Directed by David Kramarsky
Screenplay by Tom Flier
Effects by Paul Blaisdell
Run Time: 78 minutes
The Monster Shack happily presents a guest review by Randy Landers.
Summary: In an inhospitable wasteland far from civilization, a powerful alien touches down and begins tampering with nature, turning calm animals like birds and chickens into violently aggressive bears that attack members of a dysfunctional family.
It had been years since I’d last seen this movie, and after seeing it again, I remember why.
Opening narration is almost always a bad thing. “I need this world,” begins the alien conqueror. It goes on to explain the entire plot of the movie, how it will come to Earth and take over the minds of animals and watch everything that we will do. “You will come to know me as the beast with a million eyes!” Okay, so we now know the plot, so we can get started, right?
One opening narration is almost always a bad thing, but two opening narrations? We’re in deep trouble now. Paul Birch now takes the time to explain how miserable their lives are on the date ranch. His farm is going under; his wife hates him for it and hates their daughter because she’s going off to college. So we meet the family:
Alan (played by Paul Birch) is a reasonable man if a touch fatalistic. He’s a war veteran who doesn’t talk about the war.
Carol (played by Lorna Thayer) is the mom. And man, can she not cook. She must ruin practically every meal she tries to bake. She keeps burning the cake she’s trying to make for Sandy’s birthday, and to top it off, she’s just really a self-centered bitch until she has a change of heart.
Sandy (played by Dona Cole) is the movie’s teenager (well, she’s supposed to be a teenager—she actually looks like the younger sister of Lorna Thayer, who plays her mom). She’s actually probably the most interesting of the family, swimming in the watering hole in her one piece definitely caught my interest, but that voice of hers is much like June Foray’s from Bullwinkle. I’m not sure if I could sit through a date with her if she talked much during dinner.
Deputy Larry Brewster (played by Dick Sargent—yes, the second “Darren” from Bewitched) is Sandy’s love interest. We don’t know much about him, but he’s there, and appears to be a complete afterthought to the movie.
Him (played by Leonard Tarver) is a mute who works on the date ranch. “We don’t know his name, so we call him ‘Him,’” explains Sandy. Right… So Him stays in a shack on the ranch, its interior walks decorated with G-rated pinups. (We learn at the end his name is Carl, but since no one calls him that, we’ll just call him Him.)
Duke is the family German shepherd. He’s a good dog until he goes bad.
Old Ben is a local dairyman with one cow, one murderous cow. Ol’ Duke and Ol’ Ben are pretty much of equal importance to the story.
The title character is just, well, let’s just say he’s not worth mentioning.
Okay, so let’s start the story.
After the two useless narrations and a cursory introduction to the family, Mom is cooking in the kitchen, Alan’s out and about, and Sandy is swimming when they hear this high pitched whine. “Must be one of those new fangled jets,” says Ben. The noise breaks all the glassware and china in Carol’s house (it’s not like they’re going to be used for fine dining anyways). Sandy actually is sorry for her mom about the destruction. “It’s all you have left,” she tells her. Yeah, she doesn’t have a husband or a daughter. All she had was her china. Geez…
Our friend the deputy shows up to investigate the broken glassware and china (Carol called the police), and immediately goes for a walk with Sandy. After explaining who Him is, Sandy and the deputy return to the farmhouse where he claims, “It’s hard to believe a jet did this!” looking at all the broken glassware. Soon everyone leaves Carol behind going on various places that allow the next dramatic sequence to take place. Duke had been in the desert when he came across what looked to be a small satellite sitting in a gully. The dog returns to the farm, and promptly attacks Carol. We’re not sure if he’s put her out of her misery or not.
Him wanders off into the desert, drawn to whatever drew Duke out there.
Sandy and Alan return from their shopping trip to find the lights off, and we’re supposed to be relieved that when the lights are turned back on, Carol’s still alive. Duke is dead, and Carol explains that she had to defend herself from the dog. Sandy is angry that her dog has been killed and storms off, leaving Carol and Alan to reconcile. The incident has changed Carol’s personality; she’s now a loving person again. Not sure if why killing the dog with an axe would have this affect on a person, but hey, I didn’t write it.
Sandy storms off into the desert and meets Him in the desert. They look at something, and Sandy says, “It’s pretty, isn’t it? I wonder what it’s doing way out here.” Oddly enough, we don’t get to see it, and it’s unclear as to why. We’ve already seen the spacecraft (the dog had seen it), so why they didn’t think to show it again strikes me as very odd. They return to the farmhouse, and Sandy tells her dad that she’d found herself in the desert, as though she’d been sleepwalking. They go inside, and Sandy reconciles with her mom.
After dinner, Alan and Carol discuss whatever force drew them out into the desert, and we learn that Sandy and Him together were more powerful than that force. (Now, this is one of those scenes that you’re supposed to remember later.)
The next morning, Old Ben gets trampled to death by his milking cow, Sally. Carol gets attacked by flying chickens in their coop, and Alan saves her from being pecked to death with a blowtorch. It’s not like we see the chickens burned. We just see Alan waving it about. We don’t really see the chickens attack her. They head back inside for more talking (we see Alan writing a letter to the Veterans Administration—jinkers, it’s a clue!), and Sandy and Carol have more reconciliation, especially after Sandy shows her mom how to bake.
Alan and Him drive to the date grove while Carol and Sandy have some mother-daughter moments. Alan drops Him off, and leaves Him with an axe. What an axe is used for date farming, I’ll never know. But as soon as he pounds a stake into the ground next to a date tree, Him heads off to see the satellite. Alan visits Ben since the family didn’t get their milk delivery, and finds Ben’s been killed. “We thought it was all over; it’s just beginning,” Alan surmises. Not quite sure why he thought “it was over.”
