Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Superbeast (1972)

The cinematic DNA of his low-budget horror movie should be sufficient for a few jolts—after all, writer-director George Schenck shamelessly combines elements from the ’30s classics Island of Lost Souls and The Most Dangerous Game. Alas, there’s a reason why Schenck began and ended his directorial career with Superbeast: He seems incapable of generating onscreen excitement, no matter how lurid the narrative tools at his disposal. Superbeast is filled with aimless dialogue exchanges, the action scenes are dull, and the performances are somnambulistic. It’s quite an accomplishment to make a story about murderous monsters boring, but Schenck does exactly that. Shot in the Philippines, Superbeast follows American scientist Dr. Alix Pardee (Antoinette Bower), who searches for clues in a wild jungle after several people are assaulted by humanoid creatures. Eventually, Alix stumbles into the hidden compound of Stewart Victor (Harry Lauter), a great-white-hunter type who underwrites experiments by Dr. Bill Fleming (Craig Littler). Bill is possibly the mellowest mad doctor in cinematic history, practicing on human subjects while perfecting a chemical formula that he believes can transform criminals into peaceful citizens. In exchange for sponsorship, Bill lets Stuart uses the subjects of failed experiments as quarry for human hunts. Although photographed competently and with occasional flashes of style, Superbeast is inert. For example, even if leading lady Bowers wasn’t as allergic to facial expressions as she seems to be, it would be impossible to make pointless scenes of canoeing down rivers and wandering through jungles seem interesting. And even though Superbeast gets an infusion of monster action once Shenck starts featuring creature makeup heavily during the finale, the ship has already sailed by that point. In fact, the ship has already sunk.

Superbeast: LAME

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