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Sting Of Death
(1965)

Director: William Grefe   
Cast:
Joe Morrison, Valerie Hawkins, John Vella


Although I have extensively covered a lot of different genres in my reviews for this web site, there are still some genres that I have given little to no coverage of. One of them is big budget epics; the fact that the majority of them are "known" makes them not qualify for this web site. (I did once have plans to review Inchon, but when I sat down to watch it I found it overall to be too dull and mediocre to give me any enthusiasm to write a full-length review.) Then there are Nigerian movies. I've heard the Nigerians make some wacky movies on poverty-row budgets, but not only have I not seen any, I have never seen any place offering them for sale or rent. Somewhat better than those two examples are my dealings with movies that are considered so bad they are good. Over the years I have reviewed several examples of this particular genre - Troll 2, Little Ninjas, Fantasy Mission Force, The Force On Thunder Mountain, and Robo Vampire are just some of the so bad they are good movies I have reviewed. But when you compare my offerings on the genre to those offered by many other B movie review web sites, you will probably see that my offerings are somewhat short. Why is that? Why have I not sought out more movies of this kind when I have proven on those occasions that certain kinds of bad movies can tickle my funny bone just like they tickle those other movie critics? Like the time I had to explain why I have not reviewed many significantly older movies for this web site, I feel that I should go back to the beginning, when I was a child and I was starting to become a film addict.

As I explained once before, I grew up in a town that was pretty much lacking in entertainment. The few Canadian (and American) television channels that we got in our community, when it came to movies, would seemingly and exclusively air movies that would be competently made in nature. And if the movie playing turned out to be "bad", it was simply bad - no humor to be found anywhere in its badness. So in my first few years of growing up, I was totally ignorant about how unintentionally wacky a movie could be. Then one day, when I was in a book store with my parents, I spotted a copy of the Medved brothers' book The Fifty Worst Films Of All Time. I thumbed through the book, and I was intrigued and a little excited by what I was reading. There were movies out there that were so bad you could have fun by seeing how ridiculous they were? Eventually the book vanished from the book store, but the seed had been planted - though the seed took a while to sprout, and the sprout took a long time to grow. I was still starved of so-bad-they-are-good movies for years afterwards, but I started to collect books and magazines so I could at least read about how funny certain bad movies were. (Including the Medved books... though their eventual politics and finding that many of the "bad" movies they claimed were bad were actually competent now has me turned off by their books.) Then when I was grown up, and in a new community, I could really start to sample (via new TV stations and VHS tapes) so bad they are good movies, many of which I had learned about by my previous years of reading about them.

I am still trying hard to make up for those lost years of my childhood. I have been trying for a long time to widen my cinematic vision, and watch all kinds of movies, including those that are so bad they are good. I think my track record of reviewing hilariously bad movies is pretty good under those circumstances that I just wrote about. But there is also another factor to think of - the vast majority of hilariously bad movies are "known". I can't very well write a review of Plan 9 From Outer Space for this web site, because I'm pretty sure you have heard of it, even if you haven't actually seen it. I have to really dig around into the unknown and hope I will find a hilariously bad movie you haven't heard of - which doesn't happen very often. So you can imagine I was excited that I would have the chance to review a reportedly hilariously bad movie with this particular B-Masters' roundtable. The movie chosen by the group was Sting Of Death. It certainly seemed unknown enough - I have to admit that even I hadn't heard of it before this roundtable. What got me more excited was when my research of the movie uncovered the fact that it was directed by the director of Impulse, which I had found to be pretty unintentionally funny. Another thing that made this movie seem very promising was that it was filmed in Florida - I have learned over the years that Florida is a hub for unintentionally funny movies, with examples including Blood Freak and Jimmy The Boy Wonder. In short, I was pretty pumped up before I watched the movie.

Sting Of Death actually begins in a way that suggests the whole enterprise might be made in a competent way. What will immediately hit you in the first few seconds of the movie are its colors; the movie looks bright and vivid, something you usually don't get in a bad movie like this. (The DVD box says that the print used for the DVD was transferred from the actual negative.) Then after those first few seconds have played out, you'll get the first clue that maybe everything in this movie won't be so competent. What happens? A hand enters the frame and picks up a screwdriver. But no ordinary hand - this hand and its arm is best described as one that has been totally burned and then covered with strands of what appears to be partially burned red licorice, and with a few burned pizza ingredients like onions. Meanwhile, a woman apparently nearby is listening to the radio while sunbathing. The radio station she is listening to is "WFUN" - whoa, that's hip! Anyway, the radio announcer reads a report on some missing people in the area. Could this be connected to that creepy hand we just saw? Is the woman in danger? We soon find out the answer to at least that second question, when the movie cuts back and forth from the woman to what I guess we are to assume is that creature whose hand we saw. Though this time we get to see the bottom part of the monster. The monster's feet look exactly like black swim fins, and its legs look exactly like they are covered with wet suit leggings. Dangling in front of its legs are numerous strands of blue and red licorice that I assume come from its yet unseen torso and head.

