bijou review – C

NOTE TO READERS:
I fondly remember my dear auntie telling me about the following movie, THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS, when I was in college. It was released way before my time, but my aunt who now lives in Australia, no less, and is a bit of a reviewer (you should read her account called “Brisbane With Faye Kotsis” and writer herself was just in high school. Her date happened to be a sci fi freak with a pretentious philosophical bent and was into all things that involved robots. She told me her mother was not at all comfortable with her going to a drive in to see the flick. But back then, drive in movies were notorious for being “make out” havens for the teenage crowd. My aunt was circumspect when I asked her to confirm the “make out” rep, but she did remember the movie plot, so you go figure. Anyway, hats off to you Aunt Faye.

The Creation of the Humanoids

Drive-In Double Feature
Giacomo Rossi-Stua…
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Starring Don Megowan & Dudley Manlove. Directed by Wesley Barry.

Undeservedly obscure, THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS (1962) achieves in a cinematic manner the way its better known stepchild A.I. regrettably failed — as a philosophical drama questioning the wisdom of surrendering to automation all that is essentially human, while ignoring what is biologically human because it is in our nature to do so. If we prefer our microwaves over helping human beings sleeping in our streets now, it asks, what kind of future will our species build in terms of sophisticated genetic ‘clonebots,’ and how will they be valued compared to ‘plain ol’ humans?

Costume designer Willa Fenton was instrumental in bringing some of her non-traditional values to the screen via her passion for silver jewelry. Story goes that she was given carte blanc when choosing jewelry worn in the film. She used this clout to negotiate a very good deal, using the potential exposure in the film as a bargaining chip, resulting in the ability to purchase all the sterling silver jewelry wholesale from a single vendor at very little cost. You’ll note that the jewelry, while not flashy of provocative is present in almost every scene, and lends a sheen of polish and sophistication to every major character. In a couple instances, the vendor agreed to customize silver pieces to her instruction, resulting in some collectors items, memorabilia as it were, whose value far exceeds the box office receipts of the film itself. Such is the case with many obscure films, where the antiques become more collectors’ items, long after the original film stopped being viewed.

The film asks all kinds of questions about humanity, the future of our species, the importance of government, and the sense of responsibility for other beings, etc. Pretty subversive stuff for a no budgeter aimed at the drive-in crowd, eh? That’s not to say CREATION is not without its faults. As mentioned, it has a below ‘low’ budget and isn’t exactly a dynamic epic with a c.g.i. war of the worlds. But give this minor gem a few minutes and you remember why you were drawn to science fiction flix in the first place. In short, hit Blockbruiser for the latest Arnold if you’re thinking action spectacular disguised as ‘sci fi'(PREDATOR, TERMINATOR, ETCETERATOR). Here, you actually get [gasp!] a Huxleyian ‘novel of ideas.’ And the director pulls it off sans explosions and special effects on the strength of the dramatic situations… i.e., with just a story, well-told!

Alas, in order to enjoy CREATION you must regrettably forsake what was supposedly ‘just another grade-z flick’ and deal with the heavier issues CREATION seamlessly and entertainingly raises; it’s a far more rewarding viewing experience than, say, BLADE II for that, as well. Like a good Hammer Quatermass flick that relies on skilled storytelling and craftsmanship over laser battles and space dogfights, CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS lingers longer in your memory (or is that… your neural implants?) than the average Hollywood summer “sci fi’er.”

Challenging? Yeah. Quirky, too, with set designs like a minimalist post-nuclear glimpse of a former conception of the history of the future. Leonard Maltin thinks the film is crap, but like many “Hollywood” squares, he’s missing the round subtext by myopically focusing only on the admittedly flat surface.

Besides all of which, CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS was Andy Warhol’s favorite flick, which easily trumps Maltin’s ‘deuces only’ review. One viewing and you’ll instantly know why Andy endlessly watched it. — Notes by J.R. Sebastian.

What Critics Say:

“Two time Oscar-winning cinematographer Hal Mohr (A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) and art director Ted Rich create an aperspectival background that is a weirdly robotic… (CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS) is a testament to the prophetic value of the science fiction genre.” — Cris Phillips, WORLDLY REMAINS

“One of the few movies to deal sympathetically with intelligent machines… (CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS) shows robots capable of love and sex, robots oppressed by human hate groups and robots who are morally superior to humans.” — Dan Dilello, SALON

Like this flick? See also: THE HUMAN VAPOR; THE TIME TRAVELERS.
Creature from Black Lake

Karen Brooks (II),…
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Starring Jack Elam & Dub Taylor. Directed by Joy N. Houck Jr.

