12/29/06

606 The Creeping Terror

(1964, SciFi/Horror, b&w)

Well, it is creeping. You’ve got to give it that.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Beleaguered earthlings feed themselves to an extraterrestrial carpet monster.

Summary:

The title's only half-accurate.This movie has two “plots” (for lack of a better word) happening side-by-side, which I will separate for the sake of clarity. As you read the following keep in mind that Plot One, though summarized in a single paragraph, takes up at least twice as much screen time as Plot Two. You should also understand that there is almost no dialog; the “plots” mainly unfold by means of narration and screams.

Plot One: “The Waddling Inconvenience.”

A spaceship crashes in the woods (we assume). A flap lifts in the side and a giant slug-carpet-thing creeps out at approximately three feet per hour. It creeps across the countryside and finds hot make-out teens. They manage quite a lot of screaming while they sit there, waiting until it can waddle close enough for them to obligingly crawl into its mouth. It creeps on, repeating this process with a young mother hanging her laundry, a boy and his grandfather, another make-out couple, a folk-singer and his spellbound audience, an entire auditorium full of dancing party-goers, and two or three more make-out couples in their cars in Lover’s Lane. At this point people finally get worked up enough to do things like run away and notify the authorities. The army shows up and we crash directly into Plot Two.

Plot Two: “The Dryly Narrated Military Investigation.”

While driving home from his honeymoon, sheriff’s deputy Martin and his new wife drive past his boss, the sheriff. The sheriff pulls them over and asks them to help him investigate a plane crash in the woods. They arrive and find, not a plane, but a missile-like contraption with what looks like a large swinging pet door in the side. They find the discarded hat of another deputy and guess that he must have crawled inside. When he doesn’t answer their calls, the sheriff pulls his gun and crawls in after him. Hearing shots (followed closely by tortured shrieks of pain) Martin and his wife stroll back to the patrol car and call for backup.

An army truck full of log-pushing soldiers arrives to take command of the situation. Their colonel sends in a pair of soldiers to investigate. They come back alive, reporting of a monster chained up at one end of the ship. Unlike the sheriff and his deputy, they had enough sense to stay away from it. The colonel hushes the whole thing up and calls in an extraterrestrial expert. This is Dr. Bradford, who wanders through the spaceship (filled with dials and gauges clearly marked with standard Arabic numerals) trying to communicate with the chained-up creature.

There’s an odd bit here where Martin goes home and makes out with his wife in front of his embarrassed deputy friend while the narrator goes on about their personal lives and the nature of marriage as an institution, etc., etc., etc…

We rejoin the movie in progress. There are a number of narrated office consultations before the military finally goes out to confront the monster (fresh from Plot One) near Lover’s Lane. They go right up close and fire small arms at it until it pushes them down and waits for them to crawl into its mouth. Over Dr. Bradford’s objections, the colonel kills it with a grenade.

Dr. Bradford has an idea and steals the military truck to run back to the spaceship. Martin and his wife follow him in the patrol car. When they get back to the ship the other creature has gotten loose and eaten the guards. Dr. Bradford somehow gets badly burned while trying to stop it, but foils the creature by refusing to crawl into its mouth. Martin arrives and squishes it with the patrol car.

Dr. Bradford reveals that the monsters were chemical laboratories sent to digest and analyze human beings for weaknesses. He begs Martin to break the transmission equipment before the information can be sent back to the monsters’ alien overlords. Martin tries to comply, but the alien dials and gauges are too resilient. Dr. Bradford says (or is narrated to say) that maybe the aliens aren’t listening, or maybe they won’t get here for a really long time, or maybe we’ll be scientifically advanced enough to be ready for them… He dies, and the movie ends.

Introduction:

Love, Satellite of Love-style!Tom has appointed himself security for the Satellite of Love. He forces Mike to sign in and out when he wanders past to lend Crow some Moleman comics.

