The Revenge of Doctor X (1970)
THE REVENGE OF DOCTOR X
WRITER: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
STARRING: James Craig as Dr. Bragan
Atsuko Rome as Noriko Hanamura
James Yagi as Dr. Paul Nakamura
QUICK CUT: After getting stressed out at his high pressure job working for NASA, Dr. Bragan takes a vacation in Japan and spends time making a man monster out of a Venus Flytrap...because that's what one does on vacation.
Dr. Bragan - Our titular Doctor X. I think. Although he's never called that. But who else would it be? He's a bit of an overworked blowhard at NASA who likes to yell at people...and he's also a doctor of botany that thinks man evolved from plants, with plans to prove this by making a venus flytrap man. Zuh?
Noriko Hanamura - Bragan's assistant and love interest, who ALSO is a student of botany! But doesn't actually seem to know dick-all about plants. She's loyal to a fault and takes way more crap from Bragan than she should, but is probably the only thing keeping him this side of sane.
THE GUTS: After the worst opening credits sequence ever, mainly because they are NOT the credits for this movie, we find Dr. Bragan in his office ranting hilariously at foolish people building rocket base in Florida. Yeah, that'll never last!
On the upside, this rocket launch that has been delayed and delayed thanks to the lovely Florida weather seems to be finally ready to go. Stock footage is go!
But Bragan being an eternal pessimist knows his rocket still has a long way to go, and things could go horribly wrong...and so they do! He is informed later by two other scientists that there may be an error in their calculations.
He has a fit over the bad news, or possibly from realising what movie he's in, and collapses onto his desk. Sorry, but you can't get out of an Ed Wood movie that easily. Due to his condition, whatever it may be, Bragan's assistant encourages him to take a vacation in Japan, since there's nothing he can do about his rocket for several months.
Nakamura makes all the arrangements and asks Bragan to take some 9th Wonders comics home to his son Hiro, while he's there getting caught up on his old passion of botany.
Rather than just having him arrive in Japan, we get treated to Bragan taking a road trip, and stopping at a completely abandoned roadside gas station to pad the film's runtime out. Well mostly abandoned, until he opens the doors to the snake house and finds Grimey McLovesfilth inside.
So while Grimey checks out Bragan's car, the doctor wanders through the snake house, and it's a little frightening how many this guy has collected while not pumping gas. The doctor from Sssssss would be proud. But the important plot point inside the barn is Bragan finding a Venus Flytrap.
Ugh, typical bad overwriting occurs. Grimey brings up several times that there's no charge to the snake house, which is little more than jars and jars of snakes on shelves, while he's working on the car. And he keeps mentioning he has a coral snake.
Anyways, Bragan tries to buy the Flytrap, but Grimey won't sell it because it's too small. Instead, he tells him there's plenty out in the swamp if he really wants one that badly. No charge!
I'd point out how unintentionally funny it is to see a guy in a nice suit wandering through an *ahem* swamp, with a shovel and box to collect his plant, but the closeup of the rubber snakes made that seem mundane.
Finally, we at least get into the air, and should I even question Bragan bringing a Venus Flytrap onto a plane? Let alone into a foreign country? And foreshadowing alert! The flight attendant points out if it was any bigger, it could take an arm off.
Once he's landed, Bragan meets Nakamura's cousin, Noriko Hanamura, who made all the arrangements for his vacation, and then they grab a bite to eat. And she reveals that she thought Bragan might want to continue his old botany research, so she made those arrangements as well. Which is mighty convenient for the plot.
But that's not good enough for Bragan. He wants seclusion, wants to be away from people for a bit, but that's ok! The Nakamuras happen to own a lot of hotels, and they just happen to have one in a remote area! With a greenhouse! And Hanamura has a love of botany! Coincidences...drowning my...soul!
It's a good thing Noriko warned us the roads to the hotel were bad, as that prepared me for the insanely bouncy camera. What did they do, strap a guy holding it to the bumper of their car? Geeze.
On the drive there, the car gets attacked by blocks of styrofoam...er, a rockslide, and Bragan stops to clear the path. And if he hadn't pointed out this was a terrible place for a hotel, I would have. Since that wasn't bad enough, they're next to an active volcano. And I don't just mean, it might go boom but is mostly quiet. The thing actively spouts fire and billows smoke.
