Thursday, May 1, 2014

Monster Team-up Reflection #13: Monster Brawl

When watching Jesse Cook's "Monster Brawl", I couldn't help but think of Stephen Apostolof/Ed Wood's "Orgy of the Dead". If  you're an exploitation film fan, you'll surely remember that one: a young couple ends up in a cemetery where Criswell and his Vampira-like companion (accompanied by a mummy and werewolf) force near-naked women to perform long, sultry dances, as an implied means of tongue-in-cheek punishment.

"Monster Brawl" structurally reflects the same basic simplicity, but with the emphasis on monster wrestling matches, much along the lines of MTV's claymation, "Celebrity Death Match".

Two fetching, scantily clad women (in the "Orgy" vein, though a trifle more attired) join Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart to assist a Cosell-styled announcer (Dave Foley) and a former pro-wrestler (Art Hindle) to relay the grisly details, sprinkled by mystical interjections from Lance Henriksen's commanding, disembodied voice. The proceedings are apparently televised, though without an immediate audience present for safety reasons, since the monsters might prove too dangerous if they were to leap into the seats: a compassionate nod by a self-proclaimed geek (Jason Deline), who in an interview with Jimmy Hart, also explains how he ingeniously organized the fantastic event.

Unfortunately, there's not much logic to how the monsters are teamed, particularly in weight class. For example, it seems most unlikely that the seemingly frail Witch Bitch (the otherwise alluring wrestler, Courtney Rush,) would be anything but a feather-weight and yet she's pitted against a considerably larger, male opponent, Cyclops (Jason David Brown), despite ample encouragement from her promoter "troll" (Chris Rutte) that she can easily win.

In addition to Cyclops and Witch Bitch, we're treated to the Mummy (RJ Skinner) against Lady Vampire (Kelly Couture); the Werewolf (again Skinner) against Swamp Gut (again Brown); Frankenstein's Monster (Robert Maillet: WWE's Kurrgan), joined by his paternal mad scientist, Dr. Igoria (Ari Millen) against Zombie Man (Rico Montana), managed by the towering Colonel Crookshanks (legendary Kevin Nash). Ultimately, Frankenstein and Werewolf go at it, in what develops into the most energetically vicious "Frank Meets Wolf" melee ever filmed.

Indeed, "Monster Brawl" isn't heavy on plot, but unlike similar endeavors, this one doesn't drag, mostly because the narrative actually spurs the momentum, despite the lack of crowd cheering or musical intros.

To further seal our interest, we're offered background interludes on the opponents, some playing in the standard style (Frankenstein, Werewolf and Lady Vamp), with Swamp Gut's story a cross between the "Boggy Creek" legend and Man-thing/Swamp Thing mythology. Zombie Man stems exclusively from George Romero/John Russo lore and is even exported from Pittsburgh for the fight. Cyclops, on the other hand, is perhaps the most intriguing, if not baffling entity, with a "cursed" twist characterizing his genesis, while Witch Bitch initially comes across as sympathetic due to the persecution she faces from town folk. In the end, though, Frankenstein victoriously steals the show, perhaps due to his imposing stature and quirky, nuanced gestures.

Have fun with this one. It's really not supposed to inspire much else, but like the old Apostolof/Wood concoction, it more than delivers the appropriate, exploitative slam!

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