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September 07, 2017

Creep / Creeping


The Creep Behind the Camera
Pete Schuermann - 2014

The Creeping Terror
A. J. Nelson - 1964
Synapse Films BD Regions ABC

This is one of those times when the story about the making of a film is more interesting than the film itself. The Creeping Terror is the very low budget 1964 monster movie from writer-director-star Vic Savage. The Creep Behind the Camera was Savage, a true monster, a former street hustler who attempted to hustle himself as the next big thing in Hollywood. What started out as a documentary evolved into a reenactment of Savage's life, punctuated by interviews with some of the people who knew Savage or worked on the production of The Creeping Terror.

The 2k restoration of The Creeping Terror is more than that this film deserves, but the arguable upside is that aside from looking as good as possible, the audio quality makes the dialogue more intelligible. That's intelligible, not intelligent. For those unfamiliar with what some consider one of the worst films ever made, the story is about two man eating monsters from outer space that resemble a carpet combined with a house plant, wreaking havoc in Angel County, California. You would think that people would outrun a slow moving monster, but no, they just stand or lie around, transfixed, waiting to become monster chow. One of the plot points is taken from the 1951 The Thing with a scientist who insists on trying to save one of the monsters in the hope of communication. You can easily guess what's going to happen to him.

There is one brief moment of cinematic inspiration and that's in a dance scene in a community hall. The camera travels backwards as dancers move into the frame. Two young women are wearing skin tight capri pants that make the most of their respective curves. Being a couple years behind the times, everyone is twisting the night away, with one young man leaping around, a graduate of the Jerry Lewis school of social dancing. Of course the monster shows up to spoil the night, with most of the attendees leisurely making their way towards an exit, while a couple of guys get into a fistfight for no apparent reason.

The characters in The Creeping Terror are so stupid that I wish the monsters ate all of them. The monsters creep and so does time - at a sluggish seventy-seven minutes.

A couple of people actually had successful careers following their encounters with Vic Savage. Joseph Sargent directed Savage's screen debut, Street Fighter in 1959, and went on to a respectable career of theatrical and television films, notably the original Taking of the Pelham One-Two-Three. Richard Edlund created the title credits for The Creeping Terror and went on to fame and Oscar glory for his special effects work. The writer who originated the story for The Creeping Terror, Allan Silliphant, had his own low-budget mega-success with the soft-core The Stewardesses 3D, five years later.

The Creep Behind the Camera is the portrait of a man who hustled investors, women, and Hollywood wannabes more desperate than himself. While there is some artistic license here, what is known about Savage, also known as A. J. Nelson, is that he was an abusive husband, often more interested in scoring drugs or sex with aspiring actresses, ultimately abandoning his would be masterpiece in a garage. The footage was saved by the main investor, William Thourlby, who created a soundtrack with post-dubbing and narration, selling the film to Crown International which in turn included The Creeping Terror as part of a package for television syndication. Among the more amazing bit about the making of the film is that most of the exteriors were shot at the Spahn Ranch, more famous a few years later in association with a guy even crazier than Vic Savage, Charles Manson.

The blu-ray comes with an entertaining commentary track for The Creep Behind the Camera from the director, producer and two leads. Locations in and around Colorado Springs, Colorado stand in for California. Other extra include a conversation between actor Byrd Holland and Allan Silliphant, and the film festival journey of Creep. Director Pete Schuermann also teases the viewer with three of the four homages to other horror movies were slipped into his film.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 7, 2017 06:43 AM