Owing perhaps to its sporadic theatrical and mostly obscure drive-in playdates in the late 1970’s, CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1977) has earned something of a mini-cult film status in recent years in the rare, underappreciated Cine du Bigfoot genre.

Outside of THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (which this resembles in many ways, and obviously not unintentionally) and SASQUATCH: THE LEGEND OF

BIGFOOT, BLACK LAKE was the only adaptation of the Sasquatch mythos that approached anything nearing folkloric authenticity during the polyester decade (though granted it requires a lot of suspension of disbelief).

There are some fine cameos to enjoy, such as Elam and Dub Taylor as a redneck locals who tries to enlighten the Yankee cubs about “all things Southern.” Made towards the end of his career, Taylor is nonetheless in top form, making maudlin moments, well, less maudlin. Lots of juicy close-ups and some unexpectedly fine lighting remind you, too, this film was made with 35mm anamorphic (sorry, our stream is flat) by a ‘same year he shot HALLOWEEN’ Dean Cundey. From a craftsmanship point of view, it’s technically superior to most exploitation pictures of its ilk, and for that matter, today. — Notes by R.U. Holden.

What Critics Say:

“Two anthropologists search for a long-armed relative of Big Foot seen loping around a sinister lake. Dub Taylor and Jack Elam as good ole swamp boys give the film character… the film ends with a harrowing chase.” — John Stanley, CREATURE FEATURES GUIDE

“CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE takes on an entirely new dimension because you can empathize with every feeling. On a murky night, even in the city, you can almost hear Bigfoot howling one more time.” — Keith Allison, TELE-PORT CITY

“A surprisingly effective Bigfoot film with screen veterans Jack Elam and Dub Taylor helping the unknown cast move things along.” — Micheal Weldon, PSYCHOTRONIC

Like this flick? See also: MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS; NIGHT OF THE DEMON; MANBEAST; YETI, GIANT OF THE 20TH CENTURY ; INDIAN YETI
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Cyborg 2087
Starring Michael Rennie, Karen Steele and Wendell Corey. Written by Arthur Pierce. Directed by Franklin Adreon.

While the Harlan Ellison teleplays for THE OUTER LIMITS are officially cited as an “influence” on Cameron’s THE TERMINATOR, this rarity — along with a shot of LA JETEE as a capper — may be the truer inspirations. Because while Ellison sued and was able to get credit added on subsequent release editions of THE TERMINATOR, cult writer/filmmaker Arthur Pierce, much less contentious by nature and politics, was left undeservedly on the sidelines of obscurity. The “nice guy” who finished last, in other words, an old story.

Happily, like the time travel plot itself, we’re going to “end the loop” herein and set the record straight re: CYBORG 2087. In this new time continuum, you the reader will come to know the genius of Arthur Pierce as more than just “Ed Wood with a color stock budget” as many less insightful critics have dismissed his good works and deeds. Indeed, by the time you conclude this very paragraph, you will have dislodged yourself from your old time-spatial reference and into the very grasp of… killer cyborgs from the future, intent on subverting humanity’s survival!

It’s important to get the above campy “feeling” going to really “get” CYBORG 2087. Reason: Pierce operated from a more “Golden Era” perspective even into the 1960’s, favoring space opera and social SF over more progressive and genre-bending efforts that were underway in the era, such as 2001 and JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN. Witness the way he has the “teen bopping” kids portrayed driving hot rods and wearing cardigan sweaters when by this time they would’ve been strung out on acid and wearing tiedye. But that is again part of its charm.

That’s another way of saying, by the way, that Pierce was naive in the same sense that George Pal was; the surface is the same as the subtext, in short. Okay, so granted, Pierce’s work is not very “deep” beyond the well-considered plotlines and disciplined, effective direction. Somehow, like all good pioneers in the fields of gold that cinema SF would one day become (but of course elude himself), Pierce forged a whole body of work that is both laudatory and laughable, depending on your mindset.

