Track of the Moon Beast (1976)

Track of the Moon BeastTrack of the Moon Beast

Directed by Richard Ashe

Written by Bill Finger and Charles Sinclaire

Tagline: The rising moon creates a monster

Run Time: 90 min

“There is an answer…and I think I know what it is…and it makes me sick to think about it!”
- Johnny Longbow


Are you tired of run-of-the-mill werewolf movies? Bored with the usual ‘werewolf bites man, man turns into werewolf, werewolf killed by silver bullet’ story line?

Then how about a ‘were-lizard’ movie? And to make things even more fun, you don’t become a were-lizard from being bitten, but by having a fragment of moon rock lodged in your brain? Still not satisfied? Then let’s have the hero of the story be a Navajo professor named Johnny "Longbow" (don’t ask), an expert in anthropology, Navajo legends, and making stew. Hell, let’s throw in a bunch of 1970′s cheesiness, bad haircuts, and a police chief that can’t seem to unhook his thumbs from his belt.

If all that is still not goofy enough for you, then you might as well find a different movie review website.

"Track of the Moon Beast" revolves around Paul Carlson, a mineralogist who somehow gets a piece of moon rock (!) stuck in his head, lodging itself deep inside his brain. Everything seems OK until he transforms into a man-sized monitor lizard and starts eating people and making a general nuisance of himself whenever the moon is full. The authorities call in the renowned professor Johnny Longbow, expert in Navajo legends, who solves the case and kills the were-lizard with moon-rock arrows (and makes a pot of stew along the way).

Bluntly stated, this is a God-awful movie. The writers tried to add an air of respectability to the story by calling into play some bogus Navajo legend about "fire from the sky" and other such nonsense. Sorry. Doesn’t work.

Buckle up for this one…it’s going to be a long ride through an inane movie.

Prepare yourself for "Track of the Moon Beast"!

The Cast:

Chase Cordell Paul Carlson (Chase Cordell)

The exciting life as a topless mineralogist gets even more exciting when a piece of moon rock gets stuck in his brain. Living at home with his mom in a hotel (or something), he divides his time between being a were-lizard and running around without a shirt.
Gregorio Sala Prof. ‘Johnny-longbow’ Salina (Gregorio Sala)

Professor of Anthropology at the "University", Johnny also excels at making ‘Navajo stew’ and coming up with ridiculous legends.
Donna Leigh Drake Kathy Nolan (Donna Leigh Drake)

The movie’s official babe. As dumb as a box of rocks, she Likes to eat Navajo stew and forget NASA photo shoots. Easily the worst actress I have ever seen…"Moon rocks! Oh, wow!"
Patrick Wright Police Captain Mac (Patrick Wright)

Albuquerque’s Chief of Police and close buddies with Johnny Longbow. He is rarely seen without his thumbs in his belt.
Patrick Wright has also skillfully played roles as a policeman in other hits such as "Revenge of the Cheerleaders", "Roller Boogie", and "Maniac Cop". Not to mention a noteworthy performance as ‘Uncle Elmer’ in "The Bikini Carwash Company". Believe it or not, he also played ‘Mr. Peterbuilt’ in the Russ Meyer’s flick "Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens"! (Now if that doesn’t make your skill crawl…)

Track of the Moon BeastOur film opens with somebody looking through big telescope into the night sky while "spacey" music plays in the background. You know the kind: A $10 Casio synthesizer set on full reverb, hit every third note while moving your finger up and down the keys. Incredibly, there is a UFO hurtling towards the Earth; UFO as in ‘Unidentified Flaming Object’. Yes, the ‘effects’ where achieved by setting fire to a plastic ball and suspending it in front of the camera. (Gee…didn’t Ed Wood do stuff like that in, oh, 1959? I thought special effects had advanced a bit since then, but oh well).

With typical bad-movie editing, we abruptly cut to a Native American ceremony…I can only assume it is a Navajo ceremony since the movie’s hero is supposed to be Navajo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t.

OK, now we come to the title and credit sequence. While the credits roll, we watch a motorcycle driving along a lonely dirt road through the arid mountains of New Mexico (this film was shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the surrounding foothills). The motorcycle pulls over and the guy gets off it to start digging in the dirt.

We are treated to a minute or so of runtime watching him scratch around in the rocks, dusting things off, picking a bit at something. Yes, watching a mineralogist at work is as fascinating as it sounds. Soundly, a scream breaks the mountain silence! Who could it be? The mineralogist looks around, wipes the sweat off of his head, and gets back to work. (?) I guess when you pick and scratch at rocks by yourself for years and years you get used to hearing voices in your head. Well, a second scream shatters the silence, and now maybe he’ll take notice. It seems like the actor is more annoyed that his work is disturbed rather than surprised by the screams. Now that is good bad-movie acting!

From behind a boulder jumps our hero, Professor of Anthropology Johnny ‘Longbow’ Salina, laughing at how funny that joke was.

