Monstroid (1979)

Director:

Kenneth Hartford

Also known as: Monster

Tagline: "Part animal… Part shark… All devil!"

Plot: "The story you are about to see is based on fact," Monstroid dutifully informs viewers before the action begins. "The incident occurred in June 1971 in Colombia." And what is Colombia like? Based on Monstroid's opening scene, it's a paradise wherein fully clothed dancing women entertain their sleepy husbands with semi-seductive dances. It's a great place to live… assuming you don't get eaten by shadowy lake creatures while being entertained by your fully clothed wife's semi-seductive dancing.

Unfortunately for the film's Colombians, they do have to worry about lake creatures. (Technical term: monstroids.) Other problems: A pollution-happy cement factory managed by Jim Mitchum (Robert Mitchum's son), a mustachioed capitalist who favors open shirts and has no time for pushy broadcast journalists apparently permanently assigned to cover mysterious happenings in small Colombian towns.

Now that's objective reporting.

But there's another story brewing, one kicked into high gear by the moonlit murder of a bikini-clad night-swimmer by what looks like a down-market cousin of Godzilla wearing a Fu Manchu mustache.

And there, the film's excitement ends for a long, long stretch as the movie shifts its focus to more newscasts, the sonorous warnings of a local priest played by John Carradine, the development of photos, and in one thrilling sequence, Mitchum's call back to home base to request sonar equipment. And then his co-worker's fulfillment of that request, in a one-two punch. Viewers fond of watching phone conversations captured in their entirety will be on the edges of their seats.

But after the miracle of sonar fails to prevent some drunken boatmen from falling prey to the monstroid, Mitchum decides to confront the threat head-on, force-feeding the beast a dinner of dynamite via a hands-on approach that the not-so-famous sons of lesser movie stars would never dare.

At last! Colombia is saved, and destined for no trouble whatsoever in the decade to come. Even the formerly confrontational newswoman has to give props, telling viewers via yet another live broadcast, "What you have just witnessed is not a movie of the week. It is not fiction… It is stranger than fiction, which the truth always is. It is something we will not be able to forget." She's wrong on all counts.

Key scene: The film pauses the plot to deliver the sort of gratuitous action that horror fans crave: folk dancing!

Easily distinguished by: Remove the few monster scenes, and it looks like an ecological travelogue about our South American friends.

Sign that it was made in 1979: Though set years earlier, this film clearly couldn't exist without Jaws. Also, the female cast seems to be made up entirely of actresses who failed auditions for Charlie's Angels.

Timeless message: Concrete + Colombian lakes = monstroids.

Memorable quotes: "Uhh… Rita… I want you to check in South America for a sonar unit. We may have one in our plant at Mira Flores. Uhh… Get that fuckin' thing and whatever goes with it to Travis as fast as you can."

Available on DVD via Shout! Factory as a double feature with Blue Sunshine as part of the Elvira's Movie Macabre series.

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