What else do you suppose it could be? The house is actually in a forest – nowhere near a park – and it has very little to do with the film’s plot, but that’s about par for the course… well, suppose it’s a rip-off of Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery?
No. To be fair, however, I doubt you’d be able to guess in a million years, if only because the plot is so ludicrous. Don’t worry, though, because we get all the plot we’ll need, and indeed all the plot we’re going to get, in the opening scene.
It takes place in a dilapidated room, empty aside from a very small amount of scientific equipment and a number of cages containing rats. We hear a voice over -
‘I hereby confirm I will present to the next international genetics congress the new hybrid I have developed by introducing the sperm of a rat into the ovum of a monkey. This hybrid has in its teeth and under its nails a very potent poison, one that produces a kind of instantaneous leptospirosis; its bite or scratch will kill a human being in just a few seconds.’
You’ve got to hand it to them. Not many films will state outright just how silly they are in the first few seconds. Not only that, but the film makers have now ensured that there is no mystery at all about what the film’s monster is, or where it comes from. But wait, it gets better.
Enter our Mad Scientist for the evening, accompanied by his henchman Tonio. Regrettably, Tonio is not a mute, nor does he have a hunchback. On the other hand, the shirt he is wearing may induce psychosomatic blindness in audience members. Mad Scientist lifts a cloth covering a cage, and we get a clear, prolonged look at the film’s monster. Less than a minute into the movie.
Never mind, though. Just sit back and examine possibly the weirdest monster ever shown in an Italian horror film. You see, the creature is just over two foot tall, and it is played by a man of the same size. The actor’s name is Nelson de la Rosa, and he looks to be having a whale of a time in every scene. Who can blame him? He got a free trip to the tropics and a chance to tear the throats out of nearly every cast member. But with his perpetual cheesy grin and the prosthetic buck-teeth and claws, looking like he’s just dug his way out of a coal mine collapse, he has to suffer the most ridiculous use ever of a midget in a horror film. At least until Troll came along, and that had the decency to give the poor actor an actual costume.
Despite how vicious the creature is, the Mad Scientist is quite fond of it. He’s nicknamed this ravenous killer beast, this rat-monkey hybrid, ‘Mousey’.
I really have to wonder whether the scriptwriter – Dardano Sachetti! – was trying to sabotage his own film. But wait, it gets even better than that, as Mad Scientist actually gets a variation of the ‘Fools! I’ll show them all!’ speech.
‘You know, when I started this experiment they all thought I was a fool, well, we’ll show them, won’t we?’
(Hang on – a rat-monkey? Did Peter Jackson ever see this film?)
Alas, this does not mean Mad Scientist will unleash a reign of terror with his, er, pint-sized Monster of Horrible Death. This Mad Scientist is simply a Visionary, rather than a Lugosi-type psychopath. Later on in the film he explains that his experiment would have brought him fortune and that he’d be able to find employment in America after the world had been dazzled by his research. As opposed to his peers seeing the creature in its cramped cage and asking ‘What the fuck have you been smoking in that jungle?’ Although I admit it is impressive that Mad Scientist has done this with only a few test tubes and couple of beakers.
But wait, it gets better. We are then told that Mousey will only eat RAW MEAT and that Tonio is concerned the creature is getting TOO STRONG. Thus it will only come as a surprise to Mr Magoo when the next shot is of the creature’s empty cage, which has been burst out of. Though the lab door is still closed, so I’m not entirely how sure how the creature left the room…
Roll opening credits. I get a kick out of the fact that the music is published by Deaf Edizioni Musicali srl. Especially since the music doesn’t actually deserve to be in a film this bad.
The film follows two groups of people on the tropical island when the creature is running around. The first group is a couple of models and a photographer. When we first meet them, they are busy discovering a grisly mutilated corpse before minutes later enjoying frou-frou cocktails at a bar near a hotel swimming pool. It’s good to see that, traumatised or not, they’re not nauseous enough to forego their alcohol. One model states repeatedly that she’s going back to New York tomorrow, as her work is now finished. In the next scene she says the same thing over and over, whilst the others also say it over and over.
