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The Devil's Partner


Title: The Devil's Partner
Year Of Release: 1962 (filmed in 1958)
Running Time: 73 minutes
DVD Released By: Alpha Video
Directed By: Charles R. Rondeau
Writing Credits: Stanley Clements & Laura Jean Mathews

Starring: Ed Nelson, Edgar Buchanan, Jean Allison, Richard Crane
Taglines:
1. Half man, half beast--he sold his soul for passion!
Alternate Titles:
None found

Review Date: 1.8.06 (updated 1.1.10)

Shadow's Title: "I Will Sell My Soul For A Piece of Ass"


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The Devil's Partner  

Characters
Pete Jenson – Your classic mean old man: lives alone in squalor, hates people, smells to high heaven and of course, has an eye for a woman about fifty years too young for him. He makes a deal with the Devil for his soul in exchange for the chance to score with the woman he is lusting after.
Nick Richards – Nick is Pete’s nephew and comes to town shortly after smelly old Pete has kicked the can. He takes up residence in Pete’s old shack and begins working at David Simpson’s service station after Dave gets mauled by his own dog. Proceeds to hit on David's woman.
Sheriff Tom Fuller – The local and dare I say, totally incompetent, arm of the law. I suppose it is because nothing ever happens in the town of Furnace Flats and the biggest social problem is Papers the drunk, but this guy sure does seem to do a whole lot of nothing.
Doc Lucas – This guy is the “best doctor in town.” Then again, this dork happens to be the only doctor in town, which I suppose is ranked right up there with being the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind – no matter how much you suck, everyone still needs you.
Nell Lucas – Is she worth selling your soul to Satan for? Think about it. She is Doc’s daughter and fiancee to David Simpson. She used to buy goat’s milk from Pete Jenson and was the only person he was ever nice to. He makes a pact with the Devil so he has the chance to make her his own.
David Simpson – Meet the king of self pitying whiners. He owns and operates his own service station, is engaged to marry Nell Lucas and generally seems to have a good life. Then his dog chews half his face off. After that David turns into the biggest wuss in eleven states.
Papers – This loser is the town drunk. I think he’s homeless as well, as he always seems to be wandering the streets in search of his next infusion of alcohol, though we are never shown exactly where he sleeps. We also get no indication as to why the people of Furnace Flats call him Papers.
Ida – She runs a café in Furnace Flats, which seems to be the social hotspot for the community. Considering that we never see more than two people in there at once and we can assume that the only place less exciting than this town is someplace on the moon. Maybe.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

AKA The Bernie Madoff story.First up, before we go any further I have to address the film’s tagline as well as the promotional poster. Looking at the poster above, you’ll see that it just features a naked chick riding bareback on a charging centaur. Now, if you look at the DVD cover, you will see that same image, only now the pair seems to be galloping through a graveyard at night with lightning striking the ground in the distance. Since every poster I have seen does NOT feature a graveyard or lightning, I must conclude that such elements were added in order to spice up the DVD artwork. So do not go into this film expecting to see a graveyard and lightning, cuz you won’t.

That being said, you will not be seeing any naked chicks, either. The same definitely goes for centaurs. And you most assuredly will not be exposed to a naked chick riding a centaur, so I’d stop holding my breath if I were you. It ain’t gonna happen. Yes, the film’s tagline does make reference to a “half man, half beast” but it appears that such a description was being utilized to refer to the deplorable personal hygiene of one or more characters and not in association with any human-animal hybrids rampaging across the screen. Sorry.

The movie opens in a the middle of a snowstorm. No wait…forget that. That’s not snow, it just looks like snow. It's actually a multitude of scratches on the film stock. We fade in on a lonely cabin at night. Well…it's supposed to be night. The day-for-night photography isn’t totally convincing. We see old Pete Jenson rounding up one of his goats and making his way into the small abode. By “making his way” I mean “hobble and gimp along” as this guy looks like his last good year was before the American Civil War.

The interior of old Pete’s shack is none too clean. Hell, it looks like the last time it saw a good cleaning was also before the Civil War. I imagine the smell ain’t all that grand, either…somewhere between “old man funk” and “goat urine.” A cut in the film allows the actor to get out of frame and exchange the real goat for a fake one. Now all we see are the shadows of Pete and his goat against the wall. Pete takes out a rather large knife and SPLAT – the goat’s role in this film has come to a swift and violent end. I wonder if it yelled at its agent for that. Oh well. There is now a quick shot of a rat scurrying along the floor. No doubt the rat, after having witnessed what just befell the goat, has decided the prudent move to make is to get the hell out of the cabin before it somehow manages to piss off old Pete, too.

Old Pete now gimps back into view, brandishing a small cup of goat’s blood and making his way to a relatively barren spot on the ground. A quick kick removes a dirty old blanket from covering a six-sided chalk emblem on the floor. Pete kneels (well, more like drops to his knees) and proceeds to dip his hand in the cup of blood and then mark out six spots within the chalk emblem. Then he reaches behind him and removes a large goatskin from a basket (attesting to the sad demise of a previous goat). This he drops over the emblem, fur side up. Picking up a large feathered quill, he jabs himself in the arm with it. Using his own blood as ink he then proceeds to write on the suddenly fur-side-down skin. Time passes and Pete is still writing, having inscribed numerous words on the skin, which cannot be read from our angle. Here is a man in desperate need of a pencil and paper! Suddenly a hand moves into frame and plucks the quill from Pete’s hand before writing something on the skin. The “creepy” music starts up and old Pete passes out after looking up and seeing to whom this mysterious hand belongs. Given what we already know of the plot and what we will eventually find out, I think it’s safe to assume that the hand belongs to old Scratch himself AKA The Devil. Fade Out.

Fade in. Now we get a title card superimposed over a shot of a bus traversing a very long bridge, which spans some water. As the brief credits unfold, subsequent shots show the bus climbing a mountain road, crossing another bridge, leaving the hills for the flat country and finally driving past a sign that says “Furnace Flats” and which also lists the population of said community at 1505 and the elevation at 25 feet above sea level. The really odd thing here is that this sign is facing away from the bus as it travels down the road, which would make one think that the conveyance was leaving the town rather than just arriving. The bus rolls to a stop and the camera pans down to show us a pair of feet exiting. The guy is barely off the last step before the bus is moving again. Gee, ya think the driver wanted this guy off his bus? The bus drives away and the camera pans up to show us the back of a man dressed in a suit. He crosses the road and heads for a restaurant named Ida’s Café.

