Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Bat People, and a Happy Halloween!

Once again, MGM/UA bows to Horrorpalooza.

The Bat People, a favorite mid-seventies chiller of mine (and, yep, another special request from Horrorpalooza 2006), just made the digital translation on a nifty DVD double bill with the 1982 horror flick, The Beast Within. And both movies make for unpretentious good times.

It had been a few years since I'd screened either. The last time I saw The Beast Within was as a horror-hungry adolescent during its initial theatrical run, and our dog-eared VHS copy of The Bat People hadn't seen the inside of a VCR since I lived in Tacoma six years ago.

The Beast Within re-jiggers a classic sci-fi scenario, with a young woman (Bibi Besch) being assaulted by a giant monster. She gives birth to an apparently normal son (Paul Clemens), but once he grows up he develops an appetite for extremely rare meat and experiences an extra-traumatic growth spurt, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

It's junk, but pretty entertaining junk, directed at a brisk pace by Aussie Philippe Mora, and written by Tom Holland (who'd really earn his terror stripes with that wonderful Valentine to old-school horror, Fright Night, three years later). Tom Burman coughs up some gloppily-effective make-up (the titular beast is a sort of giant katydid man), and best of all, the movie's packed stem-to-stern with great character actors: Ronny Cox as Besch's concerned hubby, Don Gordon as an oily judge, Sam Peckinah regular L.Q. Jones as the stymied sheriff (not to mention Designing Women's Meshach Taylor as his deputy!), R.G. Armstrong (fresh from having his neck snapped like a breadstick in Evilspeak) as the town doctor, and Luke Askew as an extra-crabby local.

The Bat People makes for an enjoyable second bill, a modest and unassuming little 1974 chiller about a scientist (Stewart Moss) who gets bitten by a bat while spelunking in a cave. The bite turns him into (natch) a Bat Man.

Again, this is no masterpiece, but it's a pretty well-acted and reasonably involving effort. Moss is really good, elevating the silly material with a 100% commitment to the part, and Tom Burman contributes an effective early make-up for the final-stage bat man. Interestingly, the movie's a bit of a reunion for several Star Trek guest stars: In addition to Moss (who got infected by a galactic giggle virus in a Trek episode), Paul Carr (Lt. Lee Kelso) turns up as the doctor trying to figure out what's going on, and best of all the awesome Michael Pataki ('The Trouble with Tribbles' Klingon) plays a lecherous town sheriff who leers over Moss's pretty wife (Marianne McAndrew) even as he goes all Les Miserables on the metamorphosing scientist. Fun stuff.

Gotta go. It's my anniversary and the missus and I are programming our own horror film festival for the night. See you in November.

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