Growing up in the 50’s gave me the privilege of being one the last generations of filmgoers to enjoy the Saturday afternoon double-feature matinee experience at the neighborhood theatre. These double-features were primarily low budget sci-fi/horror epics with slender threads of plot, lovely damsels in distress (Beverly Garland, Barbara Rush), square-jawed heroes (Peter Graves, Richard Carlson) and budget monsters from Mars, the grave, melted icebergs, mad scientist’s labs or atomic fallout. Well not really. The monsters were usually guys in rubber suits (Creature From The Black Lagoon, This Island Earth), or cheap trick photography (Tarantula, Attack of the 50 Ft Woman), or `Mask and Glove’ illusions (I Was A Teenage Werewolf/Frankenstein, Monster On The Campus), or, if we were really lucky, a Ray Harryhausen stop motion creation.
Needless to say this wasn’t great cinema, but what it WAS, was great fun. Were you scared? Not really. Did you have the need for everything to be fact-based and believable? Of course not! You went to be entertained, to let your imagination merge with the sounds and images and have a good time, laughing or screaming. Could anyone really take the monster from `It Conquered The World’ seriously, or wonder whether `The Creature From The Black Lagoon’ was biologically possible or if it could anatomically deflower Julie Adams? Didn’t matter. Instead, you let yourself meld into the film’s world and travel along for the ride.
Thus whether you were on the obviously and badly animated `Angry Red Planet’, or trapped with James Best on the island of dogs in make-up which were trying to pass for `The Killer Shrews’, you surrendered to the magic.
My heart weeps for the post `Star Wars’ filmgoers, these people weaned on special effects, the MTVers and video viewers who’ve had their imaginations and attention spans kidnapped and are told what to see and how to interpret it. I truly am sorry. You people missed a modern day, Grade B double feature, sci-fi/horror classic called `Anaconda’. And we hadn’t seen one this good since `Alien’.
Being an intelligent man, I realize the futility of convincing the non-believers who can’t draw from the needed background reservoir to understand, so I won’t bother preaching this film’s virtues or try to win you over by fact and argument. This, however, is what I will say………
This is a brilliant re-creation of the lost art of the 1950’s double-feature horror genre; not really a homage to, more the real thing. It’s `Creature From The Black Lagoon’, with a really cheesy computer animated snake in place of a guy in a really cheesy rubber suit. It’s a Saturday afternoon classic for people who remember and understand them. Story is great, script is great, cinematography is great, direction is great, acting is great, the women beautiful and endangered, the heroes machismo and handsome, the monster phantasmagorical, and we get a bonus surprise by one of the greatest American actors, Jon Voight, doing a magnificent over-the-top, slimy, nasty, reprehensibly heartless villain, complete with a sly wink to the audience. His performance is the key to the film. He understood the film’s intent and translated it to the screen for you. If it’s in your realm of understanding and experience, you get it and are able to partake in this little slice of cinema heaven.
In 20 years, they’ll be calling this a classic. I’m calling it one now.