"Let me get this straight...the daily special is called Green Eggs & Ham because it's week-old leftovers?"Inside the café all seems normal. One guy has just inserted some coins into a jukebox and with music now playing, returns to his seat at the counter where another man also sits. The newcomer, who is Nick Richards, takes another seat at the counter and orders coffee from the woman standing behind it. This is presumably Ida herself. She gets his coffee and mentions that “Frank here brings it all the way from Albuquerque” which clues us in to the fact the town of Furnace Flats is most likely located in the great state of New Mexico. Which one of these other guys this Frank happens to be is still a mystery, but I get the impression that he is either A) a local grocer or B) the town smuggler. Ida makes the astoundingly perceptive observation that Nick is new in town and asks if he is going to stay or is just passing through. Nick replies that it depends on if he finds the person he is looking for, an old guy named Pete Jenson.

At the mention of Pete’s name, there is a visible reaction from everyone in the room. Ida asks why Nick wants to find Pete and Nick says that he happens to be Pete’s nephew. The two other guys at the counter then decide to leave, one exiting really fast without a word and the other barely getting his good-bye to Ida out before he makes like a tree and leaves (strangely enough this second guy does not exit via the front door like the first guy, but seems to disappear in the opposite direction. Maybe this was Frank the coffee smuggler heading out a back door?). Nick inquires to Ida as to why the others reacted the way they did. She says that they are just wondering what she is going to tell Nick and then asks how a nice looking guy like Nick can wind up with a crazy old coot like Pete Jenson for an uncle. Nick just says that a guy can’t pick his uncles. Amen, brother! I’ve known that for years – you can choose your friends, you can choose your enemies…but family? That’s in the stars.

The front door to the café now opens and the dork who just bolted a moment ago without a word has now returned and we see that he sports a badge on his shirt. This must make him a deputy as he has brought Sheriff Fuller back with him. Fuller asks Nick if he is Pete Jenson’s nephew. Nick answers affirmatively and wants to know if such status is a crime. The Sheriff suggests heading over to his office to talk things over there. Nick wants to know what there is to talk about, but Fuller won’t divulge anything until he gets to his office. Nick agrees and leaves with the Sheriff and the Deputy after paying Ida for the coffee.

We now turn our attention to the Sheriff’s office, which by the looks of it almost makes me expect to see Barney Fyfe comes waltzing through the door at any second. Everyone has a seat and after a quick comment on the hot weather, Sheriff Fuller informs Nick that his uncle is dead. Nick says that this is the reason he is in town – as Pete’s only living relative, he came to settle all of old Pete’s affairs. Fuller wants to know how Nick knew that his uncle had died, considering the crazy old coot just gave up the ghost four days past. Nick reveals that he wasn’t positive his uncle was dead, but came when he received a letter from the old guy a while a back. A letter in which Pete informed his nephew that he was in poor health. Sheriff Fuller now says that old Pete did not die from natural causes. In fact, the old man may have been the victim of murder as he was found in a pool of blood. At this time, the authorities do not know if that blood belonged to him or not. The only wound the old guy had was a cut on the wrist, but the dead goat with a slit throat makes the Sheriff think all that blood belonged to the animal. He tells Nick that he sent a sample to Albuquerque to let the “lab boys” decide.

A quick digression here for a moment – the Sheriff says that old Pete was found in a “pool of blood,” yet all we saw the old guy do was make six small marks on the floor with the goat’s blood. I did not realize that six such splotches constituted a “pool.” Just call me a stickler for details…

Sheriff Fuller now informs Nick that old Pete was not very well liked in this town and had in fact made a number of enemies. The expression on his face when he died makes the Sheriff believe the old guy had seen something horrible (Judge Judy in a thong?). Nick asks if there was anything missing from his uncle’s home, but the Sheriff does not know for sure. Since Pete wasn’t popular and no one ever went around his place, nobody can say what exactly he owned. The only things the Sheriff can verify belonging to the late Pete are in a box, which he then presents to Nick. Nick takes the box and the first thing he removes is that goatskin we saw old Pete writing on in blood. Nick holds it up and words suddenly appear on it, allowing us to clearly make out the message inscribed upon it. It's a contract of some sort.

Now, I’m puzzled…did Pete give his soul up for two years or in exchange for two years of something? I can see giving up one’s soul for two years if one was to get it back at the end of that time period. I’d do it, depending on what I was getting in return. Hell, there are numerous people on this earth who would readily claim that I am already a foul, loathsome, soulless bastard…but enough about my family (Ba-boom! Thank you, I’ll be here all night). However, giving up one’s soul on a permanent basis and only receiving two years of some type of privileged lifestyle seems like a pretty crappy deal. Those two years had better be accompanied by kick-ass super powers, millions of dollars, dozens of busty (and horny) babes and choice steaks galore. Even then, I am not too sure I’d agree to such an arrangement…though I am suddenly understanding how Yanni scored his first recording contract.

Invisible ink is mandatory for contracts with the Devil.The standard contract when  buying the latest iPhone.What the hell kind of alias for the Devil to go by is Jezzer Hora? Anyway, as Nick looks at it the writing vanishes, leaving behind an unmarked goatskin. Another guy enters the Sheriff’s office now, griping about how hot it is outside. Hello? You live in a desert state, moron! What do you expect? The Sheriff introduces him as Doctor Lucas and realizing he never got Nick’s name, prompts Nick for his. Fuller reveals to the Doc that Nick is Pete Jenson’s nephew. The Doc comments on the goatskin and wonders why anyone would want to keep it. Then Nick says that he’s off to check out Pete’s home. Doc says that calling it a shack would be more appropriate and tells Nick that the place is quite dirty. Before Nick can leave, Sheriff Fuller has one last thing to tell him. It seems Uncle Pete died pretty damn broke and there was no money to cover the funeral expenses. Nick asks how much that was and Doc tells him that forty dollars ought to cover it. Nick promises to take care of it as soon as he is settled. Then Fuller offers to give Nick a ride over to Pete’s shack. It's not too far, but the Sheriff reasons that the oppressive heat will make it seem far longer. Nick thanks the Sheriff but assures him that he will be alright.

