Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Monday: Beast of the Yellow Night

Can you escape...the Beast of the Yellow Night?
A few Movie Mondays ago, I ran a review of Black Mama, White Mama, directed by the absurdly prolific Eddie Romero. I had wanted to see some more of his C-grade stuff (relative to BM,WM), but his movies are fairly hard to find for rental. So I was happy when I saw that his 1971 opus, Beast of the Yellow Night, is available in full on YouTube!
The film opens in WWII, when a soldier named Langdon, having deserted his outfit, lies near death in the jungle, starving. He is met by the Devil(!), who offers to save his life in return for his soul. The dying man makes the deal. Flash forward to the 1970s, and Langdon's soul is now inside the body of another man, named Phillip, who has somehow recovered from a horrific accident. His wife Julia (the comely Mary Wilcox) and his brother (Ken Metcalfe) are amazed that Phillip is still alive, and uneasily watch as he returns to his life.

Following a psychedelic sex scene (full of both male and female nudity), we see Langdon talking with Satan (Vic Diaz), and it's clear over the years these two have become quite acquainted with one another. Langdon is used to doing Satan's work, but he starts to rebel now that he's possessed Phillip, who apparently wasn't a bad guy and has friends and family who care for him.

As a way to control his wayward charge, Satan has Langdon turn into the beast, who kinda looks like a cut-rate version of The Beast, the X-Man:
The Beast kills a random passerby on the street, tearing his guts out and munching on them (which which get to see in full, if brief, display). He sees himself in a plate glass window and, disgusted, runs off.

Later, Philip returns to normal, and starts to get it on with Julia again. But just as things get hot and heavy, Philip feels the transformation hit and shoves her out of the room. He then hits the streets, looking for more victims to kill. After fighting off a group of teens, the Beast is befriended by a blind man (Andres Centenera) who doesn't give the creature wine and bread but he could have.

The blind man seems to know the truth about Philip, meanwhile the police start to investigate all the murders, and think he has something to do with it. Racked with guilt, Langdon begs Satan to kill him and free him from this eternal life of servitude, but Satan (who appears in many guises) is having none of it. He is eventually caught by the police, and the locals want to get their hands on Langdon and perform a public lynching (at least, I assume so, this scene is entirely in Filipino with no subtitles).

Unfortunately, it's at this point that Beast of the Yellow Night gets unbearably talky. Sure, the effects are bargain basement, but this is a Z-grade monster movie, so let's see the monster killing people! Instead we get the blind man talking with Langdon, Langdon talking with Julia, Langdon talking with Satan, and the police talking amongst themselves about who the murderer really is. C'mon already Romero, make with the chicken parts smothered in fake blood!
While Philip and Julia make love again (say what you want about her, but Julia is one fun gal), the transformation starts again and our titular hero(?) runs off into the night, getting into a scrape with the police. For some reason, instead of ripping into them, the Beast slugs all the cops with roundhouses and uppercuts.

Langdon and the blind man try to sneak out of town, only to be stopped by a military unit. In the chaos trying to escape, the blind man is shot, causing Langdon to Hulk Out and go on a rampage:
This final sequence is probably the most impressive (if that word can be used at all), because it's clear that all the punching, snarling, and neck-eating is going on in the middle of a real fire, which could not have been comfortable (or safe!) to shoot.

I won't get into the details of the ending (though I can't imagine too many of you out there actually watching this movie), suffice it to say that Romero does save the best for last: there's a genuine, Lon Chaney, Jr.-like special effects shot employed. And while it's not well done, well, you know, yellow point for trying!

The most curious stylistic choice of Beast of Yellow Night is the casting of Satan. When we first see him, he's hardly a terrifying figure:
As played by Vic Diaz, Satan is kind of a big ol' jerk, as opposed to some scary Master of Lies. But I guess Romero only had so much money to spend, so he decided to go subtle with all the Satan scenes, and make the guy as bland and ordinary as his surroundings. Which kinda makes sense, if you think about it.

So let's be honest: Beast of the Yellow Night is an ultra low-budget, mostly poorly acted, ridiculous piece of genre nonsense. But, I dunno, I didn't hate it. Romero has a certain Ed Wood-ian ambition that I sort of admire, even if his reach exceeds his grasp by a Filipino mile.

P.S. I have no idea what the "Yellow Night" stuff was about. It is neither mentioned or referenced in really any way. I guess it was just another trick by Satan!

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