Thursday, 9 October 2014

Beast of the Yellow Night (1971)

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, an evil man sells his soul to the devil in order to save himself from death.  He spends the next two decades being wicked.  Specifically, his consciousness occupies the bodies of other people on the verge of death, and then he tempts the people they know into succumbing to their evil impulses.

Twenty years of this is enough to weary even the most hardened of villains however.  Finding the wife and brother of his latest vessel to be decent people, he attempts to persuade the two of them to cuckold him and run off together.  But of course, being decent people, they refuse.

The devil, however, is not amused by this sudden bout of ethics and curses his minion.  At times of stress, our 'hero' (such as he is) will transform into a strong, savage beastman, and go on a rampage of violence.  If he gets back to doing his job, presumably this will stop ... but that means harming a woman he has come to care for.  And meanwhile, the police are starting to link his new identity to that of the killer stalking the streets ...

To be frank, this is not a terribly good film.  The three main actors are okay in their roles, but some of the secondary cast are pretty darn wooden.  Of course, with the dialogue the script offers up, it's an uphill battle for even the competent cast members.  I mean, can you imagine delivering the line "As far as you're concerned, I am and can only ever be whoever or whatever you think I am." and making it seem, well ... like it makes a lick of sense?

The conclusion of the film is also poor.  I think I can see what they were going for, and points I guess for not having some expository conversation to explicitly state it, but it comes at the end of a fairly flaccid ten-minute chase.  Though it is enlivened in the last two minutes by the film-maker's flagrant disregard for occupational health and safety.  "See that burning field, you extras?  Go run around in the flames for a bit, okay?"

Of course, being "not terribly good" puts this a cut above most low budget 70s fare, and financially I believe it did pretty well for distributor Roger Corman.  Certainly, it led to his producing a series of films in the Philippines during the 1970s.  Which means it is at least indirectly responsible for giving the world Black Mama, White Mama.  And I have to give it at least a little affection for that.

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