Nick leaves and once he goes the Sheriff remarks how he is a likeable fellow. The Doc agrees, saying that Nick is not like his late uncle. Then Doc wonders what happened to old Pete over the last few months. Fuller doesn’t know, stating that the old guy seemed to get worse with time. Um…hello? Wouldn’t the Doc know what was wrong with Pete? Even if the old fart never left his shack and never had a house call from the Doc, an autopsy should have determined what ailments the old guy was afflicted with over the last few months of his life. Then again, these are the same morons who cannot tell if the body was missing any large amounts of blood. Then Doc wonders where Nick comes from, noting how the heat did not seem to bother him (CLUE). Even with the temperature hovering near one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, the man didn’t have a drop of perspiration on him. Then Doc just passes it off as unimportant and prods the Sheriff into hauling out the Pinochle deck so they can play.

Out at old Pete Jenson’s place, Nick has arrived and takes a good look around the place. The inside is still quite the mess. I’d seriously think about hiring Merry Maids if I was him. Either that or burning the place to the ground, though such an action might be construed as a danger to public health with all those noxious fumes wafting through the air. Nick continues to poke around a bit and lifts up a rug on the floor, revealing the six-sided chalk emblem left there by old Pete. He replaces the rug and then begins examining the stuff that the Sheriff handed over to him in a box.

A sound behind him alerts him to the fact that the door has been opened and he turns around to see a young woman standing in the doorway. He grills her somewhat harshly on who she is and what she is doing there. She introduces herself as Nell Lucas and explains that she used to buy goat’s milk from old Pete. Nick explains his relationship to the late Pete and then apologizes for being so caustic in his questioning of her. He passes it off as stress from learning that his uncle may not have died from natural circumstances. Nell also offers an apology for being somewhat antagonistic herself and the two shake hands. Nick tells her that she can come by any time for milk, as long as she milks the goats. Nell goes to leave but must remind Nick to let go of her hand first. Then each of them bends down to pick of Nell’s container of milk. Nick looks over at the crucifix hanging from Nell’s neck and seems to have an adverse reaction to it. She asks what is wrong and he just says that he feels a bit dizzy. She recommends seeing a good doctor – like her father, who she claims is the best in town. They share a small laugh when Nick gets her to admit that her father is also the only doctor in town. Nell then departs.

On her way to wherever, Nell stops at the local gas station, which is owned and run by her boyfriend David Simpson. As we watch David deal with a customer we realize that gas was only about thirty-five cents a gallon. Hell, I’d almost be willing to become a partner with the devil in exchange for access to such cheap fuel! David now turns his attention to Nell, who inquires about a tire, which he promptly fetches for her. They make plans for the evening and then some pointless flirting and kissing follows (which is only there to show us that these two morons are an item) before Nell leaves.

Returning to the Jenson place, we see Nick outside doing his best to clean the place up. It's quite the daunting task, but he dives right in. A short time later Nell drives up. Nick says that she couldn’t possibly need milk again so soon, but she says that she has yet to deliver it and is in fact on her way to do that now. She stopped to see if Nick would like to accompany her so he can see the good the milk is doing. Nick agrees to join her so they pile in the car and head over to some guy named Harry Matthews.

When they arrive we see that Nick is the one driving. Just like a woman to pawn off driving duty on the closest male! Then again given the way they drive…They get out and Nell knocks on the door. Harry Mathews greets them and invites them inside. Nell introduces Nick to Harry and this is where the Space-Time Continuum seems to fracture. Well, not really. The film just skips a couple times at this point, no doubt because of the age and condition of the source print. It makes following the next few exchanges somewhat difficult but from what few words do make it through intact, we can surmise that Harry tells Nick that he didn’t know his uncle very well and offers his condolences on his loss before thanking him for the goat’s milk.

Nick goes to wait in the car but not before Harry invites him to drop by anytime. When Nick has left, Harry tells Nell that the other man seems to be a nice fellow and it’s a pity his uncle didn’t share some of those qualities. Nell is unsure of what he means and explains that old Pete was always nice to her. Harry says that is understandable even in Pete’s case, the implication being that even a grouchy old fart like Pete could still appreciate a cute young blonde with a hot ass and perky tits. Nell smiles, then says her good-byes and leaves. She gets in the car with Nick, who tosses an odd look back at Harry’s place before driving off. Inside, Harry is about to enjoy a glass of goat’s milk. He takes a sip but then coughs, grabs his throat and collapses. Damn near instantly, we see Sheriff Fuller and Doc Lucas examining his body. Damn, but they got there fast!

"I can't be certain, but I'd say that killed him was a plate of Ida's Green Eggs and Ham. Have you tried it? It sucks!"Harry has given up the ghost and it seems the last time he was seen alive was around one-thirty PM by Nell Lucas. Apparently Harry has died from a heart attack, but the Doc cannot figure out why. He gave Harry regular check-ups and knew that Harry had a strong heart. The Sheriff asks if the goat’s milk did him in, but Doc dismisses that notion as well. Since goat’s milk is richer than cow’s milk and more apt to sour, the Doc always ran tests on it before allowing Nell to deliver it to Harry. The Sheriff now concocts some Bullshit theory about how Harry was drinking the milk, began to cough, then choke and ultimately jump-started a heart attack. The Doc says that such a thing is possible but Harry’s strong heart would have prevented such a freak occurrence. The Doc then states that they will have to come up with something “more professional than that.” Personally, I think they should tell everyone that old Harry died from a Brain Cloud. Or better yet, that he was drinking soda and eating pop rocks at the same time and his head exploded. What’s that you say – pop rocks weren’t invented yet in 1958? Bummer.

by the way, how the hell did anyone know Harry Mathews had died? The last we see of him, he is collapsing in his kitchen and then…POW…the Doc and Sheriff are kneeling over his dead body. Who found him? The dialogue seems to indicate that the Doc and Sheriff are there later that same day, yet there is no indication given as to how they knew the man was dead. Does either one of them (or both) have some type of sixth sense and just knows when there has been a death – kinda like those Soul Hunters on Babylon 5? Do they see dead people like Michael J. Fox did in The Frighteners or that way that annoying kid did in the M. Night Shyamalamadingdong film? Did Harry’s spectral form walk up to them and clue them in to the fact that across town his body was beginning to stink? How did they know??

