Sting of Death
Year of Release: 1966
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 80 minutes (1:20)
Director: William Grefe
Joe Morrison ... Dr. John Hoyt
Valerie Hawkins ... Karen Richardson
John Vella ... Egon
Jack Nagle ... Dr. Richardson
Sandy Lee Kane ... Louise
Deanna Lund ... Jessica
Lois Etelman ... Donna
Blanche Devereaux ... Susan
Doug Hobart ... Egon as a monster
A mad marine biologist sneaks off to an underwater lab, transforms himself into a mutant half-man, half-jellyfish, and attacks college kids with his STING OF DEATH! Why? Because he's in love! Really. And with his giant bulbous head (that looks like a man trapped inside a plastic garbage bag), the jellyfish man may very well be the single most hilarious-looking movie monster yet committed to film.
Sting of Death, remindin' us that when men were men we didn't need no First Lady from some Commienist speakin' country tellin' us how to deal with bullies, no sir; time was you'd just mutate into a half-man, half-mollusk type creature an start crackin' collegiate yuppy skulls like academia nuts til you got your point across. #BeBeast, everyone.
Speakin' of sucker punches, though - ya think ya know a guy, then, outta nowhere - BAM, the ole machete through the back. Now I know what Jesus musta felt like after that whole shekel thing with what's-his-name. It's almost too sickenin' to even talk about, but I feel it's my duty as a patriotic American to get the truth out now before the situation gets outta hand an spreads to other parts of the county. Last week, while I was sweepin' up all the pizza boxes from the previous evenin's shindig into neat an manageable piles... whew... this is a little tough here... um, I found a wadded up receipt... from the Redbox machine at the Jiffy Mart. Now I know whatcher prolly thinkin' an NO - I did not get trashed on Pole Cat beer an rent Paddington 2 in a moment of extreme disorientation; I know this because I couldn't possibly afford the amount of beer required to do that. No, this little contract with Satan *had* to've been left behind by one of my alleged "friends" durin' the previous evenin's shenanigans, so once I finished throwin' up in the clothes hamper, I started layin' the groundwork necessary to unmask the traitor in my midst.
Course I hadda lie an tell everybody I'd found a $20 on the floor so's not to tip off the scheming, back-stabbing treason weasel that I was onto 'em, but I was able to gather everyone back together the followin' night to get to the bottom of things, an once I'd sworn everybody to truthfulness on a copy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I called the court to order.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, an nothin' but the truth, so help you Saw?" I asked, lookin' for signs of hesitation on the faces of the five suspects - but nobody was tippin' their hand just yet.
"If you'll all take a moment to examine Exhibit 'BS,' you'll notice that the fugitive is guilty not only of irredeemable bad taste, but also of aidin' an abettin' the enemy, namely: Redbox, who seeks nothin' less than the complete and utter destruction of the video store as we know it," I decreed as I passed the receipt around for inspection.
"I'm sure you all understand the seriousness of these charges an the court's desire... nah, the hell with that: the court's NEED to out the charlatan responsible in a fair an impartial manner - but I called Cletus Rubenstein an since he charges $16 an hour for legal services you'll all hafta represent yourselves. Billy, you're up first, take the stand already," I told 'em.
"Vuh whah?" he said.
"The stand!" I clarified via volume increase.
"You mea' vuh bahcowoungow?" he queried, sassin' me like nobody's business.
"For cripes sake Billy, just work with me here," I mumbled through the palm of my hand - "yes the barcalounger." Billy shrugged an parked his backside.
"Mr. Hilliard, would you please tell the court where you were on the night of April 5th at exactly 8:47pm?" I asked.
"Wif you, dumath - thith wuv pwin'ed Fwilay while we wul ah the Gwime Thime," Billy pointed out as rudely an loudly as possible.
"Oh... yeah, I guess I remember somethin' about that... alright, Mr. Hilliard you're free to stop puttin' irreparable strain on the springs in my recliner," I says, wavin' Billy off the witness stand, an the next witness into it.
