A diver named Matt (played by John Ashley and his sideburns) is brought aboard a ship and kidnapped by it’s crew, led by the Aryan Steinman (played by Jan Merlin and his horribly dyed hair), to a remote island where a Doctor (Charles Macaulay, who you cats would know as Dracula from William Crain’s classic Blacula) is performing bizarre experiments to turn beasts into men (now before you scream “This is a rip-off of The Island of Dr. Moreau!”, let me tell you that this film is blazingly original as the doctor here is named “Gordon”). Anyway, ol’ Dr. G tells Matty that he personally selected him to become a super-being, which leaves our hero unimpressed, so he decides to escape from this island hell. Lucky for him, the Doctor’s gorgeous daughter Neva (Pat Woodell) decides to help him along with the off-the-wall manimals locked in the doc’s dungeon basement…and with that back-up what could possibly go wrong?
As derivative as it is, The Twilight People is also massively entertaining. Created around the time Roger Corman was making his Filipino epics (and originally set to be released by him), Director/Co-Writer Eddie Romero’s (Black Mama White Mama) island-lensed flick is a crazed adventure filled with scenery chewing performances (Merlin in particular is the real winner in this department though Kim Ramos as Primo the Ape Man is no slouch), creative (and fun!) zero budget monster effects, strange side tangents and eye popping spectacles (the love story that develops between Lupa the Wolf Woman and Kuzma the Antelope Man, the legendary Pam Grier as Ayesa the Panther Woman rolling on the ground; purring and cleaning herself, and Darmo the Bat Man’s attempts at flight), and a brisk pace (the entire last half of the film is a chase sequence…and it’s here that things go from Moreau to Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game except with non-stop panther noises). Adding to the good times is a score that runs the gamut from flat-out cool (featuring distorted guitar, bass heavy riffs, and the horniest of horns) to amazingly out of place stock music (the music that plays during the brain surgery sequence is one to listen for as the tune would be more appropriate for a car flying of a cliff and bursting into flame as the hero rolls free…but it’s playing over a scene of a delicate operation).
Along with the feature presentation, VCI along with MVD Entertainment have tosses a few eerie extras on this Blu/DVD combo release. First up you get an audio commentary with cult fright flick Director David DeCoteau and Film Historian/Journalist David Del Valle. The conversation is lively (as it always is with said duo involved) and filled with discussions of American produced films made in the Philippines, making low-budget horror, the film’s themes and stars and more! Following that comes a lengthy archival anecdote-packed interview with Romero, the film’s trailer, and a few TV spots.
If you are looking for a fun as balls creature feature with some nice scenery, janky music, and constant panther noises (like me!); then The Twilight People is the fright flick for you…it’s a re-telling of The Island of Dr. Moreau with it’s heart in the right place and shouldn’t be missed!
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