I Saw a Film!
A movie isn’t a bad movie because it’s cheaply made. Of course not, we regularly watch older films with chintzy special effects or minuscule budgets that ask us to use our imaginations to fill in the places where gaps leave much to be desired. From Metropolis and Buck Rogers to The Day the Earth Stood Still and Night of the Living Dead we’ve long been able to accept well executed but low-fi sci-fi and horror films. So it’s obvious there’s more to being bad than just asking your viewers to suspend enough disbelief to accept a player in a rubber suit as a 400′ tall monster kicking over the buildings in Tokyo. Where films go bad is in execution and indulgence, as well as probably other criteria.
When you see the name Fred Olen Ray you know you’re in for a slog. This film reportedly cost about 12,000 bucks and includes a hand-held sparkler being swished through the air as a meteor. On the plus side he convinced three lovely ladies to show off their wonderful top-sides as they put themselves in peril in the swamps of Florida. Though I think I’ve seen better made by kids on iPhones.
OK so highlights aside, what we have here is a suggested alien crash-landing film that quickly becomes an early Romero-style zombie movie. These zombies are curiously aquatic, and are achieved with minimal make-up effects, and perhaps one full face rubber mask. The kill sequences are sometimes so inept that zombies are caught smiling and mugging the camera, and the tomato soup—copiously displayed–budget probably took up a good portion of the film’s outlay.
The film stars Buster Crabbe (the Original Tarzan and star of countless ancient westerns and Buck Rogers features) in his last screen appearance as a small town sheriff trying to deal with a slowly building monster problem. He mostly yells a lot and plays cards with his charlatan deputies. This was probably half of the budget.
The problem with the story is that it’s not well executed. We’re never clear on the aliens, I wonder if we were meant to take the one full rubber-mask guy as the initial alien, but then we’re subjected to a houseboat that the meteor collided with that turned all the party-goers into zombies with chunks of their faces dropping off. What I’m saying is, I don’t know if I saw any aliens, for all I know these people just caught an interstellar rabies and now spend their time under-water. One thing leads to another, mostly in the form of a various folks being stalked, jumped and transformed into gruesome monsters, and so on. The dialog is forgettable, though we’re treated to a slight romance between a lanky, poor-man’s Peter Fonda-style journalist and a redneck’s cute daughter. I promise you though, this too is quite forgettable. The one thing that’s not forgettable is the color saturation that turns what had to be blue uniforms of the officers a bright purple and the hair of the zombies a kind of bozo-orange.
Lastly, what the heck is meant by the title? The Alien Dead seems to already imply whatever alien problems we may have been primed to face passed away sometime en route. Maybe that’s why we didn’t see any.
This old drive-in fodder was past its type prime by the end of the seventies (though drive-ins should be brought back now!) and unless you’re a true-blue horror film completist there’s no good reason to subject yourself to this kind of con-artist bungling.
Free on Prime and Free is possible too much, they should be offering some incentives.