"Now, Mr. Tetnis, if that IS your real name-"
"It ain't, midget," Tetnis broke in.
"Well then, lummox - please state your name for the court," I instructed.
"The defense requests that you kindly bite me, your honor," Tetnis snarked.
"Listen butthole, just tell us where you were on the night in question an you can get back to rollin' drunks or WHATEVER it is you do on your day off," I demanded.
"Performing a medical procedure," Tetnis muttered.
"How convenient! Attempting to extract your head from your ass after finally realizin' the nature of your heinous crimes against humanity an the Videodome, perhaps?" I prodded.
"Doctor/patient confidentiality prevents me from sayin' anything more, but I'll tell ya one thing, twerp: you're gonna need my services if you're implyin' I rented that movie," Tetnis glared from the defense barcalounger.
"Is there anyone who can vouch for this alleged 'medical procedure' you claim occurred?" I questioned, figurin' I'd better tamp down on the attitude if I was gonna survive long enough to pass sentence, but about that time I noticed Tetnis stealthily shoot a questioning glance over at Sadie Bonebreak, to which she rolled 'er eyes an nodded.
"Sadie had an... obstruction that needed looked at," Tetnis offered.
"Sadie you didn't tell me nothin' about this, what the heck's he talkin' about?" I said, kinda hurt by the sting of bein' outta the loop.
"Oh for shit's sake, it was just a pop bottle that got stuck up-" Sadie tried explainin'.
"The two witnesses in question are exonerated on all charges an will, for the love of God, refrain from explainin' any further!" I hollered with my fingers in my ears. That kinda thing's all well an good when you're payin' a professional $3.99 a minute, but when it's a friend talkin' about it it's just plain creepy.
"Big baby," Sadie snickered before floppin' back down on the hide-a-bed.
"Will the next witness please take the barcalounger please?" I requested, only no one did.
"Who's next?" I repeated, shufflin' through an old Dragon Warrior walkthrough so it'd look like I had the preceedins mapped out an wasn't just flyin' by the seat of my pants.
"Hey, you're all outta Pole Cats in here, what kinda clip joint is this?!" came a growl from the kitchen.
"Duke, get your hinder in here before I cite you for contempt an revoke your fridge privileges!" I yelled.
"I ain't sayin' nothin' til I get a beer," Duke declared, crossin' his arms like an old school marm that'd just caught somebody doodlin' cartoon wangs in the margin of their math book.
"There's one in the toilet tank - you can have it AFTER we're done here; sides, I don't want that stuff cloudin' your memory," I squinted. I think he gave me the finger after that, but it's hard to tell through all that hair.
"Mr. Tankersley, as the night has progressed, the process of elimination points more'n more to the likelihood that it was in fact YOU who made the illicit rental from that tripe dispensing abomination near the beef jerky display - a display that, I might add, you are particularly fond of - now, what do you have to say for yourself?" I grunted.
Duke just leaned forward real slow, beckoned me closer with a finger, an said: "the house ain't got electricity, Judge Puny."
After that I hadda call a five minute recess to gather my thoughts while the laughter died down, but the really distressin' thing was that Duke's innocence almost certainly branded Cleave Furguson as our perp, an the thought of that was so sickenin' that I ended up returnin' the delicious leftover carp casserole Billy's mama'd sent over cause she says I'm "wastin' away," back to the Earth from whence it came.
I'd known Cleave since Freshman year when we decided to opt out an survive by our wits, an this just didn't seem like the man I knew. Nonetheless, I hadda know the truth - we *all* did - so I called everyone back to order an proceeded to grill Cleave like a bucket fulla perch on the barbecuer.
"Mr. Furguson, have you no decency?" I finally mustered as politely as possible.
Cleave responded with his usual lightnin' like reflexes: "huh?"
"Come on Cleave, just tell us the truth an maybe we'll see our way to reducin' your sentence to death by Barbra Streisand, or would that even phase you at this point?" I pressed, still shakin' my head in disbelief.
