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NIGHT FRIGHT shares an eerie half-world with a handful of similarly
but entertaining teen horror/sci-fi entries like GIANT GILA MONSTER,
OF PARTY BEACH and DEATH CURSE OF TARTU. These are an uneasy mix of
gyrating teens and skulking horror that are a guilty weakness of mine.
The storyline is standard stuff: a spaceship sent into the icy depths of Out There by dedicated scientists runs into unchecked radiation, and the test animals aboard are mutated. The largest and nastiest promptly goes on an eating binge. The film appears for be a rehash of themes already used in the obscure DEMON FROM DEVIL'S LAKE.
Granted, Texas isn't known for astounding advances in cinema. Larry Buchannan, the fevered brow at the helm of THE EYE CREATURES, IT'S ALIVE! and ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS, hailed from Texas. THE GIANT GILA MONSTER was filmed in and around Cielo. Still...
John Agar, in one of his last "earnest man with a job to do" roles is a somewhat peeved lawman charged with finding out what exactly is killing the locals. He does well in the limited role, providing the film's one strong performance. The other characters are broadly written and almost painfully bland. The bizarrely named Roger Ready woodenly plays a scientist who knows more than he admits (and who is largely qualified as being a researcher by way of smoking a pipe). There's also a nerdy newshound, police resenting kids, and an extremely lackluster love interest.
That said, the overall film is actually fairly enjoyable. The monster, a hulking gorilla with facial spines and a Klingon head ridge, is reasonably impressive for a regional production. The isolated locales and dim photography add a certain appeal, though the latter occasionally flashes almost starkly bright (particularly during the climax where half the hunters seem to be waiting in the dead of night and the rest in some distant land where it's high noon). The government cover-up angle is expected, and should neatly justify the suspicions of any borderline paranoids in the audience.
Not a great film but, taken as a simple "googly fiend run amok" picture, it's more than passable.
I am a fan of bad horror films of the 1950s and 60s--films so
ridiculous and silly that they are good for a laugh. So, because of
this it's natural that I'd choose this film--especially because with
John Agar in it, it was practically guaranteed to be bad. Sadly, while
it was a bad film, it was the worst type of bad film--dull beyond
belief and unfunny. At least with stupid and over-the-top bad films,
you can laugh at the atrocious monsters and terrible direction and
acting. Here, you never really see that much of the monster (mostly due
to the darkness of the print) and the acting, while bad, is more low
energy bad...listless and dull.
The film begins with some young adults going to Satan's Hollow to neck. Well, considering the name of the place, it's not surprising when they are later found chewed to pieces! Duh...don't go necking at Satan's Hollow!! Well, there are reports of some sort of crashing object from the sky, so what do the teens go? Yep, throw a dance party--a very, very, very slow dance party where the kids almost dance in slow motion. So it's up to the Sheriff (Agar) and his men to ensure that the teens can dance in peace without fear of mastication.
As for the monster, it's some guy in a gorilla suit with a silly mask--a bit like the monster in ROBOT MONSTER. Not exactly original and not exactly high tech. To make it worse, it makes snorting noises and moves very, very slowly--so slow that even the most corpulent teen could easily outrun it! How it manages to kill repeatedly is beyond me.
Overall, too dull to like--even if you are a fan of lousy cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In a pre-title sequence that seems to take up half the movie a necking
couple are attacked by Something From The Trees just after hearing a
news report about a flaming object having landed in the nearby woods.
Teenagers. Point Of View shot of something coming through the wood
towards the car. Close up of girl screaming, then Wham! cut to the
credits... er... no. What happens here is we cut away from the girl
screaming to a different girl laughing. This new girl meets her
boyfriend and they go for a drive. They meet some other 'teenagers'.
They kiss, They talk, they walk about in the woods. Do impressions of
kindly professors and talk talk endlessly bloody talk. Just when you
are wondering if they are ever going to shut up (please god, make them
the next victims) they MAKE A DISCOVERY she screams. Then, finally, we
get the opening credits - it's that sort of movie.
