Monday, November 30, 2015


In Victorian England, a rash of what seem to be wild animal attacks has been occurring near the stately home of entomologist Carl Mallinger (Robert Flyming) and his lovely daughter Clare. The latest victim, bloody but still clinging to life, is brought to Mallinger's house where he is finished off before he can tell the police anything incriminating. It turns out that there is a giant monster (with huge red eyes and big wings) roaming the countryside. And it's a human-sized Death's-head moth monster. And the monster is his daughter. Or maybe she's not really his daughter but his Frankenstein monster-like creation. We're pushed toward the creation option because 1) we see a skit that Mallinger's (handsome male) students put on which is a play on the Frankenstein story, and 2) Mallinger is in the midst of creating a mate for her, hence the deaths of several of his handsome male students—and one hunky but dim gardener—though the mate creature winds up being a failure. When Clare realizes that Dad is giving up on the project, his days are numbered, but so are hers because Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) is on the case.

I have rarely seen a movie that looks so good on the anamorphic TV screen but is so lazily mediocre. The first half-hour seems to heading in the right direction, what with good color, fine sets, decent acting by the leads, and a monster that we only see from a distance or in quick choppy bits. But things drop off quickly, as though the screenwriter and director both lost interest, as does the audience. Things I noticed as I lost interest: virtually all the male students are quite good looking (did I already say that?); the play-within-the-movie stops the film dead in its tracks and goes on far too long, so instead of being a quirky sidenote, it's a tedious slog; the monster, when finally seen in its entirety, is laughably amateurish; the short opening scene, set along a jungle river, seems to have absolutely no connection to the rest of the movie; there is comic relief in the form of a morgue assistant who is prone to eating his lunch on the same slab occupied by the body he's working on; the sexpot who plays the moth woman (Wanda Ventham) is the mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. I stuck with this to the bitter and incompetent end, so I must have gotten some enjoyment out of it. Like I said, the print looks spectacular. [Netflix streaming]

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