Shriek of the Mutilated – USA, 1974 – reviews

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‘It walks. It stalks. It tears the shriek right out of your throat.’

Shriek of the Mutilated is a 1974 American horror feature film directed by Michael Findlay (Snuff) from a screenplay by producer Ed Adlum and Ed Kelleher (the team responsible for Invasion of the Blood Farmers). The film was also released as Mutilated and Scream of the Snowbeast (TV title). It stars Alan Brock, Jennifer Stock and Tawm Ellis.

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Armadillos were popular in 1974 horror movies

Four college students are fascinated with the idea of capturing a live Yeti – known popularly as The Abominable Snowman. With anthropologist Ernest Press (Alan Brock), they leave for remote Boot Island, where its sole inhabitant, Dr. Karl Werner (Tawm Ellis), has reported that the spring thaw had cut off a Yeti’s return to the mainland.

Terror greets the group when one of the students is clawed to death on the first night. The following morning his grieving girl friend (Darcy Brown) is also killed, apparently by the huge Yeti.

The others discover to their amazement that their guns cannot fell the rampaging beast. On a final hunt, Keith (Michael Harris) discovers that the terrifying roars and audible heartbeat of the Yeti are produced by an electronic sound system, and the beast is only the invention of Dr. Prell and an Indian named Laughing Cow (Morton Jacobs).

By the time he is able to return to the main house with his news, Karen (Jennifer Stock) has become the next victim and Keith realizes the island is headquarters for a cult of killers. Then the shock… [synopsis from Iver Film Services VHS sleeve, see below]

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Review:

Shriek was directed by Michael Findlay, with camerawork by his wife, Roberta. This was the same kinky couple who made a series of 60s ‘roughies’ (including Satan’s Bed with Yoko Ono) and achieved notoriety in the mid-Seventies when their Argentine shot Charles Manson cash-in The Slaughter was picked up for distribution by New York huckster Allan Shackleton and released as Snuff with a few minutes of gore footage appended at the end that purported to show an actress being really killed on camera. Of course, she didn’t get murdered but the lurid hype surrounding Snuff drew in enough jaded ghouls and accident rubberneckers to ensure it took lotsa dollars. The cause célèbre, and the ongoing myth that it created, is a story in itself…

What we have with Shriek is an attempt to exploit the 70s vogue for Bigfoot, sasquatch, or abominable snowman sightings and combine that with a surprise ending. The result is shoddy in the extreme although anyone expecting more from low budget schlock like this is probably deluding themselves anyway.

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The plot deals with a group of college students who are persuaded by their eccentric professor, Doctor Prell, to join him in his hunt to find the shaggy beast they refer to as the abominable snowman.

After trekking off in a flower power van that the Scooby-Doo team (oops, clue) would have envied, the teen investigators arrive at the wooden home of another suspicious doctor that also happens to be just near the location where the wild man/beast was last sighted. Soon, the yeti shambles into view and the students are soon being snuffed out. One even ends up tied to a tree as bait for the hairy white critter. But all is not what it seems…

Without spoiling the trick ending, anyone familiar with Ed Adlum’s aforementioned Invasion of the Blood Farmers (bloodthirsty druids, more like) and this film’s rather pointed clues (gin-sung, anyone?) will not be taken in. What marks this movie out from other Bigfoot pics is the way in which the creature is presented purely as a vehicle for violence and there are none of the mawkish attempts to wring audience sympathy. The only real surprise in Shriek is that there’s no gratuitous nudity [In August 2016, we were informed that a 92-minute version of the film that includes nude scenes, and possibly more gore, does exist and has been doing the rounds at private screenings. Hopefully, this longer edit will eventually be released publicly].

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Indeed, continuing the trend begun with the Findlay’s notorious Flesh trilogy (Touch of Her Flesh, Curse of Her Flesh, Kiss of Her Flesh), the emphasis here is purely on the nastier elements. Hence, even before we get to Bigfoot territory, there’s an unintentionally amusing subplot involving a lunatic named Spencer (apparently driven insane seven years earlier by his encounter with the snow beast) who goes on the rampage, almost killing his girlfriend with a kitchen knife.

Well, almost, because after seemingly slashing her to death the deranged loon takes a blood-soaked bath (and snooze), only for his half-dead victim to crawl into the bathroom and pop the electric toaster into the tub, with predictable shocking results!

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Unfortunately, the meagre budget obviously didn’t allow for very special effects, so gore flows in just fleeting fashion. That said, the first few seconds of the film include a brief shot of a maniacal killer – played by Michael Findlay himself – supposedly lopping off someone’s head into a swimming pool. This is ironic, given that the director had his own head accidentally removed in a fatal helicopter incident on top of New York’s Pan Am building in 1977).

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All the usual elements of bad 70s schlock cinema are present, including God-awful acting and cringe-inducing fashions and decors. Elsewhere, the non-existent budget extends to a soundtrack that’s filled with overdubbed voices, some lounge pop and classical music that was obviously bought from a music library.

Some of these classical themes are well-known pieces and when presented in conjunction with the ‘action’ onscreen, the result is inappropriately cheery or laughingly unsuited. The long-haired yeti prances about like a ballet dancer with a dodgy leg, although his attack scenes do have a certain frisson, mainly due to the use of quick cuts and animalistic noises on the soundtrack. Interestingly, the original soundtrack featured the world-famous synth-pop track “Popcorn” by Hot Butter, however, the Retromedia DVD release omitted this for copyright reasons.

Obviously, the beast’s fleeting appearances are the highlight of this generally shoddy film and a few scare scenes towards the climax, as his attacks get bolder, are surprisingly effective, albeit in a minor manner. 