"You've got no proof!" Cleave squealed.
"Oh, haven't we?! Everyone here's got an alibi except you - can you vouch for your whereabouts on the night in question?" I asked, gettin' a little irritated.
"I was at the shop workin' on Butch Hogan's bear mount," Cleave insisted.
"Alone?" I pressured.
"Of course alone! You know I can't afford help!" he objected.
"Certainly not since you an Roxanne Bigelow got together," I pointed out.
"You leave her outta this!" Cleave roared.
"She's got you wrapped around 'er finger like a greasy little curly fry, don't she?!" I continued, gettin' a little sidetracked.
"So what if she does?! What's that got to do with the Redbox?!" he deflected.
"Motive!" I howled over the top of 'im as he continued lyin' through his teeth, but while all this was goin' on the phone started ringin' in the kitchen, an since nobody else seemed to notice, Duke grabbed it while he was up fishin' his beer outta the can.
"Yeap," he answered.
"Mmmhm, he's right here, you wanna talk at 'eem?"
"Mhmm, okay, I'll tell 'im. Yup, bye now," he said before hangin' up an headin' into the livin' room.
Course he hadda shout to deliver the message on account of all the litigatin' goin' on at the time, but once he stepped into the court room he finally bellowed: "Hey, Cleave! That was Roxanne - she wanted me to remind you to grab Ralph Breaks the Internet outta the Redbox on your way home!"
At that moment all eyes converged on Cleave as he assessed his chances of makin' it to the front door, before finally shriekin': "It wasn't for me! I didn't even like it!"
"Judas!" Sadie snarled.
"You thonofabish!" Billy added.
"How was she?" Duke queried from the kitchen.
"Get him!" I roared, an so we all dog-piled on Cleave til he turned purple an we forced 'im to confess his sins to Drive-In Jesus before crammin' 'im in a Hefty bag for safe keepin' while we contemplated the most humane means of beatin' the stuffin' out of 'im as part of the rehabilitation process.
We thought long an hard about it while Cleave rolled around the broom closet, screamin' his case through the gag we'd fashioned outta Apollo's old tug sock, til finally we reached a consensus an dragged his pitiful carcass outta there to face sentence.
He was a gibberin' mess by then, but he managed to get out: "I swear, it's Wes Craven from here on out! Everybody falls off the wagon now and then you guys, come on! You gotta cut me some slack!"
But he didn't mean it - not yet anyway; he was just tryin' to get home to Roxanne an we all knew it. If Cleave was to be redeemed he was gonna need help, an it was our charge, as his friends, to help 'im, so finally I looked 'im right square in the eye an I says: "Cleave, this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you - Sadie, tell him how the bottle got stuck."
It was touch an go for the next few days, but he's started talkin' again an I think he'll be able to go back to work tomorrow; most importantly though, I think he's got Roxanne down offa that pedestal now, so hopefully the two of 'em can move on to the first stage of a truly healthy relationship - thinly veiled resentment.
I just hope that if the day ever comes where I start takin' in Sally Field flicks an sayin' things like "who's for espresso?" Cleave an the guys'll do the same for me. On the plus side though, while we were waitin' around for a sign from Drive-In Jesus on how best to bring Cleave back to Him, we had enough time to check out this flick about a guy who used to play Defensive Tackle for the Raiders until he got so tired of John Madden stealin' pork chop sandwiches outta his locker that he decided to move down to Florida an chase college drama students while dressed as a radial tire. It's basically the same movie as Blood Waters of Dr. Z, only without the professionalism an extravagant budget, but I know you guys aren't the sorta people who get hung up about shallow stuff like that, so since you've both been waitin' patiently all week, I'll cut to the chase an deliver unto you a few of the flick's most potable notables. First, up through the 1960s all bipedal movie critters were required to attend at least one full semester at monster med school to learn the telltale signs of light-headedness in women in an effort to prevent structural damage to the set caused by falling, unsecured bouffant hairdos. Second, for those concerned about the well-being of the stunt monster - wearing an air-tight plastic trash bag over one's head for extended periods was first tested on members of the writing team, whose adverse reactions were considered within acceptable parameters for brain damage by the Screenwriter's Guild of America. An third, there once existed women in Florida who refused to get nekkid for greasy guys with ponytails claimin' to be makin' a movie.
