OF THE LOST MONSTERS
(aka SWAMP OF THE LOST SOULS)
(1965), Color, 76 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Presented by Young America Productions
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Stim Segar (as “Stem Segar”)
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case wrapped in plastic!
We love THE SWAMP OF THE LOST MONSTERS. As many have told us, its not an easy film to like. The tedious exposition, goofy demon and overall Western flavor, although disconcerting to narrow-minded horror buffs (see Jonathan Yates’ whiny guest review above), is actually quite fun, and makes this a queer but affable Saturday matinee item from another world.
There’s an extremely spooky opening scene, in which a coffin-bearing funeral boat approaches a group of bank-side mourners. The bulk of the action takes place at a most creepy hacienda, and a swamp which has human skulls laying about like morbid objects d’art.
Gaston Santos (who appears to be playing himself) and his horse “Moonlight” are the real stars of the show, surely. Gaston is a dandy of a cowboy, both here and in the companion feature THE LIVING COFFIN.
Gaston’s sidekick, Squirrel Eyes, comes from a long ling of comic sidekicks, part Lou Costello, part Curly. His rapid-fire coward’s dialogue is both familiar and awkward, especially in its dubbed incarnation, where much nuance is presumably lost.
Squirrel Eyes provides us with the rarest of treats: a dubbed song in a Murray horror film (“OK, Fishies!”). This ludicrous mini-tune ranks favorably with some of the best/worst of the fairy tale songs.
Some of the dubbed voices this time have unusually strong accents, forgoing the standard, literate Soundlab articulation for a more ethnic (and one might say realistic) regionality.
And then, of course, we have the ridiculous title creature (singular, not plural as the title suggests). It’s a wonderful, absurd frog-man thingie, like the Creature from the Black Lagoon remade as a pinata.
Gustav Carrion’s score is excellent, both thrilling like a cowboy picture, and spooky like a horror thriller, involving the dynamic use of a small combo, with strings and piano dominating.
The usual sense of anachronism which haunts many of the Mexican horror films is at work here too; but for the unveiling of the monster “suit”, and the use of a telegraph machine, this could easily have taken place hundreds of years ago. As it stands, the film appears to take place in some late-1800’s “Wild West” limbo-land.
The “revelation” that the “old” woman (who reminds me of Allison Hayes) is blind is botched pretty badly, but one wonders how much of this is due to dubbing gaffes, and not the original concept.
Smack dab in the middle of the picture, we are offered some incredible footage of an authentic Mexican rodeo, an amazing bit of lost cultural ephemera.
There are three things that are too red in this film: Gaston’s swim trunks; the goofy light bulbs at the telegraph machine; and the “bist” itself.
The gripping finale takes place in the handsome ruins of an old monastery, and features a cowboy’s “Battle Royale” worthy of any John Wayne picture, and includes a comic bit straight out of the Three Stooges short subjects.
The unmasking of “the bist” comes as a surprise only to the very inattentive, yet one still wishes the supernatural elements were genuine. One observer of the film recently commented, “You know, the film is a total rip-off, but its kinda fun to be ripped off!” Like, duh! Welcome to the world of exploitation!
Of course, the bulk of any Mexican horror film is melodrama, namely expositional scenes fueled by abundant dialogue, and here is where most fans will hit the dusty trail. Yet there are those of us who actually relish these quirky hybrids of soap opera and pulp mystery, and what SWAMP lacks in suspense, logic, effects, action, etc., it more than makes up for with everything else that makes a “bad” movie remarkable, unique and beloved.
* (updated 02-14-06) Thanks to a terrific new book we just received, “Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold” by Kevin Heffernan, (2004, Duke University Press), we have been able to update the U.S. television release date for this Murray horror title to 1965. The appendices to this study of the horror film in America, circa 1955-1968, include complete listings of syndication feature film packages from many distributors, including American International Television, who subleased the K. Gordon Murray film catalog under the title THRILLERS FROM ANOTHER WORLD. It seems that 1965 was the watershed year for genre film sold to television, with a veritable flood of titles released by both domestic and foreign distribs.
* (effective 05-01-03) After a very brief window of availability, this long-sought K. Gordon Murray title is once again out of print, due to international copyright issues. Used video tapes of this title may be found on online video dealers and auction sites. Stay tuned for further developments!
* Star Gaston Santos was, in real life, a “Rejoneador” (a horseback bullfighter). He also starred in the excellent, elusive Mexican thriller, MISTERIOS DE ULTRATUMBA (aka THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M) – David Wilt
* Originally released (in Mexico) in 1956, this film was likely an attempt to cash in on Universal’s remarkable and successful 1954 horror classic, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, with which it shares many superficial similarities. * (effective 05-01-03) After a very brief window of availability, this long-sought K. Gordon Murray title is once again out of print, due to international copyright issues. Used video tapes of this title may be found on online video dealers and auction sites. Stay tuned for further developments!