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA

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More reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“… it feels like a perfect MST3K film with hokey dialog and characters, including a mute Native American man-servant named Laughing Crow who gives new meaning to the words unintentionally comical.

The dark tone stays throughout and there’s an amazing sequence early in that involves a bath, a knife, and a toaster that makes the film peak too early.” Ambush Bug, Ain’t It Cool News

” … it resembles a violent episode of Scooby-Doo in a number of ways, including the fact that the Professor’s van looks a hell of a lot like the Mystery Machine. But it isn’t entirely kitschy. Although this movie is hopelessly dated and clearly not made by a film crew with a huge budget, Shriek of the Mutilated does have a strange effectiveness. It’s quickly paced and never lets up, whether it’s a horror sequence where the students are isolated and murdered, or one of the parts where the students shout histrionic lines of dialogue at one another.” Groovy Doom

“Z-level, God-why-am-I-watching-this? atrocity does, at least, mount a crude-but-gallant attempt at a comic Grand Guignol climax — “Bon appetit!” their comrade wishes the “Finger People,” as the latter prepare to launch into the main course (i.e., the heroine).” Donald C. Willis, Horror and Science Fiction Films III, Scarecrow Press, 1984

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Shriek of the Mutilated is shot with deadpan earnestness, and it features an overly melodramatic score, both of which just make the bad monster suit appear that much more ridiculous. The dialogue is unintentionally funny too. In particular, way too much is made of the monster’s smell, his “rank, foul, odor” and “fetid aroma”. John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1970s

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” … this movie is a continual garden of stupid, stupid delights. It doesn’t live up to its title, but really, nothing could. It’s not that gory (or at least the print I have on DVD isn’t all that gory; the VHS and theatrical prints could be full of red-dyed corn syrup for all I know). The 70s fashions will make you want to set your eyes on fire to stop seeing them. The monster suit is incredibly dire and the dialogue sinks to the occasion admirably.” Tim Lehnerer, Checkpoint Telstar

” … Shriek of the Mutilated has all the other defining characteristics of the [bigfoot] genre as a whole: bad acting, atrocious dialogue, an unconvincing Yeti costume, unbelievably inept attack sequences, and a low-budget love of lurid violence for violence’s sake.” David Coleman, The Bigfoot Filmography

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 … stands in a category of must-see pieces of 70s junk. Inept in every way, from the “dinner theater” acting to the lousy monster, dated 70s fashions (Darcy Brown’s oversized spectacles make her look like Velma from “Scooby Doo”) and an Indian house servant who looks likes Ted Danson. In other words, Shriek of the Mutilated holds a fascination that fans of the me-decade’s schlock have a high appreciation for.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

Promoted at this drive-in as ‘Shriek of the Mutilators’

“It’s an awful and confusing picture with a junior high-level script. It has no sense of audience, not realising that yeti fans don’t care for cannibal Satanists (and vice versa). Yet once you realise it has nothing to do with yetis and that campy sleazy exploitation is the point, you can enjoy all the sudden ridiculous twists at its conclusion.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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” … a combination of wooden yet enthusiastically eccentric performances, an unfathomably crap Yeti and one of the most gob-smacking twist endings in the annals of seventies trash cinema ensures that Shriek of  the Mutilated stands as a lovably spirited and relentlessly amusing exercise in backyard exploitation filmmaking.” Jack Smith, Cult Movie Forums

” … it’s kind of weird. On one hand, I don’t like that a cool plot was “wasted” on such a clunky movie. On the other, it’s a riot; the best MST3k movie that they never watched. I’m so torn!” Brian W. Collins, Horror Movie a Day

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” … incorporating elements of proto-slasher cinema, social commentary, and urban legends … Its status as a legitimate part of Sasquatch cinema may be debatable because of the hoax aspects and twist ending, but its placement as a still-vital piece of grindhouse history and the Findlays’ finest work is unquestionable.” David Carter, Not Coming to a Theater Near You

“Amateurish low budgeter … and the worst acting you’ve ever seen. The real shrieks came from the mentally mutilated theater patrons who wanted their money back after exposure to this bad cheapie.” John Stanley, Creature Features

Choice dialogue: 

“Doesn’t Tom mean anymore to you than a piece of bait to hang on a hook?”

Main cast and characters:

  • Alan Brock as Dr. Ernst Prell
  • Jennifer Stock as Karen Hunter – Blood Sucking Freaks
  • Tawm Ellis as Dr. Karl Werner
  • Michael Harris as Keith Henshaw
  • Darcy Brown as Lynn Kelly
  • Jack Neubeck as Tom Nash – Invasion of the Blood Farmers
  • Tom Grail as Spencer Ste. Claire
  • Luci Brandt as April Ste. Claire
  • Ivan Agar as Laughing Crow – Behind Locked Doors
  • Marina Stefan as Party Hostess
  • Harriet McFaul as Girl at party
  • Dwight Marfield as Station Attendant
  • Jimmy Silva as Policeman
  • Warren D’Oyly-Rhind as Waiter

Filming locations:

Croton-on-Hudson and Fordham University, New York, USA

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Release:

The film was released theatrically in the United States by American Films Ltd in 1974. The video release by Lightning Video was apparently transferred from a cut TV print (?).

The film was released on DVD, mastered from a good quality print, by Retromedia Entertainment in 2003 and this now out-of-print.

In the UK, Iver Film Services (IFS) issued the film uncut on video in January 1982 with a PAL running time of 81m 10s.

Image credits: Cult Film Forums | Kennelco

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