The Monster (aka I don't want to be born) Review

The Film


The Monster begins with Joan Collins writhing and screaming on a bed, this may not seem exceptional for a film that she made in the seventies, still less surprising when you find out that her character is an ex-stripper who puts it about. But actually, she is giving birth in a hospital whilst a gloved up and masked up Donald Pleasance rolls his eyes at the palaver of popping out this particular sprog. After arduous seconds of the theatrics from the expectant mother, Pleasance announces to his assisting nurse that the infant "doesn't want to be born" and as you would expect with most surgeons who are dreaming of that after lunch round of golf, Pleasance gets out his forceps and decides that life must be given quickly.
No sooner is the infant out of the womb, about an hour or so, than he is attacking his mother leaving her with scratches down her face with his baby talons. Luckily Pleasance is on hand to explain to cod Italian husband Gino that "This experience has upset her"(his wife). Gino is thankful for Pleasance's acute psychiatric insight and he promises to look after the distraught Lucy or at least get the housekeeper or nanny to do it. Soon baby is back home and happily biting the shrewish housekeeper as an introduction, and then our monstrous midget meets Gino's similarly accented sister, who is, wait for it, a Sister. Years of nun training and the fact of the baby's explosive diarrhoea when he sees her towering above him with a crucifix convince the good woman that something is wrong with Gino's offspring, or "bebbee" as she pronounces it. Unfortunately she can't stay as she has to go back to her lab to get lots of rabbits chain smoking, rather than stay and exorcise her diabolical nephew.
Telltale signs are soon picked up in Lucy's household that the child is not all he seems and she recalls that just before she married she had spurned the advances of an evil dwarf who had cursed her and that she had slept with club owner Tommy. Is the baby a case of the curse of shorty or the bad genes of a sleaze? When the housekeeper finds a dead rat in her cup of tea it's time to act, and the animal torturing nun sets off to convince Pleasance to take the child in for "observayyytion". Won over, the good doctor offers to pick up the sprog the next day and Gino and Lucy have a celebration shag at the news of having their offspring taken away by a stranger. A post coital Gino wanders into the garden and soon the vengeful toddler is lynching his family. With her husband missing, can Lucy be saved by the good sister's faith or the doctor's medicinal efforts?
I know that's a long synopsis but I wanted to capture the sheer lunacy at the heart of The Monster, and to show that despite its rank incompetence, bad accents, dodgy script and awful lounge music score, this film ends up being a cheesefest that is rather fun. The ludicrous premise of a homicidal toddler who is barely weeks old, is stretched beyond any sense of credulity with him hanging people from trees, decapitating others with a shovel and eventually stalking his mother with a knife. This arch nonsense is further camped up by the cast. Actors like Caroline Munro, Pleasance and Steiner are used to bad genre films, but here you get to see Eileen Atkins as the experimental nun delivering lines with all the authentically Italian content of a bottle of Ragu. Her kitsch acting and accent really liven up some awful moments from the dreadful script - "Looozy thinks the bebbee is possessed by the deaaaah-vil".

What makes it all the more amusing is how hard director Peter Sasdy and cast are trying to deliver something like The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby. Ralph Bates, unfortunately, is no John Cassavetes but he never gives up on his Parma ham, and Joan Collins will never be Ellen Burstyn even though she tries her best damsel in distress mode. None of the cast or crew can hope to rise above the plethora of unintentionally funny lines such as when Collins finishes narrating a flashback with "I can't bear to go through the story again" and Steiner's offer to put the baby in his freakshow cabaret. However hard anyone tries, The Monster finishes as a movie you will laugh at rather than laugh with.

This is well worth seeing as car crash cinema that is very nearly quite good because its so damned bad.

The Disc


This film was released by Carlton a couple of years back in a three disc set including Peter Sasdy's far superior Hands of the Ripper, and the worst Amicus film ever, The Uncanny. This new release has upped the ante in terms of menu design and cover art, going for an exploitation look that won't look too unfamiliar to those aware of other Exorcist ripoffs like Anticristo. I kinda like this low rent approach to what is after all a guilty pleasure rather than high art. The single layer disc here carries the main feature in an anamorphic transfer which seems neither cropped or stretched. The transfer is not perfect with reds bleeding, softness and a general lack of vibrancy. The contrast seems to have been boosted with dark images very black and whites rather speckly. This is a budget disc and the transfer is acceptable rather than outstanding.
There does seem to be some distortion in the sound in the high reaches of the treble and the bassier moments of the score. Dialogue is always audible and understandable, but voices do get a little muffled at times, miracles shouldn't be expected for this mono track - it is acceptable if not a beacon of clarity.

The disc comes with a fun trailer with some wonderful narration - "Oh baby, oh baby why do you cry? You didn't want to be born so you make us all die"!. The extras are completed with a picture gallery accompanied by soundtrack music which moves from image to image without the opportunity for the viewer to navigate. Some images are lobby cards and some are publicity and film stills. The disc's menu design is easily navigable with static poster art and clear options.

Summary


A guilty pleasure. A movie deserving of ridicule but worth basking in for the laughs and comic earnestness. The new disc from Network is a fair presentation and will provide an entertaining rental.