327. GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (1973)

“Once upon a time, director FREDRIC HOBBS made a sex film called Roseland that turned out to be one of the weirdest, wackiest, oddballest sex films ever made. This time he’s made a monster movie called Godmonster of Indian Flats that, no surprise, is one of the weirdest, wackiest, oddballest monster movies ever made.”–“Something Weird” ad copy for Godmonster of Indian Flats

DIRECTED BY: Fredric Hobbs

FEATURING: , Christopher Brooks, E. Kerrigan Prescott, Steven Kent Browne, Karen Ingenthron

PLOT: When a cowboy is cheated out of his casino winnings by the rough crowd at the local saloon, he drunkenly falls asleep in a nearby stable, where he wakes up next to a strange mutant sheep embryo. A scientist comes across the pair and transports them back to his cavern laboratory, where he attempts to grow the sheep to full size in an effort to exploit its size and strength for good—or evil. Meanwhile, a ruthless land baron schemes to keep his tight grip on his town, using his power and wiles to shut down the machinations of speculators from back east, particularly the credulous representative sent to acquire the property.

Still from The Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)


BACKGROUND:

  • Auteur Fredric Hobbs is a respected artist and sculptor, with work in the permanent collection of the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco. He proposed a school of thought called ART ECO, which combines fine art with environmentally conscious living.
  • Hobbs released two films in 1973. The other, Alabama’s Ghost, has been described as a “magic/vampire/voodoo/Nazi/musical blaxploitation tale”. His X-rated musical comedy Roseland from 1971 has never been released on DVD and is hard to find even on VHS, while his first experimental film, 1969’s Troika, is now little more than a lonely IMDB entry. He never made another film after Godmonster.
  • Godmonster is set in and around Virginia City, Nevada, a historic town where Samuel Clemens famously introduced his pen name, Mark Twain. Today, it serves primarily as a tourist district, featuring re-creations of an Old West town, which Hobbs incorporated into the film.
  • icon Erica Gavin has a brief appearance as a bar girl. She’s hard to spot, although she has helpfully posted the first six minutes of the film online to help narrow the search. (Stuart Lancaster was also a Meyer regular.)
  • Ingenue Karen Ingenthron is Hollywood royalty, the granddaughter of The Munsters’ Grandpa Al Lewis.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: A bunch of apple-cheeked youngsters enjoying an all-American picnic under the midday sun, blissfully unaware of the mutated, woolly, camel-faced abomination lumbering toward them.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Fake funeral for a furry friend; Mariposa dances with mutton; riot at the old dump

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRDGodmonster of Indian Flats has no idea what it’s doing, and it does so with tremendous confidence, flair, and reckless abandon. Cross-breeding two radically different notions—a blatantly silly monster movie and what is either an angry screed against or a secret manifesto for fascist leadership—results in scenes that consistently blow the mind, culminating in a finale that is justly remembered for being outrageously outré.


Something Weird trailer for Godmonster of Indian Flats

COMMENTS: Like the very best of truly bad movies, Godmonster is a whole lot of incompetence with a thick, nougat-y filmmaker’s vision in the center. Producer-writer-director Hobbs has something to say, and while it’s not entirely clear what that something is, in part because of the terrible editing, unnatural dialogue, tonally flawed music cues, etc., his sincerity in saying it is self-evident and it is real.
For example, there is our monster, presented without irony or shame: an overgrown mutant sheep. Yes, daring to go where only Night of the Lepus would follow, this movie posits that the creature you count in an effort to get to sleep could grow to dangerous proportions and threaten the countryside. And Hobbs goes all-in on his terrifying wool beast: cladding what is so obviously a man inside a patchy costume that resembles ALF crossed with a Skeksis, filming it in broad daylight, and then letting it casually saunter into town. A monster-movie parody could not have done better than Hobbs does earnestly.

Now, imagine if you will that you can extract the monster plotline entirely. It’s tricky, because all the tropes are out in force, but just try and take all that away. What you’re left with is its own strange little film about a real estate despot. Hobbs lavishes copious amounts of screen time on the efforts of Mayor Silverdale, a Nevada Napoleon who is attempting to consolidate his power over a very small tourist trap. He is so thoroughly opposed to the overtures from big-city emissary Barnstable that he schemes to discredit and then to dispatch the guileless outsider. This escalating series of double-crosses and dangerous pranks culminates in the deeply uncomfortable sight of the lone black actor pursued by an angry mob bearing a noose, a set of optics the film seems incapable of addressing.

Along the way, Hobbs commits utterly to all of his impulses. It would have been enough, for example, for the town dictator to hatch a devious scheme to convince a man that he has accidentally killed a dog; Godmonster gives us the entire funeral, complete with weeping crowds, a bitter officiant, and even the hoodwinked “assassin” attending in morning dress and top hat. It would have been enough for the scientist to insist in a flood of technobabble that the monster he’s growing needs constant attention; the very next scene shows his assistant and her ranch hand paramour engaged in heavy petting mere inches from the embryonic terror. It would have been enough for someone to speak forebodingly of the dark times to come; an actual, full-fledged fortune teller gets the task here, in a brain-shattering scene in which the dim-bulb assistant, ostensibly a woman of science, pays a visit:

MARIPOSA: What do you see this time, Madame Alta?

