Monday, 8 December 2014

Night Fright (1967)

My first thought on seeing the title of this film was to wonder if it was a cheapie knock-off of mid-80s vampire flick Fright Night, but it's actually nearly 20 years older, and also far goofier.

The film starts with a familiar trope: two college kids making out at lover's lane get murdered by an unseen assailant.  Before they get around to being killed, though, they find time for some exposition about a rocket crashing nearby.  Golly, could the two be related in some way?

B-movie stalwart John Agar is the local sheriff.  He decides to close the lake where the kids go to make out, but also decides not to tell them why.  I bet that plan goes great, Johnboy.

So, to spoil the film's big reveal: the murderer is a gorilla that NASA sent into space to study the effects of cosmic radiation.  As justifications for your monster being a guy in a gorilla suit and a funky mask go ... well, it is one.  Which puts this film at least one step ahead of Robot Monster.

So anyway, the monster roams around the woods - always at night, so the shortcomings of the costume are less obvious - while the Sheriff tries to find it (given the nature of the wounds on the first two victims, he does know it is an "it" of some kind).  In parallel to this we get a pretty tiresome teen drama about some wholesome young man and his wholesome new girlfriend, and his possibly-jealous ex and her bad boy beau.  Possibly jealous ex is also the younger sister of the sheriff's own girlfriend (who looks a good twenty years younger than the mid-40s Agar).  So there's a whole lot of talky talk going on in between the sporadic monster attacks.  Talky-talk like:

"But... but seriously, have you... have you ever thought about... oh, sometimes when I'm alone I think about things that we don't know about... about the sky and the earth and the air and the wind... or even this leaf."

Dialogue for the ages, that.

This was a very cheap production, something that is clear not just from the hokey nature of the monster costume but also from the extensive amount of padding: we get several long sequences of Agar walking around the forest, and of the college kids dancing (which reveals that the director was particularly enamored of one extra's backside), both of which serve to eat up time.  The latter sequence also shows up the movie's lack of concern with continuity, as the twilight dancing scene is intercut with other events that were clearly filmed in the middle of the day.

I actually had fun watching this because (a) the stuff with the teens is so badly done and (b) the monster only ever attacks people when they're in cars (though it will chase them if they leave the vehicle), which led me to conduct a theory that it was just acting out its anger against being sealed in a tin can and blasted into space.

Unless you have a taste for some really goofy low budget schlock though, you can skip this.

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