Today’s flick is the infamous monster movie musical, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies.
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies was directed and produced by Ray Dennis Steckler, who was also behind such movies as The Sexorcist, The Horny Vampire, The Mad Love Life of a Hot Vampire, and, no kidding, How to Make A Sex Movie. He also played the protagonist in The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies under a pseudonym: Cash Flagg. The credited screenplay writers for the movie were Gene Pollock (The Thrill Killers) and Robert Silliphant (The Creeping Terror, The Beach Girls and The Monster).
The cinematographer for The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies was Joseph V. Mascelli, who also shot the b-movies The Thrill Killers and Wild Guitar, and went on to direct the classic bad movie The Atomic Brain.
The film’s editor was Don Schneider, whose only other feature film editing credit was another classically terrible b-movie, Eegah.
The memorable music for The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies was done by Libby Quinn, who has no other film score composition credits, and Andre Brummer, who worked on films like Eegah, Monster From The Ocean Floor, Mudhoney, and something called Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell.
The makeup effects work on The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies was done by one Tom Scherman, who went on to do miniature and visual effects work on movies like Robot Jox, The Crater Lake Monster, and Flesh Gordon.
The plot of The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies centers around a musical carnival, where a young man is cursed into becoming a murderous zombie by the carnival’s fortune teller. This leads him to go on a killing rampage, taking out many of the teenaged attendees at the carnival.
The original title for the film was reportedly supposed to be The Incredibly Strange Creature: Or Why I Stopped Living and Became a Mixed-up Zombie, but Columbia pictures threatened a lawsuit due to the similarity of it to the full title of Dr. Strangelove, a significant hit by Stanley Kubrick that released the previous year. The director, Ray Dennis Steckler, also said that Face of Evil was an early working title.
Speaking of alternate titles, the film wound up releasing under a handful of different titles over the years: The Incredibly Mixed-Up Zombie, Diabolical Dr. Voodoo, and The Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary among them.
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies was famously featured on a season 8 episode of the popular bad movie television show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which exposed it to a much wider audience than it ever had before.
Primarily because of the film’s appearance on MST3K, it has a very negative reception on internet review aggregators: it currently has a 2.2 rating on IMDb (qualifying it for the IMDb’s Bottom 100), and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 20% (critics) and 14% (audience).
For the life of me, I don’t understand why on earth this movie had to be a musical. All of the numbers are distracting, poorly shot, horribly executed, and they drag out the plot much longer than it has any need to go. I never thought I would praise Girl in Gold Boots, but that movie looks like a professional musical production compared to this mess. The best guess that I have is that the music was the gimmick intended to get audiences into the theater, but I’m not really sure what the common population of monster movie fans and musicals was at the time to draw from.
The costuming throughout the movie is surprisingly dull given the setting of the story at a carnival. The makeup on the antagonist is way over the top, however. Personally, I think costuming and makeup needs to be an all or nothing thing: you can half-ass it or go all the way, but mixing it up makes the movie look and feel inconsistent.
The cinematography in this movie is just straight bad. There are point of view roller coaster shots that are excessively shaky to the point of causing nausea, and moments where superimposed images are placed on top of other superimposed images in an attempt to create a surreal effect. Worst of all, the musical performance sequences are just inexcusably poorly shot for something billed as a musical, staying generally out of focus and distant. My favorite cinematography goof in the movie, however, is the sharply-angled palm reading sequence, which the MST3K guys hilariously riffed without saying a word: they all just leaned dramatically in a given direction to imitate the shot.
The pacing of the plot was the real coffin nail for this movie in my opinion. It has musical numbers chained to both ankles that drag it down immensely, and the result is a film that can barely hobble through its run time. Outside of the musical performances, there are plenty of other scenes that run too long, and plenty of footage that isn’t necessary at all for the plot. I think this movie could be recut into something slightly better, but the best editor in the world could only really improve it so much. There just isn’t quite enough decent content in this flick for a full-length, quality movie.
All of that said, I do like the premise the the story. Pre-Romero zombie movies are interesting to bump into, and pull from the classic zombie lore that is mostly forgotten by cinema nowadays. This story in particular sticks to the mind control and voodoo aspects of classic zombieism, and might have been a good horror movie with a different director, writer, cast, and with 100% less musical numbers. So, it might have been ok if it were a different movie entirely.
Some people out there rave about this movie as an elite good-bad flick, but I’ve always found it immensely boring, even with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. The highlights are worth checking out (mostly the musical numbers), but I wouldn’t personally recommend sitting through the whole thing.