director Ray Dennis Steckler
Almost invariably, people are drawn to the movie The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? via title alone. Okay, the poster is pretty awesome too. And between it and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966), Ray Dennis Steckler had easily made a name for himself in the annals of strange films, though also almost as invariably is the reaction to the film itself which is typically some level of disappointment.
But really, is there any way a film could live up to the title The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? ?
I mean that seriously.
Interestingly, the film is shot at the very fabulous-looking The Pike amusement park in Long Beach, CA. A lot of these low-budget horror wonders loved the amusement parks and the sideshow attractions therein. It brought to mind Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1969), which I had watched just recently. It’s sort of an antecedent, including even some extraneous show numbers amid its cheapo horror weirdness.
But really, the film’s connection shows up on the dressing room wall of one of the dancers. It’s a poster for Wild Guitar (1962), Steckler’s directorial debut, working with father/son production/star team Arch Hall, Sr. and Arch Hall, Jr. who had also brought out Eegah (1962), which had featured a minor cameo by Steckler. These were not circumstantial influences but direct ones.
Steckler’s film is shot on just about everything, except song and dance numbers that are totally filler. The film stars Steckler as a guy who falls for a girl from the sideshow, only to get hypnotized into acting out murderous deeds for her evil sister. And these “Incredibly Strange Creatures”, well, they only get loosed at the end to kill their tormentors and others. They are just disfigured hypnotics transformed by acid attacks by the evil lady.
Steckler has a dream sequence that seems key to understanding the film. It’s a dance number if you really boil it down. Some of the moves he throws in that sequence seem to indicate a real passion for dance. He turns out to be some poor kid, led astray by the beauty and allure of showbiz, brought down by its evil heart.
It may be disappointing, but it’s hardly joyless. It’s a remarkably personal film, I would say, earnest although cheap and badly-made. Got to also love his buddy, Harold (played by “Atlas King”) who has a very hard to discern accent and a pretty awesome pompadour.