Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Beast of the Yellow Night (1971)

Straight from the Philippians and the 100 Sci-fi Classics boxset comes one of the most jolly and jovial portrayals of satan I’ve seen in film. Well except for Pitch from Santa Claus, but he’s in a class by himself.

Philip Rogers (John Ashley) awakens to find himself in the hospital and with a different face! His wife Julia (Mary Charlotte Wilcox) is disturbed by this, but sleeps with him anyway. Maybe because he has an unearthly charm brought to him by Satan (Vic Diaz). You see Phil has been taken over by the evil Joseph Langdon, a horrible mass murderer who is out to recruit more souls and minions for Satan. But this new body just isn’t working out, so Satan uses his black arts to turn Joe/Phil into a monster at inopportune moments. Will our anti-hero get his act together, or will a mysterious blind man (Andres Centenera) hold the secret to his salvation?

Good Points:
  • Satan is hilarious in this movie
  • Actually has a couple creepy moments
  • Has a bit of skin on display

Bad Points:
  • Does not deliver on the concept
  • The monster is not scary… at all
  • Takes too long to really decide what it wants to do 

Kind of a mixed bag here. I love the idea behind this movie: a minion of Satan stealing a body so he can work evil. But the movie just doesn’t really do anything with the concept. It gets mired down in the whole turning into a monster problem, and if you’ve seen any werewolf movie ever, then you know what to expect. There’s some awesome psychedelic scenes (the love scene in particular) and Diaz is hilarious as Satan (unintentionally and intentionally). The wheels come off near the end, but if you’re riffing this one, it makes it more fun. A good pick for a bad movie night (as long as you don’t mind a couple topless scenes).

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 3
Direction: 2
Entertainment: 2
Total: 2

In Depth Review

If the movie had just stuck to it’s guns and given us a story about one of Satan’s most wicked minions corrupting others, than this could have been a lot of creepy fun. The beginning of the movie sets things up well enough, even if the whole plot point of Langdon becoming Rogers isn’t fleshed out very well. It really appeared that Langdon was going to corrupt his best friend and wife fairly quickly. But then he starts having a conscious (must have been the psychedelic love scene) and Satan disapproves.

Once that happens we get the whole werewolf subplot. But the creature that Langdon changes into is really odd. He’s kind of a werewolf/vampire thing, reminding me a bit of the man-bat from It Lives By Night. Most of the scenes with this creature are pretty silly, because the mask and makeup are ridiculous. But a few times director Eddie Romero manages to build a little tension for the victim, using the darkness effectively enough.

Eventually the whole redemption plot takes over with the blind man trying to help Joe/Phil escape the police. It’s not terribly interesting and bogs the movie down quite a bit. But the big finale featuring a squad of pissed off cops, flamethrowers, the old blind man running in circles and a burning field make for some great riffing fodder.

As I mentioned Vic Diaz steals the movie as Satan. He’s pudgy, jolly and loves to sneer a lot. The first time we see him, he’s nearly nude in a tree and taunting a dying man. He’s like Puck from hell! Later he appears in various disguised, but he has some really stupid lines, and says them with gusto. The movie really could have used a bit more Satan in it to make it more fun. He vanishes around the halfway point, only to appear at the very end. Disappointing to say the least.

Still this is a fine pick for bad movie night. The costumes, music and hair are oh so ‘70s. You’ve got a cheesy monster, a little bit of sex and a lot of murky photography. The ingredients are in place for a good time.

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