What happens next is we get a shots of a ambulance with its sirens blaring despite there being nothing else on the road. It passes the sheriff who is at the crash site of the Flaming Thing that came down in the woods before the movie started. He follows the ambulance,and doesn't bat an eyelid when he discovers the ambulance crew shoving the stiffs in the back of their vehicle even before the police arrive. CSI this isn't. The two cops and a reporter who looks suspiciously like Brad from The Rocky Horror Show spend five minutes screen time wandering around open woodlands in daylight as the soundtrack unsuccessfully tries to generate the sense of menace and foreboding usually reserved for skulking about dense woodland by moonlight. They discover a footprint and wander about for another 5 minutes.
Other mind numbing highlights include:
Middle-aged teenagers doing vertical epileptic fit dancing and delivering lines like "This is our own private blast, if you don't dig it, split." to one another. Did ANYONE really talk like that?
A police officer on being attacked by The Thing, becomes probably the only law enforcement officer in the history of American cinema to forget he has a gun so therefore doesn't bother to shoot futilely in the general direction of The Thing before getting eaten. Hasn't this man seen any movies?
Towards the end of the movie the Gorilla Suit (you just knew the monster was going to be a man in a gorilla suit didn't you?) attacks the eldest and most deserving to die of all the middle-aged teenagers. His girlfriend rushes off pursued by Gorilla Suit. She runs into the arms of her sister. Just as the Gorilla Suit is upon them the sheriff arrives and futilely fires his pistol in the general direction of The Thing (at last someone who has watched a movie!) while they escape. Then he runs off through the woods pursued by the Gorilla Suit only to bump into our perky teenage couple from the opening sequence who have just chanced on the body of the deputy in his car. Just how big ARE these woods? About 20 feet across by the look of it.
The finale is ludicrous. The sheriff hatches a plan. He gets a mannequin and some stuff from perky teenager (his dad runs a construction company). He then sits in the middle of the wood with his girlfriend, the local nurse, surrounded by middle-aged men lurking around in plain sight with guns. He has a cigarette. And waits. The middle-aged men wait. We wait. The Girlfriend waits. The perky teenagers in the car get fed up with waiting and fall asleep. The Gorilla suit attacks them (he likes tinned meat obviously)! They get out of the car and run through the woods towards the sheriff and the girlfriend. The Gorilla suit sees the girlfriend sitting in the middle of the woods and attackes her (despite the fact that middle-aged men are shooting at him from every direction - maybe it had a nurse uniform fetish or something) The Girlfriend Explodes! Oh no! The sheriff's girlfriend just exploded! But wait! who's that emerging from behind a tree. It's the girlfriend. Ahhh I get it. It wasn't the Girlfriend that exploded, it was the mannequin dressed up! and stuffed full of explosives. Wow! What a twist.
The version I watched is part of a boxset of 50 crap movies called 'Nightmare Worlds'. The transfer is very bad, nearly unwatchable. About an hour in the sound goes out of sync by about 4 frames.
When the budget doesn't allow for a Cadillac or Packard or Lincoln or
Imperial hearse we are talking cheep cheep. That's bird language for
What is in the hair of the forty year old teen boy? The guy who looks like a cement head who tries a couple of times to run over John Agar and provides the only scare in the movie by how close he comes. His hair looks like a shoe. A patent leather shoe. He is a shoe head.
The nurse woman needs immediate emergency hair washing. She has lacquer in her blond locks that would ignite if the production company had been able to afford lights.
The monster? The music was scarier. I would try to run from the music. The monster probably had better hair than the rest of the cast. Put some lipstick on that monster and you've got Divine's older sister.
The camera work and editing and plot provided a buffer to prepare the audience for the bad music throughout.
Hello Mr. Agar? We're thinking of doing a sequel to Night Fright and... Mr. Agar? Agar? Tom Willett
Why film a movie if you are not going to provide light for the cameras. The film would have been about seven minutes long if it were not for the shots of people walking through the woods. I enjoyed seeing the typical sixties dress and the 60's cars. I couldn't help but ask myself what self respecting kid would drive a Tornado, though they were neat cars. The music was tedious and repetitive. Ten minutes of people dancing in the dark was too much. I've seen worse acting, but the manikin should have had top billing. At least it kept it's mouth closed. I think the motivation for making the movie must have been that someone had a lot of film available that had gone beyond the expiration date and they didn't want to see it go to waste. It went to waste.
