DNDF: Flora, Flora, Flora!

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

DNDF: Flora, Flora, Flora!

Step right up!  Step right up!  For your amusement, within the confines of this here Divine Search Engine™, is the most heinous of sights, the most vile of aberrations, the most, nay I say it, repugnant of creatures ever to claw it’s way out of the fetid primordial ooze.  Now you might be a thinking, how could I catch a glimpse at such a thing when I am but a simple, ignorant, backwoods type human?  Could my feeble monkey brain comprehend the cosmic awesomeness of something this disturbing?  Well maybe it can, maybe it can’t.  But what you should be asking is how much will it cost me to discover the depths of my own depravity.  Friends, for one night and one night only I will allow you to gaze upon the vestige of true horror not for twenty dollars, not for ten dollars, not even for the reasonable price of five dollars.  I only ask, for the rare privilege of experiencing this extraordinarily terrible thing, one simple thing.  All you have to do is simply…


Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients (but not energy) from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods.  Carnivorous plants have adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings.  Charles Darwin wrote Insectivorous Plants, the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants, in 1875.

True carnivory is thought to have evolved independently six times in five different orders of flowering plants, and these are now represented by more than a dozen genera.  These include about 630 species that attract and trap prey, produce digestive enzymes, and absorb the resulting available nutrients.  Additionally, over 300 protocarnivorous plant species in several genera show some but not all of these characteristics.

Five basic trapping mechanisms are found in carnivorous plants.

  • Pitfall traps (pitcher plants) trap prey in a rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria.
  • Flypaper traps use a sticky mucilage.
  • Snap traps utilize rapid leaf movements.
  • Bladder traps suck in prey with a bladder that generates an internal vacuum.
  • Lobster-pot traps force prey to move towards a digestive organ with inward-pointing hairs.

These traps may be active or passive, depending on whether movement aids the capture of prey.  For example, Triphyophyllum is a passive flypaper that secretes mucilage, but whose leaves do not grow or move in response to prey capture.  Meanwhile, sundews are active flypaper traps whose leaves undergo rapid acid growth, which is an expansion of individual cells as opposed to cell division.  The rapid acid growth allows the sundew tentacles to bend, aiding in the retention and digestion of prey.

The sundew species Drosera glanduligera employs a unique trapping mechanism with features of both flypaper and snap traps; this has been termed a catapult-flypaper trap.  But enough of that noise, let’s talk about movies!

The Woman Eater (1958)

  • Original Title: Womaneater
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Charles Saunders
  • Produced: Guido Coen
  • Written: Brandon Fleming
  • Starring: George Coulouris, Vera Day, Peter Wayn, Joyce Gregg, Joy Webster, Jimmy Vaughn, Robert MacKenzie, Norman Claridge
  • Music: Edwin Astley
  • Cinematography: Ernest Palmer
  • Editing: Seymour Logie
  • Studio: Fortress Film Productions Ltd.
  • Distributed:
    • Eros Films  
    • Columbia Pictures  
    • Image Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • April 1958 (UK)
    • July 1959 (US)
  • Running Time: 70 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language: English

The Woman Eater (AKA Womaneater on it's original UK release), is a low budget 1958 black and white British horror film.

Dr. James Moran is a scientist whose goals are beyond the pale of established medical science.  While on an expedition to a remote part of the Amazon jungles, he encounters a huge plant being worshipped by a mysterious race descended from the Incas -- a plant that feeds off of women, devouring them almost like a giant Venus flytrap, and which also generates a fluid that can bring the dead back to life.  Five years later, Moran has moved the plant into a laboratory in his basement, complete with a member of the tribe of worshipers who is capable of caring for it, and begins to experiment with it -- but he must find women to feed to it.  Moran believes that using his scientific approach, the plant's sap will not only reanimate the dead, but could give its recipients immortality.  He proceeds with his experiments despite the inquiries of the police, who are investigating the disappearances of several young women.  He adds to the inevitable complications of his deceit when he brings in a pretty local girl to assist his middle-aged housekeeper, evoking deep and ultimately murderous jealousy from the older woman, who loves the doctor and also hasn't a clue as to what he's been up to in the basement laboratory, which is always locked.  He's forced to kill her, and she becomes the object of his first serum experiment -- but she returns to life as a mindless zombie, and Moran realizes that all of his work, and the murders he's committed, have been for nothing.  He recognizes that he has a monstrosity in his home, but it's still protected by that tribesman, who cares about nothing except the good of the plant.