MADAME ALTA: I see a great machine. It is a machine of science, a machine of death. You’re sowing the seeds of your own destruction, my child. Strong psychic configurations hover over your every action. These mountains hold danger for you. Even as I speak, the ground trembles with evil. I can feel the vibrations here! They come from deep within the center of Mother Earth, through underground caverns. .

MARIPOSA: I feel no danger, Madame Alta. Psychic phenomenon is an extension of natural law. A science, not superstition.

MADAME ALTA: You have visited my grandmother, the miner’s seeress. She lies in a silver-lined casket at the graveyard which looks out toward Sugar Loaf Mountain. She has seen you there, making love to a boy.

MARIPOSA: Hey, how did you know that? No one was there that afternoon!

You get all the illogic one expects from a Z-grade horror film, but somehow plussed. Like a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker parody, Hobbs always seems to be going for the zaniest-possible next step. Only he’s quite earnest about the whole thing.

But the true ticket-puncher for Godmonster’s weirdness is the final scene, in which Silverdale devolves into an unhinged rant that identifies him as the real title character. As the crowds finally clue in to the true nature of the overtly tyrannical dictator of this Podunk metropolis, he unleashes his ultimate villainy, threatening everyone and shrieking maniacally while the sheep-thing runs rampant and chaos reigns. It’s hard not to gape wild-eyed at this demented denouement, and the way it manages to outdo the metric tons of bafflement that have preceded it. A truly bad monster movie is to be treasured, but Godmonster’s twisted take on the genre marks it as something special indeed.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“As weird as this all sounds, the movie is actually quite a bit more bizarre than I can describe…  Invite some of your more straitlaced friends over, and listen closely as their synapses sizzle while they gape in slack-jawed incredulity and wonder what the hell planet this was made on.”–Jerry Renshaw, The Austin Chronicle

“There is absolutely nothing normal about this movie…NOTHING! Don’t let the corporate dealings and entrepreneurial underpinnings fool you – Godmonster of Indian Flats is the strangest, most surreal exploitation movie ever made… Honestly, Hobbs has crafted a certified jaw-dropper here, a film that fails to make a lick of narrative sense but keeps us spellbound in other, less plot-oriented ways.” – Bill Gibron, PopMatters

“The king of all weirdness in the film is without a doubt the ending, I’ve watched it three times now, and I still can’t make sense of it. This is truly what sets the film apart from other crappy films out there, this one just doesn’t make any sense.” – Josh Samford, Varied Celluloid

IMDB LINK: Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)

OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST:

Weird Cinema Episode 2: Godmonster of Indian Flats and the Assorted Works of Frederic C. Hobbs – Great video introduction to Hobbs’ oeuvre

Horror Film Wiki – a comprehensive catalog of all the deaths in the movie.

Kaijumatic – This catalog of film monsters provides a stat sheet for the film’s star

Godmonster of Indian Flats | Rifftrax – The MST3K alumni comedy troupe recently “riffed” this one; you can see a preview trailer and humorous short synopsis (they call it “one of the weirdest movies we’ve ever done”) on their site

HOME VIDEO INFO:The Something Weird DVD (buy) has the weak audiovisual fidelity you’d expect from a 1973 cheapie, but does come with at least one lovely extra, the song “You Cannot Fart Around With Love” from Hobbs’ not-on-DVD satire Roseland. E. Kerrigan Prescott (Godmonster’s mad scientist) sings a heartfelt paean to love, complete with touching coda. There are also four other oddball shorts (not by Hobbs, and not all family-friendly, i.e. the Bigfoot porn sort “The Geek”) for almost an hour’s worth of extra features.

This release will become obsolete when a “special edition” Blu-Ray (preorder) arrives in July of 2018, courtesy of American Genre Film Archive and advertising a 4K transfer from the only remaining 35mm print of the film. The disc will also include several shorts, trailers, and the faux documentary The Legend of Bigfoot.

The film is not available streaming at this time, but look for that to change after the Blu-ray arrives.

(This movie was nominated for review by Kurdt, who said, “It’s the most incompetent movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s completely off its rocker” and dubbed it “jaw-dropping.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

3 thoughts on “327. GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (1973)”

  1. I sit here in quiet awe of your description.

    Perhaps a sub-grouping of Enviro-Weird might be worth compiling for “Earth Day”-week.

  2. I’m thrilled to see Hobbs get a slot on The List but it’s a shame “Alabama’s Ghost” has no official DVD release to make it qualify. It’s actually the weirdest (and most entertaining, in my opinion) of his extant films. When describing Hobbs’ work I always say he has a genuine and sincere personal vision but in the final product it’s all but impossible to decipher what exactly that vision is. It’s nice to see another reviewer pick up on that as you have here. Often with ultra-low budget films you can see how the filmmakers struggled to bring their vision to life with the meagre resources they had available to them, but with Hobbs I get the impression that he ended up with exactly the movies he set out to make…logic, budget and coherence be damned. I unabashedly love the guy. His ouevre has been on my radar for some time as I write extensive summary reviews of b- to z-grade movies for Million Monkey Theater (if I might shamelessly plug another website here…and if I might also shamelessly plug myself I write there as Bradley Lyndon). I’ve been wanting to do “Alabama’s Ghost” for a long time but it’s so bizarre and absurd it resists the kind of parody/comedy/analysis the site specializes in. “Godmonster…” would probably be a better choice because believe it or not, it’s a far more coherent work! :)

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