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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.


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-- as director.)

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 that.

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 on,

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 drama-kill.)

"Dr. Prell... 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 feast.



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.

Brother George

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. SPLASHPAGE.

To read more BOF reviews, Click HERE!

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