On a lush, Caribbean island a deranged scientist creates a deadly genetic aberration: half-rat, half-monkey - Ratman (Nelson De La Rosa)! We know the scientist is deranged because he genuinely thinks this crackpot creation will win him the Nobel Prize. “They all thought I was a fool”, he cackles, quoting from the Mad Scientists’ Book of Verse. “But we’ll show them, won’t we?” The pint-sized mutant immediately goes on a killing spree, targeting a trio of glamorous fashion models, led by photographer, Mark (Werner Procath). When the most celebrated model, Marilyn (Eva Grimaldi) is mistakenly reported as dead, her sister Terry (Janet Agren) arrives on the island. Terry hooks up with wisecracking crime writer, Fred Williams (the late, great David Warbeck) and together they follow a bloody trail wrought by the ravenous Ratman.
Never before released in the UK, Shameless Screen Entertainment are touting Ratman (known in Italian as: Quella Villa In Fondo Al Parco) as a “forgotten classic”, but only die-hard fans of Italian trash will derive anything other than boredom. There is a good reason this stayed buried for twenty years. While ridiculous, the premise sort of works on a b-movie level, but as scripted by Dardano Sacchetti and Elsa Briganti, who enjoyed great success with their run of gothic horrors for Lucio Fulci, the film outstays its welcome even at a scant 78 minutes. Characters are deeply dull, there is padding aplenty courtesy of Marilyn’s tedious glamour shoots (complete with ’80s rock music), and disparate plot strands that stubbornly refuse to gel. Early on, Mark spies the Ratman lurking in the corner of a photograph. Despite his suspicions, he never mentions it again and is abruptly bumped off in the third act. The cops haul Terry into the morgue with hilarious frequency, each time mistakenly identifying a corpse as her sister until eventually, like the audience, she yells enough is enough.
Italian cult film stars Janet Agren and David Warbeck already battled sewer mutants in Panico (1982), but have surprisingly little interaction with the main story. The bulk of the action rests with Eva Grimaldi, whose career started off on a high with Federico Fellini’s Intervista (1987), but seemingly went downhill quite soon. Grimaldi soaps herself up whilst eyeballed by Ratman in a lingering showering scene that may briefly keep some viewers awake. She spends the protracted final sequence shrieking hysterically as he pops out of cupboards, drawers, handbags (!), and a refrigerator. The star turn here is Nelson De La Rosa, who earned cult notoriety as Marlon Brando’s sidekick in The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996). Director Giuliano Carnimeo utilizes extreme close-ups on eyeballs, P.O.V. shots and a moody synth score, but the sight of a dwarf actor, blacked up, with rodent teeth remains in questionable taste. Still, this is an exploitation movie. It’s worth repeating that anyone who expects to win a Nobel Prize for creating a rat-mutant whose talons secrete a deadly toxin, is severely deluded. “He has the instinct of a rat and the intelligence of a monkey. That’s quite a combination. A dangerous combination!” Another classic line from our mad scientist (of whom I’ve grown quite fond).
David Warbeck later described Carmineo as “a bit of a lost cause”, and claimed producer Fabrizio De Angelis stepped in to salvage the movie. Carmineo (or is it De Angelis?) pulls off an effective sequence wherein one model is stalked by a knife wielding maniac, only to be slaughtered by the Ratman instead. Certain sequences have an irrational, nightmarish quality that works well in spots, but the idiotic, would-be shock ending remains inexcusable. The Ratman stashes himself inside Terry’s luggage and we freeze-frame on an airplane accompanied by the sound of passengers screaming. It’s frustratingly inconclusive for anyone still following the plot, and plain dumb for everyone else. Hopefully someone sat on him.