Octaman

'Twas beauty killed the Octaman
★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1971
Director: 
Harry Essex
Starring: 
Pier Angeli, Kerwin Mathews, Jeff Morrow, David Essex
The Setup: 
Group menaced by walking octopus-man.
Discussion: 

You remember, or maybe you don't, when Jaws came out and everybody was saying that part of its brilliance was that it kept the monster concealed for the majority of the movie, knowing that your imagination would be far scarier than the sight of a rubber shark? Well, this movie is the kind of thing that was reacting against, because here you not only see the creature way too much for it to be scary in any way, you see the creature long enough to start studying exactly how the monster suit was put together. Which is not helped by the visible zippers.

We open with a 60s educational film-style narration, telling us that scientists are out there exploring everything, and some of them seek adventure, while others go to Latin America and encounter octaman. Or something like that. Then we have our credits as we see Octaman wandering about in the night, already showing us so much of the creature that it's not scary, and we are not even a full minute in. The Octaman (not octO-man, by the way) is a dude in a suit with four arms that stick out, two that have his legs down them, and two more hanging uselessly in the back. Its face is frozen with an open mouth and two big red eyes, all of which gets far, far too much coverage. At a certain point its eyes move a millimeter and it's like "Woah! This suit is more impressive than I thought!"

So scientist Rick and his lovely lass Susan are in "Latin America" (that's all we can reveal at this time!) studying mutations caused by nuclear testing. You know, all the nuclear testing that occurred in Latin America. You know, all THAT nuclear testing. Rick is worried that the radiation has contaminated the local seafood, and is just SO worried about the populous, when his buddy brings him a ludicrous, immobile rubber octopus from a nearby lake. All of this happens in a series of interconnected lakes. Now, WHY are there octopuses in a lake? Because of all the NUCLEAR TESTING. Okay? Geez. They are freaked out by the immobile rubber octopus, which they say is half-human, even though it looks nothing like. They decide to set it free, and go to the side of the lake and release it--on LAND--at which point it starts being drawn by a string toward the water, limbs completely immobile. Then they change their minds and decide to trap it again. Fickle scientists! This is all witnessed by the Octaman, who now has these people in its vengeful eyes.

Then their buddy is left alone at the camp on a bright sunny day, cutting into the young rubber octopus (which does not react at all to being cut--you are looking at the sight of a man cutting a rubber octopus), while the Octaman stalks by dead of night. Scientist works by day, Octaman stalks by night, then--oh, I guess these were happening at the same time. It's just that it's pitch black by the Octaman, bright sunlight a few feet away. Octaman attacks and kills the scientist, making off with the young rubber octopus stapled to its arm.

Meanwhile, Rick and Susan are trying to get funding from a guy who thinks that mutant half-human rubber octopuses have nothing to do with the local pollution. They pick up two sexy cowboys, one the older, sleazy, cigar-chomping Johnny, the younger the mustachioed, open-shirted Steve, who has a happy-go-lucky attitude and fantastic teeth. These two at least gave me something to look at for the duration of the film. By now one has notice that everyone is trying to do their impression of a Latin accent (or a Speedy Gonzales imitation, you decide), something Susan seems to have particular trouble with. The actress who plays Susan died from a drug overdose during filming, by the way.

They get back to camp to find the mutilated body of their friend. You will find that the Octaman is capable of inflicting pretty serious damage, quite a bit more than seems possible, and that a mere sideswipe of its slimy tentacle is enough to rip one's eye out of its socket. So this is SERIOUS, okay? This thing is a SERIOUS THREAT. Meanwhile two shifty locals (the Latin Americans are all portrayed as shifty and out for money, including Johnny and the alluring Steve) have stolen one of the baby rubber octopuses for the promise of big bucks--on the thriving mutant rubber octopus black market--but their plans are thwarted by being killed by the Octaman.

Meanwhile, fear is rising at the camp in broad daylight, while not far away the Octaman is engaged in a valiant battle with a stuffed crocodile by dark of night. The scientists go off to, you know, scientize, leaving Johnny alone at camp. He just HAPPENS to be looking the other way, allowing the Octaman to get within a foot of him before he notices. That sneaky Octaman! He survives. Then Rick and company go out to find it, while it appears and kidnaps Susan, who is rescued soon enough. You will notice that the Octaman sees with multiple-image honeycomb vision, like a bee, even though it has slit eyes, like a cat. Soon enough it is revealed that the Octaman is transfixed by Susan's leathery beauty, and will take orders from her. By now, King Kong has been heavily referenced and there's been another line implying that the Octaman yearns for female human companionship. He is an Octa-MAN, after all. With an Octaman's needs.

Anyway, after rescuing Susan, Rick and Steve chase the Octaman down to the lakeside, where Rick encircles it in a ring of fire created by pouring gasoline--a ring of eight-inch high flames with about a 20-foot diameter--then explains that this will defeat the Octaman because "the fire will burn up all the oxygen around him." Wow. Did these filmmakers not have access to science books? WHAT went wrong in someone's life that they could write that? So they escape, make it back to camp, and concede defeat, deciding that they must drive their Winnebago out of there.

And they surely would have--if the Octaman hadn't gone first and blocked the road! They're trapped--trapped like rats! They return, then make an exploratory party on foot. Why? I can't quite discern. Now Davido, the native with long straight black hair and who is either just really awful with his Speedy Gonzales accent or actually supposed to be developmentally disabled, lures them all into this cave, for some reason, then they all get trapped, and you're like "WHY did they go in that cave in the first place?" then Davido has to crawl around looking for a way to get out, which he finds, and they all crawl out, while you are like "WHY did they GO IN THAT CAVE IN THE FIRST PLACE?!?!"

So they return to the Winnebago and--guess who's inside? That's right: Ashley Judd. No, silly, the Octaman, with the Octaman's needs! He attacks, but Susan, who has some sort of psychic bond with it or other control over it because she is a sensual lass with the look and feel of hand-tooled leather, and she allows herself to be carried away by her many-suckered suitor. What follows is--well, have you ever seen any of that Japanese tentacle porn? No, of course not, the guys all run after her, but Susan has hidden a gun in her pocket and soon the Octaman is shot through the heart, and she's to blame, proving she gives love a bad name (bad name).

So, do I even have to tell you that it was awful? How watchable you find it will depend on your tolerance for these things, and I must confess that I did fast-forward a fair amount toward the end. Still, it manages to remain somewhat compelling. People are dying every few minutes, there is certainly no shortage of the Octaman, we have two hot sleazy Latins (admittedly a specialized taste), and it's all agreeable moronic. So it could be much worse.

The are two other things of note about this movie, One is that is is written and directed by Harry Essex, who was a co-writer of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and apparently felt that he had found his specialty. The other thing is--and I actually found this genuinely inspiring--is that the Octaman suit, horrific as described, was created by... Rick Baker! Who went on to become the most famous creature designer in Hollywood, working on such films as Batman and Hellboy and the Men in Black series. See? So all that time you think you're just toiling in obscurity and making idiotic things that will never amount to anything, who's to say they won't all bear fruit one day? There truly is reason to hope.

Should you watch it: 

If you want to see a really shitty early 70s monster movie, sure.