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Mutants and Monsters Double Feature (1988/1984)

Liberation Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/22/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/30/2009

Despite the fact that I'm a devoted fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I'm not a follower of the "so bad, it's good" philosophy of film. In most cases, bad movies are just that -- bad movies. These movies are often poorly paced and too serious for their own good. However, there are some bad movies which demand to be noticed. These movies are audacious and have a certain punk aesthetic which seems to say, "I know I'm awful, what of it?" 1980's The Children is my favorite movie in this genre (if you haven't seen it, see it!), but running a close second is the 1988 opus Uninvited.

Uninvited opens with a fluffy kitty cat escaping from a lab. This is apparently a bad thing, as the scientists chase the cat and try to shoot it. The cat proves to be a bit unusual, as a smaller, very vicious cat emerges from its mouth when it's angry. After killing a guard, the cat is able to escape. Meanwhile, Rachel (Toni Hudson) and Bobbie (Clare Carey) are in Fort Lauderdale on vacation and have nowhere to stay. They meet businessman Walther (Alex Cord), who invites them aboard their yacht, despite the protests of his business partners, Mike (George Kennedy) and Albert (Clu Gulager). On the way to the boat, the girls meet Martin (Eric Larson), Corey (Rob Estes), and Daryl (Michael Holden), and invite them along. When they reach the dock, Walter has just learned that the SEC is coming to get him and the fun day is suddenly shattered as he insists that the boat cast off and head for the Caymans. Unfortunately, the girls have brought the cat on board. Suddenly, the group realizes that a killer animal is on board. After the cat cripples the boat (!), it's a battle for survival against the elements and the mutant feline.

Cat lovers will tell you that their favorite animals rarely get any respect in movies. While dogs are featured as both heroes and villains in film, we don't see cats very often. So, if nothing else, it's nice to see a cat prominently featured in Uninvited. And, the cat is apparently very happy about its starring role, as its tail is constantly in the air -- the universal sign of a happy cat. And that's just one of the great things about this awful movie. This supposedly vicious cat always looks very chipper, despite the constant meowing and howling sound effects which clearly aren't coming from the cat on-screen. There's one scene in the boat's lounge where we see a seemingly content cat sitting in a chair, while a ludicrous amount of cat screaming plays on the soundtrack.

Then, we have the other cat. As noted above, a smaller, grotesque looking cat comes out of the cat's mouth when it attacks. Yes, you read that right. At times, it looks like the smaller cat is attached to the bigger cat, while at others, it appears to be moving independently. One thing's for sure, it is never the same size twice. This cat is portrayed by a series of ratty-looking puppets who look just like ratty-looking puppets.

Of course, the most ludicrous part of all of this is the film's script by Writer/Director Greydon Clark. What was he thinking? We never get an explanation as to what's wrong with the cat. Hey, he was in a lab, that's all we need to know. From there, the movie becomes an inscrutable mix of breezy T&A movie (with neither T nor A) and a heist movie. It starts with the young vacationers partying upon the boat, and then it becomes a survival movie when the boat is immobilized and the food supply drops. At times, the cat is simply an after-thought, as the people argue amongst themselves. Is this a horror movie that happens to have people on a boat, or a disaster movie which has an oddly placed killer cat? Either way, the movie is a hoot and it's the kind of movie which must be seen to be believed.

Uninvited would make an awful cat food commercial on DVD courtesy of Liberation Entertainment, as part of a "Mutants and Monsters" Double Feature. The film is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. I don't know what the film's original aspect ratio was, but there's no overt panning and scanning here. The image is somewhat sharp and clear, showing a surprisingly small amount of grain and only minor defects from the source material. The colors look OK, but the picture is washed out at times. The image is certainly soft in the daytime shots, giving many objects haloes. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track shows some occasional stereo effects, but most of the sound comes from the center channel. The dialogue is always audible and the film's score sounds fine.

We now go from a bad movie which is actually fun to watch to a movie which is simply bad. Mutant (which is also known as Night Shadows...which is just a dumb name) is an example of the sort of no-budget movies which littered video stores in the early 80s.

B-movie stalwart Wings Hauser stars in Mutant as Josh, a race-car builder (?) who has decided to take his brother, Mike (Lee Montgomery), on a relaxing vacation where they drive through the South (I live in the South, and I wouldn't do that). They are accosted by a group of rednecks who run their car off of the road. Josh and Mike are able to get a ride into town, where Mike sees a dead body. They go to a local bar looking for help and find themselves in a fist-fight with the same rednecks again. Sheriff Stewart (Bo Hopkins) arrives and sends the boys to a boarding house for the night. The Sheriff also finds a mysterious yellow liquid where Mike saw the body and takes it to Dr. Tate (Jennifer Warren) to be analyzed. That night, Mike is attacked, unbeknownst to Josh. The next morning, Josh goes to look for Mike and finds that the town is deserted. He meets bartender/school teacher Holly (Judy Medford), who agrees to help him look for his brother. They soon learn that the townspeople have been turned into maniacs with blue skin. One touch from these crazies burns the flesh. Josh and Holly are now running for their lives, trying to find a way out of town.

While many would consider Mutant to be a more straightforward film than Uninvited, the synopsis somehow sounds crazier. The bottom-line is that the movie is filled with half-ideas and bad decisions. For the longest time, we only see hands burning skin when the murders happen. When we finally see one of the blue-skinned townsfolk, the person is dead. How exciting! (Aren't most dead people blue?) We get zero backstory on anyone (race-car builder?) and the revelation of what's causing the crisis in town may be one of the most casual and laissez faire reveals in cinema history.

Of course, if one examines the names behind the camera on Mutant, the explanations for these problems will immediately become evident. The film was to be directed by Mark Rosman, who made the tidy slasher film The House on Sorority Row, but he dropped out soon after production started. Rosman was replaced by stunt-man turned director John "Bud" Cardos. Cardos made the reasonably effective Kingdom of the Spiders in 1977, but the rest of his resume stinks. (Cardos background as a stunt-man may explain all of the unnecessary car crashes and the scene where Hauser does gymnastic over a bathroom stall.) The film was written by John C. Kruize. Mutant is his lone writing credit -- since then, he has served as accountant on many movies. Accountant? How many accountants do you know who could write a good horror movie?

Short on suspense, logic, characterization, or creativity, Mutant would seem like a bad movie upon any viewing. But watching it back-to-back with the zany Uninvited really shows just how dull it is.

For this DVD release, Mutant is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. According to IMDB.com (which not always accurate), the film was shot at 1.85:1, but I didn't notice any pan or scan here. The image is somewhat sharp and clear, but there is grain throughout, and some noticeable defects from the source material. The colors are OK, but the picture is dark throughout. To be honest, the image is only slightly better than VHS, as the picture has a soft, dark quality and shows very little detail. The movie is accompanied by a Dolby 2.0 track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The bulk of the sound comes from the center channel, but the dialogue is always audible and it's never overwhelmed by the sound effects or music.

There are no extra features on this DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long