|Copyright 1972 Barton Film Company
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 19 August 2001
- Stevens - Manly and virile INPIT agent. Terrible shot with a rifle though.
- Walsh - Partner to Stevens (in more ways than one) and, as the female member of the team, she gets to perform duties other women only dream of: nurse, typist, and receptionist. Yup, she is a liberated woman.
- Rex - Marine biologist with a full agenda in this movie. He must overcome pollution, racism (he is black), and a vicious catfish monster. The last labor proves too much for him. Finally, after dedicated effort by the creature, Rex is clawed to death.
- Sheriff Krantz - Hey look, it's a redneck sheriff! Instead of shooting the monster he tries to wrestle with it and that does not work very well. Time for the county to elect a new sheriff.
- A Group of Hippies - What do you think they could be doing? Why, they're singing of course.
- Dr. Leopold - Mad scientist who is bent on giving aquatic evolution a helpful push. I only wish he could do it without the constant inner monologue. Transforms into the monster after injecting himself with ZAAT.
- The Monster - A hideous bipedal catfish (actually he looks more like a demon born of an aardvark and spinach) that has all the mental abilities of his former self. The inner monologue continues unabated.
|Monster movies have a tradition of hiding the beast from the audience, even when we know (courtesy of the title) approximately what will be menacing the characters. Well, after an extended scene with Leopold examining various parts of his laboratory and narrating, he takes the next step in retro evolution. Having filled his veins with ZAAT, the madman lowers himself into a bubbling pool and becomes the monster. Movement blurs the creature's shape. We glimpse tantalizing bits of a scaly leg and a clawed hand. Then it climbs out of the tank in plain view. Hehehe!
One thing you have to admit: the filmmakers were darn proud of their monster suit. Over the next ninety minutes it will have plenty of camera time. Granted that it is an improvement over Leopold shuffling (he walks like my grandfather) across the screen, but the creature is no picture of grace either. Especially true when the scene calls for him to emerge from the water and come ashore, with much effort spent in not tripping or staggering drunkenly. This actually works in their favor when, later on, the being formerly known as Leopold has been wounded.
Leopold's goal is to spread ZAAT through the waters (both fresh and briny), thus creating vile mutations that will prevail over humans. He does not wish to rule the world, but for some reason feels that the eel should inherit the earth. Staying methodical and organized is important, so he created the Wheel... ...of... ...Crayon to prioritize tasks. It looks like the sort of day planner a deranged kindergarten teacher would assign as a class project (I'm not joking about the crayon). There are all sorts of notable tasks to be completed: killing scientists who criticized his work and finding a woman to transform into Mrs. Catfish among them. Maybe all of this could have been averted if he only visited a few singles bars instead of measuring dorsal fins every night.
Distributing the mutative chemical is a tricky job. The monster fills a spray bottle full of the secret formula and then swims around underwater, spraying it here and there. While I was trying to catch my breath from laughing at that unique method of dispersal another whopper hit me in the solar plexus. The actor is wearing scuba gear under that suit! In and of itself this does not sound very amusing. Keep reading. Every time he exhales a stream of bubbles emanates from not only the head, but every seam along the body! Trying to rationalize doesn't help either, because then the creature would be equipped with gills (or some sort of respiratory organ) on its hips, elbows, and back. Oops, almost forgot, and its butt.
When the spray bottle is empty, or just too diluted, the killing starts. Rex and the sheriff are scratching their heads over what could be making catfish act so funny, then dead bodies start turning up. Bottom feeders flopping across people's yards are one thing, but fishermen being clawed to death are another. Finding that some water samples are radioactive gives the marine biologist a good reason to call INPIT for help.
INPIT stands for Inter-Nations Phenomena Investigation Team; Walsh and Stevens bring their vast experience at dealing with outlandish monsters along with a fully equipped motorhome. Nets are strung across canals and inlets, then attached to sophisticated alarm systems (okay, okay - a red flashing light and a horn sounds). All that is left to do is wait.
Meanwhile, the catfishman has found a pretty blonde camped out near a pond and grabs her the moment she takes a dip. Remember the scenes in "Creature from the Black Lagoon" when the creature is swimming? They did a good job of making him appear swifter and better adapted than the humans. Not so here. The monster looks to be struggling with locomotion; people can obviously swim better than the man wearing the suit.
