The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is a 1964 American monster movie written, produced and directed by Ray Dennis Steckler, who also starred, billed under the pseudonym “Cash Flagg”. Produced on a $38,000 budget, much of it takes place at The Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California. The film was billed as the first “monster musical”, beating The Horror of Party Beach by a mere month in release date. The film was apparently to be titled The Incredibly Strange Creatures, or Why I Stopped Living and Became a Mixed-up Zombie, but was changed in response to Columbia Pictures’ threat of a lawsuit over the name’s similarity to Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, which was under production at the time.
Much of the movie was filmed in an old, long-empty Masonic temple in Glendale, California, owned by actor Rock Hudson. The nine-story building was a series of makeshift “sound stages” stacked floor after floor, some big enough to create the midway scenes indoors. This was the studio used that year for production of The Creeping Terror, another low-quality monster movie.
The film was originally released by Fairway-International Pictures, Arch Hall, Sr.’s studio, who put it on a lower half of a double bill with one of his own pictures. Dissatisfied, Steckler bought the distribution rights back from Hall, purchased the rights to the Coleman Francis picture, The Beast of Yucca Flats and roadshowed the picture across the US. In order to get repeat customers, Steckler re-titled the film numerous times, with monickers such as The Incredibly Mixed-Up Zombie, Diabolical Doctor Voodoo and The Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary.
Jerry (Steckler as “Flagg”), his girlfriend Angela (Sharon Walsh), and his buddy Harold (Atlas King) head out for a day at the carnival. In one venue, a dance number is performed by Marge (Carolyn Brandt, Steckler’s wife at the time), an alcoholic who drinks before and between shows, and her partner, Bill Ward, for a small audience. There Jerry sees stripper Carmelita (Erina Enyo) who hypnotizes him with her icy stare and he is compelled to see her act. Carmelita is the young sister of powerful fortune-teller Estrella (Brett O’Hara), and Estrella turns Jerry into a zombie by hypnotizing him with a spiraling wheel. He then goes on a rampage, killing Marge and fatally wounding Bill. Later, Jerry attempts to strangle his girlfriend Angela as well. It develops that Estrella, with her henchman Ortega (Jack Brady), has been busy turning various patrons into zombies, apparently by throwing acid on their faces…
“… this flick doesn’t just rebel against, or even disregard, standards of taste and art. In the universe inhabited by The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, such things as standards and responsibility have never been heard of. It is this lunar purity which largely imparts to the film its classic stature. Like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and a very few others, it will remain as an artifact in years to come to which scholars and searchers for truth can turn and say, “This was trash! ” Lester Bangs, In Greil Marcus. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (Random House, 1987)
“As a film, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is too boring for even unintentional laugh potential. Ray Dennis Steckler directs seemingly without involvement. Almost half the running time is taken up by the monotonous rock‘n’roll numbers, although these are made near incoherent by the shoddy recording. (If this were a film made in the 1980s or 90s, you would regard the endless songs as a cynical marketing excuse to sell a soundtrack album, but that was not the case back then). Director Ray Dennis Steckler also plays the hero under the name Cash Flagg and manages to give an incredible geeky performance – he is a gangly beanpole, like a Pee Wee Herman played straight.” Richard Scheib, Moria
“With a film so deliriously absurd and hard to describe in plain English, it’s easiest to entice the uninitiated to pick up this flick through Steckler’s advertising technique: ‘SEE a bizarre dream sequence with screaming, laughing showgirls, ballet dance moves, swirling opticals! SEE Ray Dennis Steckler, aka Cash Flagg, dressed like the Unabomber stab a dancing couple to death on-stage! SEE musical numbers which have nothing to do with the actual film! HEAR a Brenda Lee-wannabe crooning “It Hurts” and “Shook Out of Shape”! SEE the ugliest hunchback ever captured on film! SEE the Hypno-Wheel and its disastrous results! SEE the worst stand-up comedy routine ever! SEE the Mixed-Up Zombies attack their mistress Brett O’Hara, famous look-alike and stand-in for Hollywood legend Susan Hayward! SEE a goofy beach chase! SEE endless footage of the carnival to bring back that good old feeling of nostalgia! SEE swirling camerawork by Laszlo Kovacs, Vilmos Zsigmond and Joseph Mascelli! HEAR hip beatnik dialogue! FEEL the nausea induced by yet another…and another…and another musical number! LEARN the “Zombie Stomp”!’ In other words, every cult/drive-in/exploitation/kooky film fan should have a copy of this on their shelf pronto!” Casey Scott, DVD-Drive-In
“It’s an incredibly bad movie made worse by the many slow patches and the muffled sound, but the film’s lovely visuals, shot by no less than Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider), shine through (even if Media Blasters didn’t have the time or the money to remove print scratches and other impurities). And it’s an absolute must-see from the annals of legendary bad movies.” Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
We are most grateful to Wrong Side of the Art! for some wonderful images above