THE RENOWN PIC­TURES MON­STER COL­LEC­TION

Bonkers B-movie bo­nanza

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 1957-1977 | PG | dVd

Di­rec­tors Ooh, loads of peo­ple

This box set fea­tures nine films, mostly dat­ing from the late ’50s. It’s im­pos­si­ble to go into de­tail on ev­ery one, but they do have shared qual­i­ties. Ex­pect gi­ant in­sects or lizards, pre­pos­ter­ous science, co­pi­ous grainy stock footage, fag-smok­ing mid­dle-aged he­roes and pointy-sweatered hero­ines, old-fash­ioned at­ti­tudes to African “na­tives”, and vin­tage sex­ism so bla­tant it prompts guf­faws. In the case of the four Bri­tish en­tries, also ex­pect the ba­thetic jux­ta­po­si­tion of high weird­ness with, say, grum­bling pun­ters in spit-and-saw­dust pubs.

With scripts and pro­duc­tion val­ues never Os­car-wor­thy, the high­lights are the most out-there en­tries. Best of the bunch: the campy Woman-eater, in which a sci­en­tist seek­ing a life-restor­ing serum puts women into a trance with some bongo bash­ing, then feeds them to a faintly in­de­cent-look­ing car­niv­o­rous tree. The Killer Shrews sticks toothy masks on some dogs, then has them dig­ging through the walls of a re­search cen­tre; with its bizarre di­a­logue, shabby sets and lu­di­crous conclusion (which sees our he­roes build­ing a foot­pow­ered tank out of steel drums) it is, in­cred­i­bly, even dafter than the ti­tle sug­gests. The mis­lead­ingly-named The Strange World Of Planet X (“Planet X” is ac­tu­ally Earth – bah!) is bark­ing too, mash­ing to­gether a Day The Earth Stood Still-ish “alien vis­i­tor de­liv­ers a warn­ing” plot with a killer tramp and a wood full of face-chew­ing gi­ant in­sects. Mean­while, Gorgo and Be­he­moth The Sea Mon­ster make a de­cent fist of trans­plant­ing the build­ing-tram­pling car­nage we usu­ally as­so­ci­ate with Tokyo to Lon­don.

Most en­tries clock in sub-70 min­utes, which on oc­ca­sion is a mercy. Mon­ster From Green Hell’s in­ter­minable trudge through a stock-footage Africa in search of gi­ant wasps soon gets te­dious, while The Gi­ant Gila Mon­ster is more in­ter­ested in talk­ing about hot rods than its in­ex­pli­ca­bly out­sized lizard. Technical stan­dards can dis­ap­point too: late-’70s Ple­siosaur cob­blers The Crater Lake Mon­ster looks cruddy, while Beast From Haunted Cave (de­but of Monte Hell­man, di­rec­tor of cult road movie Two-Lane Black­top) has very muf­fled au­dio.

That said, this re­mains a solid way for any­one with a soft spot for cheesy old B-movies to score sev­eral week­ends’ worth of amus­ing hokum. You couldn’t call any of these films “good” – well, not while keep­ing a straight face – but watched en masse they numb your critical fac­ul­ties enough to ac­quire a naive charm.

Ex­tras A new in­ter­view with Woman-eater star Vera Day (13 mins); 1999 doc Man Or Beast (eight mins) – a puz­zling in­clu­sion, given that it cov­ers films like Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde. Ian Berri­man

Mon­ster From Green Hell pinches lots of footage from the 1939 Spencer Tracy movie Stan­ley And Liv­ing­stone.

Caught in a web in The Strange World Of Planet X.

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