Color, 1983, 82m. / Directed by Jackie Kong / Starring Martin Landau, Marianne Gordon, Jose Ferrer, Ruth Buzzi, William Osco, Dorothy Malone / Media Blasters (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Featuring no less than three Oscar-winning actors, this trashy B-movie from '80s drive-in favorite Jackie Kong (who also inflicted Night Patrol and Blood Diner on unsuspecting patrons) is surely one of the most overqualified Z-budget monster movies ever made. The story itself is nothing special, though the setting is certainly unique; in a potato-producing Idaho town, toxic waste being dumped into the water has left the populace a bit jittery, even when the politicians (represented by mayor Mel Ferrer) and scientists (represented by Martin Landau) insist everything is fine. Soon the local radio announcer is checking off the body count as a radioactive beast has risen from the deadly sludge, bumping off citizens and motivating police detective Mortimer Lutz (played by producer Bill Osco) to see what's ripping everyone apart.

In addition to producing Kong's four-feature output during the 1980s, actor/producer/director Osco gained notoriety in the previous decade for introducing the world to feature-length hardcore porn with Mona the Virgin Nymph and soon cashed in with jokey porn spoofs like Flesh Gordon and Alice in Wonderland. Though most of the The Being's cast members keep their clothes on, Osco's silly sensibility still jibes well enough with Kong's trash aesthetics; the result is an odd, dirty-looking, but strangely fascinating hillbilly cousin to the likes of C.H.U.D. and most of Larry Cohen's output around the same time. The cast of slumming celebrities makes the proceedings even weirder, like an Irwin Allen disaster movie that somehow morphed into a '50s monster-on-the-loose drive-in film. Of course, Kong also piles on the gore and the occasional glimpse of T&A to keep the crowds happy and to distract from the uneven script, which feels like it was being shoved under the actors' doors while being written piecemeal day to day. In the monster movie pantheon, at least one bit involving separate carloads of locals watching a monster movie at a drive-in is genuinely inspired; Kong also keeps viewers on their toes with an utterly bizarre black-and-white nightmare sequence involving Landau and Buzzi that has little connection to the film but does give it an unexpected surrealist punch.

Rather incredibly, surviving elements for The Being are in less than pristine condition (the title was previously announced by Anchor Bay but dropped soon after). Media Blasters' disc certainly looks better than the unwatchably murky VHS tape, but don't expect miracles; the film was definitely shot on the cheap, and element damage is often evident. It's still watchable enough, however, and the grungy texture perhaps even enhances the film in the long run. English and Spanish audio tracks are available, along with the original trailer and the usual reel of promos for other Media Blasters and Fangoria International titles.

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