It’s one of those Eighties things.
Here we have a threadbare, low-budget Eighties creature feature, but it has Martin Landau, Jose Ferrer and, of all unimaginable things, Ruth Buzzi.
The same film today would probably star such notables as Eric Roberts or Dean Cain, who are best know for making these sorts of films.
The Being has somewhat of a cult reputation, although you have to remember that a large number of cheap science fiction or horror films from the era have the same reputation.
Let’s face it: there weren’t a lot of science fiction films around at the time. Hollywood didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for science fiction, even if they were still making an occasional film — and the few that made it to the theaters were mostly from Italy, Charles Band’s Empire Films, or Roger Corman. And SyFy (under whatever name) wasn’t churning out a new “original” every week.
So a minor (and let’s be honest, second rate) film could get more attention than it would today
And probably more than it deserves.
So we have people disappearing and dying in messy ways. The local cop (played by the film’s producer, Bill Osco) is investigating, although we know it has nothing whatsoever to do with the town’s nuclear waste dump.
We know this because a genius scientist (Martin Landau) keeps telling us that nuclear waste is a good thing and actually has some beneficial effects.
Why, we should put it in all our water!
We don’t get to see much of the creature, as it seems to spend most of its time hiding in the trunk of the nearest automobile. This is probably for the best as the creature definitely belongs to the post-Alien “Who cares what it looks like, as long as we have enough KY Jelly?” school of movie monsters.
And, yes, they needed a lot of it.
Other than that magic word, “radiation”, we never learn much about the monster. Some people believe that the creature is actually the little kid everyone’s looking for, although you’re not going to find any direct proof of this in the film. I’ll admit I don’t think so, but then, there’s no evidence to prove that it isn’t, so you’re on you own with this one.
There is a bit of gore and a few fights with the beast. However, these just highlight the fact that the monster’s jaws really weren’t designed for chomping into things.
You have to give first time director Jackie Kong some major points on this one, though: she took Bill Osco’s film course so she could show him her story outline and script, and managed to spin that small opportunity into a minor filmmaking career.
It does leave you thinking Bill must have been desperate if he hired a girl from his film class to direct his next movie. Although he did eventually marry her.
There is a sort of averageness to The Being which it rarely overcomes. Martin Landau was always good, even in his “B” moments, but he’s badly underused for most of the film. Jose Ferrer has just the right degree of smug superiority as the venal Mayor, while Ruth isn’t around long enough to be too annoying.
There are even some sneaky little bits of humor here and there, most of them intended. Perhaps the best of these comes when the creature attacks at a Drive In showing a movie with a naked girl being attacked by a horrible creature. When the real beast drags someone out of his car, the only witness (who is probably stoned) thinks it was some joker in a monster mask!
Then there are the end credits, which give us an absurd account of what happens next to the surviving characters.
But The Being rarely manages to be so clever.
And perhaps that sums this one up: a few good bits but in the end it’s just…average. And ultimately it only offers us one magic word that sums up the whole story:
But then I guess some filmmakers just never noticed that the Fifties were finally over….