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From Here to Obscurity: Revenge of Dr. X

PLEASE NOTE: The movies reviewed in From Here to Obscurity have either never been given an official VHS or DVD release, have been released on VHS but are long out of print and very hard to find, or are readily available in some form but have generally gone unnoticed by most of the general public.

Revenge of Dr. X aka The Double Garden aka Venus Flytrap aka The Devil’s Garden aka The Revenge of Doctor X

That’s a lot of aliases for a movie this obscure. Made sometime between 1967 and 1970, this flick is so obscure that the only known print of the film (that I know of) has the wrong opening credits attached to it. The title card clearly says The Revenge of Dr. X but the credits following it are for the film Mad Doctor of Blood Island. No clue why either. I also have no idea why the box art features an image of woman screaming as a gloved hand approaches her throat with a large knife. What this has to do with a movie about a mad scientist who creates a Venus Flytrap Man is anyone’s guess.

Yes, you heard me correctly. I did indeed say Venus Flytrap Man. This movie of many titles is actually a bizarro world retelling of Frankenstein about a mad scientist trying to create a plant person in order to prove that man evolved from plants. If you think that scenario sounds utterly ludicrous then let inform you now that none other than Edward D. Wood Jr. wrote the script. A movie about a mad scientist that creates a humanoid monster from carnivorous plants written by the man that gave the world Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda and directed by the guy that had previously directed The Manster and Monster From Green Hell? How could this possibly not be so bad it’s good? Oh, did I mention that the film also happens to be a US/Japanese co-production? One look at the monster should make that part clear. Only in Japan could anyone have designed a monster costume as absurd as the Venus Flytrap Man. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A burned out NASA scientist ordered to take a vacation is on his way to the airport to catch a plane to Japan for some much needed R&R when he’s forced to pull into a redneck gas station. Here he sees a Venus Flytrap plant for the very first time and is absolutely mesmerized by it. He takes one with him on his trip to Japan – with absolutely no problem getting the plant through customs I might add – and begins reading up on everything he can about the plant and botany in general.

He stays in an abandoned resort with his Japanese hostess and its gimpy gardener, who is clearly patterned after Igor. I’m amazed they didn’t just go ahead and make him a hunchback. The reason the resort is abandoned is because it’s not too far away from an active volcano and because there are constant rockslides in the area among other potential natural disasters. Despite so many imminent ways to die he decides to stay, especially when he discovers the place has a large greenhouse, perfect for his wacko experiment. Think Castle Frankenstein here, folks.

From here he grows increasingly obsessed to the point of madness with the insane notion that the Venus Flytrap is some sort of evolutionary link between human beings and plants and sets out to grow himself a potted Frankenstein. His Japanese hostess pleads with him to stop the experiments but ends up helping him instead, although she does continue to pester him to stop. There are some very subtle hints of romance between the two; so subtle, in fact, that nothing ever comes of it.

Quite a bit of time is spent with our mad scientist in the greenhouse stitching large pieces of various plants together like Dr. Frankenstein stitching his monster together from body parts. His experiment isn’t going well so this gives actor James T. Craig plenty of opportunity to ham it up with the cheesy dialogue he’s given. He slightly resembles an older Clark Gable and has an obvious but not overly thick Southern accent, so if you’ve ever wondered what it would sound like if Rhett Butler was a ranting and raving nutjob then this flick is probably as close as you’ll ever get.

After much failure he learns of another carnivorous plant that lives underwater and decides to crossbreed it with whatever he has under the tarp in the warehouse. This leads him to the beach where the filmmakers decide that since they paid good money for an underwater camera then by god we’re going to make us watch all the underwater swimming footage they can shoot. There’s like two minutes of material in this sequence that gets stretched out for seemingly forever.

I guess as a reward for our patience we’re introduced to a group of young Japanese women, some sort of local diving group, that are willing to aid him in his underwater hunt for this carnivorous undersea plant. They do so completely topless. You haven’t seen gratuitous nudity in movies until you have seen this scene. The doctor doesn’t even react in the slightest at all to their nakedness, which is either a sign of his maniacal one-track mind or possibly his latent homosexuality. I don’t know so feel free to come to your own conclusions. All I know is that he’s surrounded by a bevy of naked women at one point and he never even looks at them when speaking to them.

After collecting a specimen of this carnivorous underwater plant and splicing it all together somehow with what he’s already spliced together under the tarp in the greenhouse, it’s time to introduce the final element needed to give life to his monster – good old electricity. And before you ask, yes, it does involve raising the creature on a slab so it can be electrified by lightning during a thunderstorm.

The monster eventually comes to life, and boy what a monster it is. This has got to be one of the absolute goofiest, downright silliest looking monsters to ever grace the medium of celluloid. It’s head looks like a dreadlocked celery stalk. It’s body looks like it was forged from a giant carrot. It has Venus Flytrap hands that move like a catcher’s mitt. Its feet are also big lunky Venus Flytraps. The Venus Flytrap Man looks more like something that you’d see on a PBS kid’s show teaching children the importance of eating their vegetables than a terrifying movie monster. It also doesn’t help that the creature emits sounds almost identical to that of a wailing infant. And maybe it’s just me but the Venus Flytrap Man even appears to have the same expression on its face as Kool-Aid Man. Like I said earlier, only from Japan.

Okay, so what does the monster do you ask? Up until the last 10 minutes of the movie, not much of anything. The creature is still a potted plant, it’s feet embedded in the soil of it’s big flower pot, that requires someone to either feed it a small animal or for someone or something to just make the mistake of getting within arms reach. The doctor, a full-blown lunatic by this point, keeps yelling at it to uproot itself and begin walking around, which would be the final bit of proof he needs to prove his crazy theory. It actually does when he’s not around and finally it decides it wants out of greenhouse for good, so it emits sleeping gas (Don’t ask. No clue.) in order to render the doctor and his hostess unconscious while it goes down to the nearby village for a bite to eat. Or to be more specific, to put the Iron Claw on people’s heads. Actually, you almost never see any of the kills because the director has chosen to do them with this oddball technique where you see one of the Venus Flytrap hands reaching towards the camera right before the whole screen turns blood red for a second or two.

The ending, well, it doesn’t end exactly like Frankenstein. While there are villagers with torches and pitchforks marching in anger, the finale primarily involves the doctor, the monster, the hostess, a goat, and that volcano. Judging by how the climax was edited, it also involved a film editor who was not only blind but also suffering severe Attention Deficit Disorder and advanced Parkinson’s Disease. Incoherent is putting it mildly.

But that, like everything else about this movie, simply must be seen to be believed. Don’t get me wrong. This movie is the antithesis of good. It has no shortage of bad directing, bad dialogue, bad acting, and hammy overacting, not to mention plenty of dull lulls where you’re waiting for the story to actually progress. Plus, it’s loaded with almost as much stock footage, stock music, and excess padding as most of the movies Ed Wood himself directed. However, The Revenge of Dr. X (or whatever other title you may find it under) is simply one of those movies you need to see just so you can say you’ve seen it. Even then, you probably won’t believe you actually saw what you just did.

0 ½ out of 5

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