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Smithee Blur

Curse of the Zontar the Thing from Swamp Venus Creature

While I we did not watch these movies at the same time (or even on the same day or in the same calendar week), they were watched consecutively. And they deserve to be discussed together as a sort of Larry Buchananza.

Larry Buchanan's first Smithee-film of note was the "classic" Attack of the the Eye Creatures, which featured such gems as The Two Goofy Radar Operators and, of course, The Eye Creature That Was Only Wearing Half A Costume. One of his last Smithee films of note was Loch Ness Horror, which featured The Plot-Specific Telescope, and of course The Mad Scotsman. To be fair, every film set at Loch Ness should feature a Mad Scotsman.

In between (actually, right after Attack of the the Eye Creatures), he made the movies Zontar the Thing from Venus (remake of an earlier Roger Corman film), and Curse of the Swamp Creature (remake of an earlier non-Roger-Corman film). Both were made with most of the same cast. Both were made in 1966. Both starred John Agar (whose film career started after he married Shirley Temple -- I trust that I don't have to actually link to her imdb filmography for you to know who she is).

Zontar was made first, and was merely painful. There was nothing especially bad about it (except possibly the flying Zontar-lings), it just kept going on and on until most of the major cast was killed (everybody but Agar). Then it sort of abruptly wrapped up.

Curse of the Swamp Thing had more vivid colors, and a more exciting setting. So to make up for it, the acting was worse (the actor who played CotSW's main bad guy actually got worse from Zontar), the two groups of characters didn't meet until almost an hour into the film, and so on....

In Curse, a good ten minutes must be made up of minor characters walking through the deciduous forest swamp, taking boats through the open waterways swamp, and stock footage of alligators. Oh, was there a lot of stock footage of alligators. It was sort of like all the worst parts of Swamp Diamonds.

Everybody wore sunglasses. But not normal-sized sunglasses, no. Weirdly-enlarged sunglasses that were just one step down from novelty sunglasses. When the fortune hunters headed into the swamp, the Creole natives got sight of them, and spread the word by beating on African-style drums. There was a Snake Dance, too. And a character died in quicksand (set conveniently under about 30 inches of water) by thrashing around and "sinking" beneath the lake surface.

Certain scenes were set at night, but you could only tell by the context. "Learning his lesson" from Attack of the the Eye Creatures, there was no real attempt at day-for-night shooting. He didn't even care enough to fake it. Not even to have a character say "What a bright moon tonight." Of course, since this is the first script credit for Tony Huston (actor in Eye Creatures, Zontar, Swamp Creature, among others; author of this and ... shudder ... The Sidehackers), maybe we shouldn't expect too much. We certainly don't get it.

When the Swamp Creature is finally created (about two minutes before the end of the film), the good guys coax her into killing the evil doctor. Then they promptly ignore her, head back to civilization, and fly off into the sunset together. Technically three (semi-)major characters survived this one ... but one (Brenda) survived it as a Swamp Creature.

So, what great life lesson have I learned from this experience?

Are you kidding me?

If I were the sort of person to learn from experience, I would hardly be (voluntarily) watching Smithee films, would I?

Totally irrelevant of Smithee stuff, I really like the X-Ray Spex album Germfree Adolescents (the review is not mine, but I agree with it).