Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CREEPY CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE VOL 1 - MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR / SERPENT ISLAND

VCI Entertainment has recently released two volumes of CREEPY CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURES, containing vintage drive-in era monster movies. Volume One contains Roger Corman's first film as producer, MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR (1954) and the never-before-on-home video SERPENT ISLAND (also 1954).

MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR is a talky, shoestring effort, chronicling a young woman's (Anne Kimbell) search for an amorphous sea creature lurking beneath the waves off the Mexican coast (although actually shot at Catalina Island, California). Aiding her in her search is a smitten and skeptical marine biologist (Stuart Wade, TEENAGE MONSTER) with a nifty, one-man mini submarine.

Directed by Wyatt Ordung (TARGET EARTH, ROBOT MONSTER), MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR is an hour and five minutes' worth of  undemanding entertainment. It's a bit slow, but occasionally suspenseful, and if the final reveal of the titular sea beast is a bit underwhelming, it does have its 50s, Z-movie charms.

The companion feature, SERPENT ISLAND, is a nearly unwatchable "adventure" film starring Sonny Tufts (CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON) as a alcholic bum, pretty Rosalind Hayes as a secretary, and Tom Munro as a cranky sea captain, all searching for a lost treasure in the Carribbean. This ultra-low budget color film, shot on 16mm Kodachrome for a reported $18,000, is padded with nearly endless stock footage of island flora and fauna, including Haitian voodoo ceremonies. It plods to its anticlimax so slowly that its brief 63 minute running time is a truly trying endurance test.

SERPENT ISLAND was the first feature of writer/director Tom Gries, who went on to much bigger and better things, directing tons of television in the 60s & 70s (and creating THE RAT PATROL), before helming a number of fine films, including the Charles Bronson vehicle BREAKHEART PASS and the Raquel Welch/Jim Brown Western, 100 RIFLES. The movie was shot by cinematographer Bert I. Gordon, who went on to be a prolific B-movie filmmaker (BEGINNING OF THE END, FOOD OF THE GODS, etc.)

VCI presents both films on one disc, presented in their original 4x3, 1.37:1 aspect ratios. MONSTER looks a bit faded but otherwise clean and sharp. SERPENT ISLAND has faded colors and some minor print damage, but, bearing in mind that it was shot on the cheap and incorporates so much stock footage of varying quality, it looks okay. Both films feature somewhat tinny mono audio.

The disc includes a handful of extras, including a terrific phone interview with Roger Corman conducted by genre film historian Tom Weaver, who also supplies an audio film trivia featurette. The disc is rounded out with a handful of deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer for MONSTER.

Fans of vintage trash filmmaking should enjoy this fun and nostalgic trip back to the 50s. Recommended.

BUYVol. 1-Monster from the Ocean Floor/Serpent Island