Bad lines to throw into your padding driving sequence, "It's not much further." "I hope not." I'm just sayin'.
Once they arrive, we see the hotel is pretty run down, what with being mostly abandoned for years. But Bragan likes the looks of it, and the seclusion, so he's more than happy. And by mostly abandoned, I mean there's a guy reshingling the roof, of all things, when they arrive.
As if this place wasn't bad enough with rockslides, volcanoes, and dwarven caretakers dropping shingles, they also have a sickly organ in the dining room where the caretaker likes to pound out Tocata and Fugue. Because this place didn't have enough atmosphere yet.
Later, Bragan checks out the greenhouse and starts to work. And we see how calming his new research is compared to his old job of rocket science, when Hanamura tries to talk to him about their dog having puppies and he loudly yells at her. Nice to see the vacation is calming his nerves.
The dog is later chasing a cricket on the floor, and Bragan leaps forward to grab it before someone kills the bug, to feed to his plant. There is a yelp from the dog, and since it's off screen, I have to wonder if he actually, accidentally, kicked the dog, and the yelp got caught on the live recording. I can't see why it would be there otherwise...
Later, Hanamura tries to peek into the Flytrap's box, and gets yelled at some more by the doctor. Geeze, why is he so grumpy? I get he was overworked, but now why is he such a jerk?
And more hilarious filmaking ensues as Bragan says no one is to disturb the box. He has a long pause, turns and stares right down the barrel of the camera, and then it badly zooms RIGHT up his nose. By Craven, such overly dramatic shooting. Not helped at all by more Tocata and Fugue.
Now it's time for a montage! A gardening montage! In my monster movie! What the hell? But the montage seems to have done Bragan some good, since he seems much calmer, and apologises to his assistant for being so difficult.
We also get some insight into Bragan's theories. He always believed that if all life came from the sea, than it all must have evolved from plants. I suspect this will be important!
Bragan finally introduces his assistant to the Venus Flytrap, and admits it is a completely alien species to Japan. Even without knowing where this movie is going, that's normally a bad thing. He also tells her all about the plant, and how it works, for anyone needing the exposition dump...and for any BOTANY STUDENTS THAT DON'T KNOW WHAT A VENUS FLY TRAP IS!!
And more montaging! From gardening to SCIENCE, which is a step up, I guess.
Later, Bragan sneaks off in the middle of the night to talk to his plant, and Hanamura watches him when he thinks he's not being followed. And this is when we start to get the impression that Bragan might be unhinged. He wants to make the plant strong, and not weak like humans. He wants it to be the strongest thing on this universe. Yes, on. And taking a cue from the grandfather of all mad scientists, he decides lightning is the way to do it.
After more lengthy, bouncy driving and a stop for a picnic, at least we get some more plotty exposition as he asks Hanamura about a similiar Venus plant that's in the ocean, and how amazing the two would be to combine. Uhh, so, they'd be really good at eating? Or amphibious? What does making one carnivorous plant breed with another get you, aside from really hungry baby plants?
But that was too much for the movie, we need scenes showing every excruciating detail of Bragan's trip to Japan. More driving! Getting on the train! Cabs to and from the station! Good thing they showed us all this, it would have been a huge plot hole if we didn't know how he got from the train station to the marine supply store.
We learn that Bragan plans to go diving for his other plant, and hey! Hanamura's father just HAPPENS to own a hotel right in the exact spot where they need to dive to find it! What is the name of his chain? Coincidental Arms?
Fortunately, the movie jumps ahead to them already having diving equipment. I feared we would have to see him licking the envelope to mail order it.
While the menfolk dive for plants, Hanamura just goes for a regular old swim. More padding! And a lot of it. I can at least appreciate showing the beauty of the Japanese sea life, but this is tiresome.
The budding couple chat on the beach, and we get told that Bragan's vacation apparently is doing him little good, as the stress of trying to find his second plant just isn't going well, and he's getting frustrated all over again. Still, he's calmer and nicer than he was, so maybe he just needed a good woman in his life. A good woman that remembers there are divers nearby who specialise in diving deep, for long periods of time, with no breathing aids. Well finally, someone professional in this film!
