Friday, July 28, 2017

192. Track of the Moon Beast

192. Track of the Moon Beast (1976)
Director: Richard Ashe
Writers: Bill Finger and Charles Sinclair
From: Chilling
Watch: archive.org

In a twist on the werewolf legend, an archaeologist is struck by a meteorite which causes him to turn into a reptilian monster when the moon rises.

I’m going to keep it short because this one sucks (and the ones coming up aren’t much better). Paul is an archaeologist who starts flirting with a photographer. While they’re on a walk, an asteroid hits the moon causing a meteor shower of moon rocks. One hits Paul, embedding part of itself in his body. This causes him to start having reactions to the moon and moon-based material.

No, seriously. He visits a museum and a laser fires from a moon rock at his head.

After a night or two, he starts turning into a David Icke reptoid and killing people when the moon rises. So he’s a werewolf, but a lizard—a lizardwolf. That joke is not as dumb as this movie.

Paul’s feeling sick from the moon rock embedded in his head and goes to the doctor. They do x-rays, see the fragment, but tell him he’ll be able to live a normal live. Meanwhile, his friend, a native American called “Chief” because this is 1976, goes to the sheriff with “ancient tribal drawings” that look like they were previously hanging on the refrigerator to reward the clever four-year-old who drew them. The pictures depict someone touching something from the sky, turning into a lizardwolf, and then blowing up apropos of nothing. That’s not my interpretation, the movie has “Chief” say no one knows why he blew up.

The photographer has a picture of Paul that she shows to “Chief” that depicts something very strange. So strange that “Chief” goes to the developer to get it checked out, but is told that it’s part of the negative, that it’s really what happened. We don’t ever see the picture so I can’t say what was so odd.

That’s right, the movie—a film, part of a visual medium—builds a plot point around a picture—an image featured in a visual medium—and doesn’t show it to us.

Scientists come to examine Paul and find that the moon rock has dissolved and spread throughout his system. They witness him change and come to the conclusion that the process with advance until he blows up. He overhears this, decides he wants to die looking like a man, and runs away. He’s looking to commit suicide but the manhunt for him keeps getting in the way (*whomp whomp*). The photographer figures out where he’s going, runs after him, and gets stuck which allows her to witness his change.

He doesn’t attack her, but, even after seeing him turn into a monster, she keeps refusing to accept that he’s the monster and keeps getting in the cops’ way. Finally, “Chief” shows up with an arrowhead fashioned from the moon rock, shoot Paul thereby accelerating the process, and Paul blows up. THE END.

This was so stupid. I mean, it was just unrelentingly bad and boring. The acting is terrible, none of the characters’ choices make sense, and the movie is constantly making poor decisions. The picture is just one example. Twenty minutes in to a less than eighty minute movie, the movie pauses for a musical break. Paul, “Chief,” and the photographer are in the audience and Paul starts to feel sick. They take Paul home, prep him for bed, and have a few scenes of dialogue with him, none of which we hear because the movie won’t cut away from the band playing. How did you come to that decision?

On top of this, the monster costume sucks. It’s just a mask. He’s not a guy in makeup and it’s not particularly creative. He kind of looks like the Gorn from Star Trek, but not as good. On top of that, they have a transformation scene where they fade between the various states of transformation. Only, he’s not wearing makeup. In a werewolf movie, they’d fade between the various layers of makeup that were being applied. Here, they’re fading to a guy in a mask so they fade between some makeup stages and then several variations of the mask. It all looks like garbage.

Maybe unsurprisingly, this was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 as episode 1007. At the moment, there’s no official free streaming source for the movie, but it’s available in Volume XXXVIII. The movie’s also in the public domain so I’ve added an MPEG version to archive.org here.

I’m not going to recommend the movie, though. The MST3k version might be solid (I haven’t watched my copy yet), but on its own the movie’s slow, dull, and pretty uninspired. There aren’t even that many monster attacks so it lacks tension even by its own standards. Although it is short, it felt like it ran a long time for me so I’d recommend giving it a pass.

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