This is the first installment in a three-part series on the
sub-subgenre "Druidsploitation," reviewing the 1974 film Shriek
of the Mutilated. Coming Soon--Installment Two: Invasion of the
Blood Farmers, followed not-so-shortly by the third (and thankfully
last) installment: Invasion of the Girl Snatchers.
HANNA BARBERA PRESENTS: SHRIEK
OF THE MUTILATED aka THE YETI HUNTER
A somewhat rare foray into horror genre from legendary filmmaking
team, and real-life couple, Michael and Roberta Findley, Shriek
of the Mutilated bears little resemblance to their more routine
contributions to the cinematic world of sexploitation. The Findleys
approached their craft in much the same way Roberta (who actually
had nothing to do with the production of Shriek...) tackled a
cheap bottle of booze: With reckless abandon! It is this lack
of chaos in Shriek...that puts Mr. Findley's director title in
question. (For the record, rumors of screenwriter Ed Kelleher--who
penned Invasion of the Blood Farmers as well-- actually helming
Shriek...have been all but confirmed. For the purposes of this
review, however, Findley will be referred to--albeit dubiously--
|Spencer St. Clair:
Our Moral Center...
Isolation, abandonment, reassurance from questionable authority
figures are all themes common to the horror genre and common themes
of the Fairy Tale approach to filmmaking as well. And Kelleher's
script, at its core, is the Cinderella story. Like Cinderella,
the film starts with a communal opening. But Shriek... updates
the fairy tale's arena from a (cursed) Christening to a dual-communal
opening. The first of which is a college class preparing to go
on a good old-fashioned field trip in search of the yeti. Poor
Professor Prell's tenure may be in jeopardy, as enrollment certainly
seems low for Yeti Tracking 101. The limp-wristed professor is
to be accompanied by, in order of story significance Keith, Karen,
Lynn and Tom. The latter two of the four being the dispensable
chum of the story. But Keith is a different story. Our professor
has taken a more-than-casual liking his prize student, Keith.
While never making clear overtures toward Keith, he does seem
to enjoy driving a wedge of tension between Keith and his significant
other, Karen. Keith, ever the diligent student, chooses an exotic
dinner out with the fey Prell (rhymes with "prel," as
in to knock-out) over going to a hot college party with Karen.
The viewer senses that Prell would rather be dining on Keith than
Gin-sung, the restaurant specialty. ("It's been several years
since I met a boy of your caliber.") Foreshadowing to be sure.
|...But not for long.
A spurned and annoyed Karen (who Brother George would still love
to fuck no matter how old she is) attends a party and invites
us to the second, and most important half, of this dual communal
opening. It is here that we meet a pivotal, though frustratingly
short-lived, character in Shriek... That of Spencer St. Clair.
Once again mirroring Cinderella's cursed Christening, St. Clair
is our uninvited guest (as if his inept entry to the party--concussing
himself on a hanging lamp as he enters the house!-- doesn't make
this clear enough, as the St. Clairs enter, an anonymous guest
quips: "Who invited them?").
It is Spencer, the ghost of yeti encounters past, who curses
the proceedings. (Although any party with "Popcorn" as the theme
song is plenty cursed.)
Socially awkward, St. Clair's night out is made even more unbearable
by the attention paid to his wife, who is being congratulated
left and right for recent doctorate work. ("Should we call you
doctor now?" the host queries April St. Clair.) At Spencer's request
she reluctantly fetches him a cocktail. Let the cursing begin!
Picture the Green Beret at the opening of The Deer Hunter ("Fuck
it."), another uninvited guest at yet another communal opening,
in that case, a wedding. (Cimino was clearly influenced by Shriek...which
pre-dates The Deer Hunter by nearly five years.) And while Spencer
St. Clair is just as shell-shocked as The Deer Hunter's Green
Beret, "fuck it" simply won't do. Upon learning of yet another
planned yeti expedition by his former Professor Prell (he survived
a previous one), he launches into a party-stopping diatribe. Tom
Grail's performance as St. Clair warrants perhaps its own doctoral
thesis as he represents the moral center of the story (though
as evidenced by Grail's performance, its more the chewy moral
center of Shriek...). "Give in to the events that poisoned my
brain?!?!?! Never...Never...Perhaps I've teetered on the brink
of insanity for years.....some say I'm still mad...Perhaps I am...but
I'm alive...and so is Prell....You can count me out on this one
Prell...I've done my expedition...I have my battle scars..."
|There's a Yeti here
on Fire Island, I'm sure of it.