Oh yes, and the divers are all exclusively topless women. I wonder if that's fact, or just titilation for the sake of the movie. And for such well reputationed divers, they have no clue what the plant is the doctor wants, until he shows them pictures.
Fortunately they find one quickly enough, and since the one they found is at least a few feet taller than any person, I have to wonder how the hell it was so damned hard to locate! At least this ten minute diversion is finally over and we can move forward.
Back in the lab, Bragan does some science and...this is technobabble above my pay grade. The short version is, after a bunch of stuff, he'll fuse the two plants together, creating a new form of life. Well ok, we do that all the time.
Ahh, but wait, this will be a new form of life that is more human than humanity itself! And that's where you lose me.
Fortunately his crazy talk stops short when he cuts himself playing with his garden, and he's too busy doing mad science to be bothered with bandages.
He plays with his gigantic Venus Flytrap, and it tries to bite his hand, but Bragan slowly pulls it out while expositing how dangerous it is for an unskilled person to do this. See, he doesn't leave his hand in long enough to start being digested. Well, good, I now know I can take my time with removing my hand. No hurry!
And then it's time for more science montaging! At least there's some interesting bits in this one as it segues into the next scene, with Bragan slicing up his plants and stitching them together. You know, just because you staple pieces of plants together so they look like a person, does not make them alive. Er, more alive than your typical plant. Or sentient. No matter how much electricity you use!
The lightning finally comes into play though, as the silly looking equipment gets treated with some cheesy looking rotoscoping effects, mainly to make it look like the Jacob's Ladder is doing something. It looks so gloriously terrible.
Later, we see the doc in the greenhouse, where it seems he's taken up sleeping next to his creation. We're told that the thing has kept growing since the lightning strikes, and that they don't know how big it will get. And do we have a means of stopping it? No, of course not.
More repititous dialogue ensues (And rooster crowing that will not stop!) with Bragan repeatedly saying coffee is all he needs, and that it's going to rain soon. The creature's big reveal is coming up though, so we can hold tight for that!
But before that, we just HAVE to sit through Doc and Hanamura having breakfast, after the old grumpy asshat doctor rears his head, yells at Noriko because he only needs coffee, not silly things like food, and then proceeds to have breakfast anyways. You should have those mood swings looked at, Doc.
That night, it finally starts to rain, and the creature twitches under its sheet. Bragan questions how long it will be alive for, and by this point in the movie, I'd say about 30 minutes! Zing!
It is SUCH a shame that this movie is a mixture of badly shot, badly transfered, and a multiple generation copy of sad transfer, in all likelihood. Because even in this terrible shot, the creature looks AMAZINGLY awful. It is a thing of beauty, and I wish I could see it so much better. And that's not even touching upon why does it squeal like a pig?
And at long last, the puppies come over to sniff the thing out, and you can see the creature's feet are also flytrap clamps. I have been waiting all movie to see one of these dogs eaten, more because I expected it than actually wanting it, but even the movie isn't ready to go there. And the malformed assistant seems oddly bummed out by this.
While the creature stands in the darkness (Thanks for that, movie) Bragan goes on a rant about being the creator of this thing, or something, and he has another brainfart like the start of the movie, collapsing to the ground. His helpers hurry in and get him back to a chair, and Bragan says he just fell asleep.
The creature seems to be dying, and neither Bragan nor Hanamura can figure out why. It takes the hunchbacked roofer to figure it out. How the hell does the guy who can barely play the organ sort out what a carnivorous plant hybrid needs when the two botanists have zero clue? Oh, it needs blood, by the way, if you were a botanist and couldn't figure out what to feed a flytrap. So Grimey-san drops some puppies in front of it.
NOW the movie is ready for puppy power flower power. But it won't show us the chowing, instead the creature stares at the camera, and grabs onto it with its claws, giving us the puppy POV, before it gets zarked. I think. Can this thing shoot lasers??
The next day, the Frankencarrot is feeling much better thank you, but Bragan doesn't know that, as he's expecting to open up the greenhouse and turn the dead creature into mulch for his other experiments.
