Buy The Revenge of Dr. X as part of the Chilling Classics – 50 Movie Pack: on Amazon!
Like actually watching plants.
When I first started collecting horror films as a hobby, it was at a time when I was getting back into horror after taking many years off. Oh, I still went to see whatever came out at the theater, and I rented a few titles here and there, or watched whatever was on late-night cable, but I didn’t seek out films like I do now. This was also shortly after my wife and I started dating, so our mutual interest in the genre meant that watching everything we could was something we did together. My wife’s preoccupation with horror has since waned due to her obligations of career and parenthood. I, however, suck at both, and thus find plenty of time to watch shitty movies instead of bettering myself as a person.
An early purchase for our new “collection” was a set of 50 films on 12 DVDs. You know the ones. You’ve seen them in every department store. At the time, this seemed like a no-brainer. 50 films, most I’d never seen or heard of. How could this possibly go wrong?
As a few people who’ve purchased these sets will tell you, there’s plenty that can go wrong. Piss-poor audio and video due to the films being sourced from old VHS tapes, as well as deleted scenes and/or edited versions. Usually, the main problem is that a lot of these movies just aren’t very good and were rightfully forgotten. Sure, there are some hidden gems such as Drive-In Massacre, I Eat Your Skin, or House of the Dead (1978), as well as classics like Night of the Living Dead, I Bury the Living, & Deep Red, but just as often it’s pure trash.
Which brings us to today’s subject, The Revenge of Dr. X. This film is buried somewhere on the set listed above. So buried that I somehow never watched it my first time through the box. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve watched this box once before and am now going back for more. I should be teaching my oldest son how to ride a bike, but instead I’m reviewing a film that no one remembers. Danny Tanner, I am not.
The film’s history is a little confusing. The film was written by Ed Wood in the 50’s and then discarded, but picked back up for filming in 1966. Some sources list the director as a Norman Thomson, while others credit Kenneth Crane, director of 1959’s The Manster. Confusing the issue further, the VHS release (which is the same version used on the DVD) features the credits for 1969’s Mad Doctor of Blood Island, directed by Eddie Romero. This may have been due to the films originally being planned as a double feature. It would seem that no one cared enough to fix this for video release. Can’t say I fault them.
James Craig (The Cyclops, Doomsday Machine) stars as Bragan, a NASA scientist in desperate need of a break. He’s been quite edgy as of late, and that’s saying a lot. This guy’s a total prick. As the movie starts, he’s bitchin’ about the weather delaying a rocket launch. As he puts it during one of his many forthcoming outbursts, “How in the Hell can anybody be so utterly stupid as to build a rocket base on the coast of Florida?” Okay, so he might have a valid argument there.
One of Bragan’s happier moments
In comes the ubiquitous stock footage of NASA control rooms, as well as footage of a rocket successfully launching. Bragan is informed that there MAY have been a slight miscalculation in the rocket’s trajectory. This sets Bragan off on another tirade. The stress of his job catches up with him and he collapses. Once he regains his senses, his Japanese assistant recommends a vacation, in this case to Japan. An aspiring botanist, Bragan agrees, hoping to study the country’s plant life while there. Nothing is said about the fate of the rocket.
Bragan drives away from the base, but stops at a backroads gas station after having car troubles. The good ol’ boy mechanic invites Bragan to check out his snake collection while waiting for the car to be repaired. In the collection, he finds a small Venus Fly Trap. Bragan offers to buy the plant, but the man declines, saying that it’s too small to sell. He tells Bragan that there are more growing in the swamp behind the station. Bragan is welcome to dig up one up.
Bragan catches a flight to Japan. Somehow, he manages to slip the plant through customs relatively unchecked. Upon landing, he’s greeted by his assistant’s cousin, Noriko. She will serve as his guide and assistant while he is vacationing. Bragan, grimy old bastard, wastes no time in offering compliments on her beauty. They go for dinner and drinks, already hoping to get her liquored up.
Noriko’s family own a number of resorts in the area. Bragan is offered the use of an empty resort, one with a greenhouse at his disposal. They must drive up a treacherous mountain road in order to get there. There’s some goofy xylophone and horn-based music during these scenes. It almost reminds me of the music used in the 70’s Godzilla movies, in particular Godzilla Vs Megalon. It’s also worth noting that the resort was also built near an active volcano. Because, really, the possibility of roasting to death always makes vacation more enjoyable.
They arrive at the resort. Bragan is shown to the greenhouse and immediately begins to set up for his research. He also immediately starts being a bossy prick to both Noriko & the resort’s caretaker, something that is soon to become a common occurrence.
Late that night, Noriko is awoken by the caretaker’s dog’s barking from outside. Looking from her bedroom window, she sees Bragan sneaking off to the greenhouse. The following morning, still curious from the night before, Noriko tries to peek into the box holding Bragan’s fly trap, but is reprimanded by the old bastich for doing so. He warns her that if he can’t have privacy here, he’ll go elsewhere. As he’s not paying to stay here, it’s not a logical threat.
Bragan ventures into Tokyo. This leads to more overly extended driving scenes. This movie gives Door Into Silence competition in killing runtime with padded driving sequences. He arrives at a museum, where he finds an aquatic “fly trap” in a display. Bragan determines that he’ll need one of these aquatic plants in order to combine it with his fly trap.
