ELECTRIC MONSTER is a 1958 Anglo-Amalgamated scifi thriller from the reliably terrible Montgomery Tully. It has a laughable alternative title, ESCAPEMENT — although I think it’s a toss-up which is a worse one-word, that or INCEPTION. There’s no electric monster, or any other kind of monster, in it.
But, it’s from the soon-to-be producers of PEEPING TOM, and might be paired with that film thematically even more aptly than CIRCUS OF HORRORS and HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, sometimes descibred as forming a kind of “Sadeian Trilogy” with Powell’s superior shocker.
Tully’s plodding crapola makes a laughable pretence at being set in New York and the Riviera, but it’s visibly the Home Counties + stock footage all the way. Poor old Rod Cameron’s impersonation of a leading man is no more convincing, his youthful wiriness has vanished under a heap of dough,and his somnambular style is unfortunate in a film about brainwashing.
For YES — an ex-Nazi in the South of France is experimenting with a fake therapy technique, targeting celebrities and brainwashing them into becoming hypnotised cult drones. And this becomes pretty interesting, because Scientology was only a few years old at this time. Not that I’m suggesting that scientology is more like brainwashing than any other organized religion.
This is apparently based on a pretty smart novel, in which the will-sapping technology is in the hands of a movie mogul who’s lobotomising America with mindless entertainment piped directly into the brain. Although the mental pablum theme has been stripmined away in the “adaptation” process, it creeps back in via the “visions” created by the process, which are basically light entertainment dance numbers filmed in a TV studio. It’s all leotards and mildly suggestive moves, with the odd sinister prop like a giant spider web with a spinal column hanging from it. It’s Death by Scopitone.
For death is occurring as an unwanted side-effect of the therapeutic process — victims are found to have suffered “electrolysis of the brain,” which sounds pretty silly but for all I know is a perfectly real thing. Will Rod Cameron bring down the monster cult, or will he end up with a bald, scrubbed-clean cerebellum? It’s absolutely impossible to care one way or the other, although pretty much ever duff B-movie of the fifties and sixties would have been improved by a downbeat ending. In many, many ways, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is just a duff B-movie with a great downbeat ending…