The undead pestering the living, mermen and merladies keeping the sea at bay, American werewolves touring around European capital cities, and killer tomatoes slaying a young George Clooney, the list of mutant movies goes on, ad infinitum! Convenient that, considering MUTANT is this week’s theme on The Frame Loop. You’ve freaked out to our music choices and gawked on in terror at our brilliant visual art selections, so it’s about time we fling our film picks at you. A tough selection, here’s five absolute beauts which have transformed our brains into little, gross balls of crazy.
The Wolf Man, dir: George Waggner, 1941
While not the first filmic adaptation of the folkloric lycanthrope, it’s certainly the most significant. In this 1941 classic, Lon Chaney, Jr. stars as Larry Talbot who, after bitten by a raving gypsy wolf (for serious) is forced to live by the curse, and by night mutates into a rampant, blood-thirsty wolf-man, thing. With a script written by original horror nut Curt Siodmak, it’s one of quintessential Golden Age horror-pictures from Universal Studios. The fog-machine filled studio sets may look a little tawdry in comparison to today’s standards, but Chaney’s staggering transformation to the beast, and the prejudicial message at the heart of the legend, is genuinely heartrending. Watch the whole, howling kaboodle right here.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man, dir: Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989
Filmed on filthy 16mm stock, Tsukamoto’s cult classic is a cyber-punk rendition of the ‘metamorphosis’ paradigm. The unnamed anti-hero is an average office worker, turned into an industrial body experiment after an encounter with Tsukamoto’s ‘metal fetishist’. Soon enough, the ill-fated man starts sprouting sheafs of metal where there should definitely be skin, and probably a penis. Tetsuo is a pellucid critique on man’s fascination with machine. It’s Cronenbergian body horror, with Eraserhead surrealism, and all jazzed up by Chu Ishikawa’s clamorous score. A nauseating, yet wholly engrossing 67 minutes of pure cinema. (Trailer)
The Last Man on Earth, dir: Ubaldo Ragona, 1964
Cast your mind back six years and you may recall rolling up to your local multiplex on Boxing Day to see the Will Smith fronted I Am Legend. A hugely disappointing adaptation of the classic Richard Matheson dystopian novel, you can take some solace in this, the first film adaptation from 1964. Co-written by Matheson under the pseudonym Logan Swanson, the film’s depiction of vampires as sluggish buffoons is considered the birthplace of the human-zombie continuum, and a precursor for George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead franchise. Ghoulish god Vincent Price stars as the gun-toting Dr. Robert Morgan, on a mission to find the reason behind a worldwide plague that has turned good-natured humans into not so nicely natured half-humans. The Merchant of Menace’s best, non campy screen performance, the film is an apocalyptic treat. Watch here.
Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life, dir: Peter Capaldi,
Mentioning this BAFTA award-winning short in this list will hopefully give this forgotten gem the airing and audience it deserves. Directed and written by Peter Capaldi (famous for playing Malcolm ‘Marzipan Dildo’ Tucker in The Thick of It), it’s an absurdist short film about the Austro-Hungarian novelist’s difficult pursuit to write his classic short story, ‘Die Verwandlung’ (‘The Metamorphosis’). Distracted by elliptical day dreams and people knocking at this chamber door, Great British actor Richard E. Grant’s dramatisation of Kafka is both affectionate and playful. Plus, it’s the only film on our list with both mutant-human bananas and singing spider things. A real must-see.
The Fly, dir: David Cronenberg, 1986
Well, how can you not mention this? David Cronenberg’s magnum opus is one of the few exemplary, second-time-around movie adaptations; long outliving Kurt Neuman’s 1958 interpretation of the George Langelaan story (with a performance from our man upstairs Mr. Price, no less). The bastardised actualisation of exactly what Kafka was banging on about, Jeff Goldblum’s definitive performance of the impassioned scientist, turned dipteran, Seth Brundle is the ultimate movie mutant. An earnest existential crisis story, the execution is both terrifying and tragic in equal measure. The Fly is also a huge achievement in the make-up and effects department, with Chris Walas’ Oscar-winning creature design as some of the most startling, entirely gross stuff ever put to celluloid. (Trailer)
This list really was a real doozy. For more vampiric dystopia, pick up Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys and Guillermo del Toro’s 1993 debut Cronos. If rotting, mutant flesh is more your thing, one can’t forget Danny Boyle’s petrifying epidemic horror 28 Days Later. Then there’s Lynch’s tearjerking rendition of John Merrick in The Elephant Man. If none of that tickles your freaky fantasy, you can’t go wrong with Ishirō Honda’s original 1954 Japanese horror spectacle Gojira, aka ‘Godzilla’ (which opens up a whole new load of Japanese counter-culture ‘Kaiju/Monster movies’, such as Mothra and Rodan.)
Right, I’m spent. What did we miss? Write in and tell us your favourite MUTANT movies.