FREAKSHOW Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

Join us every Monday, as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time pits loon-panted hippies against zombies!

.1971
Director: Bob Clark
Cast: Alan Ormsby, Valerie Mamches, Jeffrey Gillen
Available on region one and region two DVD

This is one of those movies you feel downright guilty for loving. Knocked out after the success of Night Of The Living Dead, a hefty percentage of it is a shameless rip-off of George Romero’s zombie classic.

Egotistical theatre director Alan (a self-mocking turn by screenwriter Alan Ormsby) takes a troupe of actors to an island graveyard to creep them out with some mock-Satanic invocations. Of course, it’s all fun and games until someone gets their throat ripped out… Eventually the dead rise, and it’s board-up-the-windows time.

This second half of the film is pure Romero rip-off. It’s crude, but has a winning sense of urgency. The first half, meanwhile, is like watching a hippy theatre group improvising a drive-in movie, a showcase for some hysterical acting (in both senses of the word). The standout freak is Ormsby himself, an egomaniac with a gloriously florid turn of phrase, resplendent in striped loon pants that Willy Wonka would turn down.

The technical incompetence is alarming. You find yourself thinking things like, “Hang on, that girl’s talking. Why am I looking at the back of her head?” But the scales are balanced by invention. The soundtrack of electronic oscillations is unsettlingly weird, and the script is jam-packed with groan-inducing puns, sardonic one-liners and spaced hippy aphorisms. “Man is a machine for manufacturing manure!” is my favourite – although “I haven’t laughed so much since granny got caught in the wringer!” came in a close second…

The end result is like watching a George Romero rip-off, directed by Ed Wood, with a script scribbled by Joe Orton while he was ripped to the tits on poppers.

Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Jess Franco’s Female Vampire four or five times, but never seen Casablanca. The nutter.

Click here to see our other cult movie write-ups. And if you like oddball movies, check out Total Film‘s weekly Trash Talk feature.