Saturday, October 30, 2021

THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 29
Total First Time Views: 19
Amount raised for ALBANY PARK THEATER PROJECT: $2,417.15

The Twilight People (1972) d. Eddie Romero (Philippines) (81 min) (3rd viewing)

During a deep-sea dive in the Pacific, “scholar, soldier of fortune, hunter, and the Last Renaissance Man” Matt Farrell (John Ashley) becomes the prize capture of bleached-blond gun-for-hire Steinman (Jan Merlin) and gorgeous Neva Gordon (Pat Woodell), the latter the daughter of the infamous Dr. Gordon (Charles Macauley), shunned by the scientific community for his literally inhuman experiments. You see, Dr. Gordon, has been working in seclusion on his secret island laboratory, attempting to cross-breed the local natives with various species of wild animals, and has designs for Farrell's prime DNA to serve as the final touch for his already impressive collection: Ayesa the Panther Woman (Pam Grier), Kuzma the Antelope Man (Ken Metcalfe), Darmo the Bat Man (Tony Gosalvez), Primo the Ape Man (Kim Ramos), and Lupa the Wolf Woman (Mona Morena). Luckily for our hunky hero, Neva also has her eye on him, ultimately planning a mini-revolution/escape of the motley herd.

Star Ashley stumbled into the drive-in film industry in the late 1950s, becoming an onscreen regular with American International programmer both within the horror market (How to Make a Monster, Frankenstein’s Daughter) and without (Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo). He eventually ended up working with low-budget raconteur Larry Buchanan on Attack of the Eye Creatures, which led to him playing the leads in Romero’s Blood Island Trilogy,” Brides of Blood, Mad Doctor of Blood Island, and Beast of Blood between 1968 and 1970.

Discovering that he enjoyed the Philippines both as an artistic home and a community, Ashley began to set up numerous projects himself, producing several films with Romero (including this one), as well as collaborating with Roger Corman (Big Doll House, Black Mama White Mama). At the end of the decade, he landed an associate producer credit on Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, leading to the once-affordable shooting conditions being priced out. Ashley returned to the States where he produced such TV staples as The A-Team (for which he provided the iconic opening narration), Werewolf, and Walker: Texas Ranger.

Director Romero had already visited H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau over a decade earlier with his 1959 production of Terror is a Man (co-directed with Gerardo de Leon, the Godfather of Filipino genre cinema), but with Ashley’s support, he decided to attempt the story on a larger scope. While the plot rarely rises above its schlocky parameters, Antonio Artieda’s creature designs survive on sheer gusto and energetic performances from the cast, with future star Grier’s full-tilt inhabitation of the feral cat-woman and Gosalvaz’s laughter/cheer-inducing flight risk lodging firmly in the memory banks.

The end result is an easy, breezy 80-minute diversion that should please Turkey lovers everywhere. For those interested in the full story behind Filipino genre filmmaking, check out Mark Hartley’s excellent documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed!

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