Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, 1963, director Ray Dennis Steckler, Starring Cash Flagg (Steckler), Carolyn Brandt. Color, 82 minutes. (Also know as The Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary.) Schlock-meter rating: 6 stars out of 10.
By Doug Gibson
I'll say this much: Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is a GREAT title. And for that the late director/star Steckler gets three stars right off the bat. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is very confusing, and only the carnival scenes somewhat save this semi-boring monster musical with strippers who are very clothed.
A word about the carnival. It is the old Pike in Long Beach, Calif., a wonderful amusement place by the beach that was torn down more than 25 years ago. And a plus for the film is that it's very colorful. Cult director Steckler used color to advantage. The viewer will appreciate that this is a unique film by a cult director.
The plot is very tangled, but here goes. An ugly gypsy fortune teller (who looks a lot like an old Liz Taylor with a big mole) turns a bunch of hapless fortune seekers into scarred, drugged-out zombies who have an urge to kill. (Why do zombies always have an urge to kill in films? by the way.) No reason is ever given as to why the gypsy wants these zombies around. One night free spirit, cool young guy (Steckler), who looks a bit like a homely Nicholas Cage, goes to the carnival with his rich-girl lady. They have a spat when he eyes a comely dancer, and she stalks off.
Steckler goes after the dancer, and falls into the clutches of the evil fortune teller. He spends the rest of the film wandering around in a daze, occasionally killing and once trying to kill his girl. Later the zombies revolt and wreck havoc around the carnival. Steckler is pursued to the beach, where he meets his fate. Steckler is not a bad actor. He later was very good in a private eye flick he directed, Super Cool. He also made some great C films, including the spoofs Rat Pfink a Boo Boo and The Lemon Grove Kids series, as well as genuinely nervy psycho killer film called The Thrill Killers.
But this film is too undisciplined to take seriously. Several times scenes don't seem to mesh with the plot and often there is no explanation for why anything is occurring. The viewer is never told how the evil gypsy controls minds. She mumbles in dreams and we see a bad imitation of the Twilight Zone spiral (was this film shot originally in 3D?). In theaters ushers were forced to dress up like zombies and run through the theaters. Steckler's then-wife, Carolyn Brandt, who often starred in his films, plays a sexy carny dancer.
It was advertised as a monster musical and as a result, we're forced to watch a lot of bad singing and dancing. The acting is overall poor. The best part of the film is the weird carny world where so much of the action occurs. The film captures the seedy side of small-time carnival life a generation ago. Unfortunately, the limitations of the filmmakers and likely, a very tiny budget, produce an often talky bore. But still a great title! I must mention that the late Steckler, in interviews I have read and watched, seems like a good guy, modest and candid. Other titles for this film included "Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary."
Steckler was dissatisfied that the original distributor turned it into a second feature to another low-budget film so he regained rights to the film, and according to Wikipedia, bought rights to Beast of Yucca Flats to be Incredibly Strange Creatures ... second feature, and barnstormed the nation showing the film. I imagine it made a profit.
This is the film Steckler is best known for, even if it's not his best. Try "Body Fever" or "The Thrill Killers." It's fun to say Steckler acting in the film. He was a fine thespian. The film was also spoofed in MST3K. Watch the film above!