You see, it’s funny when you’re in the middle of nowhere and somebody hides behind a rock and starts screaming. I thought I would tell you in case you didn’t realize that from the scene. Hee hee!

Two of Johnny’s students, Budd and Janet are also behind the rock. (I wonder how they got there since this is truly in the middle of BFE (bum f— Egypt: kids, ask your parents). Johnny explains that they are part of his summer field course in anthropology. (Wow! A monster movie with both mineralogists and anthropologists! This is exciting!) Besides learning that Budd and Janet are a couple, we also quickly see that neither one of them can act worth a damn. This is painful stuff here. (It doesn’t really matter though. They are written out of the script after a couple more scenes.)

Track of the Moon BeastWell, here comes the movies sex pot. From behind the rocks comes another person, Kathy Nolan. (Well, this movie sure didn’t waste any time introducing all the characters! Saves me a lot of trouble trying to guess their names.) Kathy walk directly to the shirtless, buff Paul and shakes hands. It turns out, as Longbow awkwardly tells us (nearly flubbing his lines), that Kathy is doing a "picture story, on the, uhhh, religious customs of the tribes around here." (Yeah, right!)

After more painful dialog, we find out that it was her idea to play the practical joke on Paul because she wanted to get some shots of his reactions when he heard their screams and saw the "ceremonial mask" that she happened to bring with her (don’t ask).

I have to get this off my chest: The acting in this movie is terrible! Thank you. Back to the movie.

Kathy (rather boldly) invites Paul to "…an authentic Indian supper…" at Longbow’s place out on the reservation (oh brother!). Paul accepts (maybe somebody should ask Longbow first?), and they head off to dinner. Kathy turns back and asks Paul why people call the professor by the name "Longbow". (See Classic Lines) Paul gives her the translation, which is kind of strange because, well, "Longbow" is English already, so how can it "translate" to something completely different? It’s like asking somebody what is the English translation for "car wash" and they say "place where many cars go to be washed". With that issue all cleared up, Kathy and Paul join the others and head to Jonny’s for dinner.

Out on the, er, reservation, we see Johnny Longbow and the others having an authentic Indian dinner. If an authentic Indian dinner means being crowded around a tiny table, eating stew and watching a microscopic TV, then the filmmakers did a great job reproducing it.

Track of the Moon Beast

Authentic Indian dinner at Chateau de’Longbow

The announcer on the TV informs us that an asteroid has hit the moon. The impact has sent a shower of fragments towards the Earth, but don’t worry, they’ll all burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere before they hit the ground. (Ohhh, ok. If you say so.) Conveniently enough, the "greatest density of fragments" will be over the American South West. (Hey! Isn’t that where this movie takes place? Hmmm….I wonder if somebody is going to be hit by one of the fragments!)

Track of the Moon BeastAs people compliment Johnny on the stew, Janet asks him what the recipe is. He takes a deep breathe, like this is going to be a huge chore to recite, and says, "Chicken…corn…green peppers…chili………..onions………well, it’s an old recipe around here." He names the ingredients with the same enthusiasm you would expect from a kid reading out loud the periodic table of elements! You would think he would be a little more pleased…oh well.

After the news report Johnny stands up and turns off the TV. (It turns out that they are eating outside because, you know, Johnny is so in touch with nature.) We discover that Kathy wants to take some night shots of the area (yeah, night shots of the desert should make for an exciting report!). Paul offers to tag along and show here some exciting spots (heh! heh!), but they are "pretty far away." That being said, Paul and Kathy stand up, and without a word, walk over to the Paul’s motorcycle and drive off (!). (I guess they need about 6 or 7 hours to get to these spots before sundown since it looks to be around noon as they leave the scene.)

As the others sit and eat their Navajo stew, a lizard runs across the ground and startles Janet (Eeeek!). She asks Budd what it was, to which he responds in a manly way that it was "just a lizard". (Let me get this straight, Janet is doing anthropological field work in the New Mexico deserts and she’s never seen a freakin’ lizard?!) Johnny nods his head in a sagely fashion and says "You get used to lizards here, they’re quite common…that’s why so many tribes in this area have legends about lizards…" (?)

He then goes on to tell them about a Navajo Lizard Legend. (I’m not making this up!) Here you go:

"The story of Lizard and Coyote (as told by Johnny Longbow)

"One day, before man walked on Earth, Lizard and Coyote were having an argument…about what shape man would take. Lizard won the argument. They finally agreed that man’s hands would be shaped like lizard’s: Four fingers and a thumb (!?). Coyote drove a hard bargain, he agreed that man’s hands would be shaped like lizards rather than his paws, but only, only, if man…would be mortal…and never again, try to be like lizard." (??)

First, I’m no expert on Navajo mythology, but this sounds like total BS to me. Second, I lived 8 years in the American South West, where there were also plenty of lizards, and I never heard of an over-abundance of "lizard legends".

