Sunday, June 17, 2018

"God Monster Of Indian Flats": Mary Never Had A Little Lamb Like This

He's a real baaaaa-ass: The Godmonster of Indian Flats.

Hi ho, movie lovers.

The film I am about to discuss defies easy categorization. 

It contains elements of a monster movie, a love story, a mad scientist flick, a racial parable, a political thriller about illegal government surveillance, a clash between historical preservation and big business and a western.

It features a diverse cast of characters cavorting on screen, including fake fortune tellers, corrupt sheriffs, a flim-flam man named "Elbow Jones", an AC/DC "fixer" with a porn 'stache and a German Shepard who acts circles around all of them.

Last, but not least, there is an eight foot tall mutant sheep charging around, scaring the pants off the neighborhood kids and scarfing down all their hot dogs.

Eddie (in cowboy hat and sheep skin vest) is about to be rolled by a Miss Kitty wanna-be. Elbow Jones (and his mustache) look on approvingly.

Welcome to "God Monster of Indian Flats" (1973), a film so screwy, so nutty, so warped and so down right weird that it just MIGHT snatch the laurels of "The Worst Film of All Time" from the mighty grasp of "Plan 9 from Outer Space."

I don't make this assertion lightly. However, because this flick is SO AWFUL, I believe bad movie fanatics must consider that the reign of  "Plan 9" at the top of the Junk Cinema dung heap may be over.

ANYWAY, our tale begins with the sounds of a heavenly choir warbling along while the camera casually pans across a clear blue sky. Then we cut to Eddie, a young sheep farmer. He's hitched a ride to The Big City (actually, Reno, Nevada) to Live It Up on his day off. Strutting into a casino, the greenhorn hits pay dirt on a slot machine and is escorted to the bar by a rather hefty hostess in hot pants (all the rage in '73).

That's where Eddie makes the acquaintance of Elbow Jones, a con artist who can spot an easy mark faster than a rooster on a Junebug. Elbow Jones and his posse get Eddie drunk and drag him off to Virginia City, a former mining town that has been lovingly restored to its 1880's glory. It's there a stewed Eddie is relieved of his money by a hooker dressed like Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke." When Eddie cries foul, Elbow Jones and his buddies beat Eddie up and toss him in a back alley.

Now, you may have noticed that I haven't named the actors in this flick. I don't plan to. Why? Because their names deserve to be lost to history. It's more accurate to call the individuals who pop up on screen human beings who just happen to be filmed by a camera, rather than "actors". They walk, they talk--sometimes at the same time!--but that's all. Back to our story.

"Is the camera on?": A peek at some of the no-name cast members of today's film.

Remember poor Eddie? Well, he's found by Professor Clemens, who drives the greenhorn home to his beloved sheep. Eddie beds down with the fluffy critters and goes to sleep. What happens next is either a bad dream, an incomplete alien abduction, an intersperses sex scene, a total eclipse, a comet passing too close to the earth, a Grateful Dead light show or a really bad acid trip--I honesty can't tell. However, when Prof. Clemens and his dim-witted (but earnest) assistant Mariposa arrive the next morning to check on Eddie, they discover the poor fellow covered in hay next to a sheep embryo the size of a hub cap. The trio cart the embryo to Prof. Clemens' lab in an incubator/ice chest and put it in what appears to be a freezer oven.

Prof. Clemens is absolutely over the moon about this sheep embryo. Why? Because the prof has long nursed a theory that ancient Nevada was once the home to a roving band of 8-foot tall dinosaur sheep. The rest of the academic world thinks Clemens' idea is preposterous, but he has persisted nonetheless. Now that he's stumbled onto the embryo, the good doctor plans to fertilize it and grow a prehistoric sheep to prove his theory is true. Take that, Richard Leaky!

So the work begins on bringing the titled God Monster to life--and what a creature he turns out to be! Standing 8 feet tall, the God Monster looks like a cross between a sheep, a camel and Mr. Snuffleupagus from "Sesame Street". His body is covered in dirty rags or that ratty raccoon coat your Aunt Ida refuses to throw away. Or possibly he has mange. The God Monster's front legs pose a bit of a problem: one is short and the other is long and basically useless. This means the critter must walk upright on his hind legs, while swinging the useless front leg like a Thurible used in Russian Orthodox church services. Despite these mobility issues, the monster can run pretty fast, dance and knock people over with its perpetually swinging front leg.

