A small archaeological expedition digs up a prehistoric man out in the remote wooded wilderness. The find is so important that the Professor in charge decides to keep it a secret from their employers at the museum so he can claim independent credit later on and make a fortune. However, the discovery has ideas of its own…
Littered through cinema history are a very small, and exclusive, group of filmmakers. The Non-Professionals. Guys and gals who somehow managed to scrape up enough small change for a budget, camera and cast to bring their vision to the big screen. But once, and once only. No career (of any kind) followed in the film business. The most famous example is obviously fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren whose iconic film ‘Manos The Hands of Fate’ (1966) is so terrible that’s it’s the benchmark by which all other bad movies are judged. Other films come and go in the IMDB Bottom 100 movies of all time but Manos always remains.
Step forward writer-director Tom Leahy Jr. Scrounging $10,000 from KARD TV in Wichita, Kansas (and perhaps some camera equipment into the bargain!), he created this tale of a bad tempered 60 million year-old fossil which comes back to life and goes on a low-budget rampage in Smalltown USA. Obviously, the template is Universal’s ‘Mummy’ series from the 1940s, with lightning taking the place of mumbo-jumbo and Tana leaves, although it would be nice to think that Leahy Jr had a passing knowledge of our old friend the Aztec Mummy from south of the border.
Credits on the movie from sources other than the film itself are somewhat limited, but we do know that the irasicble, misguided Professor Maury is played by Dick Weisbacher. For a man with no social graces and seemingly obsessed with his scientific work, he’s only to happy to target the profit motive when his two-man expedition strikes archaeological gold. Things go south after a rainstorm and the foreman of the work gang is killed with a shovel. Blame falls on the Professor’s assistant who is certified as crazy after he insists that the nasty neanderthal (Leahy Jr again apparently, pulling triple-duty!) is the responisble party. The museum pick up the find, everyone goes back to town and things are all tickety-boo until the weather takes a turn for the worse…
The shock here is that the film is not that bad. Of course, if you’re only familiar with big Hollywood productions playing at your local multiplex, you will no doubt think so. On the other hand, if you’ve spent a lot of hours watching no-budget independent cult films, you will have a different perspective. Yes, the premise and story are totally unoriginal and the dialogue is laboured at times. On the other side of the coin, most of the cast are surprisingly natural with Weisbacher the pick of the bunch, although some of the supporting players are very stilted. The action is limited and, despite the brief 63 minute running time, there are too many talky scenes and proceedings drag a little.
However, Leahy Jr knows not to show too much too soon and gives us scenes with basic virtues like camera movement, cross-cutting and close-ups. Although these are things that we take for granted, they have eluded some directors in the low-budget arena, the obvious example being bad movie legend Jerry Warren. He seemed to be under the impression that just pointing the camera at his actors, turning it on and then presumably going off to lunch and leaving them to it was the way to make a movie.
The film isn’t very good, but given the obviously very limited resources and experience available, it really shouldn’t be judged too harshly.