“Look at the beautiful, speening wheel. See how it speens!”
The Scoop: directed by Ray Dennis Steckler and starring Ray Dennis Steckler, Carolyn Brandt and
Tagline: She keeps monsters in cages as pets! He preys on Wild Go-Go Girls!
Summary Capsule: An evil fortune-teller disfigures carnival patrons and turns them into murderous…things. Unfortunately for her, their hideousness does nothing to detract from hers.
Heather’s rating: A title so laborious that typing the acronym for it is almost more of a chore than typing the whole thing.
Heather’s review: Here I go again, about to completely destroy what is apparently one of the all-time cult favorites in film history. About this I have absolutely no remorse. Come on, world…why? Is there even one person in our readership who, after a long day at work, says to themselves “You know, I could really go for some Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies?” I want sincere answers, people. If you do ever have those kinds of days please write me and tell me your profession, because I want to heartily avoid any career that could crush my heart so flat.
One would be hard pressed to find a more depressingly boring and inane movie than TISCWSLABMUZ. Unlike Eraserhead or Princess of Mars, two movies I recently watched only twice and could not figure out, I’ve seen this film so many times that I could put its scenes in order on a storyboard and still have no clue what is going on. The only thing that enables me to watch this movie is seeing the version shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and even Mike and the ‘Bots can’t do much with this one.
The movie opens with a fortune teller named Madame Estrella in her lair, attempting to seduce some doughy, drunk guy. He rudely rejects her advances, probably because she looks like a what you would come up with if you mated Elizabeth Taylor with Fred Savage’s character from Goldmember and then dunked that lovechild in self tanner and baby oil and taught it to learn English by watching Speedy Gonzalez cartoons. Madame InDenial doesn’t think she deserves to be spurned and so calls out her henchzombie Ortega to restrain doughboy while she pours acid on his face.
The movie then makes what is the first of a series of awkward switches between the goings-on at the carnival and the outside world. This brings us to our awful protagonist, Jerry, and his friends. Jerry is a workaphobic, sexist, Nicholas-Cage-looking loser who takes his girlfriend, Angela, and his best friend, Harold, to the carnival. The audience is made to suffer through the trio’s embarrassing attempts at frolicking before the movie loses interest and starts throwing in shots of carnival rides and horrifying monkey and clown statues.
Eventually Harold and Angie want to go to see a fortune teller and Jerry reluctantly goes along. Jerry ends up getting angry and overreacting at what the madame has to say, leaving in a huff with his two friends in tow. Then, for reasons discernible only to her, Madame Estrella hatches and carries out a plan to use her sister Carmelita, the Amy Winehouse look-alike and main attraction at the carnival girly show, to lure Jerry in to see her show and hypnotize him with her creepy stare so that Estrella can further hypnotize him. Estrella then sics Jerry on another unattractive dancer, whom he stabs to death. Afterward Jerry suffers from some horrible nightmares and a bad case of blind homicidal rage before he’s taken down at the end of the movie.
If you’re still with me after all of that then congratulations; unfortunately, I’m not finished dishing out the 31 flavors of crazy this movie has on its menu (ha. Baskin Robbins reference. Ooh, I’m edgy!).
The titular zombies are a slew of carnival patrons that Estrella and Ortega poured acid on and threw into a secret room. How this turns them into the living dead I’m hoping I will one day figure out. Given the amount of time I’ve put into it, the movie’s bound to feel sorry for me at some point and finally explain this.
The protagonist is a complete chump, his girlfriend is both lifeless and annoying in that shrill, squinty-eyed ’60s way, and anything that comes out of Harold’s mouth sounds like Speedy Gonzalez and Slowpoke Rodriguez drank some Nyquil and got into in an intense argument. Not a single person in this movie is someone the audience can get behind and root for. Having any strong feelings either way for Jerry is impossible, as every time he’s on screen you just end up with an oily sludge on your TV and the feeling that you are now unclean in hard to reach areas.
And will someone please enlighten me as to why movies in the ’60s had to feature mediocre songs sung by cast members only barely more talented than a Casio keyboard? This movie is by far the worst offender of that strange genre. A seemingly infinite number of “entertainers” muddle through awkward dances, awful songs and one atrocious stand-up act that sends out shockwaves of stupid so strong you can actually feel your brain huddling into a corner in the fetal position and screaming.
It’s a complete chore to sit through and useless as a so-bad-it’s-good film. There are a few unintentionally hilarious moments, like the mere existence of a henchzombie named Ortega, or basically any time that Harold speaks, but otherwise it’s a maddening descent into an oily, blurry, orange-hued hell where carnies roam and the parents of future talent show rejects rule the stage.
In the midst of all that awfulness I found one minor thing in the movie’s favor: there are some intriguing using of camera angles, random shots of loud carnival rides, and a really creepy dream sequence that all serve to create a very unsettling atmosphere around the carnival. Mostly all this accomplishes is to further your feelings of madness and despair at watching this crap. If you really want something trippy to stare at for two hours, you’d be better off popping some ELO into your computer and watching Media Player’s randomization visualization instead.
- The original title was “The Incredibly Strange Creature: Or Why I Stopped Living and Became a Mixed-up Zombie.” Columbia Pictures threatened to sue writer/director/star Ray Dennis Steckler, accusing the title of being too similar to their upcoming Stanley Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Steckler, amazed that Columbia would feel so threatened by a $38,000 film, phoned the studio to straighten things out. He made no progress until he demanded that Kubrick get on the line. When Kubrick picked up, Steckler suggested the new title, Kubrick accepted, and the matter was dropped.
- When this movie was released, employees of the theaters would dress as monsters and run through the theaters.
- Director Ray Dennis Steckler had the dancing girls in an early scene chew gum as they danced, hoping it would distract from their bad footwork.
- The carnival sequence was shot at The Pike, a now-defunct amusement park on the beach in Long Beach, CA. The Cyclone Racer was the roller coaster.
Jerry: Her mother doesn’t like anything, especialy me.
Harold: Well, if you get a job or something, she might change her mind, you know?
Jerry: A job! Be a little discreet about that, will you, Harold? Somebody’s liable to hear you.
Harold: Well, you gotta do something, you know?
Jerry: Why? The world’s here to be enjoyed, not to make you depressed. That’s what work does, Harold, it makes you feel depressed.
Harold: So instead of being in that state of depression, why don’t we head out, okay?
Jerry: Swing it!
Madame Estrella: You wish your fortunes told?
Harold: What do you think we came here for, to eat?
Madame Estrella: Look at the beautiful, speening wheel. See how it speens!
Barker: We’ve got twenty beautiful girls and only ten beautiful costumes!
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Merlin’s Shop Of Mystical Wonders
- The Girl in Gold Boots
- Zombie Nightmare