So now the phone rings and Fuller answers it. It’s his deputy Joe, who has just received a report from Albuquerque on the blood sample they sent for analysis. The Sheriff listens to the results and then shares them with Doc Lucas: it seems the blood found on old Pete Jenson’s body was goat’s blood after all. This really mystifies the Doc as it doesn’t explain how Pete died, except for a heart attack. The Doc then leaves to head back to his office.

At the Jenson place that night, Nick is staring at a photograph of David Simpson and his pet German Shepherd, Prince. How Nick came into possession of this photo is a complete mystery. Did he steal if from Nell somehow? If so…when? I don’t think he has ever been to Nell’s place at this point. Did Nell keep the photo in her car and that is where Nick took it from? You’d think Nell would notice it being gone. The fact is, the film has given us no logical explanation as to how Nick obtained the photo. Anyway, after looking at it for a while, then gazing out the window at the full moon, he kneels down on the floor before the chalk emblem and places the photo within the symbol. Then he closes his eyes and seems to enter some kind of trance.

We now shift our attention to David Simpson’s place. David is getting ready for his big date with Nell and is putting the finishing touches on his outfit for the night. Nearby Prince sits on the floor and begins to bark and growl. David laughs it off but then realizes that something is wrong when the dog keeps it up. He tries to calm the animal but the dog continues to bark aggressively at him. A quick cut to the Jenson place shows us Nick deep in his trance, still kneeling before the chalk symbol. David begins to back away from his dog but Prince rises and jumps at his owner. There is a moment of silly-looking dog wrestling then Prince savagely bites him in the face before David can grab a large vase and pound the canine senseless. Another quick cut to Nick shows him slowly collapse to the floor before we return to David’s place and see him struggling to rise from behind a chair. The phone rings and David manages to grab it with one hand, the other clutching at his savaged face with blood splattered everywhere. Nell is on the phone and David spits out that his dog attacked him before he drops the phone. At the Jenson place Nick seems to be recovering from his trance. He picks himself up off the floor and stumbles to the table where he sits and then passes out.

The next thing we see is David lying in bed, a large bandage covering half is face. Nearby Nell sits, watching over him as her father packs up his stuff to leave. He tells Nell to make sure David doesn’t move before heading out. Evidently some time passes by, as the next thing you know, both David and Nell are sitting on a couch, the former lighting up a cigarette. They are discussing the possibility of David hiring someone to run the gas station for him, though David feels like that would leave him with nothing to do. Nick Richard’s name is mentioned and one can infer that Nell has suggested David hire Nick for such a position. There is a knock at the door and the aforementioned Nick enters. He and David shake hands and then the latter thanks the former for offering to help him out. Nick replies by saying that David is helping him out in return. David offers to show him around but Nick says that he is familiar with the job, having done the same type of work before…and under similarly hot conditions, so David gives him the key and Nick leaves to go open the station.

Next we see Nell and David in a car down at the station while Nick works away. David feels better now that he sees the station in good hands and says that it was nice of Nick to help him out in such a way. Nell then wonders what Nick meant when he said that David was helping him out in return, when the truth is that he doesn’t need the money. When David inquires, she says that she heard through the grapevine that Nick deposited two thousand dollars in the local bank (that's nearly 14k in 2006 dollars). Nell then theorizes that Nick is helping out just to be a good friend. David agrees and remarks how Nick came along at just the right time.

At Ida’s café things are pretty slow. There are no customers and Ida herself looks extremely bored as she scarfs down a plate of food. Papers, the town drunk comes strolling in but she reminds him that there is nothing free there and that he should leave. He asks her how much it is that he owes her and she answers with, “two dollars.” Papers then produces two dollars and hands them over to her. She thanks him, scrutinizes the money and then seems pleasantly surprised when she discovers that the bills are real. In her view, this is cause for celebration so she reaches below the bar and produces a bottle and two glasses. She and Papers share a drink and then she asks him where he got the money. He just says, “from a friend.” She presses him and he admits it was from that new guy at the gas station. There is some more idiotic banter between the two and then she tosses him out.

“Now we’ll see if that Spanish Fly I put in her soda will do the trick.”At the gas station Nick is depositing some money in the safe when Nell drives up. He questions why she looks so glum, saying that if the money keeps pouring in the way it has been, she and David can get married and retire. Nell says that she is worried about David and that he seems changed. Nick thinks that is only natural after such a bad mauling but Nell says that it is more than that. David doesn’t seem to be much interested in her anymore. Nick thinks this may be because David feels Nell may not want to marry him anymore now that he is sporting some serious facial scars. Nell dismisses that idea, saying that she is committed to David. Nick then offers her a soda and she apologizes for sharing all this with him without even asking. Nick assures her that he is always willing to lend a listening ear. Then Nell mentions a plastic surgeon named Robert Marx that interned with her father and who is willing to help David. Nick thinks that is wonderful but Nell is still worried about David. Nick advises that she give David a little time and that eventually he will come around. She thanks him and he escorts her to her car. Before she leaves, he asks when this Doctor Marx will be coming in and she says that he will be leaving Albuquerque tonight.

Nell drives off and then papers comes stumbling around the corner. Nick asks how “it” went and if Papers needs more money. Papers says he still has some of the money that Nick gave him earlier and that he is fine. Nick then mentions a friend that needs help and wants Papers to meet him at the station the next night and to keep this information between the two of them. Papers drunkenly agrees and then stumbles off, no doubt in search of more booze with which to marinate his liver.

Later than night Nick is back kneeling before the chalk symbol and working himself into another trance. Out on some lonely and secluded highway, Doctor Robert Marx is barreling down the road towards the town of Furnace Flats. Suddenly the headlights illuminate a cow that has decided to stand in the middle of the road. The Doctor tries to avoid hitting the animal and there is a horrible screeching of tires followed by a large crashing sound. Scratch one plastic surgeon. Back in his shack, Nick is shown still concentrating.

The next day Sheriff Fuller is visiting Nick at the gas station and sharing the details of the previous night’s deadly accident. He notes the strange circumstances, especially how the cow involved had to wander four or five miles away from its herd and then sit down right in the middle of the road. Nick comments on how it is a tough break for David. Then the Sheriff comments on how Nick is fresh and sweat-free even though the temperature outside is well over one hundred degrees. Nick jokingly shares his secret with the Sheriff: that he is the devil and that he has left the fiery confines of hell for a vacation and a chance to cool off some.