In The Radio Times, David McGillivray gave the film one star, and wrote, "fans of mad scientists and killer vegetables should on no account miss this little-known Z-grade affair, a British studio's successful attempt to match similar trash that was coming out of Hollywood in the late 1950s...Director Charles Saunders began his career with the charming wartime comedy Tawny Pipit and ended it with horror and cheap sleaze.  Coulouris was in Citizen Kane.  Their conversations in the studio canteen must have been particularly melancholic."

Venus Flytrap (1970)

  • Original Title: Body of the Prey
  • Alternate Title: The Revenge of Doctor X
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Norman Thomson
  • Produced: Norman Thomson
  • Written: Edward D. Wood Jr.
  • Starring: James Craig, Tota Kondo, Lawrence O'Neill, Al Ricketts, Atsuko Rome, Edward M. Shannon, John Stanley, James Yagi
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Arnold Dibble
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: Toei Company
  • Distributed:
    • Mill Creek Entertainment  
    • New Horizons Home Video  
    • Reel Classic Films  
    • Regal Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 1970
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Country: USA  Japan
  • Language: English

Venus Flytrap (filmed 1966, released 1970) is an American horror film shot partly in Japan.  The plot features a mad scientist who uses thunder and lightning to turn carnivorous plants into man-eating creatures.  It is known variously as Body of the Prey, The Revenge of Doctor X (American video title), and The Revenge of Dr. X (American video box title).  Although the film is based on a 1950s screenplay by Ed Wood, he remained uncredited. Confusingly, the American video release erroneously features the major credits for 1969 Philippines production The Mad Doctor of Blood Island.  Nothing says quality quite like getting the credits to your own film wrong.

Dr. Bragan is a workaholic rocket scientist with NASA who is coming unglued from the stress.  A colleague arranges for him to take a much needed holiday in Japan, and Bragan accepts, hoping to use this free time to pursue his first love, botany.  He brings a potted Venus Flytrap with him, with plans to study carnivorous flora and prove his theory that human beings are descended from plants.  His Japanese assistant, Noroko, arranges for them to work in seclusion at her father's abandoned resort hotel, located on a mountain next to an active volcano. They get to work in the greenhouse, toiling night and day to strengthen the Venus Flytrap with the alien Nipponese soil, which causes it to grow to an unusual size.  But Bragan is as obsessive and abusive as he was in America, and his constant mood swings cause Noroko to suspect that he is going mad.  An experimental graft with a Japanese carnivorous plant succeeds in creating the "Sectovorus," a bizarre, vaguely human creature with vicious flytrap paws, and Bragan knows he is on the right track.  Unfortunately, the beast must be fed mice, chickens, puppies and eventually human blood to keep it alive, and the stronger it grows, the more dangerous it becomes. When the Sectovorus learns to uproot itself and venture to a nearby village for victims, Dr. Bragan must decide whether to protect his work of genius, or lure it into the volcano to save mankind.

Please Don't Eat My Mother (1973)

  • Genre: Comedy – Horror
  • Directed: Carl Monson
  • Produced:
    • Carl Monson 
    • Harry H. Novak
  • Written: Eric Norden
  • Starring: Buck Kartalian, Lynn Lundgren, Art Hedberg, Alice Friedland, Adam Blair, Flora Weisel, Ric Lutze, Rene Bond, Dick Burns, Carl Monson
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Unknown
  • Editing: Paul Heslin
  • Studio: Boxoffice International Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Boxoffice International Pictures  
    • Something Weird Video  
    • Video Dimensions
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: March 1973
  • Running Time: 98 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Please Don't Eat My Mother is a 1973 exploitation film directed by Carl J. Monson.  It is an adult-themed remake of Roger Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors, because the fans were clamoring for one.

