Discount Puppet Explosion 411 – Two teams battle by reviewing awful films for fabulous prizes or horrible non-prizes.
In this episode, Team Bastards attempts to expand on their 2-0 lead and drive the final nail into Team Jawesome’s coffin. But can Team Bastard handle taunts from Team Jawesome? More importantly, can Team Bastard handle the film Devil Monster, which has more stock footage than plot? Bad dubbing, white people playing “natives”, a lazy ship captain who is mysteriously angered by drums, gentle sea creatures horribly butchered on camera, and mischaracterizations of manta rays lead us to a depressingly inevitable finale.
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Below the fold, the secret, insane history of Devil Monster…
Directed by S. Edwin Graham
Available for free on Archive.org!
This film is a historic mess tracking everything down. But I think I did it. So here is an edjumacated guestimation as to the Secret History of Devil Monster!
We start out with a film called The Great Manta, which showed up around 1935 and played to at least 1939. The movie was billed as starring “Barry Norton and a Big Native Cast”, and played primarily as a second-feature to mainstream releases, implying that the violent undersea footage and topless native women were not yet present in the film. In Britain in 1938, the film showed up as The Sea Fiend (from Coronel Pictures), which is the title the original film is now most widely known as. A Spanish-language version of the film was filmed at the same time titled El Diablo Del Mar, most notably known for the Spanish-language Dracula’s Carlos Villarias playing Jose Francisco! A review of El Diablo Del Mar shows up in the New York Times of all places, but the article is now hidden behind a pay for access wall. And I’m too cheap for that.
Things get interesting as we quote from Buried.com:
On June 29, 1945, E. M. Landres and Louis Weiss paid Russ Vincent and George Moscow the princely sum of $500 for the exclusive world-wide rights to an eight-reel feature called The Great Manta, and also tossed in the rights to an eight-reel negative and sound-track (Spanish language version of The Sea Fiend)of Diablo Del Mar. Several years earlier, Vincent and Moscow, had acquired the rights to the 1936 film The Sea Fiend and had renamed it The Great Manta. So, Weiss Brothers took three films—The Sea Fiend, The Great Manta and Diablo Del Mar—tossed in some footage from 1930’s Hell Harbor and a lot of stock footage from geography-exploitation films…and delivered Devil Monster.
Either whoever wrote that blurb or the crack researchers at the Classic Horror Film Board got something wrong, and I’ll side with the Classic Horror Film Board and say The Great Manta was first, especially since the blurb has some other smaller errors.
In addition to the above films, it looks like stock footage was also taken from 1931’s Monsters of the Sea/Monsters of the Deep (distributed by United Screen Associates)
Monsters of the Deep delivers exactly what its title promises. This 60-minute documentary/travelogue offers rare glimpses of deadly-looking deep-sea denizens, ranging from the benign (giant tunas) to the horrifying (tiger sharks). The capture of a 4000-pound “Devil Fish” serves as the climax to this thrilling cinematic underwater expedition. Excerpts from Monsters of the Deep would resurface for years in Hollywood adventure films, most notably the Tarzan series. The film was distributed on a city-by-city basis by a company with the immodest moniker of Talking Picture Epics. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
But then, the stock footage might just be widely available stock footage, as much of it pops up in other unrelated films from that period. It is also possible that distributors were outright stealing footage from each others films, some of the shenanigans in David Friedman’s book mention things like that happening. Footage is also in 1935’s Fish From Hell (a “documentary” distributed by R&R Roadshows which was curiously also rereleased in 1947). The topless native women are also in 1946’s Curse of the Ubangi.
Devil Monster was copyrighted 8/7/1946 but registered as a 1947 production in it’s 1947 wide release by Weiss & Landres release, double-billed with 1945’s The White Gorilla and spent at least a decade on the drive-in circuit. Kit Parker Films owns the print of Devil Monster, a print of El Diablo Del Mar, and six extra minutes of footage from The Great Manta.
The Classic Horror Film Board – specifically posters doctor kiss, Dr. Stinson, and John Donaldson (who is probably just finishing up his doctorate)
Buried.com – or whoever wrote that blurb as I saw it somewhere else…