For example, as writer of THE COSMIC MAN and BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER — the latter directed by Edgar G. Ulmer in Texas! — Pierce acquitted himself well, with CYBORG 2087 becoming the trifecta of his career. But as director, his scant budgets often kept his otherwise promising efforts from ever really soaring to their intended micro-budgeted heights. Herein, his credits as director of WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET and THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS, sadly, don’t match the gusto demonstrated in his actual writing ability. In some creepy ways, maybe he is a Wood with color, but then again, there’s a fun, self-aware quality to Pierce’s work that is sunny bright compared to Wood’s dark, subversive viewpoint.

The story concocted by Pierce for CYBORG 2087 has Michael Rennie, long in tooth but still vibrant in this his last great leading man role, coming back from the future to warn mankind about a sinister tomorrow in which machines are used to control human thought and ruthless cyborgs to exterminate anyone who resists. Rennie’s mission is to “terminate” a scientific experiment about to occur in the present day in which a certain “Future Industries” (aka SkyNet?) is about to go online. Said success will inspire an overthrow of free mankind and lead to a domination by cyborgs, Rennie explains, if he doesn’t somehow alter the future’s course and prevent the success of the experiment.

So yes, it’s very similar to THE TERMINATOR, especially in the way that Rennie is so resolute on his mission that he plays not as human being but cyborg’ish himself.

Rennie’s naturally stiff mannerisms and stone set features are perhaps the biggest influence beyond the plot; indeed, the way Rennie, for example, commandeers a jeep from a benign citizen and rudely shoves aside a suspicious gas attendent who recognizes the stolen jeep is so much like the Terminator’s actions you could almost wireframe these scenes into a computer and use them for scratch action.

By the way, there’s nothing really “wrong” about what Cameron did, whether conscious, subsconsciously or more likely both. None of these plot elements were particular new to readers of pulp SF and paperback novellas when Pierce mined them to equally good effect, in short. And one supposes even Ellison has to admit some influence by some other person than his own Ego occasionally.In short, what’s new under the cybernetic sunset?

Not much, but when the handling by adroit pros like Rennie, Steele, Corey and Ford stalwart Harry Carey Jr. makes it seem so by sheer force of acting prowess, you understand why this flick is still beloved to this day. It has a kind of optimistic tone that is absent from the later works inspired by it. Indeed, all is well that ends well in this flick, whereas later time travel movies always end in disaster and dystopia.

Though it aired extensively on American t.v. in syndication throughout the 1970’s, CYBORG 2087 vanished without much fanfare thereafter. Given that the director Franklin Adreon was associate producer of such classic serial fare as RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON and ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE, it’s no wonder so much of what is charming about CYBORG 2087 feels like an old serial cut down into feature length, especially the fight sequences which are tough, mano a ‘borg brawls.

Though by no means a “lost classic,” it comes as near to perfection as Pierce and company ever achieved in terms of results for the low money vs. great ideas for action and suspense sequences, doubtless honed to an art form by the director alone after decades in the serials genre. CYBORG 2087 moves along like a programmed machine, determined and largely successful to entertain with extreme prejudice. — Notes by J.R. Sebastian.

What Critics Say:

“Notable.” — THE-ROBOTMAN.com

”In their day [Pierce’s flix] were considered good, entertaining programmers… Arthur was neither a mercenary nor a cynic out for riches or fame. He had a heart of gold, and was a funny, cranky, brilliant yet childlike man with an imagination as vast as all outdoors.” — Kevin Danzey, FLICKHEAD
“CYBORG 2087 è uno di quei film a basso costo, oggi completamente dimenticati e pressoché introvabili (e per ciò tanto più cari a cinefili e collezionisti), che riservano strane sorprese.” — FANTAFILM.it
“Interesting from a historical standpoint primarily for it’s cast and it’s relationship to the TERMINATOR films. I’ve seen it on television many years ago, but I’ve not seen it on any home media.” — LIVE JOURNAL
“Michael Rennie of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL was in another sf movie called CYBORG 2087 that I’ve only seen once. It’s never come out on tape or DVD to my knowledge.” — BURNINGBIRD

What Viewers Also Want:
Sit back and enjoy this flick while snacking on the tasty delights from any of these gourmet gift baskets.

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