And on and on it goes building to a dizzying madness. It's as
if he's saying: "It is I who-- SPENCER ST CLAIR, failed academian-turned-Janitor-Man--
who is MUTILATED!" he seems to be telling the befuddled party.
(He is shrieking as well.) Their reaction mirrors ours: Stunned
disbelief, as his cautionary tale falls on deaf ears and smirking
faces and clearly embarrasses his wife. And she'll pay for that.)
Much as George Lucas's serial movie Star Wars elevated bad acting
to an art form, lets just say that Grail would have fit well in
a Jedi outfit. (It is a performance of divine lunacy that has
the Intestinal Fortitude Thematic Players of Light Drama and Whimsy"
considering a shot-for-shot remake of Shriek...) It is Spencer,
again paving the way for The Deer Hunter, guzzling his drink,
crushing and violently discarding his Dixie cup (a prelude to
the slow-motion shot of wine (nee blood) dripping on Linda's (Meryl
Streep) dress as she is toasted (read: sacrificed) at her wedding.)
A hint of the violence to come. (Server space is too limited to
delve deeper in the Shriek/Deer Hunter correlatives-- in other
words, Brother George could go on and on -- but suffice to say
that Cimino's effort should be required viewing as the younger,
more blustery brother of Findley's film.)
Later at home, St. Clair's overreaction to his wife's caterwauling
(he kills her--North Vietnam style--it seems) and his eventual
demise (she kills him--death by toaster-- before dying) secures
his place in the script as the literal ghost of our story, the
spectre of past Yeti horrors. His all-to-brief appearance is merely
a flourish and robs the viewer of the weighty showdown between
he and Prell-- a reassuring figure of authority on the surface,
so much so that our suspicions are naturally aroused. Frankly,
Prell needs an opponent with the bravado of St. Clair. A confrontation
that might have raised Shriek beyond animated farce. But Brother
George is getting ahead of himself.
|That's so like Tom
to pull a stunt like that......You know...Getting killed like
Things seem to grind to an almost Milligan-esque pace in the
second act (the fall-apart point for most films) when they arrive
at the private estate of the nearly-as-faggy-as-Prell, Dr. Karl
Waring. The yeti is somewhere near his estate (if the entrance
bridge is any indication, Dr. Karl owns the entire state of Rhode
island.) With the premature demise of our previous narrator/ghost--the
scene-stealing Spencer St. Clair-- story progression is thrown
in the lap of said doctor, whose attempts to carry the story are
about as compelling as a vacation show voiced by Merlin Olsen.
Frankly, this ambi-sexual hippie burnout couldn't carry Spencer's
Dixie cup. (The viewer knows something is amiss when Waring purports
to hit on a girl!)
The conflict that carries the entire second act is clearly amongst
our yeti hunters. Once Tom is killed (Professor Prell is quite
irked by this. "It's just like Tom to pull a stunt like that!")
Shriek...becomes a parlor drama or, more accurately, a mantel
drama, as much of the drama unfolds in front of a mantel (Read:
Alter of sacrifice). (As future installments will reveal this
mantel motif shows up in both Invasion of the Blood Farmers and
Invasion of the Girl Snatchers.) The scenes with the Yeti are
either off- screen or polarized in a stark, b&w meets JFK cinematography.
Theories abound as to why: Bad cinematography? Zipper exposure?