The story ends with Longbow giving the (White) students that goofy "wise Native American deep in thought" look. Or else he’s trying to remember what his next line is.

We cut to a fantastic night scene. Kathy and Paul are at one of those ‘great spots’ he was bragging about so much at lunch. He points out the landmarks, even showing her Albuquerque in the distance. This shot is pretty funny because it’s underexposed and you can’t see a damn thing!:

Track of the Moon Beast

"And over there is Albuquerque…"

Kathy asks Paul where exactly they are, to which he replies "Sandia Creast…ten-thousand, six-hundred, and seventy eight feet, up or down …depending on where you are and your point of view." (?). Now, like I said before, I lived in the South West for awhile, and it gets dag-gummed cold in the desert at night. Yet, here is Kathy in Daisy-Duke cutoffs and short sleeve shirt. (Oh yeah, where are her cameras? Wasn’t she up here to take night shots?)

Track of the Moon BeastPaul and Kathy are now cuddled up by a tree watching meteorites streak across the sky. Amazingly, one meteorite passes within a couple of feet of them. Paul jumps on top of Kathy to, *ahem*, protect her.

As they stand up Paul exclaims that it was a "meteorite …a lunar meteorite!" (Well, duh!). Kathy notices that Paul is bleeding from his forehead, but no big deal, Paul is a topless-mineralogist: he simply takes a tissue, wipes away the blood, and casually throws the bloody paper onto the ground. (Nice going, litterbug!)

They also notice a glowing meteorite (you know that every lunar meteorite pulses and glows, don’t you?) that has impacted just beside Paul’s motorcycle. Two points to anybody who can guess where they got the "spacey" sound for the meteorite…Yup! Lifted right from "Monster A-Go Go", that goofy "radioactive" sound that the monster made. Man, to be reduced to using "Monster A-Go Go" as a source of special effects…it boggles the mind.

As a professional mineralogist, Paul decides to take it home since "…it would make a great souvenir." (Of course, any mineralogist who came across a glowing, pulsing, pinging moon rock would do the same instead of, say, taking it to the lab for study.)

When Paul says that now he’ll finally have his own moon rock (?), Kathy jumps up and shouts, "Moon rock! Oh Wow! That reminds me, I have to go into town tomorrow!" (!?) That’s kind of like watching a show on Discovery channel and saying "Dung beetle! Wow! That reminds me, I have to return those library books tomorrow!"

Track of the Moon BeastIt turns out the reason for Kathy’s excitement is that there is a NASA "exhibit" at the University the next day and she is suppose to cover it. (I’m becoming less and less impressed with Kathy’s professionalism as a photo-journalist.) Paul suggests that they attend the exhibit together and then go out to dinner afterwards. Karen agrees, but is still a little concerned about the scratch on Paul’s head, noting that it could "get infected." Using a classic pick up line, Paul says, "We could go to my place…I have lots of antiseptics in my medicine cabinet…" Boy! Paul is one smoooooth operator! You go, boy! I know that all women are attracted to a guy with a house full of antiseptics. Sexy!

When they arrive at Paul’s house, they pull into the garage and get off the motorcycle. Kathy is pretty impressed with the place and wonders if they have the place to themselves. (Note that they just met this very same day! Ahhh…those were the 70′s, eh?). Paul, the Casanova of mineralogists, says "Yeah, my mother’s in Europe. She travels a lot."

Hey, Paul, a little advice: When you bring a babe to your place, don’t tell her you live with your mother. Ok?

Karen awkwardly makes her way into Paul’s bedroom and starts picking and poking at the various nick-nacks hanging on the walls. (And I mean, awkwardly!) She finally sees a telescope, oddly standing in a corner of the room, and remarks "I bet you spend a lot of your life being lonely." Paul explains that "When your parents are divorced, you get used to it." (?). Yup, Paul’s the stereotypical lonely, telescope-peering mineralogist who still lives at home with his mother. We all know the type.

To complete his image as a total loser, Paul introduces Kathy to his pet lizard. (No, that’s not what I meant! You perverts!)

Needless to say, Kathy is repulsed by Paul’s lizard. (Perverts!). He explains that the lizard is named "Ty. Short for ‘Tyrannosaurus’. (See Classic Lines)

Worried that he frightened Kathy by showing her his lizard, Paul quickly apologizes. Seeing that it’s been, oh, about 5 hours since they met, Kathy says "It’s us that I’m worried about!", and they start kissing.

Yup! Things move pretty fast out in Albuquerque! A hell of a lot faster than this movie at least…

The next day Paul and Kathy are at the NASA exhibit. Kathy walks around taking pictures of, oh, exhibits, Paul’s ass, whatever takes her fancy..

Track of the Moon Beast

Heeeey! Nice "Moon Rocks", Paul!