The Sheriff signs for his gas and then zooms off just as Nell and David pull up. Nick expresses his sympathies for the loss of Doctor Marx and what that means for David. For his part, David is being quite the grouch. When Nick suggests taking the money and receipts from the cash register now, so as to save himself a trip to the station later, David just growls that he if wanted advice from his help, he’d ask for it. Nick plays it off and then grumpy David says that he is ready to go, sarcastically adding a “if you don’t mind” towards Nell, who is driving. She bids good bye to Nick and then drives away.

When Nell and David pull up to his place, she tries to talk to him on his surly behavior. He claims that there is nothing wrong, but she points out how he is acting so cold and hard towards everyone…including her. She tries to assure him that she still cares for him, no matter what he looks like and thinks that she is owed some type of explanation for his change in personality. He angrily gets out of the car and accuses her of worrying about how he will look once the bandages come off his face and points to the fact that it was her idea to call in the plastic surgeon to make him look “normal” again. She tries to tell him how everyone is just trying to help him, like Nick. At the sound of Nick’s name David loses it completely, alluding to his scar-less face and how he seems to be becoming quite the hero to Nell. This in turn causes Nell to slap him. Good thing she slapped him on the side of his face that is not bandaged, otherwise the guy might be screaming in pain right now. David storms into the house while Nell tries to call after him and say that she is sorry, but he refuses to listen. Then she starts the car and leaves.

Back at the service station, Nick is talking with Papers the drunk. Papers is assuring Nick that he won’t say a word to anyone and then hits him up for some money with which to get something to drink in this heat as “money sure don’t last long.” Nick gives him some cash and reminds Papers to be at his place at ten PM. Papers promises to be there and to keep the arrangement hush-hush, then leaves.

“The Spanish Fly works!”Now Nell pulls up and Nick can see that something is really bothering her, so he invites her inside. He puts his arm around her and escorts her into the station office. He asks why she is crying and Nell tells him what transpired between her and David. Nick asks if she is still in love with him and she says that she loves the David that she knew, but just isn’t sure anymore. Nick insidiously suggests that one can know a person and yet not really know that individual. Nell tries to make David out to be a gentle person but Nick wonders why she had to slap him if he is really that kind and decent person she thinks him to be. Nell believes she did so because David alluded to something going on between Nick and herself. Nick calls that idea “crazy.” Nell doesn’t know how things could have gone so wrong with David. Another insidious suggestion from Nick points to the possibility that things are not wrong, and this is how things are meant to be. Then he kisses her! She doesn’t put up much resistance, but he still lamely says, “I didn’t mean that,” afterwards. Confused, Nell leaves.

Time goes by and it is once again time for some cheap day-for-night scenes. Sheriff Fuller and Deputy Joe pull up to the service station at night, only to find Papers loitering about. Fuller asks him what he is doing there and Papers just says he was looking for something to read. The Sheriff tells him to get on home, as it is almost ten-thirty at night. Realizing he is seriously late for his rendezvous with Nick Richards, Papers stumbles away and into the night.

Papers eventually makes his way to the old Jenson place and knocks on the door. Nick appears behind him and chastises him for being late and for having a run-in with the Sheriff. Nick then leads Papers inside and tells him to sit down, offering him some booze…which of course is like offering cocaine to Robert Downey Junior in the 1980's – there will be no refusal. Nick has a goat nearby, and as Papers swigs the booze, Nick takes up a knife. Papers suddenly gets an expression on his face as if he has just deposited the mother lode of all shits into his undergarments, but Nick assures him that he is not planning on harming him. In fact, he reminds the drunk of their last conversation – that he needs his help in accomplishing something.

Then Nick takes up the old goatskin that sported Pete Jenson’s contract with the devil and places it over the other man’s lap. He then uncovers the chalk symbol on the floor and quickly kills the goat. This seems to have spoiled Papers’ thirst, as the man puts down the bottle of booze. Nick approaches with a cup full of goat’s blood and begins marking the chalk symbol in a fashion similar to what the late Pete Jenson did at the film’s beginning. Papers sits and watches all this wide-eyed, becoming more and more visibly shaken with each passing second. Nick finishes slopping the blood around and Papers knocks the cup from his hands, his nervousness now almost overpowering. He says he wants to get out, but Nick says he wants to show him something and then locks the door. I don’t know about you, but at this point I’d either be diving through the closest window or making a new door in the wall through which to leave. A weirdo with a knife who just killed a goat and locks the door so I cannot escape? I’m sorry, but right about now I’m through the wall, two blocks away and still running.

So now Nick kneels before the chalk symbol and embeds the knife into the floor at its center. Then he gets a really weird look on his face, like he just peed his pants after holding it for hours. As the terror stricken Papers watches, Nick slowly transforms into…(if you have not guessed it by now, then shame on you)…into old Pete Jenson – wild white hair, crusty beard and bloodshot eyes included. Papers is positively losing it by now and when Nick-Pete stands and approaches him, whispering in his ragged voice that he is in fact Pete Jenson, the old drunk cannot take it any longer and decides to vacate the premises post haste, but not before letting loose with some truly unmanly shrieks of terror. Papers rises from his chair, runs off camera to the left (despite the door locked by Nick being behind him) and somehow emerges outside. I’m guessing he used the same method I would have used for gaining egress from the shack: making a new door with one’s own body.

Neither the best place nor the ideal time to write your last will and testament.Once outside, Papers wastes no time in engaging in that famous activity known as “running like hell.” In the hut, Nick-Pete crawls to the chalk symbol, grasps the knife and concentrates. Somewhere outside, Papers is running down a dirt road, trying to put as much distance between himself and the Jenson shack as possible. He rounds a turn and when the camera shows us the road again we see a horse galloping after him. Yes, I said a horse. Now, we’ve already seen Nick-Pete’s ability to concentrate and “possess” animals, forcing them to carry out his bidding, so we really shouldn’t be too surprised to discover that he has usurped the will of some local animal and is now using it to hunt down poor Papers…but a horse?! Nothing inspires soul-rending terror like a horse coming after you. Yeah right. Wait! Maybe this is the devil’s horse! Does that make it more frightening? Not really, eh? Oh well. So Papers runs like hell, leaving the road (which is suddenly paved) and running into the brush near a small bridge. The Scary Horse follows and catches up to him, knocking him to the ground and then proceeding to lay an equine smack down on the poor old drunk, stomping Papers with its hooves. Papers manages make a mark in the dirt with his hand before the horse accomplishes what gallons of alcohol has failed to do…kill him.

