Tuesday, March 01, 2011


How does one tell the difference between a masterpiece of trashy exploitation cinema, like ‘Slave of the Cannibal God’ or ‘Women in Cages’, and a piece of dull incoherent dreck that can only be tolerated with liberal infusions of hard liquor?

I find it useful to ask these four simple questions:

1. Was it made in the 1970s?

2. Is the title more or less meaningless?

3. Was it filmed in a third world country?

4. Is Pam Grier notably absent?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no”, there’s a chance that the movie might actually turn out to be enjoyable… especially as regards the Pam Grier bit. If, however, the answer to all questions is “yes”, then you’re probably watching 1971’s ‘The Beast of the Yellow Night’, and it’s time to admit that you’re totally boned.

I really tried to pay attention, and it’s not as if I’m not inured to the slings and arrows of incompetent filmmakers. But seriously, I couldn’t work out what was going on. What little I could discern is as follows:

In 1946 a man gets lost in the jungle. On the verge of starvation, he meets the devil, who makes him some sort of offer.

He accepts, and the devil seems happy enough. I guess that’s not a good thing, unless you’re the devil. He gives the man a big pile of steaming offal to eat, which seals the deal. I think. Or maybe the devil had just run over a bunny and decided not to waste it.

Thirty years later, the devil puts the man’s soul into the body of some guy who is about to die. I didn’t catch why, but he’s the devil, so it’s probably not to bring more rainbows and cupcakes into the world. This is odd, because I’d thought the whole point of the man selling his soul to the devil was to save his life, and yet there doesn’t seem to be anything left of him except his disembodied soul. Then again, if anyone’s going to gyp you in a deal, it’d be the devil.

The guy, now with extra soul, stops being about to die and gets better. His wife, who never wears pants, seems happy.

However it’s clear that the guy now has too much soul. We know this because he occasionally transmogrifies into James Brown.

Ironically, given that he’s James Brown, he doesn’t feel good. In fact whenever he turns into James Brown he goes around killing people and eating their innards. Maybe this is what all James Browns do, but the movie didn’t make it clear one way or the other.

When he’s not being James Brown, the guy upsets his business partner. The wife continues to not wear pants.

When he is being James Brown, and finishes killing people, he finds sanctuary with some old blind man. This gives him a chance to come down from his Brownian bender and turn back into a boring white dude.

Meanwhile, the wife does not wear pants.

The police manage to draw a connection between the guy and the James Brown-related killings. However they are unable to keep him in custody on suspicion of being James Brown, because this is not a crime except perhaps in Alabama.

Eventually the guy and the old blind man escape together, in order to achieve something. I didn’t catch what this might be. Join the competitive ice dancing circuit, possibly. Unfortunately they are stopped by a police roadblock, James Brown rears his ugly head, said ugly head bites the old blind man to death, and the police bring him down in a hail of bullets.

And so The Beast of the Yellow Night, assuming that the title refers to the monster dude and not some other character, dies. The devil turns into a snake and slithers off, chuckling to himself, which must be pretty hard to do when you’re a snake. Whether or not he’s achieved his evil aims is unclear, since we never knew what those evil aims were in the first place, but I guess if he’s the devil they had to be evil. Now at least he has some free time to do whatever it is the devil does when he has free time. Have pie with Hitler or something, I don’t know.

There’s also an implication that in death the guy is now free from the devil’s control. So perhaps he’d only leased his soul to the devil. Presumably the devil now gets to lease a fresh new soul and the guy gets to auction his off at one of those depressing public sales. Win win.

Except for the members of the audience, who are now drunk, bored and inexplicably feeling like a sex machine.


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