The movie begins, like most unfortunate stories, in Florida, where a radio's alertin' a sunbather to reports of missin' fishermen, til pretty quick this Rastafarian sea monster with winch cable dreadlocks swims up to the dock an tries rippin' the legs offa Annette Poonicello to give to the Little Mermaid so he won't hafta listen to 'er whine about goin' "where the people are" no more, only the beach blanket bimbo won't go quietly an he ends up havin' to hold 'er head underwater til all the septic tank runoff does 'er in. We're talkin' Poo Lagoon here; it's not a pretty sight. Then this guy who's cultivatin' a Gorbechev birthmark (Dr. Richardson) brings a buncha girls with long legs an short attention spans (Karen, Louise, Jessica, Donna, an Susan) down to his Mar-a-Lardo resort in the Keys to help 'em cram for finals week at the Stewardess Training Academy, an their first test is to get presentable in 10 minutes or less before all the apprentice charter boat captains show up stinkin' of marlin guts an Keystone Light to judge their fitness to serve adorable little whiskey bottles an pretzels that taste like they've been in the bottom of a tackle box since the Hoover Administration. Cept before that happens the sheriff drops by to show Richardson an his assistant (John) this dead guy with a shit-eatin' grin who looks like he died playin' peek-a-boo with a roman candle. John an the doc both agree that the man was clearly a pervert who deliberately tried makin' out with a jellyfish to get stung so all the women on the beach would feel bad for 'im an pee on his face, but both seem skeptical that anything could live in the waters off Florida long enough to grow to the size necessary to inflict the damage they're seein' - the doc's creepy luggage monkey (Egon) insists it's possible an that he's seen such creatures, but he's ugly so nobody listens to him.
Then the sheriff leaves an John's rowdy friends show up to talk over each other so you can't understand a word anybody says an before ya know what's happenin' the situation escalates to "affluent white teenage hootenanny" status an pretty quick the violent fanny shakin' produces so much swamp gas that Gulf Breeze becomes a permanent U.F.O. hot spot. Next thing you know all the future fish-gutters of America surround Egon an start treatin' 'im like a black man at the lunch counter of Kousin Kracker's Krab Shack til he hasta jump in his fan boat an go call the Axe body spray hotline to lodge a formal complaint with the customer service department, while John reassures Karen that when they're not attacking people who're slightly different from themselves just for existing his friends're all really fine people. Then everybody dances around the pool like epileptic roosters with vertigo til the frogman of Chernobyl sneaks in an starts performin' pressure tests on people's faces an meltin' 'em into cream of dumplin' soup so they hafta jump on the party barge an make for Bayou Billy's Backwater Surgery Center, cept before they shove off Marshy Marsh pries a plank off the hull with a fire axe an pretty quick the boat sinks an everybody on board gets attacked by a school of inflated pastel condoms with strings of Mardi Gras beads attached an die of excruciatingly bad acting. Eventually mornin' rolls around an Egon still ain't come home, so Richardson takes John, Jessica, an Donna to look for 'im an make sure he ain't done anything desperate like accept a teachin' gig at FSU, only his shanty's emptier'n a rest stop soap dispenser, an when Donna goes squishin' around outside the creature from the crack lagoon spots 'er an forces 'er to catch crawdads with 'er face.