Meanwhile, the killer moo cow shows up at the date ranch and supposedly nearly tramples Carol to death, but Alan returns in time to shoot Sally. Not that we see it. We see the cow. We see Carol falling on the ground screaming. We hear the gunfire. We don’t see the cow get killed. We don’t even hear the cow fall onto the ground. Maybe the rifle was set to disintegrate… Alan tries to call Deputy Larry, and doesn’t get through. Why he doesn’t ask for the sheriff, I don’t know, but he tells the girls to go for help and to bring back Larry and a couple of men.
Alan discovers he didn’t get through because blackbirds have struck the power transformer. Why that affects the phone lines, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just overthinking this a bit. Those birds…they keep showing up in the story, striking car windows whenever Alan’s driving, causing mayhem.
Anyways, the family drives to the date grove to check on Him. Alan goes a lookin’, and the ladies basically reiterate Alan’s lines for those of you who were too busy doing Sudoku to actually pay attention to them. He dispatches them to drive to town, and he’s attacked by birds. Shooting at them with the rifle does no good, but waving it around like a magic wand makes the birds go away. He walks back home to find Carol and Sandy are at home instead of rounding up the deputy and his men. “I was depending on you!” Alan hollers. Carol leads him out to the car which is riddled with birds. Alan says, “Birds can’t think….There’s something guiding these birds. Suppose that plane wasn’t a plane.” And he basically repeats the alien’s plan from the narration. I guess the beast with a million eyes doesn’t like to be talked about, because the birds attack again.
Him returns to the ranch as well and lets the air out of the tires on their car, and heads down the road. Meanwhile, Deputy Larry determines that the family is in trouble and heads out to the ranch. Him is waiting for the deputy, and after hitching a ride with Larry, bonks him on the head, causing an accident. Him then heads out to the desert, followed by Larry. They fight alongside the crater where the disco satellite of love is flashing lights at them. Larry knocks Him out, and heads back to the ranch.
At the ranch, Sandy tells her mom the cake is beautiful, and Carol says, “It wouldn’t have been a cake if you hadn’t remembered to take it out of the oven.” (See, even Carol knows she can’t cook.) And Carol and Alan talk some more. “Together. That’s our strength, Alan. Together we are stronger.” (Just like that conversation I told you to remember earlier.) They decide to try the car, and discover the tires are flat. Meanwhile, Sandy is really upset about her crappy birthday, and heads out the window .
There’s the wonderful scene where Larry and Sandy are wandering in the grove. Sandy is calling for Larry (goodness only knows why—it’s not that they’re expecting him). Him grabs Sandy and forces her out into the desert. Larry shows up at the house, and the door opens as he hears a scream behind him. Now, most lawmen I know would’ve gone to investigate, but Larry goes in looking for Sandy. (Guess he doesn’t know what she sounds like when she’s screaming.) Larry and Alan head out to the desert on foot as Him delivers Sandy to the spacecraft. “Do you hear what I hear?” asks Larry and they get behind some rocks (they’re hearing birds and the high pitched whine of the alien ship), but see Him and Sandy.
Finally, at the crater’s edge, Alan calls to Him, “Carl, give her to me.” And after a lengthy internal debate, Him gives Sandy to Larry before collapsing. They meet up with Carol at the remains of an old water tower, and Larry heads back to town for some help. Sandy recovers, and Alan tells her, “Together, we can defeat it. If we fight it together, we’ll win.” Sandy passes out, and Alan knows that’s the secret. He restates the premise told to us by the alien narrator, who apparently is happy. “Very well, Earth man. I have some secrets, too,” says the alien dude who announces he will trade Alan and Carol’s lives for Sandy’s.
“I and my kind have no material body of our own. We feed on brains.” And using the James Bond villain technique, again tells us of his plans for worldwide conquest. “But instead of weakening, you’ve grown stronger.” The alien wants to Sandy back to his world, and Alan and Carol realize that love is their strength. They refuse, but head to the crater with the rifle. “We’re not afraid of you.”
The door to the ship opens up, and we seen an eyeball superimposed over a Blaisdell puppet alien. Wait a minute! The creature says they have no body, but we’re watching one right now? “We can defeat it,” Alan says, and they look at it meaningfully, and it falls over dead. Then the ship takes off, somehow its exhaust not burning Alan to death.
Even the writers knew that the puppet thing didn’t jibe with the “we have no bodies” thing since they added some dialogue saying that it must’ve been using that body to pilot the spaceship. Then bizarrely, they postulate that the alien has moved on to another form, and they see a rat. Suddenly, a hawk swoops down and eats the rat.
Larry’s suddenly there (wasn’t he supposed to be heading for town to round up a posse?), and together, he and Sandy walk off as Alan and Carol watch them.
Now that’s what I call a bad movie.
Randy Landers (May 2011)
If you repeat the premise over and over and over and over, you’re not beating a dead horse. You’re assuming your audience is too stupid to get the message. Sadly, the things that hurt this film is not the acting (it’s not that bad at all). It’s the lack of a competent editor to make sure that cuts are that: cuts. It’s a story with some real plot holes, and some inconsistencies (such as the bird attacks), and poor ol’ Larry who literally appears as needed. It’s almost as though he were some sort of last minute addition to the film, which is why he doesn’t really appear in the climax. In fact, you could edit Larry out of the film altogether. He serves no purpose to the story telling other than as a weak love interest for Sandy.
The producers pre-sold this movie based on its title and poster alone; when the distributors saw the final product, they were reportedly disappointed because the poster and title were far more interesting that the movie itself. I tend to agree, but I give this one a 4 out of 10.
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