Host Segment One:

Tom has fallen asleep, drooling on his sign-in sheet. When Mike wakes him, he rushes off to defend the vending machines. It’s laundry day down in Deep 13. Quoth Dr. Forrester, “Once a year, whether there’s a full load or not.” He postulates that coffee houses reek of pretentiousness, and therefore the trappings of a coffee house will make anyone pretentious. Given berets, guitars, books of poetry, and, of course, coffee (surly waitress not included) Tom says, “The only question worth asking is, what am I going through?” while Crow listens to Gypsy’s hate-drenched ballad against the “white male oppressor” and says, “Her soul cried out to me!”

Host Segment Two:

Mike raises the Satellite of Love Flag, while Crow recites an odd pledge of allegiance. “One nation, indirigible…” Maddened with patriotism, Tom cries, “Give me liberty or kill me!”

Host Segment Three:

Mike and the ‘Bots do a series of short sketches parodying Love, American Style, wherein Crow chases Gypsy around a water cooler, Tom proposes to Mike, and Mike clears up a misunderstanding Crow.

Host Segment Four:

Mike has built himself an impressive (and no doubt expensive) sound system. The ‘Bots are not impressed, especially when he starts to play the gratingly repetitive dance music from The Creeping Terror. It plays for a long, long time.

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow have climbed into Gypsy’s mouth. Mike pulls out Crow and they read letters while an embarrassed Gypsy coughs up Tom. Down in Deep 13, TV’s Frank has shrunk all of Dr. Forrester’s clothes, and is flattened in the wringer as punishment. The Creeping Terror dance music plays interminably over the closing credits.

Stinger:

People at the dance shriek and wait to be eaten while a woman cries, “What is it?”

Thoughts:

She'd rather ask a rhetorical question than run away.Good gravy, that was awful. I’m guessing that the dialog was either gratingly tedious, badly recorded, or both because most of it has been dropped and the few lines of dialog that do come out were obviously been looped into the film in post-production. Given the dubious quality of the narration, I’m guessing that “badly recorded” was the more pressing reason. Sometimes there’s a lot of dead air. Sometimes the narrator talks about nothing in particular in a seeming effort to fill it. How are Martin and Barney’s personal lives relevant to the film? And since we’re talking about relevant, how does the rectal thermometer fit into the story?

Sigh. At this point I suppose I could go on about the glacial monster and its willingly swallowed victims. Or perhaps I could touch on the Internet rumor that the film’s director partially financed the film by selling screen time to investors (which is supposed to be the reason we see so many pairs of legs slowly disappearing into the creature’s maw) and then vanished before anyone could see how awful the whole mess turned out. I could write about things like that, if I felt like doing such a thing. What a wretched, wretched film.

The host segments are decent. The security guard and laundry day sketches are amusing. “Once a year, whether there’s a full load or not,” still makes me laugh. The Satellite of Love flag works all right, though it’s a little odd. The concept of listening to The Creeping Terror dance music for a long, long time is worth a chuckle, but actually listening to it for that long is rather tedious. It was amusing to see Mike smooching with the ‘Bots in the Love, American Style sketch, but the rest of it feels rather flat. My favorite segment is the coffee house sketch. I’ve spent quite a few hours in coffee shops (which is, perhaps, admitting to certain level of pretentiousness myself) and they’re not far wrong about them.

The miracle of this episode is that, for a movie that ranks with Castle of Fu Manchu and Red Zone Cuba for sheer badness, the film segments are actually enjoyable and quotable. The opening shot is a darkened road, so dark that it’s almost a black screen, and Crow calls it, “The point of view of Helen Keller.” When Martin and his wife make out in front of his deputy friend, Mike calls him, “Officer Third Wheel.” During the long and awkward dance scene, Tom says, “If my deepest, darkest despair had choreography, this would be it.” The commentary does not stop it from being an utterly wretched film, but it does make it an enjoyable episode.