Peter’s Retro Reviews: Octaman (1971)

June 30, 2014

octaman-posterby Peter Nielsen

I decided to stay in the 70’s a bit longer, because I wanted to re-visit this classic gem from 1971. I use the terms “classic” and “gem” very, very loosely because, well… oh, boy, where do I start with this one?

I suppose we have to go way back to my early teens, because Michael and I watched a lot of crap back then. Come to think of it, we STILL do, but that’s another story altogether. I’m not sure exactly when we first watched Octaman, but it must have been somewhere between ’81 and ’83, and even back then, we found it laughingly bad. But, for some weird reason, this damn movie has stayed with me over the years. I’m not really sure why, but I think it must have been the title and the titular creature itself that kept the memory alive.

Pier Angeli and Kerwin Mathews

Pier Angeli and Kerwin Mathews

For many years Octaman was damn near impossible to find until it was finally released in a cleaned up 40th Anniversary Edition and as an added bonus it also included the movie The Cremators. I’ve never seen that one though, so we might get to it in the future. Both movies were directed by Harry Essex who only has 4 directing credits… the two I’ve already mentioned and also Mad at the World and the original I, the Jury from 1953. Mr. Essex is probably more known for writing the screenplays for It Came From Outer Space as well as one of my personal favorites, The Creature From The Black Lagoon. There are actually more than a couple of similarities between that one and Octaman, but since Mr. Essex wrote both of them I don’t think that’s just a coincidence!

But let’s dive into the actual movie now, shall we?

Waiting for daddy!

Waiting for daddy!

A small scientific expedition in a remote Mexican location has discovered high levels of radiation in the small lakes in the area and the leaders of the expedition, Dr. Rick Torres and Susan Lowry, want to check this out further. Their funds, however, are running low and the expedition has to close down soon. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) for them, they find some kind of mutated baby octopus with weird eyes, that can crawl on land. That effect is actually so incredibly bad that you can’t help but go… wow!!

Dr. Torres takes this find with him back to the university to raise more money so the expedition can continue to investigate this anomaly. Unable to get more funds from the university, Dr. Torres goes back to the States to meet up with a wealthy rancher who’s interested in funding the expedition. He doesn’t actually care about the scientific aspect of it; he just sees the potential for a great circus attraction.

Tentacle-waving in  3 - 2 - 1...

Tentacle-waving in 3 – 2 – 1…

Meanwhile… back at the campsite, they’ve caught another baby octopus and as they’re about to dissect it, “daddy” comes to the rescue! Octaman kills the man trying to hurt his offspring and carries the little critter to safety.

Ok, so let’s talk a little bit about Octaman himself… It’s a weird hybrid between a giant octopus and a man. He walks upright on two of his tentacles and uses four of them as arms; he has two huge unblinking eyes and he doesn’t change his facial expression even once during the entire movie. It actually looks a bit ridiculous when he walks around waving his tentacles for no apparent reason… and believe me, there’s a lot of tentacle-waving throughout the course of the movie’s 76 minutes.

The hilarity doesn’t end here though! Nope, when he attacks and kills people, he basically slaps them to death with the tentacles. He also stabs some of the victims with them and THAT is something I’ve always wondered about! Even back in our teens, when we first watched Octaman, we kind of looked at each other and asked this important question: “How the hell is it possible to stab and kill someone with something as soft and floppy as those tentacles?”

Octaman picks up his date!

Octaman picks up his date!

But having said that, I STILL think he’s a cool-looking monster and I have no explanation to why I think that, I just do! Another cool fact is that this costume was designed by none other than Rick Baker! This is his first credit and he would later go on to work on movies like for instance An American Werewolf in London, Star Wars, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes, Hellboy and Men in Black 1, 2 and 3. Just to mention a handful!

The man inside the suit is Read Morgan, who has more than 130 credits to his name. They’re mostly small parts, but some of the titles are Kelly’s Heroes, Back to the Future and The Car.

They actually think they've captured the beast!

They actually think they’ve captured the beast!

Dr. Torres is played by Kerwin Matthews (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jack the Giant Killer) and as Susan Lowry we see Pier Angeli (Battle of the Bulge) in what was sadly to be her last movie. She died soon after shooting was completed of a drug overdose. She was only 39 years old!

The bulk of the movie consists of the members of the expedition either trying to get out of the area or rescuing Pier Angeli’s character from Octaman. There’s a bit of a beauty and the beast thing going on here, because Octaman really wants her, but to be honest, that’s a fairly common theme for these types of movies, right?

Octaman is by no means a good movie; it’s actually pretty crappy and boring at times, but I can’t help but like it none the less. There’s just something about it and I know that a lot of it has to do with nostalgia, but dammit… I have a soft spot for Octaman in my heart. I also like the fact that this 40th Anniversary Edition is crisp and clean. Even though the sound is only so-so, the movie looks good! I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone though! And then again, maybe I would!

So, my friends… that’s it for me this week! Has anyone else seen this movie and want to share their thoughts about it? The comments section is all yours!

Until next time… Look out for human/octopus hybrids strolling around the countryside waving their tentacles!


BTW? I couldn’t find a real trailer for Octaman and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one either, so this one will have to suffice!

Retro Movie Geek © 2015