Track of the Moon BeastStrangely, as Paul gets close to the moon rock exhibit (which looks a lot like a ball of aluminum foil placed on a garbage bag), a goofy beam of light shoots out from the rock and hits Paul in the head. Paul collapses and Kathy rushes to his aide. We then see a blurry shot from Paul’s POV (complete with Monster-A Go Go "pinging" special effects). Regaining his composure, Paul remarks that he’s OK, he "…just blacked out." He leaves the exhibit to get some fresh air, while the actress playing Kathy tries to make convincing ‘worried’ faces.

We now see a "country" singer at some sort of outdoor concert. I guess the movie’s budget allowed them to hire only local, er, talent, judging from the song’s lyrics:

Track of the Moon BeastMy voice has been gettin’ froggy
I’ve been smokin’ too damn much
Singin’ songs to the sun that’s risin’
Rhymin’ words I can not touch

You really don’t want to hear any more, do you? OK, I didn’t think so.

We see Paul, Kathy, and Johnny Longbow sitting in the crowd, having a good-ole time, except for Paul who is grimacing and holding his head in pain (like the viewer). Johnny suggests that they take Paul home, where he’d be "…a lot better off." Yes. I agree 100 percent. Get as far away as possible from this band. In an odd sequence of scenes, exhibiting the total lack of direction and editing skills used in this film, we cut to see Paul at home with Johnny. Paul is of course shirtless. The odd thing is that the music continues playing on the audio track, which would be OK, I guess, if it were meant to accompany the scene, like background music, say. Yet in this scene we see Paul and Johnny talking while the song continues! Who knows what they are saying…we can’t hear anything because of the "sound track"! Ridiculous!

To prove that this isn’t a fluke, we cut back to the band, still singing of course, then switch scenes back to Paul’s bedroom where Kathy is now talking to him, but we still can’t hear what they are saying because of the music that is played over the scene! Ack!

Song ends. Thank you God.

With Paul safely tucked into bed, Kathy and Johnny stand on the front stairs of Paul’s house and discuss Paul’s predicament. Johnny explains to Kathy that Paul is going through a stage "learning about himself" (?). Yeah, I guess that would explain the black outs, blinding head aches, and nausea. Blowing his lines yet again (fire this guy!), Johnny says, "He’s used to doing things by himself…FOR himself…" Enough of that. Johnny drives Kathy home and everything seems to be OK.

Alas, Paul is in for a rough night. Tossing and turning, he finally gets out of bed and draws the curtains back to see, <GASP!>, a full moon! He starts panting, groaning…

Now we see a drunk walking down the street. (Life expectancy of a drunk in a monster movie? Anybody want to take a guess?) Apparently this guy is coming back from a hot night at the Albuquerque bowling alley because he has a big silver bowling bag with him and a bowling jacket with his name on it: "Duke". Duke drops his keys on the front lawn and bends over giving us a much unwanted shot of his ass. (Note from the future: His name is actually Sid.)

Track of the Moon BeastNot able to find his keys, he starts pounding on the door, shouting for his obese wife to let him in. His wife manages to dislodge herself from the sofa where she was drinking beers, smoking, and watching the "national news". She yells back at her husband that if he keeps coming back drunk …yadda…yadda…yadda.

She locks the door and goes to bed leaving Sid outside to sleep it off. No sooner has she gone to bed than Sid hears something moving towards him across the lawn. With oh-so-not-scary growling noises, the monster approaches and kills him. The viewer does not get to see the carnage, but is treated to the monster’s POV as it walks up and attacks Sid. Exciting. Inside, the woman sees a pool of bright red blood forming at the base of the door, opens the door, and sees he mutilated husband standing at the entrance. (How in the world is he still standing?). He falls into the doorway, she screams, and we fade to black.

The next morning the police are at the scene. Meet the police chief, Captain Mac (If I had a dime for every movie policeman named ‘Mac’, boy, I tell ya…). Mac has called Johnny Longbow to the scene in order to take a look at some puzzling evidence. (Isn’t that what all police captains do when they are investigating a murder? Call the local anthropology professor?)

Track of the Moon BeastMac takes Johnny over to look at the bodies. Yes, the old woman died to because "she had a weak heart…and whatever she saw when she opened the door apparently finished her." He pulls back the sheet that is covering poor old Sid revealing a pretty horrible sight, if you are afraid of bad special effects. Oooo! I’m going to have nightmares for sure now!

Johnny suggests that maybe a mountain lion could have been responsible for the attack. "Not that easy…" is the reply from Captain Mac. Nope, they are going to make this film as difficult as possible for me. Putting his arm around Johnny’s shoulder, Mac leads him to the back of the house to show him something rather strange. It turns out that whatever attacked Sid went to the back of the house and "tripped over a garden hose" (Now that’s one scary monster!). It then grabbed at the wall as it fell, leaving both a big footprint in the mud and a bloody hand print on the wall.

Johnny astutely notes that the mark was definitely not made by a mountain lion, but rather a human hand. Yup, a huge human hand with webbed fingers and 3-inch claws. Chalk up another point for the Department of Anthropology!

