Track of the Moon Beast

Dir: Richard Ashe
Star: Chase Cordell, Donna Leigh Drake, Gregorio Sala, Patrick Wright

Currently sitting at #39 on the IMDb bottom hundred, which seems a little excessive. Sure, it's hardly what you'd call unjustly overlooked, but there's not much spectacularly terrible, save some transformation effects which appear to have strayed in from from about twenty years prior to this film, made in 1972 and then shelved for four years. It's a bit surprising, considering that less than a decade later, the make-up artist here would be accepting an Oscar for work that redefined the field, for it was none other than Rick Baker, then in his early twenties. I presume he didn't have quite as much to work with here, in terms of resources, delivering a titular creature which is supposed to have traits of a T-Rex, but ends up looking more like the Creature from the Black Lagoon's wimpy little brother.

The scenario here kicks off when a meteor plunges into the moon, dislodging fragments from the lunar surface, some of which enter the Earth's atmosphere. One of these literally grazes the head of Paul Carlson (Cordell), while chatting to his girlfriend, Kathy Nolan (Drake). Soon thereafter, a series of murders occur, which eyewitnesses report were carried out by a monstrous creature, that seem to reflect local native legend, as spouted by local Professor, Johnny "Longbow" Salina (Sala). Paul, meanwhile, is suffering from headaches and fainting spells. Turns out, if you haven't already guessed, that a fragment of meteor lodged in his skull, and whenever the moon is out, he transforms into a were-lizard and rampages through the neighbourhood. As you do. Worse yet, as the meteoritic fragment dissolves and moves through his body, it will eventually reach nuclear criticality, and you know what that means. Yeah: really shitty flashing optical effects, as everyone else stands around and watches.

This seems like the case this film's reputation is unjustly inflated by the MST3K skewering of it. While undeniably deserving of mockery, it certainly isn't at the same level as, say, Manos or The Creeping Terror, with aspects and/or moments that could be mistaken for competence. Admittedly, this might require very specific lighting and a loose definition of "competence", but it doesn't have the all-encompassing ineptitude found in true BadFilm. Here, it's more a case of ambition seriously exceeding the resources to hand, with the results overall, being not a great deal worse than certain SyFy original movies I've endured.

[May 2015]

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