Wednesday, 27 January 2016

#39 Track of the Moon Beast (1976) (Colin)

Cast: Chase Cordell, Leigh Drake, Gregorio Sala

Director: Richard Ashe

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
The next movie on our list, ‘Track of the Moon Beast’ (1976), is another film which has featured on MST3K.  I vaguely remember the episode but only the renaming of a character from ‘Longbow’ to ‘Longbone’ which made me laugh so loud, I missed the next 3 or 4 riffs.  I will confess I am sniggering as I type this, (I think you’ve found the level of my humour!).

Whilst it was a good episode of MST3K, (from memory!), I could not remember what the actual movie was like, so I did a little research and was amazed by what I found……
The co-writer of this movie is Bill Finger, who, with Bob Kane, co-created DC Comics’ Batman, (although not officially credited until recently, but that is a whole other different story of which many blogs have already been written about!)  It appears the vast majority of his career was spent writing stories for comics and it seems, enjoyed a lot of success.
With such calibre of writing, surely there must be some mistake?  Should this really have been riffed by MST3K, (who, don’t forgot, only riff the worst movies) and should this movie really be in our top 100 bad movies list?
Then I found out Finger and co-writer, (Charles Sinclair), wrote this in a weekend and probably as a joke.…....
Mineralogist Paul Carlson (Chase Cordell) is using his little duster to dust away some sand in the arse end of nowhere.  He falls for the worse practical joke since Wes asked me to pull his finger, by a couple of students of Professor ‘Johnny  Longbow’ Salina, (Gregorio Sala), who do not appear again in the movie and so I can not be bothered to research their names.  However, Longbow does introduce Paul to Kathy, (Donna Leigh Drake).
Paul, who is as smooth as a badger’s bum, asks Kathy if she would like observe a meteor shower, far away from where they are, in a secluded spot.  Having only just met Paul you would think she would be a bit cautious, however, she is at the secluded spot faster than you can say ‘hussy’.
Unfortunately whilst Paul hoped to get his rocks off he actually ended up getting some rocks in….his head!  A meteor fragment lodges in his brain, (it took several hours for said fragment to locate the pea sized object) and whilst it’s not obvious at first, the fragment causes a side effect: reptile dysfunction, (I thought there was a blue pill which could help with that?).
From now on, every full moon turns Paul into a giant lizard, (the so-called Moon beast), and goes on a random killing spree.  Paul in human form, has also begun to feel unwell, prone to black outs and nausea, (similar symptoms to watching this movie).  Kathy, obviously concerned, does the only thing a sensible girlfriend can do, gives him a bright light, a nice warm stone and some tasty crickets.
An X-Ray on Paul reveals to all what the dickens is going on and Professor Longbow suddenly remembers that a Native American legend tells of an incident where the exact same thing happened once before.  This is good news to everyone concerned as surely if this has happened before, there must be a way to reverse this?
No, but the good news is Paul will be the star firework in the next July 4th party.
Will Paul kill again?  Can Longbow and Kathy defy the odds and find a cure?  Will Professor Longbow reveal the special ingredients for his stew?
The answer to the last question is yes, there are lots of things as Longbow explains: Chicken, sweetcorn, peppers and off course, (and keep this under your hats guys), onion!  (it’s hardly the Colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices is it?).
Track of the Moon Beast is a lot like Longbow’s stew; bland and there’s not a lot in it.  The pace is so slow at times that I actually thought I had leaned on the pause button.  When it comes to a toss up between watching this movie vs watching paint dry, then the magnolia matt finish wall is going to win every time.
From the off, nothing happens; very slowly!  For example, the first scene is Paul riding his motorbike very slowly to a pile of rocks, he then very slowly dusts some rocks, very slowly lifts a piece of rock out the ground and then very slowly stares at things.  The only thing that doesn’t move very slowly was my foot as it went through the TV as I shouted for something to happen.
When things do get moving you quickly realise that the 3 main characters are so dull that’s it hard to invest any interest into their story or outcomes.   For example, I really couldn’t give a tinkers cuss if Paul gets cured or not.  This is because he is so bland that actually turning into a lizard makes him half interesting.  My advise to Paul is to roll with it because at least it gives him some partial meaning to his worthless life.
Kathy is plain annoying and her relationship with Paul is so far fetched it’s unreal.  They went on one date, that’s it and during that date he fainted like a big wuss because a pebble bumped his noggin’.  Yet we are supposed to believe that they are soulmates, madly in love.  If half a date is enough to stir Kathy’s emotions to this extent, she must have a very intimate relationship with her dentist.
I thought the special effects were not bad for a 50’s movie, which is a shame as this film was released in 1976, (it’s fair to say Hannibal had a more convincing lizard costume in the opening credits to ‘The A Team’ than Track of the Moon Beast).  The opening credits are a good example of how poor the effects are.
The scene is of a flaming meteorite speeding towards earth, however, it is quite clearly a lump of cotton wool covered in lighter fluid which has been set on fire!  With quality effects like these, George Lucas must have been quaking in his boots when Star Wars was released the following year…..
So what about the script?  As mentioned earlier it was co-written by Bob Finger, Batman’s co-creator.  So with such calibre of writing, Should this really have been riffed by MST3K and should this movie really be in our top 100 bad movies list?
Yes, it most definitely should have been riffed by MST3K, because without the riffing this is really a vanilla movie in which nothing happens… a snail’s pace.  When I came to writing this I realised that I had to re-watch the movie and I could not bring myself to re-watch the original.  It was like waiting in line for an injection, I knew pain would follow and so I plumped for the MST3K version on my re-watch.
I am so pleased I did this as it made the movie bearable!
Without a doubt this movie belongs in our top 100 bad movies list.  It is claimed this was written in a weekend and I dispute this.  I say it was written on the Saturday morning and that the conversation between Finger and Sinclair went along the lines off…..
Sinclair: I think this story should be based around werewolves, the only thing is that I think there are probably too many movies about werewolves.  Any ideas?
Finger: A Were-Lizard?
Sinclair: That’ll do. Is the pub open?
So if you get a chance to watch this movie, make like Finger and Sinclair and go to the pub.  Quite frankly I’d rather be struck in the head with a chunk of moon rock and turned into a homicidal lizard than having to endure this film again……