Of course, there have been MANY ridiculous monsters roaming around the Junk Cinema land mass over the years: the carpet monster from outer space in "The Creeping Terror"; "Ro-Man" from "Robot Monster", which was a man in a gorilla suit with a deep-sea diving helmet attached; the Chicken and/or Parrot monster from "Teenage Caveman" and "Night of the Blood Beast" (both Roger Corman productions, by the way); the sweat socks fitted with plastic vampire teeth in "Robot Holocaust"; the angry, pointy-toothed giant cucumber from "It Conquered the World"; the radioactive sludge--which looked like a plate of rabid spaghetti--from "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster"; and the green slime... from "The Green Slime". However, the God Monster of Indian Flats takes the cake, in my opinion. A rabid, deformed, 8 foot tall prehistoric sheep with a taste for hot dogs covered in filthy cotton balls is something you don't see everyday. I don't know what director Fredric Hobbs was smoking when he designed this creature, but I bet it was very strong and highly illegal.

While Prof. Clemens and company grapple with their God Monster, other doings are going on around town. Mayor Charles Silverdale is a direct descendant of the man who founded Virginia City way back when. He has lovingly restored the town to its 1880's heyday and to keep things exactly the way he likes them, he has developed a vast network of flunkies to keep the townspeople in line. These include Sheriff Gordon, a fat, greasy, gross man who listens in on peoples' telephone conversations and watches them through his TV monitor. Then there is Philip Maldove, a rather fey fellow with a porn 'stache and a penchant for leather pants. It's hinted that he was in some trouble on Wall Street before he became Mayor Silverdale's fixer, but this is not explored to any degree. It's also suggested that Maldove and the mayor are getting kickbacks from the various tourist traps around town, including the aforementioned Elbow Jones and fake fortune teller Madame Alta, who advises Mariposa on her love life (she and Eddie are a thing).

"What did I do last night?!!": Eddie is horrified to wake up next to a king-sized sheep embryo.

Then there is Barnstable, a representative from "an Eastern mining interest", whose boss would like to buy the mining rights to the surrounding area that Mayor Silverdale holds in his hot little hands. Unfortunately, the Mayor isn't interested in selling to anyone--largely because he fears opening the hills to mining companies would tarnish the purity of his little fiefdom. It would also muscle in on his power and various kick-back schemes. Anxious to ensure that no Virginia City citizen sells their land and/or forks over their mining rights, the Mayor and Sheriff Gordon conjure up a scheme to discredit Mr. Barnstable that is so horrifying it's worth watching the entire movie just to see it.

The gist of their plan is to have Barnstable framed for shooting Sheriff Gordon's German Shepard dog during a wild west quick draw contest. The dog is so good at playing dead, the whole town believes the mining rep did indeed kill the pooch. So distraught is Virginia City over the dog's "death" that they hold A PACKED PUBLIC FUNERAL for the critter. Maldove, naturally, delivers the eulogy. When Barnsable attends the services and tries to make amends, everybody shuns him--and, of course, refuses to sell their land and/or mining rights to him.Then Mayor Silverdale and his fixer cook up ANOTHER fiendish plan to frame Barnstable for shooting Maldove. The mine rep is soon stuck in jail where--horror of horrors--he must watch fat, greasy sheriff  Gordon--wearing a sleeveless, sweaty T-shirt--eat a king size piece of steak smothered in ketchup. Yuck!

Meanwhile, back at Prof. Clemens' lab, the God Monster is growing by leaps and bounds. When the prof gets sleepy from a day of science stuff, he assigns Mariposa and Eddie to watch the critter. Unfortunately, our smitten kittens start making out hot'n'heavy--in fact, they are SO BUSY tonsil boxing that they fail to notice that the God Monster is giving off a heavy yellow smoke AND trying to break out of its isolation tank.