The unconscious blonde is injected with Leopold's secret formula (don't even think it) and then lowered into the tank via an unwieldy rescue basket contraption. This latest experiment is less successful than could be hoped for and the girl, now apparently suffering from moss infestation, is dumped into a vat of acid. Monstrous rage also takes hold for a moment and the mad scientist smashes up several pieces of equipment. Hey moron, maybe stuff would work right if you didn't whack it every time one of your crackpot schemes failed.
Late one night the INPIT agents spring into action when the net alarm system sounds and confront a very unhappy beast. The best weapons on hand are a camera and Stevens' knife. The agent commends himself amiably with the latter and grievously wounds Leopold. One guy with a small sheath knife almost kills the monster! Maybe our murderous doctor should reconsider his plans; work some new tricks like poisonous claws, armored scales, and sabot spines into the serum. Replacing mankind as the dominant species is going to be difficult if people find out your species is easy to kill and tastes great when lightly sautéed.
Most of the town evacuates at about this point, leaving only a few stalwart souls and our main characters. The monster breaks into a pharmacy and chugs some sort of liquid painkiller he finds there. It goes without saying that those (injected painkillers) are usually the more potent and he gets a little loopy. A pair of young kids smooching on the girl's front porch attracts the creature's attention. The boy gets a very painful and deadly reminder that teenage romantics are best conducted in a car. Even if the farmer who owns the field used as "smooching ground zero" has a shotgun and an alcoholic cow that drinks all your beer.
Nothing, and I do mean nothing, of importance happens for the next thirty minutes. When Leopold finally grabbed Walsh and started carrying her back to his lair I was thankful. First that something was happening; second that another ten minute scene with the hippies (let's not dwell on THAT) was out of the question. During this Stevens has perfected a way to track the monster with his Geiger counter and, with the sheriff and Rex helping, discovers that his partner (nudge nudge, wink wink) has been kidnapped. All interested parties arrive at the laboratory in close succession, but can Stevens foil Leopold's evils plans? The monster stumbles towards the open sea with canisters of ZAAT under his arms and the hero valiantly tries to shoot in the offhand...
There is more to this story, because only one quarter of the Wheel... ...of... ...Crayon has been completed. What the rest could be is a mystery. Leopold drafting a fishy Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights? Who knows? Perhaps you're supposed to read the chart from the outside in? Honestly that looks to be the case.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Using a six inch needle to inject serum into your forearm is overkill.
- C-clamps should not be used to precisely control the flow of liquids through a tube.
- Toads and catfish are incapable of interbreeding, but they sure can make a mess trying.
- Waterlogged corpses constantly move their hands when doing the "dead man's float."
- Coral reefs can be found on the bottom of freshwater lakes and ponds.
- Few amphibians ever become successful as sketch artists.
- Catfish feed on blood.
- Hippies singing can be easily mistaken for screams.
- Geiger counters are waterproof.
- 3 mins - Does this fish have asthma or something?
- 12 mins - So, he hasn't slept in twenty years?
- 20 mins - Hehehehe! Don't trip!
- 34 mins - For some reason nobody ever sees the monster, even though it keeps surfacing.
- 39 mins - I am still trying to figure out how the victim having chemical burns caused Stevens to deduce the killer is part fish.
- 42 mins - Was that supposed to be a huge catfish smashing through a fence?
- 63 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A PHARMACY!
- 70 mins - They are being arrested for bad singing! At long last a legal system that makes sense!
- 91 mins - The plot has moved roughly one inch in the last thirty minutes. Somebody poke the movie with a stick and see if it is still alive.
- Leopold: "We're going to do something about your size; you can't battle people being just two feet long."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Leopold: "Mwhahaha! They think I'm insane! They're the ones who are insane!"
||Reporter: "Do you see any connection between this monster and the rash of virus cases here in the hospital? Could the water supply be contaminated?" |
Krantz: "Hell man, I ain't no scientist, it's probably a bug going around."
||Krantz: "Now look here mister, you trying to tell me that these walking fish are strong enough now to kill somebody? Cause, if you are, I'm taking a long walk right through that door."
||Rex: "Do you think the monster's a catfish?" |
Stevens: "Maybe, but I'd say definitely a mutation. A mutated sea creature of some kind, but with intelligence."
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|Leopold takes revenge on one of the scientists who mocked him. Watch in terror as the monster struggles to swim! Gaze in amazement at a scene that starts moments before the director yelled "Action!"
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