Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day of the Turkey Review:
The Swamp of Ravens

A series of events (followed by a fabulous Thanksgiving Day spent with friends) kept me from writing as many reviews as I had planned today, but I should be able to get this one in under the wire, before Thanksgiving Day turns into Black Friday.

The Swamp of Ravens (1974)
Starring: Ramiro Oliveros and Fernando Sancho
Director: Manuel Cano
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A mad doctor is exploring gene therapy to "cure" the condition known as death and to show its relation to evolution. Or something like that...

"The Swamp of Ravens" is an atmospheric film that sets out to be a modern-day take on the Frankenstein legend, with its protagonist being some sort of medical doctor or scientist bent on identifying the factor that separates life from death. Sadly, its story is so muddled, the motivations of the characters so confused, and the characters so ill-defined that you're going to be left wondering what the heck you've just watched by the time its over.

For example, the scientist SEEMS to have accomplished some sort of scientific breakthrough, given that his assistant is apparently a re-animated corpse... and the "failures" he tosses in the titular swamp outside his secret research shack are likewise undead and lurking just below the surface. Or are they? Are the presence of zombies in the muddy waters just figments of the mad doctor's imagination? They kill a vagrant, so maybe not. But then why isn't he trying to figure out what's animating them?.Is he trying to make the soul/awareness of his subjects stay with the body beyond death? Whether the writers knew or not, you won't by the time the film is over.

Although the film has plenty of atmospheric shots and stylistically presented violence, the creepiness of it all is undermined by perhaps one of the most wildly inappropriate soundtracks I've ever come across. Have you ever seen one of those British sex/manners comedies like the "Carry On" series? Well, that is where this music belongs, not in a film about a mad doctor who is a sexual sadist who turns his girlfriend into a test subject in a fit of jealousy. So, as far as the technical aspects of the film go, it's one point its favor and five points against.

Oh... a minor nitpick: There are no ravens in the film. The swamp in question seems to be home to a flock of turkey buzzards, but no ravens. Still, the shots of the buzzards are pretty creepy... and I suppose "The Swamp of Turkey Buzzards" doesn't make for a very attractive title.

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