A shy and timid man who lives with his mother buys a plant he thinks talked to him.  His loneliness is very apparent in the way he tries to turn the plant into a friend.  Well, the plant is carnivorous and can talk with a woman's sexy voice.  Henry, the protagonist, now has two joys in life.  One is being a voyeur (he is much too shy to actually talk to a girl) and the other is his new plant friend.  Soon he discovers the plant likes bugs (and then frogs and dogs and cats but he draws the line at elephants).  Eventually the plant wants to try a delicious woman, like in the pictures Henry has hanging in his room.

One day, Henry's mother breaks into his room thinking to confront him with a woman and all she can find are Henry and the plant.  But soon the plant eats her and discovers that women are really tasty.  When detective O'Columbus shows up, the plant discovers she does not like eating men, just women.

Eventually the plant experiences urges and Henry finds a male specimen.  The male eats men while the female eats women.  One woman is willing to end Henry's life of virginity but accidentally gets eaten.  Henry is broken and tries to kill himself while the plants get passionate with one another.  Henry is too clumsy to succeed and changes his mind when he sees all of the little baby plants.

No trailer due to it language and nudity, but trust me this is not a great movie.  In fact, I’m regretting even bring up this “film”.

The Mutations (1974)

  • Alternate Title: The Freakmaker
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Jack Cardiff
  • Produced:
    • J. Ronald Getty 
    • Brad Harris 
    • Herbert G. Luft 
    • Robert D. Weinbach
  • Written:
    • Edward Mann 
    • Robert D. Weinbach
  • Starring: Donald Pleasence, Tom Baker, Brad Harris, Julie Ege, Michael Dunn, Scott Antony, Jill Haworth, Olga Anthony
  • Music:
    • Basil Kirchin 
    • Jack Nathan
  • Cinematography: Paul Beeson
  • Editing: John Trumper
  • Studio:
    • Cyclone 
    • Getty Pictures Corp.
  • Distributed:
    • Columbia-Warner Distributors  
    • Columbia Pictures  
    • Vidcrest  
    • RCA/Columbia Pictures Video Ltd.  
    • Subversive Cinema  
    • Columbia TriStar Home Video  
    • Maritim Pictures  
    • LK-TEL VĂ­deo  
    • RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 25 September 1974
  • Running Time: 92 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language:
    • English 
    • German

The Mutations is a 1974 British horror film directed by Jack Cardiff.  The film was also released under the title, The Freakmaker.

Reflecting its storyline about a mad scientist who gene-splices people and plants to create monsters, this lurid UK flick offers two movies for the price of one.  The putative main story is an unintentionally hilarious stinker, with Donald Pleasence phoning in his bad-guy performance while the film’s special-effects team delivers laughably bad monster costumes.  However, a major subplot about the mad scientist’s deformed henchman has a certain degree of pathos and suspense, especially because the subplot borrows many elements from the 1932 cult classic Freaks.  Set in modern-day England, The Mutations stars Pleasence as Professor Nolter, a psycho who envisions a new race of humans imbued with plant characteristics. Nolter’s accomplice is Lynch, a deformed giant who abducts young men and women for Nolter to use as test subjects.  Lynch is the leader of a group of circus freaks living at an amusement park, yet while the other circus performers are harmless, Lynch is a self-loathing psychotic.  Thus, while Nolter tempts fate by taking his experiments too far, Lynch is driven to madness by waiting for Nolter to deliver on promises of correcting Lynch’s deformity.  (The picture also features perfunctory material involving attractive students either investigating the disappearances of their classmates or becoming victims of Nolter’s weird science.)

As helmed by Jack Cardiff, a master cinematographer who occasionally directed, The Mutations has a colorful look and one or two genuinely creepy scenes, notably the Freaks-influenced conclusion of Lynch’s storyline.  The acting is generally bland, but Baker (beloved by many for his long run on the UK TV series Doctor Who) does well playing Lynch in the Vincent Price mode of a killer besieged by inner demons.  The film’s other noteworthy performance comes from the diminutive Michael Dunn, familiar to American TV fans for his work as Dr. Loveless on the ’60s show The Wild Wild West.  He plays the little person who represents the conscience of the circus-freak community.  Furthermore, starlets including the scrumptious Julie Ege provide major eye candy while clothed and otherwise, and The Mutations benefits from an eerie music score that utilizes dissonant classical music—a truly unsettling flourish.  FYI, many of the performers in this film were played by people with ‘unique qualities’, something which immediately sets the film apart from the cinematic crowd.


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