Brother George's sense is that it was a creative choice supporting
the old adage that what is NOT seen by the viewer is all more
interminable that what IS seen. Though it might be considered
blasphemy to Yetisploitation connoisseurs, our creature is really
incidental to the story. (St. Clair established that point early
|How come Brother
didn't mention me? Laughing Wop.
though Brother George still resents the deception/lack of Payoff.)
As the viewer's suspicions rise about Prell's motives, we are
left with Keith as our hero but he's committed to Prell (rhymes
with "spell") and his work and will having nothing of Karen's
(valid) concerns that something is not quite right with Prell
and Waring. Karen is easy on the eyes and perhaps that is one
of the reasons she's so quickly discredited by Keith. That and
the fact that she set her dialogue delivery on Foghorn. Honey
was the ingredient but poor Karen was pouring on the vinegar.
Act three: The film lurches to a not-so-obvious conclusion (hence
it's inclusion in the Druidsploitation sub-subgenre) that I won't
even delve into here as it really pissed off Brother George. It
was an international scandal that doesn't warrant addressing.
Two criticisms: Findley (ahem) chooses to shoot emotional scenes
from the vantage point of a satellite surveillance camera. (The
"Camera's placed now lets block the scene around it" approach.)
And in a unique dada-twisted way, it occasionally works but can
get more than a little disorienting over the long haul (and act
two was a long haul). The second fault, and it's a big one, is
that tension and drama seemed to have sacrificed for the sake
of running time. Scenes build to a climax and obvious cut-point-
but are inexplicably embellished. For example, one of several
emotional exchanges between Keith and Karen escalates quite appropriately
but is abruptly followed by a maudlin Prell: 'Um, Keith. I think
it's time to go." (The scene is justified, perhaps, as Prell is
so hot for Keith it's embarrassing--each time Karen appears to
being making progress with Keith, Prell intervenes, one time even
sprawling himself along the couch and panting-- but it was a real
Dr.Prell... Dr.Prell, that's all you talk about"
More an observation than a criticism: the film is strangely
devoid of the (hetero)sexual metaphors that are so sub textually
prevalent in the horror genre (with any hints of our Yeti hunters
pairing up is playful at most; Tom asks Prell about any action
on the island but is virtually ignored and Lynn talks of hooking
up with Tom or Dr. Waring (Dr. Waring? Right!) But that's the
extent of it). Another hint that Findley was more likely raiding
the wet bar back at the Howard Johnson's than manning the ship.
Prell seems determined to not only rid Keith of his excess baggage
(one wonders why Karen was even invited on the expedition, as
she's skeptical and paranoid. As a plot device it's an almost
mandatory inclusion in the story but Prell is offering himself
to Keith at every turn but Keith, ever the lunkhead, seems oblivious
until he's literally forced into a rainbow/homo coalition orgiastic
|Jealous Karen TRIES
TO SHRIEK SOME SENSE INTO KEITH!!!!!!!!
Most of the reviews of Shriek... approach it from the obligatory
knee-slapping "Golly, I 'member this movie from when was a kid
in Chickenswitch, Ohio on Dr. Creepy Groovie Ghoulie Show" angle.
Alas, these folks seem to have fallen out of Michael Medved's
Golden Asshole. As inept as the Findleys tend to be, and whether
he directed the thing or not, you almost wish that Robert would
have lost the cartoon inspiration for Shriek... and thrown in
some of that keen exploitation savvy that made the completely
unwatchable Snuff so notorious. Shriek of the Mutilated is inept
brilliance and is required viewing.
Next Installment: Invasion of the Blood Farmers.
|Oh yeah, there's
a Yeti in this movie.
WEBMASTERS NOTE: This review looks different in layout
due to the fact that Brother George requested that it should.
The overall long-windedness and arrogance of this review, Brother
George felt, should stand out from mine and Jumpin' Joe's, fun,
easy to-read, interludes of film commentary, so be it...to read
Brother George's instuctions for me Click HERE!
Bro. George also wished to have his headshot accompany his review
(he just cannot get over the "Film Comment" rejections)...well
I did him one better BROTHER GEORGE IS MR.
To read more BOF reviews, Click HERE!