Tag Archives: R. G. Armstrong

The Beast Within (1982)

beast-within

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen turns into monster.

On the night of their honeymoon Eli and Caroline (Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch) become stranded on the side of a road. Eli goes for help while Caroline remains in the car only to end up getting raped by a mysterious beast that escapes from a nearby farmhouse. 17 years later Michael (Paul Clemens), who became the product of that ugly incident, begins to show signs of erratic behavior that doctors are unable to find the cause to. Eli and Caroline decide to go back to Nioba, Mississippi where the assault took place in order to find out who it was that raped her and see if he or his family may have any genetic abnormalities that Michael may have inherited. However, before they can do anything Michael’s condition worsens and he changes into a monstrous, homicidal maniac that resembles the spirit of an abused child that had long ago been buried away by the townspeople.

One of the pluses to this film is its supporting cast that is filled with B-movie regulars who do their best to liven up the proceedings with their eccentric characterizations. Logan Ramsey is a lot fun as the town’s newspaper editor and in some ways proves even more entertaining as a corpse. R.G. Armstrong is good as the town’s physician and I especially liked his squeeze toy. Luke Askew has a few choice moments as an embalmer and Don Gordon, who wears a wig, has a solid bit near the end as a corrupt judge.  John Dennis Johnston as an overprotective father and L.Q. Jones as the sheriff help round it out.

Unfortunately the three leads are boring although I was amused at how much Besch resembles actress Eleanor Parker who was star Clemen’s mother in real-life. Clemens though as an actor is weak and looks too creepy from the beginning especially his eyes which make his transformation into a monster less dramatic and would’ve worked better had he had more of a clean-cut blonde, blue-eyed look.

Tom Holland’s script tries to cover every type of horror niche by treating the viewer to elements of southern gothic, ghost stories, possession, monsters, slashers and gore, which may sound interesting, but eventually becomes overplayed. There are also some loopholes to it that doesn’t quite make sense and the rape segment shouldn’t have been shown right away, but instead used as a flashback later on. Also, Michael is described by his father as being ‘normal kid’ who never showed any signs of odd behavior, but it would’ve been more vivid had we seen him as a regular teen instead of it starting out with him already acting strangely.

The transformation scene in which Michael turns into a grotesque looking creature might actually make you sick to your stomach, but it’s impressive. This was the first film to use air bladders, which were made up of condoms that were connected to air hoses that were put underneath the actor’s face casting and then inflated to give the appearance of the skin ‘bubbling’, which is pretty cool and worth checking out for this scene alone, which is by far the best moment in the movie.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 12, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Phillippe Mora

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Gentle Savage (1973)

gentle savage 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Indian accused of rape.

Camper John (William Smith) is an Indian living in a small town who gets accused of raping a white girl (Betty Ann Carr) by Ken (Kevin Hagen) her stepfather even though it was actually Ken who did it. The hidden prejudices of the predominantly white folks come to light against the nearby Indian community. Both sides take up arms and become intent on crushing the other causing hysteria and violent outbreaks while Camper John tries hiding out until it blows over.

If there is anything distinctive about this otherwise formulaic and predictable low budget drama is the fact that it paints vigilantism as more of a problem than a solution even if the one side feels completely justified, which I found to be a refreshing and more realistic take on the issue especially as the Indian group becomes as vindictive, violent and hateful as the people they are trying to fight. However, it would’ve been nice had there been at least one white person who wasn’t portrayed as being completely narrow-minded and bigoted, which in a lot of ways comes off as reverse racism by the filmmakers.

The music is loud and overly dramatic, which gives the proceedings a very heavy-handed feel. In a lot of ways it comes off as a poor man’s Billy Jack, which was already pretty amateurish and one-dimensional to begin with although still far better than this thing. The 75 minute version that I viewed had an abrupt ending that seemed incomplete and failed to tie up many loose ends, but I wasn’t complaining as even with the abbreviated runtime it was still highly protracted, overblown and tedious with the scene of a water tower tank exploding and dousing everyone on the street with tons of water being the only slightly diverting moment.

Smith is intense in the lead, but he should’ve been given more dialogue especially at the beginning as the viewer barely gets to know or understand him before being jettisoned into his quandary. Character actor R. G. Armstrong who normally plays menacing characters is quite wimpish here as a bartender who gets held down and forced to swallow drink after drink when he tries closing down the bar before the patrons were ready. Hagen is competent as the bad guy, but casting Gene Evans and Joe Flynn as a bumbling sheriff and deputy in an attempt at misguided ‘comic relief’ in the Last House on the Left-type vein was a big mistake. One scene even has them handcuffed together wearing nothing but their underpants while forced to walk across the desert, but it all adds little and takes away from the tension, which is the only time that this flat film ever becomes mildly diverting.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Alternate Title: Camper John

Released: March 7, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes (Full Version)

Rated R

Director: Sean MacGregor

Studio: Cinemation Industries

Available: None at this time.