There’s usually something, however small, that’s entertaining in a b-movie. Harry Essex’s sci-fi/horror flick, Octaman (1971) really made me work for it. The pacing dragged more than a basset hound’s balls after chopping it off at the knees; and was just as painful to watch. Most of the runtime is filler: walking, driving, standing, looking, lurking, and black. The dialog is, at best, stilted, that is, when it’s not racist. The people the camera photographed, normally actors—in this case people Essex picked up loitering at the neighborhood Stop n Rob—were stiff as an old man’s arthritic knee when winter’s coming. Worst of all, the whole thing is a vehicle for some whiney Captain Planet bullshit about pollution. One of the characters goes so far as to laud his students who recycle cans and plastic bottles. That’s great and all but it has nothing to do with nuclear waste in the water supply mutating squid into half-man monsters, but whatever.
That being the case, why in the hell did I watch it? Well, besides as a kind of self-flagellating penance for my many, many sins, here are a few unintentionally awesome moments/ideas:
- When the doctor’s government funding is cut he looks to a wealthy carnival/circus owner for backing. Isn’t there at least one step between those two sources of funding? Have to give the doctor credit for creative thinking though. I never would have thought to approach Barnum and Bailey for scientific research money.
- Did you know? Fresh-water lake squids are the most intelligent of all sea life.
- During their first encounter with Octaman, one of the men fires several rounds, point-blank, into the creature’s face, which it just shrugs off or absorbs or something. Then, at the big boss final battle, they shoot Octaman but this time he stumbles off and dies. Cumulative effect? Lead poisoning? Reached the 90 minute mark and decided to call it quits?
- To initially capture Octaman they poured gasoline around him in a circle and lit it so that: “The fire will burn up all the oxygen around him.” Believe it or not, this worked and Octaman passed out. Leaving aside the obvious stupidity, isn’t it odd that for all their “environmental” concerns they sure don’t care about what they are doing to the environment.
- When Octaman escapes into a cave the group stops at the opening, not sure whether to proceed. “This is a democratic expedition, doctor. All in favor of this continuing say, ‘aye,'” one of them proposes. They all look at one another in silence. “So, we go!” Uhm… Ok.
- In the darkest part of night, they go out onto the lake in a rickety bass boat to hunt Octaman. What could POSSIBLY go wrong? (Hint: exactly what you think could go wrong, does!)
You can watch the full film here (that is, until someone yanks it for copyright infringement):