Even established connoisseurs of strange little motion pictures generally regarded as "bad" can occasionally step into something they are wholly unprepared for. And that can certainly apply to anyone who decides to leap off the beaten path only to set foot into the sulphuric pile of sheep dip that is Godmonster of Indian Flats. The fourth and final feature film from recently departed artist/filmmaker (and Cornell graduate also, I might add) Fredric C. Hobbs, this bizarre 1973 offering is truly difficult to categorize, as it appears to be an environmentally-conscious retrograde science fiction/horror hybrid about an eight-foot-tall mutant sheep housed inside of a contemporary racial drama set amidst the desolate desert-bound backdrop of an historic mining town from the Old West.
Also, it's really, really weird, to boot.
Opening with an awesome look at Reno, Nevada in the early '70s, the bizarre excuse for a narrative here stars with a lonely shepherd who hits a minor jackpot at a local (and long defunct) casino, before relocating the "action" to historic Virginia City, where the poor boy is promptly hornswoggled by a group of miscreants. And it is there where we meet our official main character, a black man sent by the big bad corporation he works for to buy up as much land in the area as he can. Alas, the locals ‒ the town's racist sheriff, in particular ‒ don't take too terribly kindly to the stranger, even if he isthe hero. The already rampant level of surrealism only grows from there, after the shepherd experiences one of the least-convincing psychedelic freak-out sequences ever; a moment of sheer absurdity which results in the eponymous toxic creation being born.
Add to this equation a borderline mad scientist hellbent on keeping the benign monster alive, a sexless love interest for the shepherd in the guise of the doctor's assistant, and a corrupt politician who seems perfectly normal in the age of the Trump Administration, and you've got yourself one of the most enjoyable weird movies ever aborted. Watch your jaw drop to the floor as the poor guy hiding under that surely hot-as-hell Godmonster of Indian Flats costume drags himself around the blazing Nevada desert sun, attempting to sneak up on terrorized tweens and stupified stoners alike. Marvel at that moment where it almost connects with our heroine. Sully yourself silly as Hobbs' unique employment of the theory of editing takes place before you in an ending that truly defies explanation.
Then again, the whole movie defies explanation. But that's what makes it work: the fact that it fails so darn well to pull the wool over your eyes.
Alas, for reasons which should appear to be perfectly clear by now, Godmonster of Indian Flats never had a chance to pique the curiosity of the very sort of drive-in audience it was ‒ in all likelihood ‒ created for. Instead, Hobbs' ultimate masterpiece sat unreleased for over 20 years, before the only known 35mm print of the film wound up in the lap of Something Weird Video (SWV) founder Mike Vraney, who gleefully released it to VHS through his famous mail-order outlet as one of Frank Henenlotter's "Sexy Shockers from the Vaults". Granted, the world still wasn't ready for whatever is going on within the frames of this highly surreal, jaw-dropping experience, but that didn't stop the film from becoming a bona fide cult classic in the meantime, culminating in an illustrious SWV Special Edition DVD in the early 2000s; a release we all imagined could not be outdone.
We were about that wrong, of course. For the devoted (if deranged) folks at the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) have once more raided Something Weird's one-of-a-kind library to bring us an all-new 4K scan of the aforementioned surviving 35mm print of this enjoyable atrocity. Naturally, one can expect a good deal of damage and debris present in the transfer, given the rarity of the title and all. Nevertheless, the end result makes for a thoroughly blissful grindhouse experience, and the MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode manages to bring out more than a few finer details when compared to its SD-DVD predecessor. Aurally, AGFA/SWV's revival of Godmonster of Indian Flats features a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack (replete with all of the classic horror/sci-fi movie stock music). Amazingly enough, optional English subtitles are included.
But even better than the wonderfully hideous feature film itself here are the amazing extras. First off is an unbelievably puerile short about UFOs from the mid '60s entitled Strange Sightings. Though the title card is not present, its very cheapo credit sequence (and you'll see what I mean) is, and it is there where a few of you may notice a relatively minor name from the annals of bad movie history: Merle S. Gould. Yes, the man who brought us The Dead Talk Back made a color short about UFO nuts ‒ and it's every bit as unbelievable as you'd expect, complete with very questionable "eyewitnesses" who squirm with every laughable story they tell. (If this short doesn't get picked up by Mystery Science Theater 3000 or RiffTrax soon, it'd be a downright cryin' shame.)
Following the phony educational short is a real one. As '70s as could be, the aptly-titled School Bus Fires mansplains proper procedures to the world's then-mostly female class of bus drivers, tickling viewers' funny bones all the way with its dramatic reenactments of potential disasters. Speaking of disasters, the next selection on this disc is White Gorilla, a condensed 8mm variation of a really bad jungle/ape exploitation flick from the mid '40s. An assortment of trailers for other ‒ mostly Bigfoot/Yeti-themed ‒ monster movies includes Creature from Black Lake, Grizzly, The Mysterious Monsters (which I had the pleasure of reviewing here in the past), South of Hell Mountain and one of my all-time personal favorites, Jerry Warren's Man Beast!
The Bigfoot vibe revved up from the trailers, we find ourselves at the final extra on AGFA/SWV's Godmonster of Indian Flats: a bonus movie! But this is no ordinary flick, kids. On the contrary, this is one of the many infamous exploitative schlockumentaries they cranked out during the '70s focusing on unexplained (and unfounded) cryptozoological phenomenon. That said, Ivan Marx's The Legend of Bigfoot (1976) takes a vastly different approach to the subject, resulting in a strangely "serious" documentary about the elusive Sasquatch. Plus, if you watch it after viewing Godmonster of Indian Flats, it may just seem even better! In all honesty, however, The Legend of Bigfoot is one of the "better" Bigfoot documentaries made, and has been scanned in 2K from a widescreen 35mm print for this release.
While the promise of a rampaging mutant sheep, sketchy UFO specialists, fuzzy footage of sasquatch inaction and out of control school bus fires may not seem like much on the surface, believe me: the surrealism factor alone here is worth the price of admission. Needless to say, Godmonster of Indian Flats is a must-have for classic cult movie enthusiasts and anyone who likes to regularly challenge their own sanity, and this dynamic AGFA/SWV release will surely enable you to do both.