It's not as good as it's title--how could it be?--but THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME CRAZY MIXED-UP ZOMBIES is an acknowledged camp classic. Made by Ray Dennis Steckler when he was 23-years-old on a total budget of $38,000--at a time when that kind of thing
just wasn't done--this tale of a carnival where the customers become part of the show is goofily likable, even if the plot doesn't make too much sense.
Madame Estrella (Brett O'Hara) is a fortune teller at a carnival in Southern California. In her back room, she stores her "pets," people whom she has hypnotized and scarred with acid to make them into freaks. She is visited by Marge (Carolyn Brandt), a dancer whose drinking is interfering with her
job. Told that death is in her future, Marge runs screaming from the tent, accidentally seeing the zombies as she does so.
In a nearby town, Angie goes on a date with Jerry (Ray Dennis Steckler, using the pseudonym "Cash Flagg"), a beau of whom her parents don't approve. They and Jerry's friend Harold (Atlas King) go to the carnival and enjoy the attractions. But when Angie refuses to go with Jerry into the carnival
nightclub, he goes alone to see the dancing girls. Lured backstage by a note from stripper Carmelita (Erino Enyo)--Madame Estrella's sister and accomplice --Jerry is put under the gypsy's hypnotic spell. He follows her orders to murder Marge. The next day he remembers nothing. But when Angie's
twirling umbrella retriggers his spell, he nearly strangles her before running away. He seeks out Madame Estrella for an explanation, only to fall under her spell again. She sends him to fetch another dancer who has become suspicious of her. When Jerry has completed this mission, Madame Estrella
throws acid in his face and attempts to add him to her collection. But the zombies break free and attack the nightclub audience. The police quell the zombie riot, during which Madame Estrella is killed. They chase Jerry to the beach, where he is shot to death.
THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES is popular with fans as much for its successes as its failures. Do-it-all filmmaker Steckler is adept at getting the most out of the materials available to him, which includes casting himself and future wife Carolyn Brandt in the leads. Balding and bearing a
resemblance to the Bowery Boys' Huntz Hall, he makes for a goofily likable antihero, especially when paired with the oddly pompaudoured Atlas King, an actor who understood so little English that he had to learn his lines phonetically. Unlike so many low-budget films, this one features gorgeously
saturated color photography: cinematographer Joseph V. Mascelli was the author of the standard textbook on motion picture photography, and his assistants included a young Vilmos Zgismond and (according to some sources) an unbilled Laszlo Kovacs. By contrast, the monsters are so fake looking as to
give the film the air of an amateur basement production. (When the film played in theaters, ushers in monster masks rushed the audience to accompany the zombie riot onscreen.) And the nightclub dance scenes feature some of the most exquisitely tacky terpsichore ever seen, providing most of the
film's camp value. What weighs the film down are too many scenes that drag interminably--pacing was always Steckler's biggest problem. Amazingly, Steckler went on to make other films on even less money--this was the biggest budget with which he ever had to work with--including the wacky RAT PFINK
A BOO BOO (1965). (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Review: It's not as good as it's title--how could it be?--but THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME CRAZY MIXED-UP ZOMBIES is an acknowledged camp classic. Made by Ray Dennis Steckler when he was 23-years-old on a total budget of $38,000--… (more)