I love the American Genre Film Archives. They lovingly restore old schlock movies that might otherwise become lost. I believe in leaving future generations the best possible quality version of a film as possible. Who the hell knows what will be considered important after we’re all dead?
AGFA recently released, in association with Something Weird Video, a Blu-ray with quite the curious title: The Godmonster of Indian Flats. Goddamn…just…well, I’m one of the Retro Set’s resident cult film people, and even I thought this was batshit crazy. You want to see a mutant creature that looks like a mix between a sheep, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and a turd? You got it, brothers and sisters, and so much more. And most of the runtime doesn’t even involve the creature. No, instead we’re talking a story about race relations, corporate greed, and a small town in Nevada where the residents live as if they’re in the 1870’s instead of the early 1970’s, when the movie supposedly takes place.
After a night of drunken debauchery in which Eddie (Richard Marion), a sheep rancher, wakes up to find that one of his animals gave birth to a mutant fetus. Luckily, his pal Professor Clemens (E. Kerrigan Prescott) decides to stop by the farm with his lovely blonde assistant. The professor intends to study the creature, as one does when you run across a flesh blob that’s excreting steam from its fur. Pretty cool, right? Well, forget about all that for now, because writer / director Fredric Hobbs did. Well, for the most part.
The film is mostly about the corrupt goings on in the town of Comstock, the aforementioned Old West tourist trap. A guy named Barnstable (Christopher Brooks) comes to town looking to buy mining rights from the residents. We get a pretty cool reversal of expectations, since Barnstable is African American (the only one in the film, in fact). So we have the rich African American from New York City trying to exploit poor white folks. But things get a, uh, bit uncomfortable when, in an effort to drive Barnstable out of town, the mayor gaslights him into believing he shot and killed someone’s dog, which turns the townsfolk against him. When that doesn’t work, one of the mayor’s lackeys frame Barnstable for attempted murder. Maybe you see where all this is going. If you guessed that a mob attempts to lynch him, you would be absolutely correct. An all white posse snatches him from jail and they transport him somewhere outside the town where a noose is hanging from a tree. Luckily, Barnstable manages to kick enough ass to run away. I know that Hobbs had his heart in the right place, and this stuff should make us feel uncomfortable, but it’s hard to watch. It’s cringy at best, I think.
What does this have to do with a mutant turd sheep? Absolutely nothing, though we do get a few short scenes in the laboratory where the sheep is growing at an impressively fast rate. We see this occasionally between the Barnstable stuff.
I learned a few things while watching “Godmonster.” The first, and possibly most important lesson is that you should never let a very drunk man fire a pistol during an open air Old West carnival. And if you do, for God’s sake load the gun with blanks. Anything else is just bad form. I also learned that sometimes even mad scientists’ blonde assistants must seek advice from psychics every now and then. “Psychic phenomenon is an extension of natural law,” the assistant says at one point, sounding like someone trying to convince herself that she didn’t just waste money paying for a psychic reading. Finally, I learned that if your sheep gives birth to a turd mutant, don’t touch the damn thing, let alone give it to a mad scientist. Bury it in the desert somewhere and never speak of it again.
Oh, right. Don’t worry about the turd sheep. It escapes the lab in the last fifteen minutes before the townsfolk kill it. That’s it. Seriously. It has virtually nothing to do with the Barnstable story save that the same people who tried to frame the guy go after the monster and attempt to kill it. So much violence for such a small town. Truly, they are the real monsters. Honestly, I think that’s the point Hobbs is going for. That and racists will racist.
Do I love this movie? Absolutely! The pacing is great and the story is never boring, which I’ve always thought was the most important part of a genre film. It’s a lot of fun. This would make a great drinkin’ movie. Make it a whiskey. Plus, the film gets points for being a passion project. Fredric Hobbs was a bit of a hippy environmentalist type. He wrote a book about the intersection of art and environmentalism in the wonderfully titled “Eat Your House: An Art Echo Guide to Self-Sufficiency.” Hobbs made four films before quitting after the release of “Godmonster” in 1973. From what I can tell, all of the other films are batshit, too. In a movie of his called Roseland, there’s a musical number called, “You Cannot Fart Around with Love.” Seriously, you need to check it out here. It will likely be the best four minutes of your day.
Hobbs will never make a return to film since he died earlier this year, but his legacy lives on, and I do very much hope that fans of weird no-budget cinema check this film out. The American Genre Film Archive release features a beautiful 4K scan from the only surviving 35mm print. The disc doesn’t have any special features directly related to the film, but it has plenty of bonus stuff, including weird trailers, a selection of short films, and a bonus feature-length film called The Legend of Bigfoot. It’s really a wonderful release, and one that monster movie fans should check out as soon as possible.