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The Being.jpeg

                         The Being     1983     Kino Lorber Blu ray

                                                Filmed from August to November 1980, The Being did not see the light of day until 1983, just in time to become a perennial

                                      staple of video stores everywhere. It is a crazy mess of bad acting, minimal logic, ample gore, and a number of A-list actors who

                                      either desperately needed a paycheck or were somehow blackmailed into surrendering their talents (and dignity) for this

                                      production.

                                                The hamlet of Pottsville, Idaho—the Potato Capital of the World—is getting ready for Easter Sunday (which happened to be

                                      the working title of the film).  However, the local populace will have to deal with more than just a visit from the Easter Bunny. A

                                      mutated creature begins a killing spree and the hopes of the community rest with Detective Mortimer Lutz (Bill Osco, using the

                                      onscreen name Rexx Coltrane) and Professor Garson Jones (Martin Landau, “Space: 1999,” 1975-1977; Alone in the Dark, 1982; Ed Wood, 1994) to end its reign of terror.

         The film opens with Jones telling the townsfolk that there is absolutely no danger whatsoever from the radioactive waste being dumped into the town’s water supply. Okay, sure, of course not. In fact, Jones is so convinced that he spends the night at the toxic site to run further tests, and to show that everything is alright. From the radioactive sludge comes a creature that randomly appears in a shed, a garage, the diner, a junkyard, the drive-in, and the backseat of a car to kill whoever happens to be nearby. It even hoards Easter eggs in a hole in the ground because it used to be a boy before being transformed—a plot point that is never explained or used. The monster looks like a tower of mushy hamburger with a Cyclopean eye and a mouth full of spiny teeth (that perpetually drip water a la the xenomorph in Alien, which director Jackie Kong cites as an influence).

          Once the creature has disposed of Jones, saving Potato Town is left up to Detective Lutz. He confronts the Hamburger Helper Mutate in a warehouse filled with empty cardboard boxes and cannisters of cyanide gas (which he turns on before donning his gas mask). Kids, do not try this at home! Something explodes, the monster is destroyed, and the world can still enjoy Pottsville’s spuds—at least until a pesky mutated claw thrusts out of the ground before the credits roll.

          Bill Osco as Detective Mortimer Lutz gives one of the worst performances ever committed to film. His emotions run the gamut from Mount Rushmore to the Rock of Gibraltar, and that is being generous. He was not a trained actor nor did his voice sound right when recorded, so actor, director, and producer James Keach stepped in to dub the character.  You truly have to see the performance to understand how awful it is. Osco wrote, acted, directed, and produced under a half-dozen pseudonyms, including Johnny Commander (which also appears in the credit crawl of this film). Most of his output came in the 1970s churning out X-rated features such as Harlot (1971), Flesh Gordon (1974), and Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy (1976).

          Jackie Kong (Blood Diner, 1987) made her feature film debut as writer and director at the age of 23 with this oddball extravaganza, and she held nothing back. Logic is tossed aside in favor of good old fashioned monster mayhem. When Lutz goes to visit his girlfriend, he discovers Jell-O-like slime in her bed. But no girlfriend. He does not miss a beat, immediately picking up with the waitress at the diner. A black-and-white dream sequence (which was planned as the original ending of the film) has to be seen to be believed, especially since it features Ruth Buzzi (“Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” 1967-1973) as a bleeding-eyed witch on a broomstick!

          The mis-matched cast is what really raises eyebrows. In addition to Academy Award winner Landau, Kong secured the talents of not one, but two other Academy Award winners: Jose Ferrer (Dracula’s Dog, 1977; The Swarm, 1978; Dune, 1984) as Mayor Gordon Lane, and Dorothy Malone (Man of a Thousand Faces, Written on the Wind, 1957) as the town nutter on a perpetual search for her missing son. Toss in Osco/Coltrane/Commander, Buzzi as the mayor’s wife, Kinky Friedman (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, 1986), Marianne Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby, 1968), comedian Johnny Dark, and Murray Langston (“The Unknown Comic”), and you have everything from the good to the bad to the ugly. Kong was married to Bill Osco at the time of the production (their daughter appears in the film as the toddler who finds the prize Easter egg), and Marianne Gordon was often visited on-set by her then-husband, country music superstar Kenny Rogers. Kong notes that Rogers even invested $250,000 in the project.

            Kino Lorber distributes this reissue of the Code Red original 2K HD scan. Blacks are thick and heavy; skin tones are consistent throughout. Colors are strong but not overbearing. Kino Lorber chose to replace the theatrical poster image from the 2017 release with an action motif that channels gaudy, over-the-top VHS boxes of the 1980s. It should be noted, however, that Bill Osco looks nothing like the beefcake portrayed nor are there any weapons like those shown. It has the feel of a 1950s Samuel Z. Arkoff production where the poster was made first and then filmmakers had to come up with something to match, more often than not with disappointing results.

            Ported over from the 2017 release are two audio commentaries, one by Jackie Kong and the other by actor and comedian Johnny Dark (Communion, 1989). Kong’s commentary is straightforward and informative, touching on the small towns that influenced the setting, how Landau was responsible for bringing Ferrer and Malone on board, and how the cast and crew did not receive the warmest of welcomes on location in Boise, Idaho.

            Dark’s commentary begins with a lengthy reflection on the stand-up comedy business in the 1970s and 1980s, to the complete exclusion of what is happening onscreen. We learn more about comedian Robin Williams than we do about The Being. When Dark eventually turns back to the feature, he peppers his commentary with dry humor while relating his minor role with behind-the-scenes stories. The only drawback is that the moderator, Mark Edward Loyd, sounds hollow in the Dark commentary, as if he was sitting too far away from the microphone. He interacts well with Dark but for some reason is only heard toward the end of Kong’s commentary.

          A collection of theatrical trailers for The Being, Sole Survivor, The Dark, Slithis, and The Devil’s Expressrounds out the package.

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, Blu ray

                         The Boy Who Cried Werewolf     1973     Scream Factory Blu ray

                                                In 1973 Universal Pictures paired this lycanthropic tale (or is that ‘tail’?) with the top-billed Sssssss for one of its final

                                      double features. The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is straight from the made-for-TV mold and is mostly remembered for scaring 

                                      little children during any of its numerous 70s TV screenings. That, and a werewolf in a turtleneck.

                                                Overly chipper twelve-year-old Richie Bridgestone (Scott Sealey, whose only other credited role was an episode of TV’s

                                      “Emergency”) is dealing with his parent’s divorce by trying to reunite them once more and restore family stability. During a

                                      father-son trip to the mountains a werewolf attacks Richie’s father, Robert (Kerwin Mathews, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 1958;

                                       Octaman, 1971), and bites him on the arm. The werewolf falls down an embankment and is impaled, reverting to his human form, and Robert is convinced he accidentally killed a man. Richie—who’s a walking encyclopedia of werewolf lore--however, knows better. But no one believes him. At the request of his ex-wife, Sandy (Elaine Devry, Diary of a Madman, 1963), Robert visits therapist Dr. Marderosian (George Gaynes, Altered States, 1980). Robert talks about Richie’s imaginings and the good doc suggests father and son return to the cabin, so that Richie can experience the “real world” around him and see it’s not a fantasy haunted by werewolves.

          Unsurprisingly, their next trip to the mountains coincides with the full moon. Robert transforms into a werewolf and goes looking for victims. He finds them in the form of a TV repairman and a young couple in a camper, doing all his decapitating and dismembering off-screen. Later that night Richie hears the sound of someone digging in the basement, and upon investigating discovers the werewolf burying something. The lycanthrope doesn’t have time to finish before changing back to Robert and passing out. The next day Richie takes a closer look at the hole and discovers a bag with something in it. Just before he can open it the sheriff arrives, and Richie smartly covers the hole up in order to protect his father.

          The lad tries valiantly to get people to believe that his father has become a werewolf. But the sheriff won’t listen. Mom won’t listen. And as the days pass, Richie becomes more anxious and worried about his dad. Not only has he lost the comfort and security of his nuclear family; now he fears he’ll lose his dad, too.

          When Robert and Richie plan their next mountain getaway, Sandy agrees to join them in an effort to calm her son’s fears. Once at the cabin, however, Robert instructs Richie to lock him in the basement because he knows his transformation is approaching. The werewolf breaks free and takes Sandy first, then Richie, as he seeks to escape the sheriff’s posse that is rapidly closing in around him.

          The Boy Who Cried Werewolf plays upon the childhood anxiety of knowing something but having no adults who will believe you. Robert and Sandy—who surely have one of the most amicable divorced relationships ever—downplay Richie’s claims. The sheriff patronizes him. The boy knows that he and his family are in danger but no one pays attention. Regretfully, the leaden script fails to have Richie play any significant role in the story’s resolution. The childhood perspective is lost by the time of the werewolf’s final rampage.

          The prosaic direction by Nathan Juran (20 Million Miles to Earth, 1957; First Men in the Moon, 1964) lacks any hint of fear or suspense. What scared us as eight-year-olds when we saw it is now merely an exercise in tedium and endurance. Rated PG (“Parental Guidance”) upon release, the most shocking images are a (mostly hidden) dismembered arm wrapped in a bloody cloth and the mob-style killing of the werewolf. Without these two elements the film would’ve probably passed with a “G” rating. Parental supervision was no doubt recommended so that children—especially those of divorced parents--wouldn’t go home and start looking for excess hair and pointy ears on dear old Dad!

          The story, written by Bob Homel (his only screenwriting credit), could’ve easily been shorn of half its running time and used as an episode of a live-action Saturday morning TV show such as “Bigfoot and Wildboy” or the “Krofft Supershow.” The plot shuffles from one scene to another with no characterizations or surprises. Homel tries to inject some lightheartedness into the mix with a commune of Jesus Freaks, but even this feels like padding instead of a way to move the story forward. He plays the loquacious leader, Brother Christopher, who gets all the best lines, such as “You call us freaks? Well, we're not freak freaks! We're freaked out! Freaked out on God, man!”

          Shout/Scream Factory’s Blu-ray marks the film’s home video debut and you’ve never seen it look this good. The high definition transfer is bright and clear, with clean details and bold colors. A red tablecloth in one scene nearly pokes your eyes out with its vividness. Mom’s blue eyes, the werewolf’s slicked-back hair, and Dad’s paisley shirt stand out in their clarity and depth. Juran’s day-for-night photography is painfully obvious, and in some of the exterior shots the blacks are too heavy and dimensionless. However, these minor points—which have nothing to do with the digital restoration—do not distract from the overall pristine upgrade. It’s a beautiful improvement for a film on the tail end of a double feature. The only extras are a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer promoting the twin bill Sssssss/The Boy Who Cried Werewolf.