SEPTEMBER 5, 2008
Sometimes, you just need to watch a bad monster movie from the 60s. There’s nothing particularly good about Night Fright; it’s slow, badly photographed, padded beyond any reasonable measure... yet that’s all part of the charm of the damn thing. Had it actually been good, it would probably bore me, because I would have seen all of the movies that had ripped it off in the 40 years or so following its release. Instead, it works as a relic of a time long since past: when all you needed for a monster movie was any sort of suit, a down on his luck actor (in this case, John Agar), and a few bland kids.
The bland kids spend roughly half the movie dancing around in the dark (it seems shooting day for night wasn’t an option for director James A. Sullivan). One girl’s ass in particular appears in the film more than the monster ever does. Of course, there is some inner-group turmoil (two guys fighting over the same girl), leading to some great dialogue like “This is our private blast! If you don’t dig it, split!” and more badly photographed action, plus some cops wandering around, people making phone calls... just about anything Sullivan and writer Russ Marker could think of to avoid having the damn monster appear. Again though, this is what made it fun to watch. It also kind of reminded me of Giant Gila Monster at times, except Sullivan and Marker failed to devote any significant amount of screen time to the finer details of car repair.
There’s also some strange editing going on, like the fact that the opening credits don’t appear until the movie is about 10 or 11 minutes into the narrative. There’s also a great bit when a guy is talking about himself (providing “characterization”) and he says “Sometimes when I’m alone I-“ and then the film cuts to something else. But it’s not the usual Mill Creek “Oh we used a film print we found in the garbage” type of bad splice edit, it seems completely intentional. The editor simply realized no one gave a shit about what the guy did when he was alone and tried to get the film to move along. Of course, had it cut to the monster or something, it would work, but it just cuts to other people doing not much of anything. Sullivan must have been a protégé of the Night Fright’s editor (Arthur Sullivan – relation to James unknown but pretty goddamn likely), since he went on to edit the incomprehensible Manos.
As for the monster, I’m not sure. If there’s ever a shot in the movie where he could be seen clearly, I missed it. Here is one of the better shots:
But most just look like this:
Yeah, I don’t know where he is in there either. I could hear him growling so I assume he is in the scene, but it might have just been Agar muttering to himself.
One thing I loved is the end credits. Not because it was finally over, but because they are picture credits, accompanied by some rousing Bonanza style score. I always liked those, and it’s a shame so few films use them anymore (I think the Scream films are the most prominent “recent” example). They also follow one of the silliest closing lines in movie history – “I’ll buy you all of the uniforms you want!”
This one never showed up on MST3k to the best of my knowledge, which is kind of strange. It’s the perfect type of movie for them, and a good length too (75 minutes). Plus they always had fun with Agar’s films, even some pretty decent ones like Revenge of the Creature. A missed opportunity, to be sure.
What say you?