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  Octaman Eight Legs To Hate
Year: 1971
Director: Harry Essex
Stars: Pier Angeli, Kerwin Mathews, Jeff Morrow, David Essex, Jerome Guardino, Robert Warner, Norman Fields, Jax Jason Carroll, Wally Rose, Buck Kartalian, Richard Cohen, Samuel Peloso, Read Morgan
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor Rick Torres (Kerwin Mathews) has been researching the effects of radioactive pollution on the nature of rural Mexico and has come to the alarming conclusion that there is a serious problem there. For one thing, he has discovered a strange type of octopus in a pond which is not like any he has seen before, and he wants to take samples of the animal back to his laboratory to investigate it further. However, what he does not know is these octopuses have a parent, a mutant half-man half octopus named Octaman who is not impressed with the way Torres' scientific team have been treating its offspring...

This was one of the horror and science fiction flicks from the nineteen-seventies that took it upon itself to hark back to twenty years or so to the fifties, when schlocky sci-fi was first taking hold in the world's cinemas: space invaders, giant bugs, that sort of affair. Despite other forms of horror movies being popular, such as ecological shockers or Satanic chillers, for some reason many of the lower end of the scale preferred to recreate the kitsch of their childhoods or, in the case of director Harry Essex, the time of their first big hits, for he was the screenwriter of The Creature from the Black Lagoon which you can at least guess at here.

To be fair, even the big budget movies of the seventies were getting in on the act - Steven Spielberg and his Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a tribute to films like It Came from Outer Space, which Essex had also written, for instance - but in the main it was tat like Octaman that came to define these throwbacks. Essex could not exactly be accused of plagiarising himself, anyway, though the difference in quality between what director Jack Arnold had achieved with his screenplay and what Essex managed to throw up on the screen here was marked and frankly, embarrassing, a gulf that a certain famous makeup man behind the scenes could not even cross.

That man being the legendary Rick Baker, well, we all have to start somewhere and it was plain to see he did not have a lot of resources at his disposal to craft his Octaman suit. Essex, seemingly aware of the lack of convincing appearance his monster had, tried to conceal its blatantly rubbery manufacture with dark and day for night shooting, yet apparently was somewhat in love with his creature to the extent that he would forget all that and serve up scenes where it was lumbering around in broad daylight, or up to its waist in water. Unimpressive was the nicest thing you could say about it, and good for a cheap laugh was another, its tentacle-flailing attack sequences resembling nothing less than the fish slapping dance from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

All very well, and all very silly, but there was a completely unwanted tragic aspect to the film, unfortunately. Mathews, who had been the screen's most dashing Sinbad for Ray Harryhausen once upon a time, had a co-star here to play the not really very romantic partner of his scientist, and she was Pier Angeli, a former star of the fifties who come the sixties began to see her once-promising career hit the skids. Some say she never got over the death of fifties movie icon James Dean, the great love of her life, others that she was terrified of ageing, but whatever the truth, she died of a barbiturate overdose part of the way through making this unworthy effort, maybe a suicide, maybe the accidental act of a troubled soul, but the fact remains, it's tough to enjoy even the worst aspects of Octaman while aware of that. Nevertheless, its ludicrous gore and hopeless attempts at suspense may raise a guilty chuckle or two. But you won't feel good about it.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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