After seeing the footprint in the mud, Johnny suggests that they talk to the head of the paleontology department, Dr. Deets. Good idea…since, well, you’ve ruled out mountain lions and all.

Back at Johnny’s house, er, Johnny’s mom’s house, Kathy shows up to see how he’s doing (wearing a nice hot-pink short-shorts ensamble…God bless the 70′s!). Oh yes, I must point out that this is not the same house that they drove to the night before, but you didn’t notice that, did you?

She lets herself in and wakes up the slumbering Paul (shirtless of course). He appears to be back in his pajama bottoms and the bed is made. This can only mean that before he changed into the were-lizard, he took off his pants, killed the old couple, came home, put his pants back on, made his bed, and went to sleep. Wow!

Track of the Moon BeastOver in Dr. Deets’s office at the paleontology department, the casting of the footprint has now been examined by Deets who comes to the conclusion that it is the "left hind foot print of some…form of reptile…some, very, very large lizard." Gee, thanks doc. After some more boring, pointless, meandering conversation, Deets says that whatever made the footprint is related to the tyrannosaurus rex. (!) How he came to that conclusion is not explained, which is probably for the best. Johnny and Mac leave the office of the esteemed Professor Deets in no better shape than when they came in. Mac is worried about how in the hell he’s going to tell the Commissioner "…or anybody else down at City Hall…" that a man was murdered by a dinosaur. Well, I have to explain to my friends how I can manage to watch movies like this, so I can’t say that I feel sorry for you, Mac.

As we change scenes, we hear "Indian" music, so we must be down on the reservation. I have to say that these attempts to include Native American culture into this film, although with good intent, simply make me cringe. Obviously not meant as condescending at the time, I just can’t help but note the air of smugness whenever Paul talks about Johnny’s quaint ‘Indian ways’: Navajo Stew, Johnny’s skills with bow and arrow, the ‘oh so cool’ Indian legends, and so on. I’m all for multiculturalism but it doesn’t have to be done in such a simple-minded and stereotypical fashion.

As I was saying, back on the reservation, some kids are practicing with a bow and arrow, shooting targets taped to a haystack (*cringe*). Kathy is taking photos of the youths while Paul watches. (Doesn’t he have anything to do, like, I don’t know, mineralogy?) As luck would have it, Johnny Longbow was the "Conference Archery Champion back in college…." (*cringe*) (Well duh! He is an Indian, right? Aren’t they all? And White people can’t dance! Right? ) Paul wants a demonstration but Johnny demurs. Paul continues to insist and when Kathy says "C’mon Johnny Longbow. I want to see you live up to your name!", well, Johnny agrees. Paul walks to the back of Johnny’s car and pulls out, Ta Da! A bow and some arrows! Of course, being the authentic, "In touch with his people" type Navajo, Johnny has made it all himself! (Kathy of course reacts almost like she’s never even seen a bow and arrow before…)

Track of the Moon Beast

"Everything is authentic Indian!" (*cringe!*)

Good Lord! Paul then reaches into Johnny’s car and pulls out a couple of ears of that multi-color "wild" corn, that, you know, all Navajos have in their cars. I’m just trying to give you an idea of the magnitude of the stereotyping that’s happening here…I’d laugh if it wasn’t so damn embarrassing to watch!

As you might have guessed, Paul is going to use the corn in a pseudo-William Tell type stunt in order to demonstrate Johnny’s archery skills to Kathy. He holds an ear of corn in each hand and stretches his arms out to his sides. Yes, this looks as stupid as it sounds:

Track of the Moon Beast

What’s a red neck’s last words?
"Hey y’all! Watch this!"

Johnny takes aim and hits one of the corn ears. Suddenly Paul grabs his head and collapses to the ground. Johnny admits that they’ve probably "over done it" by taking Paul to the reservation that day. Overdone what? His a damn mineralogist, um, I think they can go out into the sunlight. What exactly do they think is wrong with Paul? I mean, he’s a young guy, obviously in good shape, and suddenly he starts having blinding headaches and fainting spells. Yet nobody seems concerned in the least. Hello?! Two words: brain tumor! Get this dude to the doctor!

Alas, Kathy takes him home, takes him into bed, and gives him a couple of aspirin. (!) She insists on spending the night just in case he needs something (Oo La La!). After seeing that Paul is safely in bed, Kathy takes a pillow and a couple of blankets over to Paul’s sofa and starts to read. Umm, isn’t it broad daylight out? (See picture above) Well, I guess it’s never to early to bundle up in some blankets, turn on the light and start reading. Especially for an obvious fan of literature like Kathy.