Over at the jail, Silverdale's "Volunteer Committee of Vigilance" drag Barnstable out of his cell and prepare to hang him. Like most goon squads, the "Volunteer Committee of Vigilance" is made-up of dumb jerks who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. Thus, Barnsable easily frees himself from their grasp--and is given a further assist from Madame Alta, the fake fortune teller and saloon diva, who JUST HAPPENS to be driving by in her convertible.

Barnstable and Madame Alta head over to Prof. Clemens' lab for sanctuary. Unfortunately, they've picked a bad time to visit, because holy hell has broken loose, thanks to the God Monster smashing its way out of it's isolation tank, trashing the lab in the process. Seconds later, Silverdale's men arrive, shooting guns and setting off flares, demanding that Clemens hand over Barnstable. Taking full advantage of the chaos and smoke, the monster sneaks out of the lab, attacks several "volunteers" and the escapes into the night.

Rocker Meatloaf picking up some extra work as a security guard? Nope, it's just Sheriff Gordon of Virginia City.

Next morning, search parties are formed to track the monster down. The plan is for men on horseback to surround the critter, tie him up and have Prof. Clemens administer a sedative. However, there is a major disagreement about what to do next. Prof. Clemens wants to save the God Monster for scientific research, while nasty ol' Silverdale wants to put the creature on display and charge admission. The devoted but dim witted Mariposa is horrified by Mayor Silverdale's plans; so she rips off her lab coat and screams, "We gotta save the creature!"

 Running frantically over the rocky, dusty terrain (with Eddie close at her heels), Mariposa eventually comes face to face with the desperate critter. Realizing the God Monster is hot, hungry and scared, Mariposa reaches out and tries to pet the creature. Responding to her kindness, the giant sheep begins to...purr. Then he and Mariposa begin to dance, swaying back and forth like, well, remember that scene in the Disney film "Sleeping Beauty"? Where Aurora is dancing with a "prince" made up of animals wearing a coat and boots? The scene looks like that. Unfortunately, Mariposa isn't surprised by a handsome prince springing out of nowhere, but the dim-witted Eddie, who shrieks, "Mariposa! No! He could kill you!" Then he throws a rock at the critter's nose, shattering the trust she has built with monster. After the God Monster stomps off, Mariposa scolds Eddie for being a jerk.

Meanwhile, realizing he has a public safety emergency on his hands, Mayor Silverdale tells the townspeople to stay inside their homes. Naturally, some people choose to ignore the warning. The numb-nuts include a Chevron gas station attendant fooling around with a blow torch. When the God Monster sneaks up behind the guy and whacks him with his swinging leg, the blow torch goes flying in the air. KABOOM! No more pre-pay after five! Then we cut to a group of carefree kids having a picnic. While they gaily throw food at each other, one kids chirps, "Boy, these hot dogs sure are good!" This carefree idyll is ruined when the God Monster comes charging into view, causing the kids to scream bloody murder and scatter for safety. The famished creature then scarfs down all their hot dogs and chips and doesn't even clean up his mess.

Like anyone who's had a big meal, the God Monster soon has to go potty. While he's quietly answering the call to nature beside a tree, a posse on horseback (played by the Washoe Horsemen's Association) thunders into view. Whooping and hollering reminiscent of that classic scene in "Red River", the cowboys surround the critter, hog-tie him and allow Prof. Clemens to administer a sedative. The horror appears to be over--or is it?

If you think everything I have described sounds completely nonsensical and nutty, hold on to your corn nuts. That's because director Fredric Hobbs has whipped up a final act so bat-shit crazy only the ending of "Monster a Go-Go" is comparable in sheer, idiotic lunacy.

"Can I have a little privacy please?": The God Monster is gob-smacked while relieving himself.

With the God Monster caged and covered, Mayor Silverdale calls the townspeople to the local dump for a community meeting. It's there he announces to the shocked assemblage that he has not only captured the monster, but he has decided to sell the mining and land rights of Virginia City to that "Eastern mining interest". Of course, because the mayor secretly held all those rights himself, he is the sole beneficiary of the deal. Outraged that their pro-environmental leader has brazenly switched sides--and swindled them out of potential millions-- the citizens begin screaming "You lied to us!" What's more, the folks are not mollified to learn that the God Monster will be put on display with the profits going to--guess who?--although he claims the money will go to charity.

