Sunday, March 06, 2011

Vamp or Not? The Horror of Party Beach

This was a 1964 movie by Del Tenney that combined a teen beach movie – complete with rock ‘n’ roll by the Del-Aires and cheesy one-liners – with horror. It is utter drive-in, campy schlock that – had it been better known – may have change the direction of the zombie genre utterly (coming four years before Night of the Living Dead).

And here is where the genre confusion comes in. This bandies the word zombie around, involves radiation spills, talks of voodoo and has creatures that look like a cross between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and, well quite frankly… the cookie monster. It also has an aspect that is rather vampire like, hence the ‘Vamp or Not?’

Angry Hank
It starts off with a car, driven by Hank (John Scott) who is with his girlfriend Tina (Marilyn Clarke). As they wait at a traffic light a bike gang pulls in behind them. Tina is waving enthusiastically at them but Mike tells her not to. One gets the impression that they might race, and Hank certainly has no regards for the speed limits, but a race is not on the cards. Hank and speeding seems a little out of character as they arrive at the beach and he warns her not to drink any more. They argue; he is now a respectable scientist, having left college and started working in a lab with Dr Gavin (Allan Laurel), whilst she just wants to party. They go off in different directions.

It's Alive!!!
Out at sea a ship is dumping barrels of radioactive waste. One of the barrels opens when it hits the seabed, spilling its contents. The radioactive residue washes over a sunken fishing boat and over the skull of one of its crew. As superimposed fish swim by we see matter grow over the skull, quickly a hand forms, barnacled and clawed and moving. The head develops into something akin to the aforementioned Creature but with stop motion eyes reminiscent of a childhood spent with Sesame Street. It’s alive!

On the beach the bikers have arrived and a dancing Tina is flirting with Mike (Agustin Mayor), who appears to be their leader. Hank, on the other hand, has wandered off to stare contemplatively out to sea. Elaine (Alice Lyon) has followed him and speaks to him. She is Dr Gavin’s daughter. There is a lot of noise coming from the party area and they go and investigate in time to see Tina about to strip to her bikini for Mike. A fight ensues, which is eventually broken up by lifeguards. Mike and Hank shake and both ignore Tina as they walk off in separate directions.

Tina's ignoble end
The abandoned Tina runs down the beach stripping her clothes down to her bikini and runs straight into the water. She swims out to nearby rocks, where she seems to compose herself and preen a bit. Unfortunately we have seen the monster round here and soon it is upon her (whilst the Del-Aires play a track called the Zombie Stomp). As we see her killed the blood (bearing in mind this is black and white) looks awfully black – it was, in fact, chocolate sauce. She washes up on the beach and the party is ruined.

the monster
The police are getting Dr Gavin involved, the kids are mentioning a sea monster and the good doctor is going to get a Carbon 14 test done, as there have been advances in genetics (of course a Carbon 14 test is for carbon dating, but never mind). Elaine confesses to her father (just before going to Tina’s funeral) that she has a thing for Hank. Eulabelle (Eulabelle Moore), Dr Gavin’s housekeeper, suggests that the killings are a human thing and tells Dr Gavin that she thinks voodoo is involved. Now, Eulabelle is a rather important character, if it weren’t for her insights, comments and actions – sometimes accidental and sometimes deliberate – nothing would have got solved in the film. In this case , however, she is half right – the human thing – and half wrong – voodoo is not involved.

stalking the girls
The monsters (there are at least half a dozen of them) start attacking through the town – they slaughter twenty girls having a sleepover. Eventually we discover that the creatures are draining the blood from their victims… a vampire connection. However we don’t discover that much more until one of the monsters stalks a couple of girls. Now, given that there have been comments about the (apparently really strong) rotting fish smell whenever these things are near, and that it gets caught in the headlights of the car come to give them a lift, it is astounding that they didn’t realise they were being stalked. Anyway, they get away and the frustrated monster sees a shop dummy, goes for it, catches its arm in the broken glass of the shop window and cuts it off!

random victim
Dr Gavin examines it. It is a human arm with the muscle replaced by protozoa and sea anemone! Now, the science in this is cock (which is a technical term, of course) but I need to give you Dr Gavin’s low-down word for word: it “needs the ordinary necessities of human life, proteins, fats, sugars and so forth. But since its organs are so decomposed that they can neither produce nor maintain the oxygen necessary for its survival, it needs the only food that can keep it alive.” When Hank interjects with the word ‘blood’ Dr Gavin corrects him as only human blood will do.

Sodium destroys the arm
When Dr Gavin is asked if they can be killed, and does not have an answer, Elaine suggests that they really are the living dead and uses the word zombies. Dr Gavin denies this and says they are more like jelly fish! They think one is coming in the lab, Dr Gavin tells the cops there that guns will be useless and gives them little knives that they nearly stick in Eulabelle (who is the one coming in the room). She sees the arm, panics and knocks a beaker over. The sodium in it causes the arm to explode into flame – they have a way to kill them, if only they can find them and get some more sodium (which is not stored safely at any point in the film, by the way!)

I'm coming to get you
They later realise that the radiation has raised the remains of the fisherman on a recently sunken boat. So, we have the returned remains of the dead (albeit looking nothing like a human and not compossed of human flesh any more) who crave blood to remain alive. They hunt at night, but that is more a predatory tactic. Okay, it is bonk (and I haven’t mentioned the voodoo dolls because, honestly, they don’t impact our deliberations), the science isn’t just bad, it is actually broken and the word zombie appears a lot. However I have to say that this has to be classed as a vampire film. Incidentally there is a MST3K version out there somewhere as well.

So bad that it was actually fun to watch, the imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

A potential 'Vamp or Not?': Def By Temptation. Definitely concerns a succubus, but there are so many classic vampiric traits on display that I'm going to regard it as a crossover vampire-demon movie. I liked it.


Taliesin_ttlg said...


I have Def by Temptation and to some controversy I keep it with the vampire movies :)

That said, I haven't watched it in ages and really do need to watch it again and do a 'Vamp or Not?' so thanks for the mention of it as it will get me to get my finger out and get on with it.

There is definitely a cross-over between the succubus and vampire genres generically - especially in respect of energy vampires.

Stay tuned - hopefully it will be soon.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to your Def By Temptation post!

I just saw another one: The 4D Man, a 1959 sci-fi/horror movie about a man who can walk through walls. Doing so ages him rapidly, which he can reverse by taking the life force of others and making them die of old age. ("Saps the life out of a man like juice out of an orange," as one character describes it.) Late in the movie there are some moments similar to other vampire tropes.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

cool, I'll keep me eye out for that one :)