Later that evening as the moon comes up, Paul awakes from a restless slumber and, <sigh>, takes off his shirt. He stumbles out into the living room where Kathy is sleeping on the sofa, using some weird blurry POV shot, because, you know, it’s cool. He then walks outside, around a huge indoor swimming pool and out the door into the back yard. You may also note a sign over the door going out to the yard, and a multitude of chairs and tables around the pool. Yes, that’s right. This movie was filmed at a hotel! No kidding!

Track of the Moon BeastWe cut to a scene with three men playing poker in a tent. As the game progresses, suddenly the side of the tent rips open and the monster jumps in. I wish I could have taken some good shots of the monster but the shot was filmed with such poor lighting it wasn’t possible. Needless to say, the monster looked totally bogus as we shall soon see. Anyway, a guy gets hit in the shoulder which somehow causes his neck to be slashed open, another old guy obligingly sits completely still so the monster can get a good grip on his ‘arm’ and rip it off, and other such nonsense.

We cut back to the hotel, er, I mean Paul’s house. It’s morning now, and the monster has taken back on it’s pajama pants and transformed back into Paul. Kathy has awoken and found Paul out by the pool, laying in a lounge chair. Paul doesn’t remember how he got there except that it was too warm in his room last night, so Kathy calls him a big baby, says she’ll make breakfast, and goes back inside. That shows you how logical people act in this movie.

Back at Chief Mac’s office, he and Johnny are discussing the latest murders (See Classic Lines). Mac still can’t seem to accept the fact that a dinosaur is alive. Alas, he admits that maybe there is a dinosaur still alive "…up in the hills…"

With a jarring cut, we change scenes back to Paul’s bedroom. Johnny has arrived to take Paul to the doctor (Duh! About time!). Paul is laying in bed, shirtless (ENOUGH ALREADY!), and agrees that it’s probably about time to get his noggin checked out. Paul also lets Johnny borrow his moon rock since he has gone through "all his text books" and can’t find the "answer to it" (?). (Answer to….? What?)

At the doctor’s office, Paul is about to have a series of X-rays taken of his head. (Why this requires him to take off his shirt, I don’t know, but he does it anyway.) Johnny excuses himself saying that he has an "errand" to do in the area. Ummm….ok? We next see him talking to a clerk at a photo shop. The clerk is looking at some pictures that Johnny has had developed, saying that he’s never seen anything like it before. Just a minute here:

1) What film is this? I never saw anybody take any pictures!

2) Why can’t we see what is in the photograph?!

3) Why are these pictures never mentioned again?!

4) What the hell was this scene all about!

5) This is a really terrible movie.

Having finished his oh-so-important errand, Johnny arrives back at the hospital just in time to hear the results of the X-rays. The doctor, after seeing Paul’s X-rays, notes that they "…usually don’t discuss them with their patients." (!!) (Do they usually keep patient’s test results a secret from them?) Despite the hospital’s policy of not discussing test results with the patient, the doctor has decided to make an exception because the case is so "unusual".

After showing Paul the X-ray of his head, the doctor breaks the news to him: "You’ve been hit by a small particle of matter of some kind…not enough to cause any pain because of the high speed." (Remind me to never go to that hospital if I ever get sick in Albuquerque…)

How did the doctor know about the "speed" of the particle. Paul certainly has no idea he was hit by anything. Stupid movie. The doctor also notes that this type of thing is "not unusual" (!!!) You see, soldiers have survived with particles of shrapnel in their brains…Well, gee. Thanks again, doc. To Paul’s irritation, the doctor says they will have to keep him there for a few days for observation, and "…if that area doesn’t clear up…we’re going to have to do something about it…surgically." Well, yes, I suppose you will.

Now it appears that Mac is paying a visit to Johnny at the anthropology department, where Johnny is showing Mac some slides of 400-year old Navajo paintings that he remembers seeing during his Ph.D. dissertation (or something). The paintings depict a story of a man who is struck by a light from the sky, and then turned into a "demon-lizard-monster". OK, so this story implies two things: First, that about every 400 years somebody in New Mexico survives being struck in the head by a piece of moon rock. Second, that having a piece of moon rock in your head will transform you into a man-sized were-lizard at each full moon. Oh Brother!!! (See Classic Lines)

Track of the Moon Beast

Thanks for sharing that story with me…
now to get my thumbs unstuck…

Johnny and Mac next head over to the NASA exhibit at the university’s geology department. Mac has closed the exhibit "on his authority" so they can examine the moon rocks alone. (Oh! The awesome powers that rest in that man’s hands! I bet you had to kick out hundreds of people from that exhibition!) Johnny takes on a glove, holds Paul’s moon rock "souvenir" up in the air and slowly approaches the other moon rock that is sitting in the exhibit case. As he nears the case, a beam of light shoots out from the moon rock and strikes the rock in Johnny’s hand. This strange occurrence is explained in full by Johnny: "…some unusual element in this fragment that synchronizes with that larger mass over there…and it produces some kind of energy reaction!" As patently bogus as this explanation is, even if it were true, how the hell would an anthropologist know this?!

