The Mutations (1974)

THE MUTATIONS (1974)
Article 2074 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-18-2006
Posting Date: 4-17-2007
Directed by Jack Cardiff
Featuring Donald Pleasence, Tom Baker, Brad Harris

A scientist experiments with crossing animal and plant life on human beings; he dumps his failures into a freak show, one of whose members (a sufferer from acromegaly) he enlists as a henchman by promising him he will cure him of his deformity.

Perhaps the oddest thing about this cross between FREAKS and any number of mad scientist movies (for some reason, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE came to mind while watching this) is that it seems somewhat out of its time for the year it was made; most horror movies of the mid seventies were more interested in witchcraft and demonic possession, and an old-fashioned monster movie (which this primarily is) was an anomaly. It borrows heavily from FREAKS for the subplot about the freak show, and, like that movie, it uses real freaks for most of the movie’s freaks; the main exceptions are the monsters produced by the scientist, and the acromegalic Lynch (played by “Doctor Who’s”‘ Tom Baker, wearing a costume that looks actually fairly close to the one he wore in the series). Somehow, I think it’s rather interesting that the freak who rejects the fellowship of his comrades is the one played by an actor in make-up (it looks somewhat similar to that used by John Hurt in THE ELEPHANT MAN) rather than a true-life freak. The movie manages to work up a decent amount of pathos for the freaks, though much of it is due to the its borrowings from FREAKS, though the scene where Lynch seeks out a prostitute and has to pay her extra to get her to tell him she loves him is original to this one. The mad scientist plot is standard, but the movie benefits from an interesting cast; outside of the aforementioned Baker, the movie also features Donald Pleasence as the scientist (who lovingly strokes his rabbits before feeding them to a hokey carnivorous plant with a really big chin), sword-and-sandal star Brad Harris, Norwegian bombshell Julie Ege, and the great Michael Dunn, who leads the freaks but is bullied and intimated by Lynch; he was a great actor, and his facial expressions are sometimes heartbreaking. This would be one of his last roles.

 

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