Bragan & Noriko go diving in search of the aquatic plants. This is essentially even more padding as we now get extended shots of the 2 snorkeling. Craig’s bare, wrinkled, old-man chest resembles clumps of wet dough in the water. Failing to retrieve any specimens, Noriko tells Bragan about some local divers that may be able to help. She leaves to speak with them. Imagine my surprise when the divers turned out to be a group of young, topless women. Noriko takes them back to meet with Bragan. They know where to find a plant and hit the water in search.
There are even more padding scenes of diving, but at least this time it is the 4 naked Japanese women and not the water-logged Grands biscuits that are Craig’s grandpa chest. The women find one of the plants and it’s HUGE! Almost as tall as a person. Bragan cuts loose the root system and brings the plant to the surface. He places the plant in a transfer container, yelling at the women not to touch his plant. What a rude way to repay these women who not only found your damn plant, but were also nice enough to shove their luscious bobbers in your face while doing so. Personally, that’d be enough for me to forget about the plant as I’d suddenly have a tree trunk in my pants. Bragan, however, seems to have no objection to making Noriko and 4 divers carry away the container for him.
With his new aquatic specimen obtained, Bragan hopes to combine the 2 species in order to create a human/plant hybrid. This leads to the first in a series of Frankenstein-esque scenes of Bragan in his greenhouse during a lightning storm, using the harnessed electricity to give life to his creation. Ya know, instead of just using a plug and electrical outlet. The scene is a direct rip of the immortal scene from Whale’s classic. Bragan even uses chains on pulleys to hoist his creation into the air to get zapped. I’m still confused as to why the electricity didn’t travel down the chains and also zap the doctor.
Noriko, concerned about Bragan’s well-being, tries to convince him to take a break. As is habit, Bragan snaps at her once again. He does apologize later on during lunch, but he must not have been feeling too “sorry” because he does it again later that evening when she tries to assure him that it will rain (the water presumably needed to nourish his plant-man). As she said that it would, it does indeed rain soon after.
The creature is unveiled. It’s quite large, with a somewhat humanoid shape, but with fly traps for hands and feet. With vines or stems or whatever the hell that is growing out of its head, it almost resembles a botanical version of Peter Tosh. Despite its stature, Bragan believes that the creature is dying and he can not determine why. He leaves his lab for the evening. For whatever reason, the caretaker leaves one of the puppies to play right in front of the creature, who soon eats it as a late-night snack.
Come morning, the plant is much more healthy and active. It has also learned to speak, although its voice is that of a tape being rewound at high speeds. This “stems” from the blood received from munching on the pup. The caretaker is naturally saddened by the loss of one of his pets, while Noriko is repulsed by the monstrosity. Bragan orders Noriko and the caretaker again to leave the lab, but not before asking the caretaker to trap any small animals that he may find. He attempts to feed another puppy to the creature, but Noriko stops him. She calls him a monster and wishes the creature destroyed. I can’t feel too sympathetic for Noriko here. It’s her family’s resort. She owes Bragan nothing, but chooses to accept his behavior instead of rightfully kicking him out.
Bragan does indeed start feeding animals to the creature to make it stronger, but in order to make it mobile, it’ll need human blood. He leaves late that night and heads for a local sanitarium. As he’s never been here before, there’s no reason he should know where a sanitarium would be located. But, hey, this is a movie about a plant monster. Characters knowing the location of places they’ve never been is fairly low on the “suspension of disbelief” scale here. A bigger question is how no one at NASA had any clue just how unhinged this nutjob really was. Pretty soon he’ll be driving cross-country while wearing adult diapers. Then again, at his advanced age, Bragan might already be wearing adult diapers. Bragan creeps into the room of a female patient (an unlocked room, mind you), opens her top (exposing her breasts, which I guess also makes this a sex crime), and draws a syringe of blood directly from her heart.
Back at the lab, he injects the blood into his creature. He calls it a night and returns to the resort to rest. The next morning, the caretaker comes in and slaps up the plant a bit. Plant-Man takes a nice bite into his face, but the caretaker escapes. Noriko warns Bragan that the creature is dangerous and that he himself has become a “madman”. He tells her that she is welcome to leave. She finally finds the stones to remind him that this is her family’s place and that she will come and go as she pleases. Bragan has no response to that.
Bragan gives the creature a little more moving room and it responds by eating the caretaker’s dog. Convinced that his plant can now move, Bragan & Noriko decide to sit up waiting for it to do so. While they wait, the creature emits a pollen-like substance that puts them to sleep. The creature then uproots its legs and begins to walk, heading out of the lab and towards a small, nearby village. There it eats a couple of villagers, including a small child. The villagers form a lynch mob to kill the creature, but Bragan has finally come to his senses and sets out to destroy it himself.
Unfortunately, I’ve just given away the majority of the movie. This is due to there not really being much of anything noteworthy happening. Hell, they don’t even show the damn monster until well over an hour. In a movie where the monster is the “selling point”, waiting till the last 20 minutes is just unacceptable. Without much of a presence from the rampaging plant-man, there just isn’t much else to help carry this film. That is, unless you like really boring road trips.
I couldn’t find a trailer for the film, so here’s a short clip featuring the creature.