The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies
I’ve heard of this movie, but never seen it. Seriously, what B-movie or bad movie fan hasn’t heard of this before? It’s not only famous for gracing most of the worst movie lists I’ve ever seen, but with a title that long, and that ridiculous it’s a hard film not to notice. But for me the title is what’s always put me off watching this until we came to it on our list, as it really just sounded like a movie that was trying too hard to appeal to hippies on its release, and like flares, or drinking the Electric Kool-Aid, that has no appeal to me whatsoever. So was I wrong to avoid it?
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies features three friends, Jerry (Cash Flagg – a pseudonym for director Ray Dennis Steckler), Angela (Sharon Walsh) and Harold (Atlas King), who decide that going to the carnival would be an uneventful night (and boy were they right!). After watching some of the MANY dance numbers, Jerry becomes hypnotised by the fortune-teller Estrella (Brett O’Hara), who instead of the traditional “making someone act like a chicken”, decides that making him a homicidal maniac would be much more appealing to today’s jaded audience. Jerry goes on the rampage and kills the dancer Marge (Carolyn Brandt) and Bill, and attempts to kill Angela. It turns out that Jerry isn’t the only “zombie” that Estrella has made though, and these eventually escape and cause havoc in the carnival. Not that you’d notice, as I said before that whilst this is happening, there are MANY dance numbers in this movie. I really can’t over state that.
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies (which from here on I shall just refer to as TISCWSLABMUZ. Which, by a strange coincidence is also the acronym for the zombies union – The Immensely Special Co-operative for beings that once Were Still Living And Breathing, but is now a Massive Union of Zombies), is an incredibly strange and confused film. That long description of its plot probably takes about as much time to read it as it does to watch it. The plot, it seems, was just something that director (also, actor and writer) Steckler thought was something that just gets in the way of a good song and dance act. If only Steckler knew what constituted a good song and dance act then this may not have been such a problem.
This movie is like the first audition shows of all the various talent shows. The ones you watch just to see the really terrible acts that have no chance of ever getting anywhere other than on these shows. Well most of them anyway. I can only imagine that whatever the equivalent of America’s Got Talent was in 1964 then that’s where Steckler found his carnival acts. It’s either that or he actually went to the cheapest burlesque shows in Hollywood and waited outside of auditions for all those dancers who failed to impress, as these dancers make Stavros Flatley look like Michael Jackson.
The lack of talent in the MANY dance numbers isn’t the only problem though. The “zombies” are incredibly confused. These are neither the flesh-eating ghouls that Romero would make popular four years later in Night of the Living Dead, nor the traditional Voodoo zombies of White Zombie or I Walked With a Zombie. They are closer to the voodoo zombies, but the “zombies” in this movie aren’t dead, just hypnotised and disfigured by acid. A better title for this movie would be The Poor People Who Went to a Carnival and Got Hypnotised, Then Hideously Disfigured by Acid and Locked in a Cage.
I really don’t like to mock the physical appearance of actors in movies if I can avoid it as I think it’s often just a lazy way of trying to get cheap laughs. However there’s one thing that I just couldn’t get out of my mind whilst watching this movie, and that’s Jerry’s amazing resemblance to Nicolas Cage. But more like the contour cartoon of Nicolas Cage in the “You Don’t Say?” meme. Or probably more accurately as though somebody took the DNA from Nicolas Cage and Shergar and bred a Nicolas Cage/horse hybrid so the world would have a centaur that could foil a prison plane breakout attempt or train it’s daughter to be an extremely violent superhero (I’m assuming the planned attempt to mix the DNA of John Travolta and Red Rum was abandoned when it was shown that a centaur can’t reach it’s hooves up far enough to mimic having it’s face taken off for five minutes, so was deemed unnecessary to aid in Centaur Nicolas Cage’s career).
I’m really not sure it’s worth mentioning the quality of the acting in this movie, as there isn’t any. By which I mean both quality and acting. Much of the dialogue is mumbled (most notably by Don Russell as Ortega, who later would become a reoccurring character in Mystery Science Theatre 3000’s cut scenes (the character, not the actor)), and when it isn’t the sound quality is so bad that it may as well be.
There is one strange thing that should be pointed out about this film, and that’s it had an absolutely amazing cinematography team who were all near the start of their careers. The director of photography, Jospeh V. Mascelli, wrote what is still considered to be one of the most important books on cinematography “The Five C's of Cinematography”. Camera Operator William (Vilmos) Zsigmond would go on to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, amongst other achievements. Finally assistant camera Leslie (Laszlo) Kovacs ended up being the cinematographer for such movies as Easy Rider and Ghostbusters.
Like I said earlier, I really think that this film needs a new name, the old one is too long and is just not relevant. I think we’d be better off with The Incredibly Bored Audience Who Lost the Will to Live and Walked Out of the Cinema Muttering That They Should Get Their Money Back After Sitting Through Such a Pointless Pile of Crap. Sure it’s just as long, but entirely more accurate.