Greetings, readers, Bill here again. Tonight’s film is one I’d reviewed ages ago on the old blog, but which I wanted to revisit – funny story, actually, I picked up the DVD of this film at Cinema Wasteland a while back, having previously reviewed it after having gotten the disc from Netflix. The guy who sold it to me was flabbergasted that, knowing what it was, I still wanted to own it. What can I say, I might be a bit of a cinematic masochist. Anyways, that being said, tonight’s film is one that would have rotted away to nothing in a forgotten canister somewhere if it had not been for the valiant efforts of the late Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video. He discovered it in a forgotten vault, remastered it and released it on a special edition DVD, which is perhaps kinder then a film of this caliber deserves. As for Something Weird, if you’ve got any interest in obscure (s)exploitation and cult movies ranging from horror and sci-fi to westerns, martial arts, old and obscure hardcore porn and more, Something Weird has something weird to sell you.
Gratuitous plug aside, on to the review. Spoilers ensue.
Virginia City, Nevada is the home of the Comstock Lode, a silver mine that hit it big a century ago. Now, Virginia City is largely a seedy tourist trap, controlled by the greedy and conniving Mayor Charles Silverdale (Stuart Lancaster, of THE LOCH NESS HORROR and a number of Russ Meyer movies, most notably as the sick and depraved Old Man in FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!) who dresses everyone up in period western clothes and employs most of the town as reenactors and casino-workers, fleecing the tourists of every penny they’ve got. When an African-American land speculator, Barnstable (Christopher Brooks) comes to town looking to buy land around Virginia City, Mayor Silverdale makes sure Barnstable gets the warmest possible reception – including framing him for the murder of the sheriff’s dog!
While all this is going on, a mutant sheep was born on a nearby ranch and was being raised in an incubator by local scientist Dr. Clemens. I say was, because at this point in the film the sheep breaks loose and goes on a “rampage” of shambling around a meadow and frightening children away from their hot dogs, which it promptly suctions up into its gaping maw. It’s sheep maw. The kind adapted for eating grass. Yeah.
Anyways, the sheep-monster’s rampage coincides with an attempt to lynch Barnstable, a fate from which the “Godmonster” conveniently, inadvertently saves him from. When Mayor Silverdale decides that the Godmonster in a cage would be a fantastic tourist attraction, all hell breaks loose as cowboys and roughnecks set out hunting for the beast.
Oh lordy, what a film! Yes, it’s a film titled after what is essentially a neglected subplot in the form of a giant mutant sheep; I stand by my previous assessment that a more accurate title for this film would be LAND-GRAB OF INDIAN FLATS, since so much of the film focuses on the land speculator Barnstable and his thwarted attempts to buy property around Virginia City. And honestly, I think this lends the film a weird sort of charm. Sure, it’s a giant mutant sheep movie, but it’s also so much more, a semi-surrealistic piece of outsider art from writer/director Frederic Hobbes. The more I think about it, the more I really kind of like this odd bait-and-switch we get; the sheep subplot more or less opens the movie, and then we quickly transition to the land speculation for the majority of the film; the overall run-time is 89 minutes, and the mutant sheep doesn’t start its rampage until 66 minutes into the movie.
The sheep monster suit (puppet?) is a thing of transcendent beauty. It looks like it was pieced together from scraps of shag carpet and naugahyde, has an ass like a truck and a rancid rubber sheep’s head surmounting the whole thing. Whoever wore the suit clearly had no way of seeing out of it judging from the way he stumbles and staggers back and forth. I’ve widely seen this thing references as one of the worst monster suits of all time, and by all means, yes, a giant stumbling sheep is a terrible idea for a monster. Absolutely terrible. But I can’t help but salute Frederic Hobbes for having the balls to go forward with that idea regardless.
That’s kind of the thing with a lot of these sorts of movies – the filmmakers did not make “safe” choices. They took risks and sometimes those paid off, sometimes they can best be described as a warning to others, but still, they took those risks. How often do you hear indie horror filmmakers nowadays announce they’re making a zombie or slasher movie? Too damn often, truth be told, because those are “safe” choices and more or less guarantee sales of their film. But all those “safe” films blur together. GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS, for all its faults, is a film that cannot be forgotten once seen.
Final Analysis: A good movie? Hell no. While technically proficient enough, the acting is mostly crap and the presentation – of a movie about land speculation book-ended by segments involving a mutant sheep – is kind of baffling. I absolutely recommend those interested in weird cinema and outsider art take a good long look at this film, because it’s something that must be seen to be believed.
Overall, I give GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (1973)…
TWO BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.