Just why did Nick want Papers to come to his house? Nick told the old drunk that he needed his help with something, but when Papers got there, all Nick did was reveal his true identity and then kill him. What did that accomplish? It was a way to reveal to the audience who Nick truly was, but there seems to be no reason for Nick to kill Papers, which brings up the question as to whether Nick was even planning on killing Papers. Perhaps once he revealed his secret to Papers and the old drunk took off down the road screaming his head off, Nick decided he had to silence the old fart or risk exposing himself and that prompted him to transform into the Scary Horse.

Day has arrived and we see a car traveling down the road. It pulls to a stop near the same small bridge we saw just a moment ago. A man emerges, pops the hood and begins to look over the engine. As he is doing this, two young kids - a boy and his sister, get out from the back seat, wander down the roadway a few feet to where the bridge begins and start to cross it. The boy gets a funny look on his face and when his sister questions why he looks that way, he points to a man lying down in the bushes. A quick shot shows us the body of the late Papers. The girl calls for her daddy in a voice that makes it seem she is afraid the dead guy is about to sit up and lurch after her.

The next thing we see, the two annoying kids have been restricted to the back seat by their parents, who are now standing by the car as the Sheriff rolls up, siren blazing. The Sheriff has brought along Doc Lucas, who heads straight for the body once it has been pointed out. The Doc determines that Papers has been dead about six hours and it looks like a horse trampled him. The driver of the car goes over with the Sheriff the circumstances that forced them to stop there and discover the body. He mentions how their car got overheated and he pulled over to let it cool down and also let the kids stretch their legs, as they had been travelling for some time. Hmm…since Doc said Papers had been dead about six hours, and we know Papers died sometime last night after ten-thirty (and probably before midnight given the time he met with the sheriff, the time it took him to walk to the Jenson place and the short time he was there before fleeing) that would make the current time anywhere between five and seven AM. For this family to have been on the road quite a while, they must have been driving all night! You’d better hope they’re taking those two kids to Disneyland with the way they made them ride in the car all night long! The Sheriff then thanks them for their help and sends them on their way before walking down the embankment to get a closer look at Papers.

You know, the more I think about it, the more things don't add up in relation to Papers' time of death and when he was found. When exactly was it that Papers died? We know Papers ran into the Sheriff very close to 10:30 PM at David Simpson’s service station and from there he went straight to the old Jenson place. We know that the Jenson place is only a few blocks from the jail (going by what Sheriff Fuller said to Nick in the beginning of the film when he offered to give him a ride to the place) and in a small town like Furnace Flats the service station is probably not that far from the jail, so Papers would have had less than a mile to walk. Just say it takes the old wino a full hour to meander on over, that means he arrives at about 11:30 PM. He was there less than ten minutes before he ran out and was killed, so we’ll say that the time of death was about 11:40 PM…and that is being really generous, it was most likely much earlier. The next day when examining the body, Doc Lucas states that Papers had been dead for about six hours. So that means it is about 5:40 AM when the Sheriff and Doc arrive on the scene where the body was found. More than likely, given our generous timetable, it was even earlier…say about 5:00 AM. Ok…I realize you want to know where exactly I am going with this long winded examination…and it is this: it is too brightly lit outside for it to be before 6:00 AM in the morning! When that family pulls over to the side of road and finds the body, it looks like it's high noon! Yes, I know…I pay far too much attention to the pointless details of these films.

Sheriff Fuller joins Doc, who points out the marks Papers made in the dirt before he died. It appears he was trying to write something, but only got out “Pete is rich.” The only Pete they can think such a statement refers to is the late Pete Jenson, but neither knows what it means. Then Fuller says that they had better get back into town. Both men then get up and walk back to the Sheriff’s car, leaving the body behind. Uh…is someone else going to be by to collect it? Why didn’t the Sheriff bring the coroner along if he knew he was coming to see a dead man? This town is run by morons, it seems.

Before they pile into the car, they puzzle over the meaning behind Paper’s final message. The Doc thinks that since Papers knew old Pete Jenson better than anyone else, he would have known if the old man was hiding a large sum of money. Since Pete’s nephew came to town with very little money and suddenly deposited two thousand bucks in the bank a few days back, it fits in with the Doc’s theory. However, Fuller wonders where the horse that trampled Papers might have come from, since the closest ranch is miles away (our first clue that Nick can transform into animals as well as control them). The Sheriff is convinced that something odd is going on and has an idea. Acting on a hunch he has, he gets the Doc to go along with him and to just tell people for the time being that Papers was hit and killed by a car.

Sheriff Fuller pays a visit to the Jenson place, taking his dog along. Yes, I said dog and no, it is not a police dog, but rather is a small Benji-like terrier of some kind. Fuller knocks on the door and then enters. The dog immediately begins sniffing and scratching around the rug that conceals the six-sided chalk symbol. Fuller takes a closer look and sees the symbol and then decides to get out. He exits the shack but before he can get in his car, the dog barks and begins digging in the dirt nearby. Again, Fuller takes a closer look and finds a bone that has been buried in the ground. Then he picks up his dog, gets in his car and leaves. During this entire sequence, I was extremely worried that something bad was going to happen to the dog. I happen to like animals and am a huge dog lover, but older films like this rarely have happy endings for the animals. Just witness what happened to Prince earlier in the film. Not that I am a militant PETA or ALF wacko, but I generally tend to feel more for animals than for most people. Anyway, I was happy to see the little dog here survive this sequence untouched.

At Doc Lucas’ place, the Doc is leaving to go somewhere when his daughter asks him to talk to David for her. The Doc says he will, but wants to know if there really is something between her and Nick Richards. Nell says that there isn’t and the Doc agrees to talk with David, but not because she asked him to. Rather, he is doing it because he thinks David would make a fine son-in-law (better than Pauly Shore, I’m sure).

