The Lone Star: Part 1 – “Venus Flytrap” (aka “Revenge of Dr. X”)

I have started something monstrous. For your reading pleasure I will be watching and reviewing some of history’s worst movies. Why have I decided to do this? To be frank, I’m not sure. I think I might be discovering I have a penchant for inflicting unnecessary pain upon myself. Lets put it this way. If someone opens up a gift-wrapped package, smells what is inside, retches, and then insists, “ No, you don’t understand, you have to smell how horrible this is. You’ve never smelled anything like it.” Chances are you’re going to be a little interested to smell that stank. Watching these movies is me sniffing that stank. I just have to know how it smells.

I quickly realized that there are in existence certain movies that are incapable of tickling any fiber of anyone’s soul. I am normally in awe of any given film’s prodigious capacity to stir my emotions whether through laughter, tears, joy, sorrow, anger, or love. But now …now I feel nothing. I have begun my descent into film hell.

This week I have decided to start off my miserable saga by watching a film by a writer/director notorious for his awful films. Though un-credited, Ed Wood was responsible for writing the heinous 1970 horror flick “Venus Flytrap” alternatively known as “The Revenge of Dr. X.” Going into this viewing I had expectations that the film would be “bad”, meaning “not good”. What I witnessed was worse than I expected.

The film follows NASA employee Dr. Bragan, mathematician as an occupation, lunatic botanist for fun. He is a mad scientist in the most literal of ways; he is literally an angry scientist. Bragan flies off the handle at the most unexpected of times, a brilliant acting performance by James Craig, whose gusto might be one of the only saving graces in the film. You actually have to wonder if the character was written to be so emotionally unstable or if Craig is legitimately maniacal. Either way, the doctor needs to be prescribed a friggin chill pill.

Bragan, stressed from countless hours of pondering Spacemath, vacations to Japan where he brings along a Venus Flytrap. When Bragan arrives he realizes he is destined to prove everyone wrong, and he decides to prove man has descended from plant by fusing the land based Venus Flyrap with a similar aquatic plant. And wouldn’t you know it, Bragan’s creation looks exactly like a man dressed up as plant! In one particularly intimate moment, Bragan has a nighttime pep talk with his plant, in which he whisper-yells, “You’ll become the most powerful thing on this universe!” (Yes, the NASA mathematician believes things can be on and not in the universe) Of course, the carnivorous creation develops an appetite for living things, starting with some insects, then farm animals, a few puppies, and mauling a human or two.

The film was clearly a very un-loose adaptation of “Frankenstein,” from the mob that chases the creature, to the lightning that assists in the creation of the monster. In fact, I would have much preferred to watch the worst “Frankenstein” film ever made. It would have been better than this. I mean, come on guys! You couldn’t even get “Frankenstein” right!

What makes this film so bad? Was it the Ed Wood staple of using stock footage of things like volcanoes gushing lava or rockets shooting into space? No. Was it a romantic plot between Bragan and his assistant that emanates a Microsoft Sam type love affair? No. Was it the incomprehensible pacing of the film, focusing on unimportant scenes for the majority of the runtime? Nope. What makes this film so bad is that it possesses so little of the charm that I have witnessed in other Ed Wood films or other B-Movies. Save for an unforgettably ridiculous final death scene, the movie showed nothing that I would be interested in talking about, for good or for bad.

How did I feel about the film? I’ll be honest; it took me a lot to stay awake through it. I revisited the specific scenes multiple times, trying to find some thread of saving grace. Alas, my efforts were for naught. I wanted to give this film the benefit of the doubt and to allow it to wash over my senses and so that I could escape into the story. But it was just too bad. My eyes hurt, my ears hurt, my brain hurt. Seriously, why did I think watching any of these movies would be a good idea? This was just the first one! Oh, boy. I will pray tonight for the strength to sit through another one of these monstrosities. And if you have any interest in watching a truly terrible movie, this one is for you. I give this movie the lowest possible rating, and I am now going to reassess my life as I know it.

 By Ahmi Goldberg

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