Sting of Death (1965)

“Look!  Jellyfish!”

“There’s more of them!”

“They’re all over!”

“They’re attacking!”

I think this must be the single most absurd dialogue sequence I’ve heard in any film.  Even if the “attacking” jellyfish didn’t look like floating bits of brightly colored junk, this would sound silly.

But when we’re talking not jellyfish, but Portuguese Man O’Wars?  Then we’re just in the realm of fantasy.  A jellyfish can at least swim, some of them reasonably well.  Get enough of them together underwater, moving in unison (as in one of the scenes in Sphere) and you might call that an attack.  But a Man O’War?  They’re just a bag of air with tentacles.  All they can do is drift, with a little help from the wind.

I really have no idea how to react to this one.  There are so many absurdities here it is hard to keep track.  We’ve got the team of Marine biologists, studying wildlife in the Florida Everglades.  We’ve got the Professor’s daughter, who arrives with her college friends in tow — and then a boatload of young locals who love to party show up not long after and dance to the music of Neil Sedaka.  As soon as we see them, we know most of them are going to end up dead.  After all, that’s the way these sorts of films usually work out.

Meanwhile, people have gone missing or been found dead with what looks like wounds caused by a giant “jellyfish,” even though everyone knows that the Portuguese Man O’War doesn’t get that big.

Now, we’ve already seen (and in the opening sequence)  that the murderer is a guy in a wetsuit with…well, tentacles,  (Now there’s something you don’t see everyday, Chauncey!), so, when the team’s handyman and general dogsbody, Egon, a mildly disfigured guy who tends to creep up on people, claims that he can make Man O’Wars grow to giant size, we do not have to work too hard to guess who is responsible.

Naturally, he has a mad scientist lab (it is even underwater!) with the usual flashing lights and bubbling stuff.  He also has a very strange way of…I’m not even sure that “disguising” himself is quite the right word.  You have to be pretty committed to your experiment to do this, that’s all I can say!

And I will note that this is perhaps the weirdest screen monster ever.

And the silliest.

Now I have to note here that the Man O’War is a colonial creature, made up of a lot of smaller, differentiated creatures which work together and are dependent on each other.  If nothing else, this would seem to make the idea of that giant version far less likely as making the individual parts bigger wouldn’t guarantee that you’d end up with a workable final creature.  Or, for that matter, one significantly bigger.

I’ll confess, with the title and the little bit of description I had, I was expecting yet another nature gone wild film.  Instead…I’m not sure what we got.  Is it a serial killer movie?  a monster movie? a mad scientist film? a teen exploitation film, complete with that new song “everyone” knows?

I’ll confess I’m reminded of one of Bela Lugosi’s serials, The Whispering Shadow, in which he proves to be a red herring and the real villain of the piece is the dumb guy who’s been going around asking people to help him with his puzzle (which is actually the controller for his science fictional secret invisibility device) throughout the whole film.  Here we have another apparently dimwitted character who turns out to be a scientific villain.

But I suppose that still doesn’t answer exactly what this film is supposed to be.

I do have to say this much for Sting of Death:  it is so strange, so wrongheaded, has so many goofy quirks and inexplicable moments, that it is never dull.  Which I suppose makes this one ideal for a midnight showing.

Although it does leave me wondering why Joel and the robots never decided to take this one on…


And check out our new Feature:

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!


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