Back at the hospital, Paul has been informed of his plight. He has agreed to be strapped down while the moon rises in order to see if the "Indian legend" is true. He would first like to speak with Kathy before anything happens, because they’ve known each other for so many hours now… Johnny goes to phone her at the reservation (?). After Kathy arrives at the hospital, she goes into Paul’s room to talk to him. They kiss, and cry a little bit. Whatever.

Track of the Moon BeastAs night falls, Kathy is told to leave the room, since, well, something scary might happen. Sure enough, Paul transforms into a man in a hideous rubber suit, while Johnny and Mac stare in horror through the barred door. Yes, Paul changes into the monster. I guess Mac won’t be making fun of Indian legends anymore.

The next morning, Paul is still strapped to the bed (shirtless and in boxer shorts! Oh yeah!) while Mac and Johnny doze in chairs beside him. Paul wakes up and realizes what has happened. Understandably upset, Mac tries to reassure Paul by saying "…they won’t convict you…they won’t even blame you!…once the people have all the facts." That’s reassuring. Johnny informs Paul that one of NASA’s top "lunar scientists" (?), Dr. Lawrence, and a leading brain surgeon, Dr. Rizzo (!), are on the way to the hospital to help Paul.

When Rizzo and Lawrence arrive at the hospital, Rizzo orders a new set of X-rays to be taken of Paul’s head. To his horror, they find out that the situation has taken a turn for the worse: "The particle in that young man’s brain has disintegrated, and energy factors are spreading through his entire system!" Hmmm. OK. Paul overhears the prognosis: The energy will be released all at once and he will be consumed by the flames. Or something. It sounds bad whatever it is.

Paul takes Kathy aside and tells her that if he is going to die he wants to "…look like a man." He plans on fleeing from the hospital and, well, kill himself, or something. At least go someplace where he can think things through. This scene is enacted by some of the cheesiest, wooden dialog between Paul and Kathy that you can ever imagine: "Oh, why couldn’t we have more time!?", "Do it…because we love each other…", blah blah blah, and so on. Good lord!

Paul steals a doctor’s coat and stethoscope (!), walks out the front door, and hides by the hospital’s emergency entrance. Wouldn’t you know it, a man drives up on a motorcycle, parks it, and of course leaves it running! Paul steals the motorcycle and hits the road.

Track of the Moon BeastWe next see Paul at the local "Coins – N – Guns’ store (!!!) While Paul is inside the store, a bulletin comes on the radio telling people to be on the look out for him and gives Paul’s description. Paul hears the announcement and runs from the store before he can buy the gun.

Back at Mac’s spartan Chief of Police’s office, he and Johnny are once again going over the situation. The come to the conclusion that Johnny might be trying to kill himself (Well…duh!). Then Kathy starts to remember what Paul said to her about Sandia Crest, about how it was his favorite place to go to relax and all that. While she is remembering all this, she gets a totally bizarre look on her face. I really don’t know what the hell the director told her to do, it looks like somebody suffering from constipation sitting through an electroshock session.

Kathy opts not to tell Mac and Johnny about Sandia Crest, and decides to go up there alone. She lies to Mac and Johnny, saying that she’d feel better if she could go back to the reservation (?) and surreptitiously excuses herself.

Meanwhile Paul is still driving along a dirt road someplace and for some reason suddenly crashes the motorcycle (on a perfectly straight road no less). Then in a totally manipulative scene, he looks up and sees a cable car going up the side of a steep mountain. We see that Paul is inside the cable car, then he opens the door and jumps out, plunging to his death on the rocky mountainside below.

No wait! He was just imagining it! Wow! Auteur! Auteur!

With the motorcycle destroyed in that most unusual of crashes, Paul has no choice but to start trudging up the mountainside on foot. After a while (how long? Who knows…) the police find the bike and report it to Mac. Johnny has a light-bulb moment and realizes that the road where the motorcycle was found leads to Sandia Crest!

However, Paul is not faring so well. We see him stumble and fall down a rocky slope, apparently unconscious. At that moment Kathy drives up and parks along side of the road. She gets out of the car, takes out a pair of binoculars, and scans the hillside (and yes, the shot is filmed through that ridiculous ‘binocular lens’ shaped opening).

She sees Paul laying motionless on the ground and drives off to help him. Somehow she reaches him and helps him to his feet. He pushes her away, saying that it will be night soon, and scrambles up the hill alone.

If all this seems like its jumping around a lot, well, it is. I don’t think the editor of this film had heard of a "fade" or a "segue".

Track of the Moon BeastWow! Now it’s suddenly night time and we see Kathy laying on the ground calling out for help. It appears she has gotten her foot stuck (!?). When did this happen? What’s going on here? Anyway, Paul goes back down the hill to help her, but the full moon sets in motion the transformation!

