These monsters are typically created by science gone awry, which helps to firmly plant their feet – even the clawed or hooved ones – in the realm of SciFi. Occasionally, they end up getting superhuman strength or some kind of ominous power or superpower, which shifts the focus closer to cinematic Fantasy. Lastly, the resulting reign of terror – for which many a monster wages or he wouldn’t really be able to call himself a monster – practically tramples into the world of Horror. Naturally, it’s easy to see how this intersection might confuse viewers as to what genre of film they’re actually watching, and that’s why I offer this cursory explanation. They’re truly hybrids in the best definition of the word.
Still, what unifies all of the best monster movies is the fact that the audience – more often than not – feels a measure of sympathy for the beast. This usually doesn’t take place at the outset but rather it’s a revelation viewers come to as a response to these evolving circumstances. Rarely does the monster wish to become that which is feared by so many, but now that he is few people can see past his gruesome outer shell into the tortured soul that lies deep within. Cut off from even the most benign support systems, he grows more and more despondent with each passing development, and his eventual lashing out becomes the only means for him to express the rage of his isolation. The audience wouldn’t want to be him – they wouldn’t trade places with him for all the money in the world – and this typically bolsters pity to displace their disgust.
In the crème de la crème of the creature features, he who is most vile even typically sacrifices himself in the last reel. Sometimes this is to save himself but more often it’s to save those around him who then suffer an epiphany, only realizing in that moment that he – that abomination of nature – was truly “the better man.” Although these scenes tend to feel a bit formulaic, they’re necessary to preserve the moral of the story … that being to never judge a book by its cover … even if that book threatens to eat you alive.
Many great B-Movies flirt with ‘monstery’ greatness. Sting Of Death (1966) may not be a great film – by practically any estimation – but it does have a finish deserving some attention.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“… a boatload of bikini babes partying on the edge of the Everglades are menaced by a vengeful half-man half-jellyfish in Sting Of Death – the only film to feature hip young teens twisting to a tune by the name of ‘The Jellyfish Song!’”
B-Movies have an almost Sisyphean challenge to overcome every time they’re attempted.
Their producers rarely have the kind of money, patience, and talent required to winningly bring their particular vision to award-winning life, and often times what they lack in resources they make up with the right narrative sentiment. This may be only a handful of moments delivered with just the right aplomb – as is arguably the case with Sting Of Death, a somewhat laughably entry into the whole half-man-half-beast subset of Fantasy films – and I suppose the hope is audiences might see past what obviously ails the picture to find a nugget not so much of gold as it is common sense.
Otherwise, Sting is – ahem – a lot of stink.
It’s filled with overlong and overwrought takes of these young’uns dancing to some groovy 1960’s music, unusually extended takes of airboats racing across the Florida wetlands, and some of the most laughably delivered moments of tension this side of an Ed Wood production. It’s surprisingly bereft of tension – legitimate horror practically requires there be some sequences of true peril, but the best that’s delivered is probably in the last reel when man and beast have no choice but to trade blows more because they’re in a cramped underwater cavern with no respective elbow room than because they’re thrust into mortal combat.
As B-Movies go, there’s really very little to celebrate here, so I won’t belabor the review, but since I do so love monster stories I have to give props to Sting’s finale: once he’s down for the count, the fallen brute does order his human adversary to save the woman he loves. There’s that ‘pure of heart’ moment fans expect from the noble, misunderstood creature, and Grefe (at least) gets that right in this otherwise 80-minute waterlogged melodrama set to go-go music.
Sting Of Death (1966) is produced by Essen Productions, Inc. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being handled by the reliable Arrow Video. As for the technical specifications? Well, this one looks and sounds probably as good as it did back in its day, so I really can’t complain there. As for the special features? There’s a nice audio commentary and a few documentary-style extras you can spend a little with … if you’re truly interested. Nothing all that revelatory was learned, but it’s still nice to have ‘em.
(Mildly) Recommended. I know, I know, I know. Anyone who’s seen this film know that it’s a stinker, but I’m a sucker for good monster moments, and the ending – as flawed as the rest of the film may be – actually musters up a fairly decent creature feature ending. But, yes, at even a slim 80 minutes this effort is entirely too long. It could be better served as a 30-minute episode of an anthology series like The Twilight Zone, but as a standalone it’s bloated beyond belief in order to get to a serviceable run time. Silly. Too silly. Painfully so.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arrow Video provided me with a Blu-ray Disc of Sting Of Death by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.