The Bad Movie Report


Hoo boy, did this movie ever blindside me. I figured it would be bad, but this.... this is undoubtedly outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

Back in the review for another dismal outing, I Drink Your Blood, I revealed that one of the warning signs of a truly wretched flick is nudity in the first five minutes. Octaman gives us not one, but two more signs: 1) the very first thing you see is a montage of stock footage, then 2) they immediately show you the monster.

Yep, there's the Octaman, a latex skeleton out of Oscar winner Rick Baker's closet, walking about, waving his arms... oh, let's be charitable and call them tentacles... under the opening credits. It is sincerely hoped that you like the sight of Octaman walking around and waving his tentacles, because you're going to be seeing a lot of it in the next 83 pain-filled minutes.

Kerwin Matthews plays an ecologist researching radioactive pollution in the water of a chain of "Close the lid!  I'm naked in here!"lakes in deepest, darkest Mexico. One of his science pals (Stein, the philosophical ecologist) finds a rubber octopus with intelligent eyes. Well, they must be intelligent, because everybody keeps talking about them. Personally, I think it looks like a really good (if scary) children's toy. It even has wind-up crawling action as it tries to make it back to the water, but Matthews and his chick Pier Angeli (trying to make a comeback) grab it, put it back in their highly scientific plastic bucket, and take it to a nearby university, leaving Stein and some cannon fodder behind. The cannon fodder tries to dissect another rubber octopus, incurring the wrath of.... OCTAMAN!

Octaman, apparently, slaps his victims to death, in combination with some hideous psychic power that forces you to wrap its rubbery tentacles about yourself and beat yourself with them (not entirely unprecedented; the octopus in Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster had the same dreadful ability).

Unable to get academic funding to study the rubber octopus phenomenon, Matthews enlists the backing of Johnny, a wealthy rancher who sees the possibility of a great circus attraction. Everybody A neat, round hole... like only a tentacle could make!goes back and discovers the dead cannon fodder. Octaman walks around some more and waves his tentacles. The jefe comes from the local village, and mistakenly carries off a canister containing another rubber octopus. Although traveling at his usual lumbering, geriatic pace, Octaman somehow gets ahead of the jefe and his companion, kung-fu punches the head man in the heart, then the bastard brachiopod throws a dummy off a cliff. Octaman celebrates this victory by walking around and waving his tentacles.

By this time, my Internal Movie Clock told me I had been watching this for about an hour. No such luck - it was only 26 minutes.

Since every time the ecologists put a rubber octopus in a bucket, Octaman shows up and kills somebody, they decide to employ the Scientific Method and see if they can replicate the experiment's results. Sure enough, Octaman shows up and offs the last of the cannon fodder. Go ahead and grit your teeth now: we are stuck with the remaining characters for the rest of the film.

Hey!  No fair!There is some folderol about a link between Angeli and Octaman, with no good explanation nor to any purpose other than a reason for Octaman to grab her and carry her off over and over again, in between bouts of walking around (and waving his tentacles). During one of these enterprises, Matthews spreads gasoline in a circle around Octaman and lights it, informing us that it will "burn up all the oxygen around him!" Octaman, of course, faints from the lack of oxygen (that's some fire - the circle must be thirty feet wide!), and is promptly netted. This lasts perhaps five minutes of screen time (which seems like another half-hour), and then Octaman slips the net... off-camera. Only Angeli shouting "Back! Back!" at the baffled brachiopod prevents Stein from dying a slappy death.

Angeli shows off classic screaming style.Enough being enough, our heroes (giggle) try to head back to civilization, only to discover that Octaman has blocked the road with a tree. The native guide, Davido (an artisan who can whittle in the back of a moving RV without losing fingers) spots Octaman walking around and follows him to a cave. Since there's still fifteen minutes of running time, everyone must go into the cave and wander about pensively for oh, say, a year or so. And then they have the nerve to be surprised when they run into Octaman.

For some reason, there is a cave-in, and more time is eaten away while Davido finds a small tunnel to the surface, conveniently enough, near their RV. As we have not seen Octaman walking around for some time, we just know that somehow he has used those ungainly tentacles to open the door to the RV and is lurking within, and yep, we're right. It's slaps upside the head for all and sundry, and time for Angeli to get carried off again.

Awright, everybody line up for BITCHSLAP '98!Okay, credit where credit is due: at least this time, the chick in the monster's arms is packing heat, and she shoots the murderous mollusk through the heart. Octaman drops her, at which point the ecologists feel free to pump him full of lead. Mortally wounded, Octaman staggers toward the water. We know he is mortally wounded because he is not waving his tentacles. The end.

Notice some similarities here between Octaman and Creature from the Black Lagoon? The utterly bizarre lust of an icthyoid creature for a female mammal? That tree blocking the way out? That's because the writer/director of Octaman, Harry Essex, also wrote Creature. Otherwise, it would be awfully easy to mistake this for a Larry Buchanan movie.

Buchanan is a Dallas filmmaker most noted for the so-minimalist-it's-practically-art Mars Needs Women. He directed a series of direct-to-TV zero-budget remakes of already low-budget AIP standards: Creature of Destruction (The She-Creature), The Eye Creatures (Invasion of the Saucer Men), In the Year 2889 (The End of the World) and fan favorite Zontar, Thing from Venus (It Conquered the World). Buchanan's beasties had a tendency to walk around a lot with their arms waving, too, and his scripts showed the same leaden approach to attempted light banter, not to mention the same awful lighting (they did have better sound, however).

Let us now rag on Octaman himself. Anton, get your drums ready for some rimshots.We see far, Yeah?  Whadda you lookin' at?far too much of him, even if he is the title character... and, quite often, in broad daylight. Many a closeup is made of Octaman's inexpressive, unblinking latex face, as if the director expected us to imbue the lifeless rubber with our own emotions. As a fearsome monster, Octaman ranks somewhere just below Minya, Son of Godzilla (ba-doom!). Not even the Giant Toothy Cucumber of It Conquered the World is afraid of this guy (bada-doom!). I kept hoping for Inframan to show up and kick his ass, but even he has standards (ba doom-doom! *clang!*). Normally, you can spend an enjoyable amount of time looking for the zipper on a suit like this, but finding the zipper would have meant I was interested enough to look (Thank you! Miami Beach audiences are the best audiences in the world!).

Mike Weldon says this was a direct-to-TV movie (another Buchanan link!) - all I can say is, the intrusion of commercials would have made watching this flick more enjoyable; at least then there might have been some entertainment value floating around.


Strolling monsters: a genre to avoid.

- August 23, 1998