Okay it is terribly, and I mean terribly, easy to pick apart this film. C'mmon what do you expect with the title, synopsis, and actors in leads such as Carol Gilley, Ralph Baker Jr., Dorothy Davis, Bill Thurman, and, my personal favourite, Roger Ready. Yes, B star John Agar is here as a sheriff out to rid the Texan landscape of a robot-like ape from a NASA experiment gone awry. The movie has dreadful performances, dreadful scenery, dreadful special effects, and dreadful lighting. I really cannot find much good to say about it other than as bad films go you could do a lot worse as far as finding something dreadful to sit through. It is bearably short and has many moments of unintended humor. Missed cues, lighting faux pas, off-screen terror, an unbelievably inane score, and of course John Agar trying his level best to be the core of the film with an earnest performance amidst this muck. The beginning is the hardest part to sit through as it seems like it takes forever for these two teens to get their comeuppance for traveling in the woods down the Texas back roads where great ape soon will reek his vengeance in his own terrible way...Yeah right! Night Fright! Bah!
Imagine what it must have been like for John Agar. One of Hollywood's handsome leading men. Married to Shirley Temple for five years. He finds himself doing movies like this. I remember him in "Tarantula" where he wasn't half bad. Unfortunately, there is nothing to recommend this film. The monster is dumb uninteresting and incompetent. The police are boring. The teenagers are boring. The plot is stupid. People run around. There are events that do nothing to advance the plot. There's dancing that goes on and on, and then there is no attack. There is some idiotic love triangle that no one could care the least about. It isn't even campy or outrageous. It's just no worth anything. Agar might as well have been a post. He's given nothing to do.
Mixing small town sheriffs, high-school students, fake rock music, and
some weirdo who kills for, well, no reason in particular, this film is
essentially a re-make of "The Giant Gila Monster" - except without the
gila monster, of course.
Now, anyone who has actually seen "Giant Gila Monster", knows that it is one of the worst made films of all time, frequently so slow, it's not even funny. And I can't believe that by 1967, "Giant Gila Monster" had earned such a reputation that young directors were just dying to get to work on a sequel, let alone a remake. So will someone please explain to me why this film was made?! The dance sequence, by the way, is historically interesting, although about three years out of date; but even that's spoiled, since it goes on... and on... and... on....
This one isn't even lively enough to be fun. Something is out
there, ripping people off (off-screen) after a spaceship crash
(off-screen) while government executives investigates
(off-screen) and bad actors says stupid lines (on-screen),
including a guy who looks like Jim Carrey with a hangover. The
"monster", when it finally is shown, looks like an extra from
"Robot Monster", but there ain't enough monster fu anyway.
Fortunately, it's pretty short. Skip it, unless you want to get bored out of your skull by this
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A murderous mutant ape terrorizes a bunch of party hearty teenagers in the woods of a sleepy Texas town. It's up to stalwart Sheriff Clint Crawford (veteran dime-store cinema regular John Agar at his most endearingly sincere) to figure out a way to kill the bloodthirsty beast. Man, does this clinker possess all the right wrong stuff to qualify as an amusingly awful stinkeroonie: hopelessly all-thumbs (mis)direction by James A. Sullivan, sluggish pacing, stiffly earnest acting by a game, but lame cast, over-aged teens frugging up a storm like rejects from an AIP "Beach Party" flick, zero tension or creepy atmosphere, a cornball score, priceless tin-eared dialogue (Sheriff Crawford to a surly teen: "Look, punk -- don't call me fuzz; when you talk to me call me sheriff"), a meandering narrative, clumsy cinematography that's rife with queasy zoom-ins, primitive fades, and lousy dissolves, a completely fumbled less-than-thrilling "explosive" climax, and a laughable monster played by some poor schmo in a ratty gorilla suit with a cheap plastic fright mask covering his face. Dorothy Davis looks mighty purdy as the feisty Judy while the ubiquitous Bill Thurman has a sizable supporting part as the ill-fated Deputy Ben Whitfield. A real crummy hoot.
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