Tuesday, January 12, 2010

When low budgets attack....

Sting of Death (1966)
Starring: Joe Morrison, John Vella, Valerie Hawkins and Jack Nagle
Director: William Grefe
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

After being ridiculed for his theories and tormented by a bunch of partying college kids, a marine biologist's assistant, Egon (Vella) transforms himself into a human jellyfish monster and goes on a murderous rampage. Will Beauty (Hawkins) conquer the Beast yet again, or will she die screaming in pain from his poisonous jellyfish touch?

"Sting of Death' is one of those movies that has a decent script at its core, but just about everything else about it is otherwise awful.

The actors featured are uniformly bad--with only John Vella, as the assistant who steps into the role as a mad scientist, and Valerie Hawkins, as the ever-screaming love interest, showing even the slightest bit of talent. Although that might be a bit unfair to the actors. The awful, stagy way they deliver their lines, with everyone politely waiting for lines to be completely finished before delivering their own, even when they are supposed to be interrupting and talking over another character, has also got to be the fault of the director to some degree.)

The special effects are almost as awful, with the film's giant jellyfish appearing like plastic bags with a little coloring in them, and the half-man, half-jellyfish monster looking like a guy in a bodysuit with an inflated garbage bag over his head. When we just saw its hands and stinging tentacles, it was creepy but the "big reveal" at the end made it just seem pathetic.

This is a film that clearly demonstrates that if you don't have the budget for decent costumes and effects, you really, REALLY need to make up for it by keeping your monster unseen or by camouflaging it with clever lighting and camera angles.

When the Jellyfish Man is scary...

... and when he is not, in two scenes from "Sting of Death"

"Sting of Death" would rate a 3 if not for a handful of very well-executed scenes. There's an attack by the jellyfish man that put me in mind of "Jaws" it was so well done, followed by a very creepy credits sequence. Later, an attack by monstrous jellyfish on the passengers of a sinking boat reminded me of the disabled catamarans in "Jaws 2". Then, there is an attack scene on land that someone should license for an anti-smoking commercial.

With the exception of the final battle between the jellyfish man and dashing young Dr. John (Joe Morrison), all the monster scenes in the film are very well done... better in fact that is the norm for the sort of no-budget school of filmmaking represented here. Combined with some nice cinematography, "Sting of Death" ends up being just entertaining enough to hold your attention as it unfolds, despite the bad actiing and the padding with dance party sequences (where the same footage of shaking booties gets used again and again).

The second feature on this DVD is reviewed at the companion blog "Movies to Die Before Seeing." You can read about it by clicking here.

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