In turns out the Doc was heading to David’s place to change his bandages. He removes the bandages and David gets the first look at his scarred face. He doesn’t think he a pretty sight. The Doc tries to play it off, saying that he has seen worse and that amazing things are being done these days with plastic surgery. David asks the Doc if he and Nell still have a chance. The Doc says that that is up to him, but that he does know that Nell loves him and that he is hurting his future with her by not talking with her. David is in the midst of a full on self-pity party and says that he loves Nell too much to hold her to any obligation she made to him before his accident. He tells Doc to tell Nell to forget all about him. The Doc tries to talk some sense into him, but David says he has made up his mind. The Doc implores David to let his friends help him and then leaves.

“At least its not as bad as the crap I had to wear in The Alligator People!”David has a moment of angst in front of the mirror and then removes a pistol from a drawer. Before he can do anything else, the phone rings. He puts the gun down and goes to answer the phone. It turns out to be Nick on the other line, calling from the service station. He just wants to verify that it is ok to let a Mr. Johnson charge some gas until the end of the month. David says it is ok and then hangs up.

Down at the service station, Mr. Johnson is pulling away when Sheriff Fuller pulls up, his dog in the backseat. When the dog gets wind of Nick, it begins barking up a storm, but Nick just passes it off. Fuller then asks Nick if he happened to see Papers the day he died. Nick mentions having worked on a ranch once and narrowly escaping the sane fate that befell Papers. The Sheriff asks if it was the Doc who told Nick that Papers was killed by a horse and then other man says yes. AHA! Busted! The Sheriff thanks him and then drives off.

We now cut to Doc Lucas’s office, where Sheriff Fuller is asking him if he spoke to Nick. When the Doc answers in the negative, the Sheriff wonders how Nick could have learned the method by which Papers died. The Doc suggests that perhaps the family that discovered the body stopped at the service station and mentioned it to him, but the sheriff reminds him that Nick plainly said that the Doc passed the information to him – an obvious lie. The two men wonder why Nick would lie. Um…Hello? Cuz he’s the murderer perhaps, you morons? Their inability to even suspect Nick at this point is laughable. The man has been caught in a lie, yet these two just wonder why he would tell such a falsehood, assuming as they do so that the man has no connection to the death of Papers. I’ve seen games of Clue that were harder to figure out than this case, yet these two are coming up short.

Fuller then relates how he went by Nick’s place and took a look around when he discovered that Nick was not there. The Doc reminds him that such actions are against the law but the Sheriff thinks that an innocent man would not mind. Fuller then relates to the Doc what he found in Nick’s place –chalk hexagon hidden under the rug, stains of goat’s blood, goat skins hanging about and a freshly buried goat’s carcass in the yard. Furthermore he adds how his dog likes everyone but nearly broke a car window trying to get at Nick Richards. Saying Nick’s last name aloud allows the final piece of the puzzle to click into place in the Sheriff’s head. Either that or he has a tumor. He tells the Doc that Nick’s last name is what Papers was trying to write when he scrawled out “Pete is Rich,” in the dirt. Doc Lucas thinks the Sheriff may be right but sees no connection between Nick and “a horse trampling an old wino to death.”

Nell shows up about now and says that she thinks David is planning on leaving town. When the Sheriff asks why she believes that, she reveals that David called Nick a short while ago and asked him to drop by his apartment to consider a proposition. Nell is worried that if David leaves town, she will never see him again. Fuller thinks that it doesn’t make sense for David to leave town but the Doc says that it indeed makes perfect sense after the conversation he had with the man earlier in the day. Fuller thinks that running away won’t solve anything, but Nell says that it is she that David is running away from, under the belief that she is in love with Nick Richards. The Sheriff has another hunch and asks Nell to tell Nick that she and David are leaving town together. She doesn’t quite understand but her father convinces her to go along with the Sheriff. Fuller then leaves and heads back to the Jenson place.

Arriving there (this time without his dog) he eases his car to a stop, slowly gets out and closes the door as quietly as possible. He can see movement inside the shack and he consults his watch before approaching. He peeks through the window and sees no one inside, despite having seen a hand close a window shade a few seconds earlier. There is an odd rattling sound nearby and the Sheriff then runs back to his car and speeds away. On the ground nearby is a snake, presumably a rattlesnake.

The Sheriff returns to Doc Lucas’ place and tells Nell and her father that he thinks David is going to be the next victim. When pressed for details, he says that he believes that Nick Richards is partly, if not solely, responsible for all the recent trouble in town. Nell is unsure, since Nick seems to have helped everyone, but the Sheriff says that despite that appearance, everything Nick has involved himself with has gone down the crapper. The Doc suggests heading over to David’s place so they can keep an eye on him and talk to Nick at the same time. They all pile into the Sheriff’s car and head on over.

 

Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

This guy takes a harsh approach to mice.David is in the midst of packing a suitcase, which makes it obvious that he is indeed planning on cutting his losses and splitting town. The wuss. Sorry, but I just think he’s a wuss for not fighting for what he wants. At the window we see a snake ease its way into the house, and we can only assume this is the same snake we saw a short while ago out at Nick-Pete’s place. Damn, that snake sure did cover a lot of ground in a short time! David is oblivious to the snake’s presence and continues to pack away. Finally he hears it hissing and produces his revolver and fires a few shots at it. Outside the Sheriff and the others pull up just in time to hear the gunfire and go rushing inside.

Within, they find David turning over furniture, looking for something. Nell asks if he is alright, to which he answers yes. The Doc asks where “he” is and David is about to ask how they knew about the snake when he realizes they are referring to someone else and asks them who. Nell says “Nick Richards” and asks if David shot him. David thinks they’ve gone crazy and wonders why he would shoot Nick, especially since he was going to offer to sell the service station to him. The Doc wants to know what the gunfire was all about if Nick was not there and David tells them about the snake that got in and for which he was looking when they came in. They find some blood on the floor and guess that the snake got out through the window after being hit.

They all head outside where they find more blood. Fuller gets his flashlight and the group sets off on foot, following the blood trail. At one point they pass Ida and ask her if she has seen a snake. After a smartass answer, she admits that she has not…though she has seen that "cute” Mr. Richards. Fuller asks where she saw him and she reveals that she saw Nick coming out of the service station and that he looked like he was hurt. The group presses on, leaving Ida behind.

They reach the service station and find the front door knocked loose from its hinges. Inside on the floor is more blood. David then wants someone to tell him just what is going on. The Doc says that he isn’t sure himself, but he has an idea. He outlines his theory that Nick has the power to transform himself into anything he wants. David of course balks at such an idea, but the Sheriff backs up the Doc’s theory, saying that Nick is the cause of all the trouble they’ve had. Deputy Joe then appears and Fuller ushers everyone into the car.