He's astonished to see the Cabbage Patch Kid still kicking, and quickly figures out maybe it needs blood. Why he figured that out now, and how he would have figured it out is beyond me. But who needs logic at this point? He sends Grimey-san off to trap some rabbits and chickens, and IMMEDIATELY grabs the nearest puppy to feed it to the creature. Bwahahaha. NO hesitation at all!
Fortunately for dog lovers everywhere, Noriko saves the puppies from a certain death, but I bet they won't last much longer. Depending on how many rabbits Grimey-san can catch.
We then get another mini montage, but this is a MURDER montage, as he feeds the creature various small animals! Bragan then takes a blood sample, and declares that once he takes a sample from a human, he can at last prove that people evolved from apes!! ...Er, plants. Plants! Wait, what?!
On top of all that, Bragan also seems to know that giving the creature the blood of a human heart (Which doesn't make sense) will grant the creature the ability to walk (Which also doesn't make sense). But hey...SCIENCE!
The movie gives us what must be the sixth scene of Noriko startling awake in the middle of the night from a loud noise, only to go to the window and see the doctor going walkies. That gag only works so many times, movie. At least this time he's not sneaking to the greenhouse.
And how in Kaufman's name does this hotel in the middle of nowhere, with no good road to it, have a sanitarium within easy creeping distance?!
So, he sneaks through the sanitarium, finds a patient no one is watching, and draws a blood sample. WHY? For the love of all that is horror, WHY?! He could have done that back at the greenhouse! He has blood too! Or the girl! Or Grimey-san! Everyone has blood! And it's not like he killed the person. I think. They didn't look dead!
ANYways, he feeds the creature the free range blood, and heads to sleep so he can wake up fresh and ready to prove that the thing has human blood in it. Or something. Science has taken a long vacation from this movie, by this point.
Grimey-san gets there first though, and has a fun game of daring the creature to eat one of the puppies, by sticking it in the maw of its hands, and pulling it away. Then he giggles hysterically at his mischievousness. This is awesome, on so many levels. The game is just plain wrong, the laugh is hilariously over the top, and the punchline is the best ever.
If you couldn't guess, the thing has gained a taste for human blood, and tries to eat Grimey-san's head. He runs away screaming as the juices burn away his flesh, but not before he tosses the puppy into the air, and letting it crash to the ground with a thump.
The doctor and his assistant hurry to the greenhouse to look at the creature, and I love that Noriko has to point out that the creature is a monster. Like that was something that needed to be explained. Being from Japan, and the fact this thing looks like it fought the Power Rangers, I guess she would be the expert on rubbery monsters.
Noriko finally notices the oven mitt on Bragan's hand, and inquires what is wrong. He says it's just protection from a cut. When he says he has no time for bandages, he means it!
They move the creature outside so it can try and move around, and in the middle of the night, they all hear a yelp. Everyone rushes to the creature, even if we only see Noriko doing so, and find that Grimey-san's dog is missing.
Bragan says that's just not possible, the dog was tied up too far away. I mean, it's not like he put the creature outside so it could walk around and stuff! Or gave it human blood which grants the ability to walk!! And the Frankencarrot then is shown with something in its hands, but I'll be damned if I can tell what in this crappy transfer. I'm gonna say it's munching a dog leg.
The next day, Noriko insists the creature be destroyed, before it can do any new damage. No kidding, Tokyo just got repaired from the last time Barugon came to say hey.
Bragan insists that this proves his theories, and they can't kill it yet, he knows the creature moved! But Noriko doesn't believe it can move, plants can't move! (And again, she's studied botany?!) despite having JUST seen it waving its arms around.
As the pair sit there and watch the creature waiting for it to move, they start to doze off thanks to the fumes spewing out of the top of the creature's head. And surprising no one, it walks away to the nearest villaige for a light snack.
It doesn't take long for it to kill a kid (still not sure if this is with laser beams?!) and get the locals to grab their torches. See? He is a Frankencarrot.
Bragan and Hanamura finally wake up to discover the creature is missing. The doctor declares that it moved by itself, and Noriko realises the thing is likely looking for some Japanese food in the nearby villaige.
