I’ve written about the 1964 low-budget classic, “The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies” before, notably my memories of seeing it at a drive-in with an older relative.
I didn’t touch on the movie all that much, though.
Ray Dennis Steckler directed and stars – under his pseudonym Cash Flagg – and I guess you could argue he’s a forerunner to the director/stars we’re familiar with from today. His performance isn’t horrible but he’s undercut by the low, low-budget of his own movie.
The movie follows a group of friends who visit a carnival and stumble upon bad guys who hypnotize, disfigure and enslave people, turning them into, in effect, zombie slaves.
The movie has the telltale leisurely pace of a low-budget flick. For what seems like forever, characters wander around, gazing at stuff, talking about nothing. There seem to be endless scenes of arty dance numbers, totally out of place at a nightclub. Watching one of these movies makes you appreciate how a well-written, well-edited movie … well, moves.
Considering the movie was touted as “the first monster musical,” I know what Steckler was going for. But sheesh. I lost track of how many musical numbers were included.
A dancing girls sequence seems to have been shot in a community theater, and the producers were intent on getting their money’s worth because the scene goes on and on .. and then is followed by another musical sequence. Cue up “Let’s All Go to the Lobby!”
Likewise, scenes of a nightclub comic are so bad they almost seem like a modern-day parody.
Not to mention the interpretive dance/dream sequence.
After a quick break to hypnotize a victim … it’s another musical performance!
Endless shots of carnival rides.
The cheapness of the movie’s production really stands out when you see how many sets look cheaper than your standard 1960s sitcom living room – and that’s the most lavish sets here. The fortune-teller set, which consists of a few drapes and blackout curtains, isn’t as bad as the plywood airplane cockpit in “Plan Nine,” but it’s pretty bad.
Something has to be said about the hairstyles of the three leads. They are, respectively, a receding combover, a towering pompadour and a huge and baffling head of helmet hair.
When the “Incredibly Strange Creatures” finally break loose with about 15 minutes left in the movie … it’s time for another musical sequence. Steckler really knew how to build suspense!
For a real treat, seek out the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” version of the movie from 1997. It’s available through Hulu online and Mike Nelson and the robots’ version of “Incredibly Strange Creatures” is just as funny as you’d think it would be.