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  Twilight People, The Beast Friends
Year: 1973
Director: Eddie Romero
Stars: John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier, Ken Metcalfe, Tony Gosalvez, Kim Ramos, Mona Morena, Eddie Garcia, Angelo Ventura, Johnny Long, Andres Centenera, Letty Mirasol, Cenón González
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Diver Matt Farrell (John Ashley) was out in the Pacific Ocean one day when as he explored underwater a group of other divers approached him, grabbed hold of his body and tied a rope around his legs. They then winched him up out of the water and set him down on their boat as he wondered what on earth was going on. Restrained in one of the cabins, he soon found out: he was being taken to the island settlement of Dr Gordon (Charles Macaulay), and it was his daughter Neva (Pat Woodell) who tells him why. Gordon is carrying out experiments there, and Matt is to be his latest victim...

Nothing to do with moody vampires and the girl who loves them, this was actually a remake of its director Eddie Romero's first international hit, well, if you could call it a hit. It was certainly seen outside of its Filipino homeland, and was called Terror is a Man although the plot was very similar to a particular H.G. Wells novel. Mad scientist experiments on animals to turn them into humans? Ring any bells? That's right, it was The Island of Dr Moreau time again, except with The Twilight People Roger Corman was on board to put up the cash for it, knowing it would provide cheap thrills for drive-in crowds across the States.

Or that was the idea, as while it was undoubtedly cheap, thrills were not exactly on the menu. With regular Romero star John Ashley too uncharismatic here to provide a solid leading man, the scenes were stolen by his chief adversary, no, not Dr Gordon, but his main henchman Steinman. Obviously producing Meat Loaf albums were not enough for him, and he had to move into outrageous vivisection as well - oh, wait, it's a different Steinman, here played with genial menace by stalwart television bad guy Jan Merlin, and far overshadowing the thespian talents of everyone else who appears in the film.

It is this baddie who introduces the other influence on this, and that was The Most Dangerous Game as Matt manages to escape before he can be subject to Dr Gordon's scientific whims (something about creating creatures more adaptable to life on other planets, that old chestnut). Before he makes a break for it, Matt does a spot of skulking about to fill us in on largely irrelevant background, although we do learn that Gordon had a wife who had mysteriously disappeared, plot foreshadowing for the "shocking" climax. Then, teaming up with Neva who has suddenly developed a conscience, he and a bunch of beast persons head off for the jungle and what they hope will be freedom.

Those beast people are perhaps more imaginative than they are practical, with a bat man who has what look like black bin liner wings and takes to the skies in a ridiculous example of hanging your actor from a crane and driving him about, hoping for the best. Equally absurd are the antelope man who has a small pair of antlers and tends to kick his assailants, the wolf woman who is more like a dog woman judging by the barking she has been dubbed over with, and is that our old friend Pam Grier as the panther woman? Why yes it is, barely recognisable but throwing herself into the role, and indeed throwing herself at the other cast members with fangs bared. This quickly becomes tedious as there's not much variation in the fight/run away structure of the plot, but you can amuse yourself trying to identify the library music on the soundtrack: British viewers will find the inclusion of the theme from long-running quiz show Mastermind especially hilarious.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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