All the Not-So-Classic Movies That I Have Seen
1. The Mutations (1974) aka The Freakmaker.
As you can tell from the above image, this film has one of the creepiest posters ever made. Indeed, that poster used to haunt my dreams whenever it appeared in the local newspaper. But unfortunately, the movie itself doesn’t quite live up to that poster.
It does showcase Tom Baker -- then most famous for his role as Rasputin in 1971’s Nicholas and Alexandra
-- as Lynch, the freakish henchman of a mad scientist (played by Donald Pleasence). But it also features him doing a whole lot of shameful overacting. His wardrobe in this film seems close to that which he would later wear as the lead character in the Dr. Who
series so that those who watch this movie have the odd chance to see Baker play a character who dresses like the Doctor but doesn’t in any way act like the Doctor. The movie is not all that well-known but I can't really pretend that that isn't a blessing in disguise.
Anyway, the plot -- what little there is of it -- involves the above-mentioned mad scientist hiring Lynch to kidnap various people in return for a vague promise of curing Lynch’s freakish condition. Lynch chooses to prey on a gang of local college students and the scientist uses these students in a series of experiments involving artificial mutation of the human body. Eventually one of the students' associates gets wise and tries to rescue the last victim before she gets experimented on. There is also a subplot which involves a local freak show that Lynch runs and where he displays the unsuccessful results of the doctor’s experiments.
The movie starts off in almost documentary fashion as if the filmmakers wanted the movie to be taken for a serious work of science fiction. But apart from one scene, the film is never as good as the presence of Baker and Pleasence would suggest. At least one actress in the cast seemed to have been cast more for her willingness to appear in various states of undress than any actual talent, and the plot itself all too often makes it seem to be little more than a Z-grade horror film with delusions of grandeur. Michael Dunn, who is most famous for his villainous roles on the TV series Wild Wild West
, appears as a midget who is leader of the freaks that Lynch supervises, but he too seems trapped by the bad script.
As I noted above, there is one scene in the movie in which the movie showed signs of wanting to be a far better movie than it actually is. In this scene, Lynch seeks out a paid companion and reveals the depths to which he will stoop to gain even the semblance of affection from a so-called “normal” person -- depths that are even more pathetic when one considers that this scene follows one in which he is shown spurning an attempt at friendship made by the members of the freak show he runs.
But, alas, the film isn’t all that interested in the implications of that scene. Nor in its not-so-subtle attempt to contrast the monstrous actions of Lynch and the scientist with the comparatively normal actions of the “freaks.” Any similarities to Tod Browning’s classic Freaks
are no doubt meant to be intentional but alas the film is nowhere close to being in the same league. What a pity.
2. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971).
Given her resemblance to her male co-star Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick seems such an apt choice to play the female alter ego of Bates’s Dr. Jekyll character that it’s a shame we don’t see more of her in this movie. Unlike all too many actresses in the 1970s, Beswick manages to be as alluring with her clothes on as she does with them off. And of course, she looks absolutely ravishing in a red dress. Not to mention the fact that she plays a far more compelling villainess than one would expect. (And this from a guy who was bored stiff by Sharon Stone’s villainess in Basic Instinct
So what’s wrong? Well, for one thing, the movie tends to throw far too many different elements into its brief story -- not all of which work. Thus we don’t just get a classic variation on the Jekyll/Hyde story -- with Jekyll this time seeking immortality by way of female hormones (?!) -- we get a Burke and Hare movie, a Jack the Ripper movie and so on and so forth. Though Jekyll is initially shown as a sympathetic character who is genuinely interested in curing diseases, he crosses over to the dark side so fast he almost strains credibility. Nor does it help that the script never really explains whether his female alter ego (the Sister Hyde of the title) is naturally evil or trained to be evil when Jekyll finds it useful for his research. Or whether his inability to control her in the later half of the film is due to his own latent tendencies toward evil.
The Brian Clemens script is witty but not always as clever as a hardcore Avengers
fan like myself would prefer. There’s even a romantic subplot of sorts that works better than I reckoned as well as hints of Victorian wrongdoing that only the British can do so well. But the film never gels as much as I’d like. And the trickier and more interesting moral questions of the plot are more hinted at than explored.
Oh, well. I’ve seen a more modern version of this movie when it was remade in the 1990s with Sean Young. That version was horrible.
This version at least is watchable even though I kept wanting it to be better than it was. For what it's worth, the film’s final image is just right. Even though it doesn’t involve Ms. Beswick.
3. Captain Kronos -- Vampire Hunter (1974).
Like many Hammer films of the early 1970s, this film was shot on a low budget and it shows. Nor is the storyline as consistent as it could be. And, of course, the title promises a more exciting movie than you actually get.
The love interest is played by actress Caroline Munro and the most merciful thing I can say about her performance is that she’s no threat to Jamie Lee Curtis or more recent scream queens. But then her character is given little to do but smile inanely and occasionally provide horizontal entertainment for the hero so it may be just as well.
However, the moodier scenes still work and there are actually a few good sword fights as well. Writer/director Brian Clemens -- yes, the same Clemens who wrote the previous film -- doesn't quite reinvent the vampire genre as well as he did the spy genre with The Avengers
, but he makes a respectable showing in a genre in which far more respectable films all too often come across as laughable. It's a pity he couldn't have collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola on Coppola's vampire movie...
Labels: Capitán Kronos Cazador de Vampiros, Doctor Jekyll y Su Hermana Hyde, Donald Pleasence, Hammer Productions, Las Mutaciones, Martine Beswick, Películas de Halloween II, Películas Neoclásicas I, Ralph Bates