Evil Spawn (1987) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Evil Spawn was that guy who teamed up with Evil Burdette to steal the 1957 World Series from our beloved Yankees. 

Or maybe it's another one of those grade-z horror movies masterminded by Fred Olen Ray, and issued to DVD under the aegis of his "Night Owl Theater" format.

I have to give a tip of the hat to Fred. The movie stinks, as you might imagine, and if I rented a DVD just to watch a stinkin' movie, I wouldn't consider it a good use of my time or money. But the total package on this DVD is worth a watch:
  • There is a brief bonus feature filled with behind-the-scene shots.
  • There are some photographs from the first version of this film, from which all the footage has been lost. Fred Olen Ray himself directed a few scenes at the beginning of production, but the special effects guys were changed, Ray left the direction to someone else, and the only evidence of the first version are the photos shown here, from a scene in which Pamela Gilbert was killed by an earlier version of the monster.
  • There is a mini-featurette explaining how the unrelated scenes with John Carradine (filmed for another movie!) were worked into the plot.
  • There is the Night Owl Theater intro for this movie, and bloopers from same.

Take those elements, stir in a handsome helping of nudity in the film, a little more in the bonus features, and you have an interesting look at how a grade-z movie gets made, as well as a titillating amount of flesh. 


Bobby Bresee shows her breasts and side views of the rest of her.

Pamela Gilbert is stark naked in a skinny dipping scene followed by her murder by the monster. She is then naked again in the special features - the same scene with an earlier version of the monster.

Be sure to watch the trailer, which shows the full-frame version of Gilbert's nude scene, which shows her pubic hair after she leaves the pool, just before the monster arrives. The bottom half of her body is cut off by the letterboxed widescreen version.

Leslie Eve dances in transparent underwear.

Various unidentified women are exposed in the special features.

Given all that background, I enjoyed watching the movie a lot more. Perhaps I can explain by telling you the plot.

The basic premise is that an aging movie queen takes some dangerous injections in order to restore her youth, with unfortunate consequences. Layered on that is the horror layer, because the injections do more than deform her. They turn her into some kind of insect creature, because the developer of the drug was a doctor who went insane (or something). The final layer is S/F. The doctor got his amazing formula, the serum capable of restoring youth and turning one into an insect monster, by using some microbes from outer space or something. I don't know exactly what was up with that layer, but the beginning of the film has some verbal slides which warn us against bringing back microbes from space and the film portrays some space ships and planets.

Now you're probably wondering why they needed those extra layers. Hell, couldn't you make a decent exploitation film on the premise of an aging movie queen so desperate for youth that she risks all on experimental drugs which eventually turn her into a monster? In fact, couldn't you actually make this a good script with important things to say, ala Sunset Boulevard with a spin? Yes. Of course, this isn't a Cronenberg film and they didn't want to say important things about how modern medical science turns us into dependent monsters, but the producer could have saved money without all the bug-monster effects, so why did they expand the concept? That had me going until I saw the Carradine footage in the special features, and then I realized that they needed something to tie together their basic plot with the Carradine lines, so they got wildly inventive. For marketing reasons, they wanted to be able to list Carradine in the cast, just as Ed Wood wanted to be able to list Lugosi in Plan 9 and other films, so they fit his lines in somehow, dammit!

It is hilarious to watch the trailer after you've seen the film. They show more space footage in the trailer than is actually in the film (no kidding!), and then the words appear: "John Carradine in Evil Spawn". (Carradine is in one brief scene at the beginning of the film.)

Fred Olen Ray was the first of three directors on this film, and I don't think that they actually used any of his footage except the generic Carradine conversation. The final cut was assembled by Kenneth J. Hall, who directed Dr Alien and Nightmare Sisters. If you saw those, this is about at the same level of sophistication, although it takes itself more seriously than Dr Alien. 

This film didn't produce any actors who are likely to take work from Kenneth Branagh, the F/X are laughable, the sound effects aren't co-ordinated right and you won't see any slick production values. In fact, the whole silly mess is narrated - by somebody who's "writing a book about the incident". It's just a grade-z film with a good amount of flesh from some attractive women, but when you see it in the full context, and with all the behind-the-scenes material, it is an excellent look at how and why these films end up the way they do. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterboxed, 1.85:1. They claim it is newly remastered from a neg, but the image quality is still fuzzy, out of focus, and undercontrasted.

  • see the main commentary for a description of the extras

Tuna's comments in yellow: 

Evil Spawn (1987) is a Fred Olen Ray production written and directed by Kenneth J. Hall in his freshman effort. Kenneth came to Hollywood about 10 years too late, as he would have been perfect in exploitation. He loves making horror films, and loves using naked women in doing so. Evil Spawn is no exception. An aging actress starts taking an elixir to reverse the aging  process, and it turns her into a fly monster from time to time. The film was written tongue firmly in cheek, and has some real corn, such as an early scene where a monster tears a kid's arm off at the shoulder, then tries to beat his girlfriend to death with the bloody stump.

The DVD transfer is the pits. While it claims to be re-mastered from  the original camera negative, it looks more like a VHS tape. Many scenes are way over-saturated, some under-saturated, and all are grainy. The beginning is disjointed, and many of the performances are way over the top, but a nude swimming pool scene is top notch. Everyone hates this film, but,  for a low budget horror spoof, it has plenty of bad movie appeal, and is not that bad for a first effort on nearly a zero budget (Hall got $2,000.00 for writing and directing). I will give it a C-, mostly due to it's appeal in the get drunk and goof on it category, and because of the breasts. 

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.4 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, the DVD package is a C+ based on some interesting genre exposition and the unused footage. The film itself .... well, it's pretty darned bad. Let's say a C- as an exploitation film (Tuna agrees), or an E as a horror/SF film.

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