafta go back to artificially inseminatin' goats in Guadalajara. Johnny looks like a combination Robert Shaw an Mandy Patinkin, so Ric's pretty confident this arrangement's gonna work out just fine. So with his team assembled (Johnny, Mort, fellow scientist Susan, Johnny's shit-kickin' flunkie Steve, an Carlos the unspeaking), the group heads back to their camp. Then they meet up with this Hispanic Jesus guy an his buddy Devito (I dunno what the heck they were callin' 'im, but it sounded like "Devito", which is a great name for an Indian dressed like a Mariachi singer), who explain that Devito's Gramma used to tell stories about Octopottamus monsters that lived in the swamp, an that one of 'em popped Devito's Papa's eyeball out with a sucker an body slammed 'im off a cliff, before performin' a series of triumphant D-Generation X style hand gestures with its tentacles. Ric's intrigued, so he asks Devito to show 'im where the creatures're supposed to live, only the Mexican J-man is totally put off by dealin' with anything that even resembles a serpent, so he goes his own way without Devito an ends up gettin' impaled through the gut bucket by the hostile Tentacostal. Meanwhile, the rest of the fiesta parks their Winnebago for the night an pretty quick Devito comes runnin' back from a scoutin' mission to tell Ric that he's located another baby critter an that he needs his Blooper scooper so he can bring it back to camp. Naturally, everyone within earshot goes with 'im, leavin' only Carlos an Johnny stationed at the RV, an next thing you know Carlos gets maullosked to death by The Rocktopus, who then hits the Ock-Bottom on Johnny's candyass. Needless to say, when the gang returns they can't help but feel a little suckered. So they follow the monster's squidmarks down the road an leave Johnny an Suzy back at the trailer where Archie Goofists immediately circles back to beat the crap outta the RV an leave a buncha dentacles in the aluminum siding until Suzy lays on the horn an scares it off.
The noise brings the huntin' party back to camp, only this time the tracks leadin' away head into the nearby lagoon, so Ric, Mort an Steve pile into this little canoe an head out into the lake after it, in the pitch blackness, an... look, there just ain't no other way to say it: this idea's so stupid even Steve Irwin wouldn't try it. As they discover pretty quickly when ole Rubber Blubber pops up an yanks Mort overboard, but fortunately for Mort there doesn't seem to be enough spit on the guy's suction cups for 'em to be completely effective, an he manages to escape with only first degree latex rash an a few half-dollar sized hickeys. Unfortunately, while they're attendin' to Mort, Fatty McKraken squishes back on over to the camp an grabs Suzy so he can carry 'er back to the Cabinet of Dr. Calimari to suck face (or worse), an so Steve hasta go chase after 'em an antagonize R. Lee Arm-y with a flashlight til he gets P.O.'d enough to drop Suzy. Meanwhile, Ric's pourin' gasoline all over the ground like a distracted fuel attendant so he can start a Japanese barbecue that eventually burns up all the oxygen in the entire country an causes the 8-armed bandit to pass out. Then they throw a cargo net over 'im an pump 'im fulla Octocontin an leave 'im layin' on the ground lookin' like the world's angriest Hentai blow-up doll, while Johnny debates the pros of gettin' out while the gettin's good, versus hangin' around to observe the monster in its "natural habitat"... which, accordin' to the scientists, is apparently within the confines of a trawler net. I'm startin' to wonder if these scientists got their degrees from one of those institutes Sally Struthers used to hock on cable. Anyway, later that night the sedatives wear off an the schloctopus rares up to avenge his fallen Hibachitized brethren, only Suzy gets up in his face an does this Mollusk mind meld an convinces it to leave before anymore of the resale value on the Winnebago hasta die needlessly. The next mornin', undaunted by their track record and a seemingly endless bumper crop of incompetence, the group heads down the road apiece til they're stopped by a downed tree. Only Johnny seems even remotely fazed by the fact that the creature who's already killed several members of their party is now packin' a chainsaw, an they begin tryin' to pull the tree outta the road with their winch. But while that's goin' on, Devito wanders up onto a nearby hill an spots the monster headin' into a cave, an rather'n accept that he an his bungling group of explorers is 20,000 leagues outta their league, he hollers for the others who come chargin' up the hill an they pursue ole Squidward Pentacles into his cephalopad. I prolly better cut the review off here, cause all these octopuns're startin' to make me hate myself.
Alrighty, well, based upon what you just read you'd probably assume this thing's about as bad as bad gets, and in most regards that's the God's honest truth, but to its credit it knows its place in cinematic history and is utterly without shame or repentance about it. I'm a little surprised that it's as obscure as it is, because not only is its atrocious rubber-suit monster on display, loud and proud for the bulk of the movie, but it also lacks that build-up that a lot of these flicks have where you've gotta wait half an hour just to get a look at the creature. See, movies like this one always find their cult audiences because even though the guys behind it were setting out to make the best movie they could, they weren't afraid to fail. They promised an Octaman, and they delivered an Octaman, which is why flicks like these will still be fun when there's not a living soul on planet Earth who's borne witness to similar titles like The Phantom from 20,000 Leagues, which is ashamed of its monster and tries to show it as little as possible. Not really much of a jump to this flick for the director though, as he had previously written the screenplay on the Universal classic, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Octaman certainly has its share of moments that mimic Creature, including but not limited to our monster constantly attempting to carry a foxy lady home to his cave, and blockage of the path leading out of the monster's domain in an attempt to stop the trespassers from escaping. Of course, most people just aren't capable of taking on more than one of the three big production jobs and performing those functions adequately, and while we know that Harry wasn't a bad writer (although he did let that "they say the octopus is supposed to be the most intelligent species in the ocean" line slip in there), he's not much of a director, or a producer. Conversely, a coupla guys who would go on to be *very* good at their jobs were Doug Beswick, and the great Rick Baker, who tackled the task of cobbling together the titular Octaman... with limited success. Really though, the budget had to have been such that *nobody* was gonna make this thing look respectable, as is obvious by the fact that Rick's salary for creating the suit was a paltry $1000. Though to be fair, it was his first job on an honest to goodness film, having only done effects work on TV series like Davy and Goliath and Gumby up to that point. And while we're on the subject of money, the IMDB "estimates" this flick's budget at $250,000, but I would again question their methodology on determining that, because there's absolutely no way this movie cost more than $50,000 to make, and it could well have been as low as $40,000 when you consider there were 16 people on the production crew. Whatever the case, you can bet it made its money back at the drive-ins, and if nothing else, it has better production values and a more interesting monster than movies like Bog and Zaat. So even though it may well be an unmitigated disaster on a technical level, it's still pretty funny, as the great Joe Dante proved when he used footage from it in Gremlins 2.