Then John finds 'er bandana an everybody goes scuba divin' in two feet of scum water that looks exactly like the ocean at Everglades National Park, only by now the monster's snuck back to the house an attached a giant grocery bag to his head to protect 'im from Glynnis 'O Connor, an he sneaks into the bathroom an proceeds to smear KY jellyfish goo all over Susan while she's in the shower latherin' up 'er buoys. By this point there's been such extensive damage to the melon crop that Florida's gonna hafta start recruitin' produce from Catholic schools in Savannah just to reach their stripper quota for the year, an Richardson's so rattled that he's prepared to flee to Panama City despite the likelihood of bein' rubed to death by tourists from Alabama. Unfortunately, all the boats're either upside down or low on gas, an while John an the doc're screwin' around with the H.A.M. radio tryin' to get an S.O.S. signal to Art Bell, Egon finally comes home an decides it's time to tell Karen he'd like to shuck 'er clam an how he didn't really *want* to dress up like a radioactive crappie jig an kill all those college kids, an totally wouldn't have, except they started it. Course this revelation causes vapor lock inside Karen's head an makes 'er faint, allowin' Egon to scoop 'er up like roadkill off the highway an get 'er into his fan boat where he manages to mutilate several endangered species en route to his secret lair in the Everglades while Karen lays sprawled out in the backseat like a manatee with indigestion, before draggin' 'er into his top secret grotto an forcin' 'er to look at his little man-of-war. I really should put on a lid on it before I accidentally let the catfish outta the bag, but I will say this: if you were riveted by the the Captain Kirk vs. gator-man episode of Star Trek, you might wanna lower your expectations a little.
Alrighty, so as you can see we're basically talkin' Florida Man Rents a Video Camera here, and as far as I'm concerned that's a pretty good alternative to runnin' around nekkid on the freeway like he'd ordinarily be doin' on a Tuesday afternoon. Seriously though - if you want regional '60s schlock Horror you look to Florida first, cause even Texas couldn't complete with the likes of William Grefe, Doris Wishman, and the Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Texas was certainly a close second, but they lacked the nudist colonies, the endless supply of young people devoid of inhibitions willin' to make asses of themselves for less than scale, and Cuban drug smugglers bringin' in the good stuff. William Grefe isn't exactly in the same league as Herschell Gordon Lewis of course, as he lacked Lewis' advertising expertise, and thus, his understanding of what would get people off their butts and down to the drive-in, but then Lewis was a bit of a troll at heart - constantly trying to hack off the right people with offensive material to garner the most attention for his films, where Grefe seems to have made his movies simply because he enjoyed the experience. At the end of the day, both Lewis and Grefe's flicks are pretty bad, but Grefe lacked the imagination and gumption of H.G.L. and that's why he's languished largely in obscurity, with his best known picture probably being The Wild Rebels as a result of its having been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Then, to add insult to injury, five years later along came Don Barton and the next thing you know Grefe can no longer even claim to have made the best half-man/half-fish flick in the state of Florida when Blood Waters of Dr. Z hit the theaters (oh, and by the way, Bill, if you're readin' this - I'd totally sue that guy if I was you). One thing you've gotta give Sting of Death is that it racks up a pretty high body count for a flick from 1966, but when it's all said and done the only real reason to watch it is for the '60s nostalgia, and to satisfy your longing for a time when a guy could make a flick that didn't hafta make a lick of sense for $29.95 and know that no matter how badly it turned out he could get it up on the big screen.
I really hate to burst a flick's bubble dome like this, but it'd be morally bankrupt of me to let it skate on its cold-blooded murder of two dozen obnoxious college students, so we'd prolly better take a closer look at the comedy stylins of Mr. Grefe, even though I'm pretty sure none of ya's ready for this jelly. The plot is, of course, monumentally stupid, insofar as Egon's basically turned himself into a half-man/half-radial-tire entirely to prove to the guy whose forehead bruise keeps growing and shrinking at random throughout the movie that man-of-war jellyfish can get bigger than he thinks. That's the motive here. I guess you could argue that he's also doin' it to get back at the people who keep makin' fun of him because he's ugly, but that's kinda like rollin' in roadkill to stick it to people who say you stink. That's to say nothing of the fact that he can change between his two forms by stickin' his face in an aquarium with his big mama jellyfish, but there's really no reason to spike the ball. The acting, while awkward, stiff, and likely the result of a banner reading "open acting tryouts" tacked to a telephone pole at a busy intersection, is not quite "bottom of the barrel" thespianism, as they're at least a full inch above the bottom of said barrel. It's still really bad of course, made worse by vapid dialog seldom seen outside Oreck vacuum cleaner infomercials airing at 3:30 in the mornin'. I don't wanna spoil the movie or your dinner by lettin' loose *too* many examples, but my favorites were probably: "Karen, these new dances are not for me; your mother and I used to shine doing the Big Apple, but the Twist? The Ska? Nuh uh. Not for us senior citizens," and "Egon, what are you saying? What on God's name do you mean?" That last one's not a typo, just to be clear. And then there's the dancing, good grief is there ever dancing, but describing it doesn't do it justice - you've gotta see it for yourself.