Could it be that we are dealing with some kind of monstrous mutated scuba diver? You've probably correctly guessed that we don't get the answer to that yet, and you've probably also correctly guessed that the monster makes short work of the woman just before the opening credits pop onscreen. Just as the credits are ending, we get some underwater shots of a boat making its way across the surface of the water. These shots were clearly taken at night. Then all of sudden, when we get a shot of the boat from above the surface of the water, it's daytime. Anyway, we are introduced to the passengers of the boat. College student Karen Richardson is being accompanied by her college friends to her scientist father's island. Dr. Richardson is with them, along with his assistant John. He explains to Karen's friends that he and John are working on "sea life and evolution". He doesn't explain, however, why the wound that's on his forehead is now the size of a quarter, when it was about the size of a dime when they were getting off the boat. Just as John tells Karen and her friends that he has invited some college students over for a party, they are interrupted by the appearance of Egon, another assistant of Dr. Richardson. It takes a few seconds to wonder why Karen's friends seem so shocked, because we don't see Egon's face in the first few seconds of his appearance. You'll probably be expecting the revelation to be something horrible, but when his face is revealed, you'll be wondering why Karen's friends were so shocked. He's not good-looking, but he really looks little different than the short and grizzled construction workers in your city.

Despite this, Karen's friends start to tease poor Egon ("Will you be my date for the party?") - and right in front of Karen, Dr. Richardson and everybody else! Geeze, didn't they teach manners at their college? Even John gets into this dubious spirit by telling Egon he scared the girls. Then there's a short scene when the sheriff comes by with a body he pulled out of the swamp. Egon's theory of jellyfish being the culprit is quickly dismissed by Dr. Richardson and John - the poor guy can't get a break, can he? Further proof of this is found several minutes later when the party guests arrive. When they get one look at Egon, they chase him, surround him, and create a long sequence of close-ups of laughing faces and finger-pointing. Egon gets away, and Karen is pretty upset by their behavior... though for some reason a few minutes later, she is shown to be joining these rude partygoers in their dancing and beer-drinking with little reluctance. The party soon moves outside beside the pool, and everyone starts dancing to Neil Sedaka... though not one of his famous songs like "Laughter In The Rain". No, we have what appears to be a song specially written for this movie. Here's a sample of the lyrics: "Wella, I'm saying fella / Forget your Cinderella / And do the jella / The jilla-jalla jella! / It's really swella / To do the jalla Jellyfish! / Monkey, don't be a donkey / It's nothing like the Monkey! / It isn't funky or anything that's junky! / It's something swella! / The jilla-jalla Jellyfish!"

Believe it or not, the whole song is played two and a half times in this scene. Maybe the producers wanted to get their money's worth for landing Sedaka... or more likely, it was an attempt to pad out the running time of the movie. But what's really unbelievable in this scene is that the monster scuba diver has made its way into the pool the youths are dancing around - and nobody notices it. So it's understandable that when one girl decides to go swimming (in her clothes), she is (eventually) attacked by the monster... though a hand shoved into the face barely qualifies as being attacked. The monster does this same "attack" to another partygoer when it surfaces, then quickly vanishes. Panicking, most of the youths gather one of their two wounded friends (why not both?) and board their boat so they can quickly get back to the mainland. But underwater, the monster takes a hatchet from its belt (which it never had before) and smashes a hole into the boat. It takes a while for the youths to realize their boat is sinking, and once it does start sinking, I started to wonder if they realized like I did that their swamped vessel had suddenly and magically changed into a completely different looking boat. Once the youths are in the water splashing about, they are suddenly attacked by jellyfish (Where did they come from? We didn't see them in the monster's belt.) Actually, it's the youths that identify them as jellyfish - to me, they looked more like sandwich bags with pieces of colored cellophane inside, and with tied pieces of string dangling down when we see underwater shots of them.

It doesn't take long for the jellyfish to make short work of the youths... though just how these jellyfish actually kill the youths is never answered. Anyway, we cut to what seems to be the monster's underwater lair. We finally get a partial shot of the monster's head, and it sure looks like some kind of translucent blown up plastic bag. We get more footage of the creature's feet and lower legs, and even though the first shot of the movie established that the monster's skin was black and covered with burnt stuff, we get to see the creature's ankles in the space between where the wet suit ends and the swim fins begin, and these ankles look surprisingly flesh-colored. In an awkward scene that doesn't make clear how the monster makes its plastic bag head disappear, we find out that the monster is really... Egon! Now we know the truth. Will Egon succeed in his plans to get rid of everyone who has laughed at him? Will he manage to get his hands on the desirable Karen? Will Dr. Richardson's head wound keep changing size during the second half of the movie? I think that by now you have a good idea of the answers to those questions, especially if you have seen a good number of ineptly made movies as I have. It goes without saying that Sting Of Death is a laugh riot. While I would not put it up as high as such classics as Troll 2 and the works of Ed Wood - it's from a merely inept mind, not an insane one - it's still a movie that bad movie lovers will savor. In fact, I find it hard to believe I hadn't heard of this movie before. I feel a sting of shame because of that. Well, I hope informing you of this movie makes up for that oversight.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Blood Freak, Impulse, Troll 2

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