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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – The Revenge of Dr X

My notes on the weird American-Japanese science fiction monster movie.

Also known as Akuma no Niwa, Venus Flytrap or Devil Garden, this is a weird, clunky, amateurish oddment.  It’s a tough watch but offers sufficient bizarro elements to keep drawing the attention back to the screen.

 

It opens with an irrelevant title (there’s no Dr X here) and the credits for another film entirely (Mad Doctor of Blood Island) which have somehow been spliced on to a 1967 US-Japanese monster movie written by Ed Wood (as Venus Flytrap) and directed by Kenneth G. Crane (Monster From Green Hell).  The strangest aspect of it is that star James Craig, a moustache guy who looks like who you’d call if Kent Taylor turned you down, plays mad scientist Dr Bragan at such a pitch of anger throughout (with peculiar emphases on random words in the unspeakable woodian dialogue).  Craig’s career highlight was the farmer who sells his soul in All That Money Can Buy, but he never clicked as a Hollywood leading man and ended up in stuff like this, Bigfoot and Doomsday Machine.  Crane began by shooting the US add-on scenes for Inoshiro Honda’s Half Human, then went to Japan and made The Manster and this – it seems odd that, in 1967, anyone would pick up and film an Ed Wood script unless it was out of pity.  The entertainment qualities of his dialogue (‘If it takes the blood of a human heart to prove my theory, you will have the blood of a human heart!’) wear thin when shouted at length – especially by leading lady Atsuko Rome, who is plainly not fluent in English and founds Wooden pronouncements almost literally unspeakable (‘You are no longer Dr Bragan, scientist, you are becoming Dr Bragan, madman! Give it up, will you!’).

 

Incensed because the US government built its rocket base in a hurricane zone (a reasonable complaint, actually), Bragan – the fake-sounding name is a Wood trademark – quits the space program and becomes obsessed with a venus flytrap he buys in a swamp, then takes to Japan where he is set up with two assistants – pretty Noriko (Rome) and a hunchback in seeming blackface (!) whose character name seems to be Kawaii (which means cute).  Bragan works on the flytrap, which he renames Insectavorus (‘It will be proof without a shadow of a doubt that man is descended from plant life!’) and it grows into a bipedal, Frankenstein Monster/turnip-headed ‘creation’ with huge flytrap hands (and feet), a scorpionish tail and floppy fronds (it’s a ridiculous suit, more suitable for a kiddie show, but it’s still the most interesting thing here).  Exploitation stuff includes business with topless Japanese pearl divers and Bragan syringing blood from out of the naked breast of the sleeping Noriko.  The monster gets independent enough to uproot itself and stomp around, while Bragan and Noriko fell asleep trying to keep watch on it all night in order to see if it acted this way, and does a Quatermass bit with a little boy holding up a stuffed bunny to get swatted.

 

A torch-bearing mob spot the creature, point at it and give chase (the exteriors, using Japanese scenery, seem divorced from the shot-on-a-blatant-set interiors) while Bragan is more worried that the proof of his crackpot theory will be destroyed than that folks will get hurt (‘Anything – anything! – might happen! The villagers – they might destroy my proof of the real basis of human evolution!’).  When the monster attacks, Crain does a weird thing – a minimal struggle, then a fade to red.  Bragan has been wearing a glove to hide the beginnings of a transformation – he promises to kill the monster, then goes up into the mountains with a tempting live goat and rants at the monster, trying to get it to join him in ‘a nice safe place to continue our work’.  Naturally, the monster swipes his head and they both fall into a stream of lava – the goat, however, is saved!  Hooray.

This what the monster looks like … 

Here’s a sample clip.

And here’s the whole damn film.

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