Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Mutations (1974) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Meet Professor Nolter. Like all good scientists, he wants to make the world a better place. In fact, he wants to end world hunger and thus bring about world peace. How will he do this? By creating plants which can move around to find better growing conditions, and animals which can photosynthesise. And though his technique seems to consist largely of injecting things with food colouring and fastening them together with bits of sticking plaster, he's managing to engineer some pretty impressive hybrids.
Of course, the film warns us early on that it's wrong to tinker with nature (no doubt Prince Charles saw this at an impressionable age). We know the professor is not a nice man because we see him feed cute bunny rabbits to a giant, hungry plant. Meanwhile, 'the world's ugliest man', the sinister Mr. Lynch, is stalking around in parks and kidnapping nubile young students. What diabolical scheme are these two fiends caught up in? And what is the secret behind the short-lived new exhibits who keep appearing in Lynch's freak show?
Directed by Jack Cardiff (The Girl On A Motorcycle), this cheerfully grotesque little film features a peculiarly anaemic performance by Donald Pleasance as the mad scientist, but is redeemed by Tom Baker as Mr Lynch, typically charismatic in what seem to be his own coat and hat. Sword and sandal hero Brad Harris is unusually fully clothed as suspicious fellow scientist Brian (though he does more with his fists than with test tubes), but there's plenty of nakedness among the female cast members. Meanwhile Michael Dunn heads up an impressive cast of 'freaks' who seem to be there not just for their appearance but because most of them can actually act. This is important as his is one of the few characters to undergo any kind of development, as his resentment builds against Lynch, leading to a climax that echoes Tod Browning's legendary Freaks.
With all the ingredients of an exploitation horror classic, The Mutations seems to have forgotten the script. It lurches haphazardly from scene to scene with things getting broken or going on fire apparently at random (reminding one rather of Planet Terror). Its monsters are rubbery and ludicrous, but have been inventively assembled, the sets are great and there are some stunning sequences created using stop motion photography. Cardiff's expertise as a cinematographer shows in the film's bleak, threatening landscapes, and there's a genuine air of menace underscoring the camp.
Though not to everyone's tastes, this is an intriguing mixture of talents well worth taking a look at.Reviewed on: 17 Mar 2009