Sunday, November 3, 2013

Octaman -- a low-budget take on Creature From the Black Lagoon

By Steve D. Stones

A small ecological scientific expedition, headed by Kerwin Matthews, star of such great 1960s classics as Jack The Giant Killer and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, travels to a small Latin American fishing community to study radioactive contamination in the water. Here they take blood samples of local villagers, since their diet consists mostly of foods found in the sea. One member of the expedition, Mort, discovers a strange, small creature similar to a small octopus. The creature looks like a cheap rubber toy for kids.

Matthews decides to return to the United States to seek more funding for his research and to continue the expedition. He presents his findings to Jeff Morrow, star of This Island Earth and The Creature Walks Among Us. Morrow is not convinced of Matthews' hypothesis that the small octa-creature is a result of contaminated water, so he decides not to fund the rest of the expedition.

Matthews then turns to a wealthy rancher named Johnny Caruso to fund the remainder of the expedition. Caruso is not a scientist, so his interest is mostly in finding his next sideshow attraction and to profit from its discovery.

After returning to Latin America, the expedition learns of a local myth of a giant half man, half sea creature, who attacks and murders local villagers. If any of this sounds familiar, that's because it was written and directed by Harry Essex, a screenwriter for the 1950s classic: The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Some viewers have described Octaman as a low-budget version of The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

There are some similarities. For instance, there is a scene where the expedition is trying to leave the local area in their motor home. They encounter a fallen tree that blocks their path on the road, making it so that they cannot leave. This is similar to when the creature in The Creature From The Black Lagoon moves a fallen tree in front of the boat expedition.

It is important to note that the unique Octaman creature was an early creation of makeup wizard Rick Baker, who has gone on to have a very successful career in many big-budget Hollywood films, such as: American Werewolf In London, Star Wars and The Howling. Baker won an academy award for his work on American Werewolf In London and The Nutty Professor. His earliest work was Octaman and in assisting Dick Smith in make-up effects in The Exorcist. The female lead in Octaman, Pier Angeli, died of a barbiturate overdose while the film was in production.

The film was never released theatrically in the U.S. and went straight to television and later video.

What makes Octaman so interesting is the fact that it is a summation of so many earlier monster movie creatures from the 1950s. As I watched Octaman, I couldn't help but think of the creature in Monster of Piedras Blancas, the tree creature in From Hell It Came, and of course The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Octaman is worthy of a viewing, if not only to see an interesting reference to so many classic monster movies of the 1950s and 1960s.

No comments: