October Horrorshow: The Navy vs. The Night Monsters

What a putrid mess. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a cheap 1950s monster flick. They have a certain amount of kitsch to them that paid quite a lot of dividends back in the decade of above ground nuclear tests and Leave It to Beaver. Stylistically non-offensive but at the same time strangely subversive, a good monster flick can be a commentary on the creeping destructiveness of American power, the precarious balance of post Word War II peace, and the boring homogeneity of typical Hollywood cinema. All of this can be contained in a film that looks like it cost about five bucks to make. Yep, 1950s monster cinema was great.

Too bad The Navy vs. the Night Monsters was made in 1966.

I did a double take when I did my research after watching this dog. 1966? Really? This movie was made after the Kennedy assassination, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after there were more than 300,000 troops in Vietnam, after the concurrent anti-war protests picked up steam, and only one year before the Summer of Love in San Francisco? Once one sees this movie, it becomes clear how totally amazing this is. The Navy vs. the Night Monsters feels like it comes from a completely different era. It’s not a throwback. It’s an anachronism.

The movie takes place on Gow Island, a U.S. Navy outpost in the South Pacific. A plane carrying biological samples back to the States from Antarctica has to stop to refuel at Gow, but encounters trouble on the way and has to crash land. It turns out that some of the samples are omnivorous trees that awaken at night and prowl the land in search of food. It turns out there is plenty of prey on Gow.

Gow is an interesting place. Why, if I didn’t know it was in the South Pacific, I would have sworn I was looking at the Mojave Desert. Well, nevermind all that. This flick is all cheapness, through and through. Of course they couldn’t afford to film it on a tropical island. Hell, the Navy is in this thing and they managed to show not one single boat in the entire movie. At least, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a boat in there anywhere. I was close to slipping into a coma for half the film, so I can’t be completely sure, and there is no fucking way I’m going to go back and check.

This is one of those movies that has to be seen to be believed. It’s just incredible to think that people make movies this awful. I understand that there are more shitty monster flicks than there are good ones, but this movie is so bad and so cheap that I’m surprised the MST3K guys didn’t get ahold of it at some point. It’s irredeemably bad, like it’s a crime against cinema. It certainly committed a crime against me, when it stole an hour and a half of my time.

Yet at the same time, the cheapness is endearing. There are so many precious moments of poor, innocent filmmaking sprinkled throughout that I couldn’t help but get laughs out of it. My personal favorite moment is when an enlisted sailor informs the base commander that the island’s only generator has been destroyed and can’t be fixed. What makes this scene special is that it takes place under a swinging string of blazing light bulbs.

Cheapness.

Or the scene when the dazed pilot of the crashed airplane runs into the limbs of one of the acid secreting monster trees because there is no way, at all, the filmmakers could possibly make these slow-moving beasts dangerous without first making the characters complete idiots. Seriously, despite the jungles on the island seemingly being filled with these killer trees, characters keep wandering off on their own and getting killed. These people aren’t being murdered by acid secreting plant life — they’re being murdered by their own stupidity.

This is one of those bad movies that is an unwatchable mess for anyone not into bottom feeding. Alien: Resurrection takes a giant shit on this awful, awful movie.