The first thing I noticed as the opening credits rolled for The Being (1983) were the names Martin Landau (Ed Wood), José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac), and Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) and I thought to myself, "Wow, three Oscar winning actors appearing in the same film? I certainly can't go wrong here, right?"...and then I got a look at the rest of the cast...Rexx Coltrane aka Bill Osco (Night Patrol, The Underachievers), former Mrs. Kenny Rogers Marianne Gordon (The Legend of Blood Mountain), Murray `The Unknown Comic' Langston (Skatetown, U.S.A., Night Patrol), Ruth Buzzi ("Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In", Skatetown, U.S.A.), Kent Perkins (Night Patrol, Breeders), and Kinky Friedman, whose song "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed" earned him the title of `Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year' in 1974, from the group NOW...this doesn't look good...oh, and look, Jackie Kong (Night Patrol, The Underachievers, Blood Diner) is credited as not only the director, but also the writer. I guess it helps to get gigs like this when the producer is your husband and star (Rexx Coltrane aka Bill Osco), and also a member of the family that owns the national chain of Osco Drug stores (cha-ching!).
As the movie begins we find ourselves in the sleepy town of Pottsville, Idaho, better known as Spudtown U.S.A. A voice over comes up and tells us there's been a series strange and unexplained events recently, right around the time the gooberment started dumping toxic waste just outside of town...hmmm, I'd think if your town's primary industry was centered around growing things, the last thing you'd want is a toxic waste dump in the area, but then again, if movies have taught me anything, it's that radioactive material has the effect of `embiggening' things, so maybe it's for the best. Anyway, now we're at the toxic dump, and we see a kid running for his life. He jumps into a car and speeds away, but wait, there's something on the car...claws tear through the roof, pop goes the weasel (by weasel I mean his head), and the car crashes. Police arrive on the scene, including Detective Morty Lutz (Coltrane), but guess what? There's no body, no head, only a lot of green goo. Next we see someone named Garson Jones (Landau) on the television, a gooberment chemist and proponent of toxic waste, claiming there are no environmental hazards involved with the dumping of radioactive materials nearby (I'm betting that will come back to bite him in the behind later). There's some antics at the drive-in, some more missing people, a bizarre and pointless dream sequence, Lutz hits on waitress named Laurie (Gordon) at the local diner, along with sharing his concerns about recent events with Mayor Lane (Ferrer), who happens to think Lutz is a nut and fears how all this crazy talk will affect the sales of potatoes. After a series of more seemingly meaningless events, Jones and Lutz eventually make a stand against the monster (or monsters) in a local chemical warehouse.
All in all The Being is a pretty rotten film, borrowed heavily from others movies (Alien, for one), but it did have some bright spots. My favorite sequence was the Easter Sunday egg hunt. Colored eggs were hidden around the outside of the local church for the children to find, and a special prize was offered the child who found the large egg with a picture of the Easter Bunny. As the children scurried about, a little toddler walks off, comes across a suspicious hole containing one of the creatures (nothing happens), along with finding the large egg. The Mayor's wife finds the wee girl, and makes the announcement that the prize egg has been found, to which you hear one of the young boys off screen disappointedly remark "Ohhh Sh#t". I dunno why, but this really made me laugh. The good news is Buzzi's character gets it later on in story, the bad news is her much warranted death by grievous mutilation isn't shown. We don't see much of the creature throughout the film (it loved hiding in backseats and trunks of cars for some reason), until the very end when its displayed more prominently, looking much like a ten pounds of bloody meat with dripping, razor teeth, one wiggling eyeball, and a twenty foot long grasping tongue stuffed into a five pound garbage bag. Another really funny sequence was near the end as Landau's character is attacked by the creature, the effect involving a crewmember off screen tossing a rubber replica onto Landau, Landau catching it, and then rolling around on the floor pretending to wrestle it...oh bruther...one thing that really annoyed me was about this film was choppy pacing, stemming from series of relatively random occurrences, strung together by a threadbare story. This was the same, exact formula used in Kong's next film, Night Patrol (1984), and it worked okay there as that was a silly comedy, but here it failed miserably as it never provided any real basis for events or the characters so they all came off as two dimensional constructs. The scripting is pretty lousy, there's an overabundance of pointless characters (Dorothy Malone's, in particular), and generally poor acting. Coltrane should not have been the star, as he had not the skills to carry the film (in my opinion), but, I guess when you're the producer, you can do whatever the hell you want...as I mentioned earlier, this film borrowed heavily from other films, particularly Alien (1979). The creature, along with various aspects of the story, seemed somewhat fashioned after the one in that film (bulbous head, razor teeth dripping with saliva, prehensile tongue, giant claws, gooey slime, chest burst sequence, a cat, etc.), only here they obviously had a lot less money for effects. Given this was a low budget, independent feature I wouldn't have minded the shoddy, derivative effects at all had the story been stronger and more focused. You could pour all the money in the world into a film and it will still come off like swill without a strong backbone, a prime example of this being just about any of Roland Emmerich's movies (I did like Stargate, though). This is a two star movie, but I'm going to give it three because I always get a kick out of seeing Martin Landau...he didn't do himself any favors appearing in this film, but he did make me smile, especially when he was trying to convince residents how there was more danger in their kitchen appliances than in toxic waste.
Media Blasters/Shriek Show provides a decent anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) picture on this DVD, one that does exhibit flaws throughout. The print used doesn't seem to have aged all that well, but it is relatively clean. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio does come through clear enough. In terms of extras, there's a promotional trailer for the movie, along with production stills, and trailers for other DVD releases like Anthropophagus (2002), Just Before Dawn (1981), and Devil Dog (1978). There are also previews for Fangoria International DVD releases including Rojo Sangre (2004), Plaga Zombie Zona Mutante (2001), Choking Hazard (2004), and Hiruko (1990). I may not have enjoyed this film as much as I would have liked, but I do appreciate this smaller companies releasing material onto DVD that would otherwise be lost.
By the way, see if you can spot the leader singer of a famous 60s British Invasion band, whose hits include "Glad All Over", "Catch Us If You Can", and "I Like It Like That", as a customer in the diner.