Octaman (1971) – Harry Essex

Harry Essex who wrote the Universal Monster classic, Creature From the Black Lagoon, goes back to the well with this tale that he wrote and directed, and also features some early work by Rick Baker, who had his hand in the design and build of the monster costume.

Octaman is the next title up in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book, as Nature continues to wreak her revenge on humanity for the things we’ve done to the planet.

A scientific expedition in the somewhat wilds of Mexico (apparently they have cheetahs there) leads to an unusual discovery of a mutated octopus hatchling. Apparently the radiation in Mexico is extraordinarily high, and has caused an octopus to mutate into a humanoid creature, and lose two of its tentacles (there’s only six although his legs technically split into two, so maybe four tentacles partially melded to form two legs).

And when the ‘science’ team, led by Dr. Rick Torres (Kerwin Matthews) takes the hatchling, problems ensure when mama (papa?) comes looking for it, and isn’t afraid to give people a giant tentacle hug to rip them apart, or at least scar and bloody them before they die.

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While Black Lagoon is a fantastic film, Octaman is too late, as it would have been a perfect throwback to the monster films of the 50s and feels out of place in the 70s, and as somewhat cool the costume is, it’s still very blatantly a man in a suit, and lacks any real sense of anything alien, or animal-like.

The entire thing just gets very silly, very quick, and doesn’t have much to make it worth checking out, except the director/writer’s revisiting a familiar plot, early work by Rick Baker, and the fact that the film’s lead Matthews is perhaps better known for his turns as Sinbad.

Unfortunately, everything about the film feels like it was made on the cheap, and that can sometimes mean the filmmakers go above and beyond to get the most bang for the buck, creating, and imaging within their budget but making the most of what they have. This one just feels a little lacking.

I like the point of view camera work when we get see things from Octaman’s perspective, and that there is some fun creature ideas at work here, but not quite executed special effects, or story-wise as it could be.

Still, it’s a fascinating look at how monster movies evolved and changed over the decades, and how from they changed from the 50s to the 70s. With the grittier auteur driven 70s rearing their sometimes monstrous head, creature features begin to vanish, and it would take some real exceptional creatures to make it to onscreen popularity, but that didn’t stop a lot of them from being made.

And you know there’s more coming. I can’t wait to see what comes next in DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies.

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