I sit and draw and watch TV. I always have. When I was little, I watched amiable announcer Bill “Wee Willie” Webber present hours of kids shows every afternoon as I drew cartoons on scratch pads, rolls of adding machine paper or whatever was available to make marks upon. Now, somewhat older, I draw in cheap sketchbooks or work up artwork digitally on a laptop as I watch streaming content on my Roku box. The trick is to find programs that don’t require my strict attention but are entertaining at the same time. A lot of times, the movies I find are like most movies in that they are passable mediocrities. Made-for-TV melodramas are like that. Then there are the movies that are way past mediocre which brings us to today’s entry.
The Being is a 1980 monster movie which sat on a shelf until 1983 to be released to grindhouses and drive-ins which were still plentiful at the time. It tells the tale of carelessly dumped radioactive waste creating monstrous mutations similar to the genesis of the monsters in The Horror of Party Beach that go on to wreak havoc in a small town in Idaho. There is a mayor played by Jose Ferrer who is just like the corrupt mayor in Jaws. He is worried that the stories of mayhem may negatively impact the potato industry and insists on covering up the whole mess. The rest of the cast is rounded out by actors and/or celebrities that should have known better than wind up in a monster movie shot in Idaho.
The cast is why I watched the movie. Ruth Buzzi was the hook. What was she doing there? Curiosity got the better of me so I let the stream continue. Ruth and the rest of the well-known members of the cast do turn in professional performances despite the lowly nature of the film. I can’t imagine that they read the script before agreeing to the picture. Maybe director Jackie Kong was very nice or very persuasive or both.
The sad part is that the rest of the cast consisted of earnest unknowns and they were the leads. In the world of Z-grade, no budget, schlock movies, being available and showing up for the shoot is more important than onscreen charisma. Bringing your own wardrobe is a big plus.
The last 20 or so minutes features a painfully long battle between the movie’s completely unexceptional and unknown leading man and the utterly unconvincing mutant monster that looks like a drippy melted red candle that had a single eye and lots of pointy teeth shoved into it. The guy keeps on throwing himself into cardboard boxes repeatedly, and somehow winds up defeating the monster. I’m not sure how. I think I was concentrating on my illustration. I’m not curious enough to go back to see how the monster was ultimately vanquished.
But is the monster truly dead? I’ll have to look into this to see if it was the first, but I think that ever since the switcheroo ending of Rosemary’s Baby the shock ending has become a cliche in movies that cannot be escaped. The monster is dead or is it? I’m sort of amazed that Jaws and Alien ended definitively with the antagonist destroyed and peace restored without some producer putting in his two cents. Of course The Being was going to completely embrace the cliche and leave room for a sequel. Perhaps there will be a The Being 2. I’d watch it if it had Ruth Buzzi.