They race off to find the Frankencarrot, Bragan doing so to save the proof of his batshit theories, Noriko to save the villiagers. They get outside and immediately see the oncoming torches. Noriko goes to get the car so they can catch up to and warn the villagers, but uh...the roads suck, it's night, and the lynch mob is right there. Why bother?
The creature hides in the shrubbery, wisely enough, and when a man passes by with his cow, looking to sell it for a handful of beans, it leaps out of the woods and has another snack. And no, it doesn't eat the cow.
Bragan hears the news, suspecting that the creature is now so powerful, it could devour whatever it wants. Could Doctor Bragan create a creature so hungry that even he couldn't feed it?
Upon seeing the mob, Bragan suddenly agrees that the creature must be stopped. For no particular reason, other than it will be dawn soon and the movie is ending. Hello, non sequitors.
Bragan goes off alone to destroy his creation, telling Noriko to stay behind and not put herself in danger. He doesn't know what he's going to do, but he knows only he can stop it. No particular reason why, just cause. He has no plan how to stop it, but only he can!
He takes a small goat and goes wandering the mountainside, calling out to his Insecticon, er Insectivorus, and pauses only to notice that his ungloved hand is starting to look a little green and icky. By the way, the weird mitten, and the weirder hand are never explained, touched upon, or even part of the story. They're just there.
Oh, and big surprise, Noriko didn't stay behind.
Bragan tries to lure the creature to him like it understands English, saying that he wants them to escape, find a place to continue their work, making a better monster. Gasp, surprise.
The creature finally steps into frame so Bragan can see it, and he lures it around with the goat. A goat that starts to FREAK THE FUCK OUT when the creature comes near. And can you blame the animal for having a fit when the man in suit stumbles near?? That is not acting, that is a real, terrified goat!
Somehow, Bragan backs up to a precipice, the creature reaches out to give him a hug, and he falls into the volcano. And somehow the creature falls with him. And somehow NOT dropping the goat into the lava with them! How does he land the goat on the ground when it was in his arms, and the creature walks into the lava? Damned if I know.
And I kid you not, that's how the movie ends. With a sudden fall off a cliff, and Noriko carrying the goat to safety.
This is the kinda guy that NASA hires? A madman who makes killer plants against any and all laws of science and nature? At least he didn't strap on a diaper and drive halfway across the US.
Video: Absolutely terrible, which is increasingly no surprise from these 50 packs of movies these days. This looks like someone pointed a video camera at a VCR.
Audio: Strangely...ok? I mean, don't get me wrong, there's nothing special here. But I can hear the damned thing, and the dialogue is mostly understandable, outside of accents. Craven knows I've heard worse.
Sound Bite: "If this plant can think, and reason, then why can't it be human?" Oh, where to begin...
First Blood: After about an hour and 25 minutes, and a handful of puppies, a kid bites it thanks to the zarky hands of Insectivorus.
Best Corpse: Dead puppies, dead dead dead, puppies...
Blood Type - F+: There is no blood here, no gore...but I give them points for an insanely silly and awesome monster design. This, and this alone, is why I love Japan.
Sex Appeal: Topless diver women!
Movie Review: There is so much wrong here. The plot is so dodgy it never loses at dodgeball. I don't need to get into details. It is over-written with too much repetition. It has just plain weird dialogue and motivations. It isn't *terribly* directed, but it is just kinda there. The plot, such as it is, plods along with padding and montages for an hour before we even get to the monster, and it's another 20 minutes before it even moves. Two out of five dog buscuits
Entertainment Value: And yet...I oddly liked this turd? James Craig's protrayal of Bragan is great! I love the mood swings! He is a good insane ranter, and plays a mad scientiest very well. The creature truly is a thing of beauty, and once it shows up, things get so much more interesting, and wait for Sailor Moon to show up to kick some veggie tails. And the bizarre plot, science, and dialogue is a thing to behold. I found myself repeatedly shaking my head and saying, "Oh...oh Ed Wood." Such a strange film. Such a BAD film, granted, but it has this weird charm that won me over in some small ways, and kept me entertained more than I expected. But it is still pretty bland for half of the movie, so it only gets three out of five topless divers. And most of that is for a wonderfully cheesetastic man in suit.