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Friday, December 2, 2011

Revenge of Doctor X

The Revenge of Doctor X (aka The Venus Fly Trap, aka Double Garden, aka Mad Doctor of Blood Island)
Kenneth Crane
1970

I'd just like to start by saying that this script was written by the legendary Ed Wood Jr. This will either encourage you to read on or you've already stopped and you have no idea how this sentence ends.

The plot centers on Dr. Bragan (James Craig), the head of a space project in Florida. He’s pretty high strung, first being angry about the weather during a launch, then going absolutely nuts when a miscalculation is discovered afterwards. Hoping to cure his friend of being a raging asshole, Dr. Nakamura (James Yagi) suggests he take a break and visit Japan. This will give a chance for Dr. Bragan to get back to his botanist roots, since the usual career path from botany is straight to rocketry. To make the whole set-up to a monster movie even more wobbly, Dr. Bragan drives to a gas station before he leaves for Japan and seems completely surprised to discover such a thing as a Venus Flytrap exists. So he’s a terrible rocket scientist, a terrible botanist and kind of a jerk. Your hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Before long, Bragan meets Nakamura’s cousin Noriko (Atsuko Rome) who just happens to be a botany student and hot. In an abandoned hotel in the mountains of Japan they decide to cross breed a Venus Fly Trap with an ocean plant using a lot of lightning and a hunchback. The result is supposedly man’s original plant ancestor which is why it looks like a guy in a plant costume standing in a flower pot. Just like a real Venus Fly Trap, it drinks blood through spiky catcher's mitts and excretes a powerful soporific gas from its head. Before long it decides to break free of its potting soil and become a shuffling, puppy eating nightmare.

I'm not sure how the title of this movie came to be, there isn't a character named Doctor X, and no one takes revenge on anyone or anything unless the puppy and the bunnies that get fed to the monster did something we don't know about. The actual title of this movie is in question somewhat as most current versions of it contain the opening credits for “The Mad Doctor of Blood Island” which is a completely different movie. The script was written under the title “The Venus Fly Trap”, which isn’t as exciting but is at least a little more accurate. Supposedly the movie was released under the title, “The Double Garden” which makes possibly even less sense than, “The Revenge of Doctor X.”

This whole film made me feel like I had drank a couple bottles of cough syrup before I watched. The plot kind of lurches around making no sense, until the middle which is filled with stereotypical mad doctor trappings and then just turns outright bizarre as we watch the actors struggle to treat the backwards talking, rubber plant monster as any kind of real threat. Dr. Bragan is completely unpalatable as a hero; Noriko seems to find him attractive for no discernible reason. If you are familiar with director Crane’s film, “The Manster" (1959), this film has a lot of similarities, including the Japanese setting and the imminent threat of a volcano.

If you truly love trashy monster movies, I’d definitely give this one a go. Just when it lulls you with some dull moments, the truly weird monster makes an appearance and gives way to a lunatic third act.

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