Monday, October 09, 2006


When I was a prepubescent horror movie fan, I not only sought out monster flicks but also any literature about monster flicks--at the age of 8, I had a subscription to "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and bought "Castle of Frankenstein" on the newsstands whenever I could find it. I was also a big comic book buff, and occasionally these two interests met, as in a series of photo-comic books based on horror films. The only two of these artifacts I remember vividly were for THE MOLE PEOPLE and THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH. I saw the first film when I was a teenager, but never got a chance to see the second until sometime in the 90's when I saw a cut print of it bludgeoned to death on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Now, thanks to Dark Sky Films, I own an incredibly pristine copy of the film forever on DVD. Is it really worth having forever? No, since it's basically a Frankie & Annette beach movie as if made by Ed Wood. But having had the chance to see this film which inspired lots of chills in me as a child is, to quote the MasterCard ads, priceless.

The film opens with a garbage boat dumping radioactive waste in the ocean. The canisters leak onto skeletons (Why are they there? Who knows?) which in no time flat transform into chintzy looking "Black Lagoon"-type creatures which come trolling along the beach and nearby community looking for young nubile women to slash up. The main characters are introduced at a beach party (duh!) where hunky John Scott is breaking up with slutty Marilyn Clarke, who wants more out of life than clean-cut, whitebread Scott. The movie flirts with "West Side Story" territory when Clarke starts dancing with sexy, swarthy biker Agustin Mayor and a rumble breaks out. Scott finds solace with the equally whitebread Alice Lyon (who looks closer to 40 than 20, though to be fair, Scott is also considerably older than the Party Beach regulars) and Clarke goes for a swim, only to become the first victim of the monsters. The rest of the movie is a series of vignettes of young women getting killed by the shambling creatures, alternating with vignettes of Scott working with Lyon's scientist father (Allen Laurel) at finding a way to stop the bloodshed. Laurel's maid (Eulabelle Moore), who insists that a voodoo curse is the problem, accidentally discovers that sodium is lethal to the monsters, leading to an incoherently staged finale as Scott and the cops try to destroy the beasts just as they're about to do in Lyon. The black and white film is surprisingly gory, especially in an early sequence where the monsters shred a bunch of girls at a slumber party, but unimaginative camerawork, awkward direction, and shoddy post-dubbing drain the last half of the film of any real energy. A band called the Del-Aires provides occasional rock & roll songs, unmemorable except for "The Zombie Stomp." Online critic Bradley Harding of Monsters at Play defends the film as a "send-up" of the American International beach films, but I don't think it was intended as a parody, and if it was, it's not nearly smart or funny enough to be successful on that level. Still, the movie is enjoyable in its sub-B-level way, and I can imagine watching it again when I'm in a nostalgic mood for the trappings of my childhood. [DVD]

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