Here's who matters and why, so try not to blink: Jack Nagle (Mako: The Jaws of Death), Deanna Lund (Transylvania Twist, Superstition 2, Dimension 5, Elves), Doug Hobart (Impulse 1974, Death Curse of Tartu), Tony Gulliver (Around the World Under Sea).
The special effects have got to be some of the most pitiful in the history of film, and while I'm not quite willing to say the Jellyman is *the* worst monster in history (I'm sorry, but I just don't see The Creeping Terror ever being dethroned), the floating inflatable party decor posing as man-of-war jellyfish provide a great one-two punch in conjunction with the Jellyman himself. As for the main event, he's basically a guy in a standard wetsuit, with standard flippers (complete with open spaces that show his very human ankles at times), gloves, and some kind of tendril-like material that dangles down to his waist to simulate tentacles. This is, of course, until later in the flick when we finally get to see his head, which is everything I'd hoped it'd be; a translucent trash bag that's not quite opaque enough to hide the actor's head. I still say the rug from Creeping Terror's worse, but it's not an easy thing to argue. There's also some gooey facial appliances that're bad, but not on the same level as the monster, and some ketchupy blood, but needless to say the Jellyman is so ridiculous that trying to salvage even a 1/10 score on the special effects front is completely impossible.
The shooting locations are nice despite mediocre cinematography and pitiful attempts by the editor to blend two completely different locations together. On an entertainment level it's really funny watching people pretend to dive into 3' of nasty inland scum water and then appear in a crystal clear lagoon filled with tropical fish, but on a technical level cranky critics are gonna tear you to pieces. Still, the rest of the movie fails so spectacularly that the scenes of the Everglades that they managed to get in focus make the shooting locations the highlight. The soundtrack is probably the second least bungled aspect of the movie, and features a melancholy and even slightly catchy track that plays over the opening credits. It's the only track that stands out, with the rest of the instrumental score alternating between oceanic Flipper-esque woodwind/string combinations and "Timmy in peril" music during the "dramatic" scenes. But the real highlight of the soundtrack is Neil Sedaka's hysterical "Do the Jellyfish." Lemme just say that I'm not sure where Neil got the idea that a jellyfish did anything but float like a lump of toad eggs on the surface of the water, but the cast certainly obliges with their own ideas of how a "Jilla, jalla, jellafish" would dance if it had bones or any real control over its bodily movements, and they do not disappoint. And yes, this is the same Neil Sedaka who sang "Breaking up is Hard to Do," "Calendar Girl," and "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen," who blamed the British Invasion for ruining his career and forcing him to take gigs like this one. I realize that sounds a little petty, but after witnessing the pool scene in Sting of Death it's easy to see why the guy was so P.O.'d. Overall, you've gotta be a real connoisseur of crapola to get much enjoyment out of this, as the poverty row production values make it difficult to enjoy even on an ironic level, and its slow pacing hamstrings it even further. That said, it's definitely a bizarre little movie - so much so that I think it would be wrong to try steering folks away from it, so if you enjoyed Zaat (aka The Blood Waters of Dr. Z), you might wanna give it a chance, but if that's a bridge too far you'll definitely wanna avoid this one.