In any event, it's prolly about time to break out the Hibachi knives, chop this thing into sushi and watch the audience for signs of food poisoning. The plot is pretty asinine even by nuclear radiation mutation standards. I mean, I get that the creature's a mutant, but there's not even a half-assed attempt to try explaining why it mutated into the shape of a man, or why Pier Angeli seems able to communicate with it. Early on the doctor mentions to his egg-headed benefactor that his specimen has "all the characteristics of a human cell," but nothing is explained about whether or not this thing got its DNA crossed with a human, so it's pretty pitiful. Faulty reasoning I can kinda accept, but when there's not even an attempt made that's just a little on the lazy side for my liking. The acting on the other hand is probably the best thing about the flick, despite the fact that some of the dialog seems to be dubbed. It's pretty surprising given that most of the the cast hadn't done very much, or if they had, their works generally included other low budget flicks of the same genre. Now I'm not saying they're stellar, or that any of their characters have much depth, but nobody's legitimately bad, and for a movie with a budget this low that's a pretty impressive accomplishment.
Here's who matters and why: Pier Angeli (In the Folds of the Flesh), Kerwin Mathews (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Nightmare in Blood, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, Battle Beneath the Earth, Maniac 1963), Jeff Morrow (This Island Earth, The Creature Walks Among Us, The Giant Claw, Kronos), David Essex (The Cremators), Jerome Guardino (Garden of the Dead, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Crash! 1976, Dead Men Don't Die, Victims 1982), Robert Warner (Black Christmas 1974, Deranged, Funeral Home), Norman Fields (Evil Come Evil Go, The Adult Version of Jekyll & Hyde), Jax Jason Carroll (The Cremators), Wally Rose (Peacemaker 1990, Batman: The Movie), Buck Kartalian (Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, My Favorite Martian 1999, Please Don't Eat My Mother!), Read Morgan (Back to the Future, Nomads, The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension, A Stranger is Watching, The Munsters' Revenge, The Beach Girls and the Monster, Meteor, Time After Time, The Car, Helter Skelter 1976, Shanks, Sleeper, Blood Beach). Pier Angeli was, unfortunately, on a downward spiral career wise, and ended up dying of a drug overdose not long after the filming ended. But before starring in Octaman she had previously played Norma in Somebody Up There Likes Me and Louise in Battle of the Bulge.
The special effects... well, just Google the name of the movie and hit the Images tab. That's really all you need to know. It kinda looks to me as though there might have been multiple suits being utilized in the film, as the creature's arms tend to be situated a little differently in different scenes, but whether that was the case or not, the creature has to be one of the funniest, most ridiculous monsters ever put to film, and it is this single aspect that makes the flick so enjoyable on a camp level. Beyond the suit there isn't really much else to speak of; you've got a popped eyeball that looks really phony, an extremely obvious dummy that gets thrown off a cliff, and a little blood here and there that's much too bright in color. I'm not gonna lie to ya, we're talkin' goose egg on the effects. The shooting locations are pretty nice, although you'd never know it watching Robert Caramico's cinematography. I dunno if it was just inexperience, or whether Rob drank 15 cups of coffee before work everyday, but we're talkin' hippy hippy shakes here. Which is pretty odd, since he went on to have a pretty successful career that ultimately culminated in TV series like The Waltons, Dallas, and Just Shoot Me. The editor didn't exactly do a great job of minimizing it either. Admittedly, some of the movie was filmed in California when it's supposed to be set in Mexico, but if we're judging it strictly upon the chosen locations, they're actually pretty good, particularly the lake. The soundtrack is cheesy beyond words, and features a lot of brass instruments, an organ, and a little bit of that police procedural crap that was big in the late '60s and early '70s, but at the end of the day, most of it is just so weird and out of place that it kinda works, given how screwed up the rest of the movie is. I mean, at this point, it'd actually be a lot weirder if the movie had a well-composed, catchy soundtrack. So the fact that it doesn't make a lot of sense is kinda fun from a personal enjoyment point of view, and not all that damaging on a technical level because the rest of the movie is so bizarre that you can't rightly claim the music doesn't fit in with the tone of the movie on account of the fact that this movie essentially *has* no tone. Overall, it sure as heck isn't gonna pass based upon its technical merit, and it also falls just a teensy bit short of passing based upon my own personal opinion as well, but it's still absolutely worth tracking down and checking out, because I guarantee you you'll never see another monster suit quite like this one for the rest of your movie-viewing life.