A team of tree-hugging scientists, funded by an oil man, cross swords with a mutated Octa-beast in this homage to a certain creature from a very dark lagoon.
It all starts when Dr. Torres comes across a bizarre baby octopus while testing waters in Mexico for radioactive fallout. Forget that he should really be trolling the Pacific, because he finds proof. He then takes a mega-leap to the conclusion that the detonation of warheads in World War II has poisoned all the oceans of the earth. He tests the octopus and finds that it has human DNA. This time, he skips drawing a conclusion and hustles to Texas to get a grant to continue his research.
In Texas, he is turned down by the smug Dr. Willard. Like any good scientist, he immediately sells out to the nearest carnival freak show provider, Johnny. You know this guy is bad news, thanks to a poor combover and the fact he is always sweating.
They take Johnny’s Winnebago and head back to Mexico just in time to bury an assistant who found a second Octo-baby and was proceeding to dissect it, when his tent was invaded by the titular monster. It whipped him like cake batter with its tentacles before putting him down with its finishing move — the two-tentacle chokehold (a move so lethal it is even forbidden in steel cage matches). Turns out the natives tell stories about an Octaman (it’s a great theme for making trinkets for the Gringos) and their drawings match what crawled out of the water.
The group takes their Winnebago to the area where the legend hangs out and they immediately fall afoul of it. They actually play cat and mouse with it for quite awhile. The group will go out in a boat while Octaman calls on those left behind at the camp. It will pop up and scare the boaters and then go back to the camp to continue waving its Octa-arms at people like a crazed traffic cop.
Eventually the party decides this critter is too tough to tangle with, and they leave the valley, only to find their path blocked by a fallen tree. Octaman then gets them to chase him into a cave, where he strands them by causing a rockslide. They eventually crawl out and head back to find that Octaman is camped out in their Winnebago. A gunfight ensues and,sadly, Octaman didn’t bring one. A wooden effigy of the Octa-dude is tossed on his watery grave and we are outta here.
You really want to like this movie. It has a sound message about recycling and taking care of the earth and is an homage to my favorite monster movie of all time (which gave this column its name). It was even written and directed by Harry Essex, who co-wrote the script for “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The monster suit was even co-built by the great Rick Baker, who went on to create Oscar winning make-up for some far-out flicks.
No can do, though, because this is slow and dull. It only comes to half-life when the Octa-guy is on screen, and that isn’t nearly enough.
The science of it is also goofy. A minor complaint, but do we really believe that a circle of fire in open space will suck all of the oxygen away?
Good for a laugh, but I am still waiting for a big budget remake of my favorite lagoon monster, and this doesn’t even come close.
1971, Rated PG.