Wash-out

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…

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16 Responses to “Wash-out”

  1. Very fine, though I was thinking more along these lines…

  2. David Boxwell Says:

    Tully directed the UK’s first and only 3-D feature, reliably terribly. (THE DIAMOND WIZARD, 53). I like to call him “The Half Monty.”

  3. I was hoping to find the Ballet Jackson’s video for “Psyche Rock” to bung on here and bow the minds of Futurama fans, but the internet appears to have gotten rid of it. DIRTY Ballet Jacksons!

  4. “Death by Scopitone” — bravo!

    Here’s a link about Charles Eric Maine, the writer connected with ELECTRONIC MONSTER. http://sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/maine_charles_eric

    One notes, here, the connection to THE ATOMIC MAN and SPACEWAYS …

  5. Excellent!

    I guess I know the bit of music you mean, Simon…

    I have a copy of The Diamond Wizard, flat. Realizing it’s by Tully actually moves it UP the heap towards viewing, that’s how little it seems to have going for it otherwise.

  6. Escapement an alternate title? Did one of the crew look inside a watch or camera shutter and thought to himself, “escapement!, what a great title for a film!”, or was it a malignant joke by one of them? Whichever, it sure is awful.

    I won’t say anything about “electrolysis of the brain” except it makes no sense to me.

  7. Listen to this and your brain will be as smooth as a baby’s bottom:

  8. David Boxwell Says:

    There is, of course, “The Escapement of One Condemned to Die”, directed by Robert Breeson. (Classic war-prison flick).

    The climactic car chase though rural Essex in Half Monty’s “The Diamond Wizard” will take a breath away!

  9. Christopher Says:

    William Frawley plays the body electric!

  10. Clash By Night is the film which convinced me of Tully’s remarkable anti-genius. Though it does have the arresting presence of Stanley Meadows (Performance), who should’ve had a far more extensive career — he’s electrifying.

    Still looking forward to catching Tully’s The Terrornauts, which has impressive sci-fi writing credentials — and Charles Hawtrey!

  11. Terrornauts is pretty insane. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

    And I would happily go see a movie called Death by Scopitone. I would even make a movie called Death by Scopitone so I could go see it, if that’s what has to happen.

  12. It might be…

    Just enjoyed Terrornauts tonight! My God it’s useless. And all the while I was thinking, “The following year, we made 2001.”

  13. If there is ever an authorized release of Terrornauts, ‘My God it’s useless’ needs to be prominently displayed on the cover.

  14. I hope to offer up some more quotes on it soon…

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