Gosh, I wonder if she’ll still be alive by the end credits.
That’s a no. Going for a night out on the town, she chooses the unluckiest taxi driver in the city, who suffers his third tire blow-out in a single day. Then, escaping a would-be attacker, she flees into a house that she already knows contains a bloody corpse. Alas for her plane ticket, the killer is still there, being the diminutive Mousey.
Blissfully unaware of events, the remaining model, photographer and another friend go into the jungle to take more photographs. The police find the corpse, and don’t bother identifying it correctly. They think it’s the surviving model, and haul her sister all the way from America to identify it. Then, when they find another dead woman, they do the same thing again. I can just picture the police inspector, dragging the poor sister to see corpse after corpse, shouting ‘Damn it! One day it’ll be the right woman! ONE DAY!’
Oh, and the inspector also consistently ignores the fact that these victims have clearly been savaged by an animal, not a person. Neither are the pathologists up to much; they determine that the model actually died of a heart attack, and are quite unable to find the large amounts of venom that poisonous bites should leave behind.
The sister is still worried about the surviving model, as well she should be. Because, oddly enough, Mousey seems to turn up wherever the model goes. Out of the three in the jungle, the expendable friend is the first to go. There she sits in the foreground, her attention elsewhere, completely oblivious to Mousey rising up out of the toilet behind her.
No, this isn’t a comedy.
Lady Luck, who is perhaps the most important character in this film’s plot, then arranges for the model and photographer to meet Mad Scientist. Not only that, but Mousey goes home too. When Mad Scientist tells the couple they can stay for the night, he sees Mousey out of the corner of his eye. Does he tell the unsuspecting pair to flee? Does he shut them in a protected room for their own safety whilst he battles his creation? Does he even bother phoning pest control? No. Instead, he tells his henchman to deal with the problem and the two visitors prepare to kip for the night, only to have their sleep interrupted by a tiny man with pointy teeth. Mr Photgrapher does not make it out alive. Neither does Henchman.
(It’s about here that we get the obligatory shower scene. Did you know that Italians don’t use shampoo, shower gel or soap when they shower? They just stand under a jet of hot water and rub their bodies.)
Mad Scientist belatedly realises that inviting people to stay at the House of Painful Death was perhaps not the best idea he’s had. He finally tells the model what’s going on, rendering the prologue scene utterly pointless.
By the way, Mad Scientist tells us at one point in the film that he’s British. Ah yes, from Peter Cushing onwards, you can always rely on us Brits to give you top notch Mad Science. If you go back far enough you’ll find Newton’s plans for time travel and Darwin’s Zombie Finch Army.
Surprisingly, Model and Mad Scientist make it to the car. However, the car keys jangling in his pocket, Mad Scientist decides to go back for just one more thing. And so he leaves to fulfil his manifest destiny.
Rather than hotwiring the car and getting the hell out of there, or even fleeing on foot, Model goes in after him. I shan’t bore you with the details, but in the end she’s dead meat too. When she could quite easily have walloped the little bugger with a kitchen chair.
It’s only afterwards that Sister and her Novelist friend arrive. This means that despite the actors getting top billing, they have no impact on the plot at all. Mousey hides in the Model’s handbag for goodness knows how many days, and gets taken on board the aeroplane back home. As the camera watches the plane take off, we hear the screams of the passengers.
Alright, take a guess. When do you think this film was made?
Remember, it’s Italian. Cheapy horror film, screenplay by Dardano Sachetti, a liberal amount of gore… Maybe it could have been made by Lucio Fulci’s idiot brother. In which case, you might guess later seventies, early eighties.
Actually, it was 1987. In a world where A Nightmare on Elm Street had been made three years previously, the Italians were still churning out utter tosh like this. God bless ‘em. Hey, it’s going to be 25 years old in 2012. Do you think they’ll release a special edition DVD? Think how it would look on Blu-Ray!