Then Mayor Silverdale triumphantly uncovers the caged God Monster, who is giving off yellow smoke. An outraged housewife with a bad perm surges forward and shrieks, "He killed my brother!" The crowd suddenly goes berserk and begins to riot. As the mayor screams about what he plans to do with all his money, the citizens of Virginia City rush the God Monster and push his cage down a huge hill. Hundreds tumble down the steep, dusty terrain with him, throwing rocks and garbage at the monster--and each other. Somebody calls out for law and order and gun shots ring out. Because of the dust and smoke, people are shooting randomly, without regards to who they hit. One of the unfortunate casualties is Maldove. As the people of Virginia City continue their NRA Passion Play, the camera pans over to some sheep quietly grazing in near by fields. The yellow smoke given off by the God Monster drifts past them. Hmm, what could that mean? Anyway, let's all exhale because everything is over now...except for the credits...and the blame.

A movie like "God Monster of Indian Flats" can only be made by an individual who is either a genius or a crazy person. Director, writer and God Monster designer Fredric Hobbs qualifies as both.

According to an article I unearthed from the April 29, 1971 edition of Rollingstone magazine (written by Thomas Albright) Mr. Hobbs was described as a San Francisco -based artist who began his career "as a violent expressionistic painter and sculptor of contemporary Witches' Sabbaths, sacrificial rites and other offspring of 'The Sleep of Reason'". He then switched gears and "moved his art into the streets", fitting sculptures onto wheels and later cars. Fred's sculptures included "mutilated Everymen, deformed Earth Monsters and grotesque demons". Later on, Mr. Albright explained, Fred's moving sculptures morphed into "mythological monsters rising out of the Procrustean slags of Plexiglas mounted on stripped-down auto chassis, which he drove cross country while wearing an orange space suit."

I LOVE the last part of that sentence: "which he drove cross country while wearing an orange space suit." I think that not only sums up Fredric Hobbs, but his movie, too.

Unlike Gamera, the God Monster of Indian Flats is NO friend to children.

I would strongly encourage ANY serious Junk Cinema fan to read Mr. Albright's full article on Fred Hobbs--but only after you have watched "God Monster of Indian Flats" first. Then see if you agree with Albright's observation that Hobbs' film technique (which was on display in his films "Troika"  and "Roseland", the last one being a "metaphysical skin flick or philosophical f@#$ film" ) "courts comparison to Fellini in sweep and style, to Bergman in concentration and intensity, and to Truffaut in the whimsical use of plagiarism and paraphrases of old movie classics and in deft juxtaposition of moods and genres, all adding up to a kind of one-man American New Wave."

OK, Thomas, I will. But only to make you happy. (Pause.) You are wrong.

That said, "The God Monster of Indian Flats" joins "Attack of the Mushroom People" and "The Creeping Terror" in sharing the dubious distinction of never having been shown on a motion picture screen. Yet a movie this bad could not be ignored forever. Somehow, the Bad Movie Gods guided the God Monster to Something Weird Video in the 1990's, where it has resided ever since, astonishing anyone who has seen it.

Is this flick worse than Ed Wood's 1959 MESS-terpiece "Plan 9 from Outer Space", as I mentioned at the top of this article?

Part of me wants to say "yes", because this movie is so crazy and hard to follow and just down right weird. However, upon mature reflection, I believe it's more prudent to say "God Monster of Indian Flats" comes the closest in challenging "Plan 9" in the Supremacy of Cinematic Suck. I've been studying bad movies since 1979, and to come across a film that could be worse than "Plan 9" is quite a feat.

The Man and His Monster: Fredric Hobbs and one of his creepy creatures.

Thus, for writing, directing and designing one of the craziest, kookiest and most bat-shit crazy movies of all time, Fredric Hobbs, Junk Cinema salutes you!

And for coming to the aid of my mother when her coffee maker caught on fire, Tom Rials, staff member extraordinaire of Savage Memorial Presbyterian Church, this post is dedicated to you with heart-felt gratitude. Enjoy!

Author's Note: I just liked this picture.

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