This week's VHS is Jackie Kong's 1983 monster movie The Being.
A mutated creature born of nuclear waste terrorizes a sleepy Idaho town.
Sadly, there were only a handful of women directing genre films during the eighties, but Jackie Kong made a name for herself starting with this debut. Is it great? Well no, as it suffered from the a lot of the usual pitfalls of low budget cinema.
For instance, the script was all over the place, aimlessly meandering from character to character as they got offed by a shadowy creature. And although that may have escalated the body count, a lot of the kills happened offscreen or were buried in darkness – admittedly some of that could've been my muddy VHS. Then Martin Landau showed up waving his geiger counter around to explain away why the only living thing affected by nuclear waste in the water supply seemed to be a lone missing child. What a missed opportunity!
Perhaps most perplexing was the lead actor (producer Bill Osco, credited as both Rexx Coltrane AND Johnny Commander) who put in a largely wooden performance as Mortimer Lutz. It also didn't help that his internal monologues were inexplicably dropped after the first act. From then on, Osco spent the rest of the running time barely reacting to the numerous things that kept popping out at him. Oh, and he was immune to cyanide gas apparently. Neat.
And speaking of the title character, until you finally get to see it in all its one-eyed glory at the end, it was really hard to get a sense of it because it seemed to change shape and size from scene to scene. Sometimes it was human-sized, sometimes smaller. Sometimes it had tentacles, sometimes it was like The Blob and phased from liquid to solid. At least Kong added a line about an underground tunnel system to rationalize how it seemed to be everywhere in the town at once.
So while not having as much bang for your B-movie buck as say Ed Hunt's The Brain or Greydon Clark's Without Warning, The Being still had its moments. At the end of the day, it's hard not to acknowledge that Kong was just twenty-three when she wrote and directed her debut that sported two award winners in Landau & Dorothy Malone. That's an impressive feat for any gender.
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