Creatures and crazies of the early 1970s

Ah. The early 1970s, when I was just a wee toddler and a few short years away from my first dose of horror movies. I wish I could remember what the first genuine horror movie was that I actually watched. I imagine it was something made for television. Anyway, let’s look at these four, which it took me fifty years to get to…

OCTAMAN (1971)

I’m all about lots of creature action in my horror and loads of rubber monster fun, but Octaman has little else to offer.

The writer of the original The Creature from the Black Lagoon directs this film and seems to be making up for not having the creature on the screen at every moment of that film. We never get a fricking break from Octaman. Octadude, if you hang around our camp all the time, you’re just the nasty douche bag in our group, not a scary sea monster.

Researchers in Mexico find a bunch of little squealing octopus creatures, and within minutes the full grown Octaman is infiltrating their camp.

And that’s it. 78 minutes of Octaman attacking the research team. There’s plenty of dark lighting to capture the horror spirit, plus multi-eye Octaman POV, as well as numerous attacks with some nice gore and the obligatory damsel in distress, but there’s no suspense to be had because there are no highs and lows in this film. There’s also little in the way of plot.

THE CORPSE GRINDERS (1971)

When a film starts on a stormy night with a meowing kitty—that attacks a woman viciously when she opens the door for it—I’m so in.

And then the rest of this gritty little flick happened.

The epitome of low budget early 70s sleaze, this hot mess is about a cat food company that has run out of resources. So they start paying a dude to supply them with bodies from the cemetery to use as their meat.

There are several nice and nasty kitty cat attacks over the course of the film, loads of weird characters that seem like they just escaped from an insane asylum, and a skanky doctor/nurse couple looking into why cats are suddenly craving human flesh.

However, this goofy movie is more about the battle between the guy at the cat food company and the guy at the cemetery as their business deal goes sour. Hell, it even ends with a gun fight instead of a cat fight.

THE CREEPING FLESH (1973)

This movie follows the same formula as Hammer films from the tail end of the Cushing/Lee period piece horror era. It would have been better than most Hammer films if it had been edited down to 30 minutes and used as a short in an anthology film.

Cushing is a scientist who finds a large skeleton during an expedition and discovers its skin grows back when it gets wet. Research convinces him it is evil manifested in physical form, so he uses it to create a serum to cure evil.

A whole lot of extraneous shit happens involving his deceased wife, his daughter, and a mental institution run by his brother, played by Christopher Lee. None of it adds anything to the main plot, which eventually cuts to the chase in the final act.

The skeleton eventually gets wet, transforms into a hideous creature, and goes to reclaim something Cushing took from it (only genuine horror scene of the film). This is followed by the kind of zinger ending that would have been perfect for a short in an anthology, but is not worth an extra hour of nonsense to get to.

MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973)

It’s odd when a film can have a generally simple setup yet little continuity. This freaky little low budget movie is loaded with creepy, trippy scenes and settings, but nothing ever seems to really come together.

A husband, wife, and daughter take jobs at a dilapidated amusement park that seems to lack any crowds whatsoever, but they’re secretly there for a different reason anyway—the son went missing at the park and never came home.

What could possibly have happened to him? Did the weird janitor with the gray face get him? Did he lose his head on the guillotine roller coaster? Did the cannibalistic ghouls that live under the park watching black and white movies get him? Did he get lost in the room full of eerie hanging dolls? Did the drag queen fortune teller get him? Or was he shot by Tattoo from Fantasy Island, who runs around the park waving a shotgun?

Visually it’s a nightmarish experience, just don’t look for any logic.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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