Friday, March 1, 2013

Night Fright

Night Fright
James A. Sullivan


B-movie fans don’t like to talk about it, but it’s there, viewing a lot of b-film consists of waiting around for that one moment that stands out.  B-movies have always been about selling you on a premise that they are, more likely than not, going to fail to deliver. Sometimes that’s the joy, more often it’s just disappointing. So naturally when I heard ‘Night Fright’ was not only a film made for the Texas drive-in circuit, but also contained a mutant gorilla, John Agar (star of ‘Brain from Plant Arous’) and was directed by a man who had a hand in helping make ‘Zontar: Thing from Venus’ (1966), ‘The Eye Creatures’ (1965) and ‘Manos: The Hands of Fate’ (1966), well you couldn’t keep me away.

A young teen picks up his girlfriend from a sorority house, and then they proceed to stand around in the woods for ten minutes pretending it’s night and doing some gross 60’s style making out. In a brief moment of mercy the movie kills them both. Cue some more nonsense from some other characters and then finally the opening credits appear. John Agar is the horny sheriff of a small town that’s beset by unseen NASA rockets falling out of the sky, idiot teenagers and a mutant gorilla. His brilliant plan to finish off the monster involves dynamite and his girlfriend taking off her clothes.

Let’s start out with the good things:  The monster suit isn’t worst I’ve ever seen, and the movie isn’t ninety minutes long. John Agar tries his hardest to play everything straight, and he succeeds to the point where I felt bad for him being in the film.

The not so good things: The movie is padded out to an unbelievable degree. Conversations about nothing go on for minutes at a time. Girls dance to flaccid surf rock, while the camera luridly centers on their rears like Del Tenney  was hanging around the set giving advice (see Horror of Party Beach (1964) for further details). Night scenes look like they were shot at noon, and actual night scenes are too dark to tell what’s happening.  For whatever reason, the movie neglects to use its main strength, Agar vs. Monster, until the very last few minutes of the film.

‘Night Fright’ has one mildly intriguing idea buried in seventy-five minutes of utter tedium, a mutated Earth animal that was part of an experimental rocket test. It’s a sad day when the research on a film yields things a thousand times more interesting that actual film itself. Like the fact that this movie was released as ‘E.T.N. – Extra-Terrestrial Nasty’ in the U.K. in the 80’s, I can only imagine the disappointment on the faces of movie watchers thinking they were going to be getting something really gruesome and instead had to sit through endless scenes of badly filmed butts waggling to surf rock.

The other interesting note is that ‘Night Fright’ may or may not be a remake of a film called ‘Demon at Devil’s Lake.’ In that film the monster was an amalgam of mutated animals all merged together as the result of cosmic radiation. For one reason or another the film was either lost or never made and the script was eventually rewritten, turning the monster into a much more cost efficient mutant gorilla.

The rest is boring history.

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