Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor

Metamorphosis_The_Alien_factor_posterThis post on Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor is the first of a series of posts looking at the lower-rated sci-fi and horror films of 1990.  I’ll have more to say about them as a group as I digest more of them, but the debut film here (chosen moreorless randomly) is a nice way for a low-budget film connoisseur to spend 90 minutes.

Of course this film is a cheese-fest.  There’s a reason it only merits 4.1 stars (out of a possible ten) on IMDB.  The special effects, which seems to be where the most care was spent in the making of this film, stand the test of time and are of surprisingly high quality for a cheap little sci-fi/horror flick.  The scenes with “Spot the Wonder Blob” are very good, and the scientist-cum-monster (which looks like a rip-off of the last alien encountered in The Thing) has some fine stop-action animation going for it.  Ray Harryhausen is thanked in the end credits as being an inspiration to the filmmakers.

Speaking of visual effects, one thing that caught my attention in the end credits was that the FX company used was a local (to me) outfit called “Taylor Made Effects” from Prince George’s County, Maryland.  That Taylor must be none other than Dan Taylor who later became a director at Industrial Light and MagicMetamorphosis’s producer, Ted Bohus, said in a recent interview that ILM’s Taylor handled many of the effects in this film, though this work seems uncredited.  Taylor, who had worked on the original Star Wars (1977) went on to be nominated for a visual effects Oscar in 2012 for Real Steel.

METATSPOTThe (thin) plot here is well covered elsewhere–scientist gets bitten by the above pictured alien, and turns into a monster, with all the associated hinjinks you’d expect to ensue from that premise–what’s interesting about the making of this film is how acrimonious its making was.

Production on this apparently started in ’87, initially as a sequel to Deadly Spawn from 1983. That approach unraveled when the film that would become Metamorphosis was given a much bigger budget–to the tune of $1.3 million, according to Bohus–but some of his partners did not want the low-budget Deadly Spawn name attached to the new film, fearing the association would scotch the box office for the new project. The solution was to separate the storylines of the two films as much as possible. In the end, Metamorphosis has, for all intents and purposes, nothing to do with Deadly Spawn.

Bohus scored a minor cult classic with Deadly Spawn (1983). Wood paneling not included.

Ted Bohus scored a minor cult classic with Deadly Spawn (1983). Wood paneling not included.

At some point during production, Bohus and his merry men ran out of cash and production halted for a while to raise more. Once they got back to work, one of the leads, Katherine Romaine (playing Dr. Nancy Kane) demanded back pay for the weeks where she was not working, and would not continue to work unless this demand was fulfilled. This struck Bohus as “extortion” and would have put him in a tight spot.  So he changed the script and killed her character off to eliminate the problem. Romaine never worked in film again, though if that is because of this situation is unclear.

Katherine Romaine's demand to be paid for downtime nearly sunk this project, and led to her character's premature exit from the film.

Katherine Romaine’s (attending the wounded George Colluci) demand to be paid for downtime nearly sunk this project, and led to her character’s premature exit from the film.

Bohus, when he was not disappointing his fans by releasing poorly done editions of Deadly Spawn on Blu-Ray, presumably based on all this sort of strife that tends to follow him, penned a book called Making Low-Budget Science Fiction Films: A Real Horror Story. As of last October, he had just one more chapter to finish. Sounds like he has scores to settle, and will review all of them that have accumulated over the years. But this bit of unpleasantness does not take away from this film, which is an earnest little sci-fi/horror flick that deserves more notoriety than it has.

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