Maybe I should create a column called Weird Shit That Will Probably Never Make it to DVD. I'm finding more and more of these puzzling bibelots. At their best, obscure b-movies can be rewarding bits of renumeration for the tireless efforts of the ever-studious horror freak. At their worst, they merely subsist as conversation pieces. Even the tackiest of z-grade romps can be excused on a base level, as owning one of them is tantamount to wearing a badge of courage in the eyes of die-hard fans. Hey, I may hate Curse of the Blue Lights with a fucking passion, but at least I can say that I've watched it. Hold on a second...why am I proud of that???
Let's move on, shall we? 1967's The Vulture is a weird little flick. It's an unconscious throwback to sci-fi creature features from the 50's such as Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis. But it's not tongue-in-cheek. That's what I mean by "unconscious." This film believes that it's a legit genre thriller, a monster mash so scary, it will freeze your girlfriend's ovaries at the drive-in. Ironically, the 70's were just a stone's throw away. Audiences had already seen Psycho, and Night of the Living Dead would make its bowel-ripping debut the following year. Stanley Kubrick was standing on the spire of his own emanation. It wouldn't be long before theater patrons were gasping during the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange.
Inquiring minds want to know...was writer/director Lawrence Huntington expecting the prevailing masses to gush over his were-vulture picture? Did he aim to replicate the success of Birdman of Alcatraz under the assumption that Burt Lancaster was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a literal bird man? The plot is oblique. I'll try to be the filter between you and the convoluted machinations of the script. In an effective opening sequence, a woman walking home in the rain notices a headstone shaking at the edge of a cemetery. A shadowy figure emerges from the grave and takes flight. Petrified, the woman faints. She wakes up in a hospital and tells the authorities what she saw - a large, feathery beast with a human head.
Guffaw! Chortle! Snicker! Balk! Abjure! Basically, we get 60-70 minutes of well-bred sages and intellectuals acting out those verbs. The only character who takes the woman's story seriously is Dr. Eric Lutens, an atomic radiologist (or something). It seems that the legend of a half-man/half-bird is connected to a parchment that was found in a nearby church. I'm still not clear on the details of our villain's backstory. It involves gold coins, reverse alchemy and a pet vulture. And sheep appendages in an alcove on the side of a cliff. Look, The Vulture probably doesn't sound boring, but it is. Simply writing about it is a boring task, but tragically, I haven't reached the conclusion of this review yet.
As I alluded to earlier, Huntington starts out on the right foot. The atmosphere is cataclysmic in a tastefully haunting way, and the were-vulture is built up to be a badass fiend for the ages. Of course, we have to plod through pages of talky, palaverous dialogue that clogs up the bulk of The Vulture. It's almost as if the exposition never ends. And the big reveal? Oh my cunt. The "mutant monstrosity" is...shit, how do I describe this? Imagine a vulture suit without the mask. The vulture of the title is a guy in a vulture suit...without the mask. I mean, we see his fucking face. When the woman in the hospital claimed that she saw a large, feathery beast with a human head, she wasn't kidding.
In summation, The Vulture is laughable. The first 30 minutes are reasonably entertaining, but everything falls apart towards the climax. Robert Z'Dar says, "No rape scenes? I'll pass."