Two policemen parked on the road hear the monster’s roars and start firing blindly into the dark, while Kathy screams and screams. Hmmmm. Well, these two numbnuts won’t have to worry about filing any paper work because suddenly the monster appears behind them, bonks their heads together like something out of a Three Stooges episode, and they die (I guess).

As Mac, Johnny, Rizzo, and Lawrence (whew!) arrive at the scene, they see the dead policemen but the monster has already gotten away. For some reason Johnny turns on the patrol car’s spotlight, shines it on the hill, and immediately spots Kathy, still with her foot stuck (yeah, right!). Have I mentioned how utterly ridiculous this movie is?

After going up the hill and helping Kathy down, Johnny runs back to his car and gets out his bow, and not just any arrows, but special arrows that he has made: arrows with moon-rock arrow heads! (Just kill me now, I can’t take much more of this.) When Kathy sees that they intend to kill Paul, she screams, pleading with them not to do it, then gets in her car and drives off. (?)

Kathy pulls off on some random dirt road and what do you know…there’s the monster. Finally we get to see the monster in all of its, er, horror:

Track of the Moon Beast

The horror!

At that moment Johnny runs up with his bow and moon-rock arrows. (Man! He runs fast! How the hell did he catch up with Kathy?) He shoots an arrow into the monster’s chest which sets off an amazingly goofy special effects show as the, um, moon-rock energy dissipates all at once. Or something. Who cares.

Eventually the monster is reduced to a glowing spot on the ground. Ashes blow away in the wind. Majestic Native American music plays. Everybody piles back into their cars and drives away while Johnny holds Kathy in his arms and stares thoughtfully into the darkness.

The end.

Dennis Grisbeck (March 2005)

Afterthoughts

This movie was really, really, really, bad. The dialog was astoundingly clunky, and that’s when the actors actually managed to remember their lines (especially Johnny)! The way the "relationship" between Paul and Kathy was shoe-horned into the story left me flabbergasted. I can’t stress enough how stiff and unconvincing the performances from the two "love-birds" were presented in this film, and, if I may be so bold, the actress playing Kathy was so completely awful, it, it, it leaves me speechless. ("Moon rocks? Oh, wow!")

The plot itself was so full of holes you could use it for a screen door. Not only were the so-called "Indian Legends" completely absurd, but really, what are the odds of being hit in the head by a freakin’ moon rock!? Not only that, but have it happen twice, or at least often enough that legends are created around it? Absurd! Additionally, what was the point of mentioning that Paul lived in his mom’s house? It was never mentioned again, so, um, why mention it? And not to mention the fact that it took 2 people to write the script: the amazingly talented duo of Charles Sinclaire and Bill Finger; the same guys that wrote "The Green Slime" and "Snow Demons".

All in all, I can see how this movie might have been shown on Saturday afternoon TV during the 70′s and 80′s, probably filling a time slot between "The Gong Show" and "Bowling for Dollars".

The Mystery Science Theater version of "Track of the Moon Beast" is one of my favorite episodes. I hate to admit it, but I actually think this movie could still be entertaining even on its own.

It’s that bad!

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5 comments to Track of the Moon Beast (1976)

  • Shawn

    California Lady….

    Really I don’t know how you could watch this without Mike and the bots. It’s still hard to believe that a person could actually get hit in the head by a meteor and only have a headache.

  • Well, it WAS just a fragment :) Not like THAT was the biggest problem the plot had

  • Bob

    Dennis is correct about a lot of things but some of his pompous assumptions are incorrect. The pool scene was not filmed in a hotel but the rented house used for Paul’s place. The concert was indoors – look at the audience seating. And, I could go on but why detract from his fun.

  • Charles

    Perhaps Dennis’ incredulity refers to the fact that it’s damned rare for a house to have an indoor pool, and it’s less preposterous to imagine that this scene was filmed at a hotel rather than someone’s home. It’s an awfully cheap film to score such a posh location, if indeed it’s someone’s home.

    I think Paul living with his mom was their attempt to explain away how a mineralogy graduate student was living by himself in such a lavish house. If they hadn’t included that, the MST3k riff about how he lives in an efficiency with four other guys would’ve been much more realistic. I wonder if living with your parents when you’re a grad student was held in as low esteem in the 70s as it is today. Anyway, that’s why I think they included it even though Mom never showed up once, in any fashion, throughout the entire movie. The guy’s contemplating invasive brain surgery and no one thought to notify his mother!

  • Karl Hoegle

    Having finished his oh-so-important errand, Johnny arrives back at the hospital just in time to hear the results of the X-rays. The doctor, after seeing Paul’s X-rays, notes that they “…usually don’t discuss them with their patients.” (!!) (Do they usually keep patient’s test results a secret from them?) Despite the hospital’s policy of not discussing test results with the patient, the doctor has decided to make an exception because the case is so “unusual”.

    If I am a patient and my doctor wants to keep the results that I paid for secret, we are going to have a fight!

    Nice review! I saw the MST3K version and laughed myself hoarse.

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