October Horrorshow: The Being

What a gloriously stupid movie. From schlock producer Bill Osco and writer/director Jackie Kong, The Being walks on the wrong side of the line separating exploitation from good ole b-horror, but it’s also silly enough to satisfy one’s more mirthful desires from bad cinema.

Filmed in 1980, but shelved until three years later, The Being stars Osco, billed as both Rexx Coltrane AND Johnny Commander, as Detective Mort Lutz of the Pottsville, Idaho police. He’s investigating a rash of disappearances in the town. Also in the cast are Jose Ferrer as Mayor Gordon Lane, Ruth Buzzi as his wife, Virginia, and Martin Landau as Garson Jones, an engineer investigating the safety of a nuclear waste dump just outside of town.

Mr. Jones’s expertise is needed, as the dump is the origin of the being of the title. And what kind of being is it? Well, what it used to be is answered by the film, but what we see on screen is never clear. The monster is a slimy thing, with teeth and claws and all the other typical monster accoutrements. But it’s also whatever Jackie Kong needed it to be. Should a potential victim lock themselves in safety, the monster takes on the characteristics of the Blob, moving through air vents and drains to reach its prey. At other times it’s a creeping menace that reaches out from the shadows in stealth. Being birthed in radioactive sludge, there aren’t any rules for the type of creature it can be, but Ms. Kong sure made things easy by having a monster that can adapt itself to any situation.

As the film goes on, attacks and disappearances continue. Lutz becomes slightly frantic after the monster targets him one dark evening (all the meaningful stuff in this flick happens at night). After this incident, the monster can’t seem to get enough of Lutz, chasing he and his girlfriend, Laurie (Marianne Gordon) all over town. After a sufficient amount of kills, Kong wraps things up in a bloody finale. As a package, The Being is tight (with the exception of opening narration that sounds like copy for the trailer). Kong had a decent enough grasp of pacing and storytelling for a film like this.

She also had a black sense of humor. There’s a scene where the monster finds a few victims at a drive-in movie theater that makes the entire enterprise worth watching. It has everything one wants from b-horror. Blood, gore, breasts, and drug use. This one scene could be used in a master’s thesis on exploitation cinema. The fact that it’s also hilarious is a bonus.

No one involved seemed to be under any illusions about the type of film they were in, and that goes for the big-name talent, as well.

Jose Ferrer looked to be somewhat amused by his little payday, while Martin Landau was in a brutal nadir in his career, with Meteor and Alone in the Dark coming around the same time. He was as reliable as ever, however. A true pro.

And then there was Osco. The man made quite a career out of producing some really bad movies. The Being was only his second time acting in one of the films he produced, and it showed. Osco may be a producer, but he is no actor. He floated through this film with an expressionless look on his face and hardly any inflection in his tone. His performance is the very definition of a dead read, but it’s also perfect for this shitty movie. Sure, Landau would have been miles better had he been cast in the role, rather than being used as the expository scientist, but then this flick would have lost a substantial layer of shittiness, and shittiness is all it really has. Too much competence would have made this flick merely mediocre. Who wants that? Go shitty or go home. Still, Alien: Resurrection is a better movie than The Being.

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