Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Being (Jackie Kong, 1983)

She manages the annual Easter Egg hunt; she's leading the charge to make Pottsville, Idaho smut-free by the end of 1983; she hosts opera recitals in her home (much to the chagrin of her opera-hating husband); and she investigates strange noises with a curious, long-chinned, Z'darian aplomb. What I think I'm trying to say is, is there anything Ruth Buzzi can't do? I'm sorry, but I nearly fried my brain thinking about that particular question. I mean, it's quite the mind-scrambler. Is it just me or does Ruth Buzzi always play shrill women who spend most of their waking hours fighting against the evils of pornography? First of all, Ruth Buzzi is never shrill; she has the voice of an angel. And secondly, I think you're thinking about the character she plays in Skatetown, U.S.A., who, if memory serves me correctly, was a bit of a square. (You could say Ruth Buzzi is a colossal a buzzkill in that film, the second greatest roller disco flick after the indomitable Roller Boogie -- Get it? Get what? Ruth Buzzi. Buzzkill. Both contain "buzz.") Anyway, Ruth Buzzi's campaign to rid Pottsville, Idaho of filth doesn't seem to be working, as the film currently playing at the local drive-in theatre features a naked woman painting her toe nails. Now, I don't know what the name of the lascivious slice of campy horror playing the local drive-in theatre is called, but I do know that it appears in The Being, Jackie Kong's directorial debut about a one-eyed radiation monster who terrorizes a small town in Idaho. Did you say, Jackie Kong? The very same Jackie Kong who made the brilliant Blood Diner? You know it.

Call me someone who is easily impressed, but I think it's swell that... no, wait, scratch that. Let me put it this way: I'm in love with the concept of an Asian-American woman directing a film about a bunch of potato-farming hillbillies who are devoured by a slim-covered aberration. I know, hardly anyone who is killed in this film is actually associated with the state's lucrative potato industry, or even a hillbilly for that matter. I just like the idea that someone named Jackie Kong is making cheesy horror flicks. Why must horror be solely the domain of white men named Steve? It doesn't. So, you go, Jackie Kong!

Just because I like the idea of an Asian-American woman directing a film that seems to be a homage to old school monster movies from 1950s, doesn't mean the film itself is entirely successful. And The Being is definitely a film that fits into that category, as it is severely lacking in several key areas.

A tell-tale sign the film doesn't quite pass muster in the awesome department can be found in the opening salvo of one of the above paragraphs. If I'm rambling about Ruth Buzzi right out of the gate like that, you know something rotten is afoot. Don't get me wrong, I adore Ruth Buzzi, she has certain je nais se quois that I find appealing, it's just that most people don't start off their reviews of The Being with so much Ruth Buzzi-based jibber-jabber.

I don't mean to burst your bubble, but you're not most people. In fact, you're none of those people. Don't apologize for being you. If you want go on a long, some might say, slightly misguided tangent about Ruth Buzzi in The Being, than I say, have at it. And speaking as an unbiased observer, you're absolutely right to focus your attention on Ruth Buzzi, as she's easily the best thing about this movie.

You don't know how relieved I am to hear you say that. Glancing over my imaginary notes, I can't help but notice that words "Ruth" and "Buzzi" are repeated ad nauseum.

After the opening credits have finished informing us that Kinky Friedman makes a "special appearance," and the DJ/narrator tells everyone that Pottsville, Idaho is the spud capital of the entire universe, we watch as a wayward teen is decapitated by a slimy creature while driving a car he stole from a local junkyard. Hiding in the trunk a la Repo Man, the slimy creature then grabs a mechanic while Det. Lutz (Bill Osco) isn't looking. Leaving nothing but a trail of green slime, the bearded, baseball hat-wearing detective is at a loss as to what [the fuck] is going on.

I don't know if he realizes it yet, but Det. Lutz is clearly in a monster movie. The sight of Martin Landau talking about the safeness of radiation on the six o'clock news is a sure sign he might be in one. However, I think he's going to need a little more proof than that. It's too bad he didn't go to the drive-in this evening, as a couple of drive-in goers are about to get attacked by a monster that is eerily similar to the one attacking the blonde woman in tonight's feature.

Again, like the previous encounters, all Det. Lutz finds at the scene are puddles of green slime. It's not until Det. Lutz goes home and finds green slime in his bed that he figures out that the green slime is a result of a creature that exudes green slime. It also doesn't hurt that the creature is hiding under his bed. Chasing him all the way to the railroad tracks, Det. Lutz manages to elude the creature by utilizing his natural born athleticism.

Hey, man, I thought you said Ruth Buzzi was in this flick? She is. Okay, so who's this Det. Lutz asshole? He is, whether you like or not, the star of the movie.

Speaking of which, Ruth Buzzi's first scene is coming up. It's Easter morning and Virginia Lane (Ruth Buzzi) is in charge of overseeing the Easter egg hunt for the children of Pottsville. Don't tell me one of the kids is about to get devoured by a radioactive fiend. One of them does come close to getting eaten (the director's own daughter), but the film doesn't quite go there. If this was, say, Blood Diner, I would have definitely expected one of the Easter egg hunters to buy it, but not here. Though, the being in The Being does start off as a precocious child, Dorothy Malone's precocious child to be specific; the blonde actress spends most of the movie wandering the streets and radiation dump sites in a half-crazed daze.

When she's finished overseeing the Easter egg hunt, Virgina Lane heads down to main street to lead a protest against the ills of pornography. I had no idea Pottsville had a protest-worthy pornography problem. It doesn't, thanks to the Sweeper Committee For Stomping Out Smut: Keeping porn out of Idaho is our business.

Just as I was about to give up on The Being, we're treated to a bizarre black and white dream sequence. Featuring Bill Osco and Martin Landau flying a small airplane, it culminates with the electrifying sight of Ruth Buzzi flying on a broomstick. Filmed utilizing the classic witch ascending on a broomstick profile shot, Ruth Buzzi slowly turns her head, smiles, and tells Det. Lutz that "it's all in your mind." The fact that her eyes are bleeding as she tells him this adds an extra layer of weird to an already weird sequence. Of course, I don't know what the dream sequence is supposed to represent exactly , but I appreciated its inclusion nonetheless.

As more and more townspeople go missing (three anti-porn hillbilly types are dispatched with very little fanfare) and Ruth Buzzi's opera recital finally gets underway (José Ferrer, Ruth Buzzi's husband has taken refuge in the garage - he's not an opera buff), the film gradually begins to overstay its welcome. And I'll admit, I was downright exhausted by the time Bill Osco takes on the monster in an abandoned warehouse. Despite sapping me of all my strength, I would recommend The Being to fans of throwback monster movies and Ruth Buzzi completists.


  1. I've always been a Jo Anne Worley completist.

  2. I would pay no money whatsoever to watch a Ruth Buzzi completist and a Jo Anne Worley completist fight to the death in a poorly refereed cage match.

  3. "What I think I'm trying to say is, is there anything Ruth Buzzi can't do? I'm sorry, but I nearly fried my brain thinking about that particular question." LMAO! Too funny..

  4. Thanks. And thanks for adding to my buzzfeed.

    Get it? Buzzfeed. Ruth Buzzi. I'm on fire.