Back at the Jenson place, Nick-Pete comes stumbling through the door, clutching at a wound on his shoulder. He collapses into a chair and then hears the others pull up in a car. He kneels before his chalk symbol and begins to work his evil mojo again.

Outside, everyone is getting out of the vehicle when a horse suddenly appears from around the back of the shack and rears before them. Oh, no! The Scary Horse is back! The horse then takes off running down the road. So what do you think the Sheriff does? Naturally, he whips out his pistol and unloads four bullets into the animal, which drops to the ground in an adjacent field. Everyone rushes over and before their startled eyes, the horse transforms into the form of a shot up Nick Richards. The Doc says that all they can do is let him make peace with his maker. Nick gasps some, looks around and finally eyes Nell and her crucifix bracelet. He goes to touch it but dies before he can do so.

Wait! That ain’t the end by a long shot. There is more transforming to do! Yes, the dead body of Nick Richards slowly transforms into the dead body of Pete Jenson. Fuller, The Doc and Nell all share a look before gazing at David, who buries his face in his hands. When he removes them, his face has returned to normal, without a scar in sight.

“Ok, the film is over…let’s quit standing around here and go get a pizza!”All these transformations have my mind wondering something. Why did Nick-Pete possess some animals, yet at other times transform into an animal? I can understand why he possessed the cow and used it to cause the death of Doctor Marx – the doctor was many, many miles away and effecting a murder from that distance would not have worked any other way. However, why did he transform into a horse to kill Papers or a snake to attack David Simpson a second time? Why not just possess a snake to kill them both? That would seem to be safer, evidenced by the fact that David got off a few shots with his gun and wounded Nick-Pete in snake form. Better yet, why not transform into something really cool like a Komodo Dragon? If I could turn into animals, you bet your ass one of the first would be a large avian like an Eagle or some other bird of prey. Then I’d go shit-bomb people I really hate, like my old boss. Wait! Now that I think about it, possessing an entire squadron of seagulls to shit-bomb his car would be even better: safer for me and more shit for him.

One last question concerning Nick-Pete’s transformations…where the hell did his clothes go when he changed into an animal? Transported into some interdimensional limbo? Broken down into pure energy and reformed into part of whatever creature whose form he was assuming? Did they ever address that question on Manimal?

Anyway, t he camera slowly pulls away from the group as they stand around dead Pete.


The End.

 

Review

I was really unsure what to expect with this movie, and admittedly I approached it with more than a pinch of hopeful wariness. This film represents one of the few titles from the 1950’s that I had never seen before acquiring a copy on DVD. I’ve come to realize over the last decade or so that the vast majority of good movies from the 50’s – even the “good” bad ones – are ones that have already graced my TV screen in one form or another, and anything left that I have not yet had the privilege or misfortune of viewing is more often than not representative of the more…shall we say, frugally produced and less entertaining echelons of that era’s genre films. In other words: cheap, boring crap. Thus I was expecting such cinematic waste when in actuality hoping for more when I popped this disc into the player and sat down to watch. Much to my delighted surprise, the film wasn’t a crapfest by any means. Don’t get me wrong…it is not a classic either, but it surely doesn’t rank up there with the decade’s truly craptacular efforts (Mesa of Lost Women I am thinking of you). I suppose the words that best describe it in my eyes are average or pedestrian.

The Storyline.
The story here is pretty basic: new guy shows up in town and then bad things happen. This was not exactly a new idea even in 1958 - the year this movie was filmed - and other films have done far better jobs at it, but this project still manages to churn out a halfway interesting product. While the film does try to maintain something of a mystery concerning the relationship between two characters (one living and one deceased), a short scene at the very beginning of the film serves to both set up that plot thread as well as ruin it. Perhaps when the film was made, audiences in general were not be able to piece things together, but to modern viewers, connecting the proverbial dots requires no more mental effort or deduction than your average episode of Scooby-Doo. Aside from that, the film utilizes a straightforward, by the numbers approach, that could have been lifted right out of a book entitled 1950’s Genre Filmmaking for Dummies. The plot unfolds exactly as we expect it to, there are no big surprises and one can almost predict what scenes will follow which. There is a general feel of familiarity to the movie born from its cookie cutter-like execution and about the only thing that keeps potential viewers watching is the fact that the film wastes no time on things that do not pertain directly to the story.

On a more subtle level are the undertones of pervasive evil: the devil coming to small town, USA and infecting society with his special brand of ungodliness. This is exemplified in Nick Richards’ attempt to drive apart David Simpson and Nell Lucas, going as far as to murder innocents in order to accomplish his goal. That he eventually takes the form of a snake – the same form the devil took to infiltrate the garden of Eden and lead astray Adam and Eve – only re-enforces the idea of the good old, god-fearing American culture of the time being under attack from an insidious and often unseen enemy. Some may draw parallels with communism, which was often allegorically depicted in science fiction films of the 50’s, or perhaps even as a precursor to the 1960’s and the changes in societal mores and values that came with it. Either way it seems the film, by design or not, imparts a warning to the viewer to remain vigilant, lest evil manifest itself in one’s very midst.

Characterizations & Acting.
As is usual with films such as this (short, cheap and to the point), the characters do not benefit from deep examinations of motivation, nor do they receive more than the most cursory of development as the film unfolds. What we end up with on the screen is what the story demands – no more and no less, and that at times makes for some people who definitely seem to be operating with either a large degree of stupidity or with some type of mental condition. Why exactly has Nick undertaken the task he has? Is Nell really that desirable? It seems foolish to expend so much time and effort when there are plenty of other women elsewhere that can be had with far less work. Maybe if the film had provided more detail on Nell’s relationship with Pete Jenson…especially from Pete’s point of view, we could better understand why she is so worthy of such attention. As it is, the whole enterprise just seems pointless. Elsewhere we have David Simpson who, after his dog scars him, turns into a whiny, self-pitying wreck to the point that he is ready to break off his relationship with Nell, sell his business and leave town. It just doesn’t seem plausible that a man could become so embittered from just a facial scar. Depressed? Yes, I can see that, but that bitter? Nope. Perhaps if we knew more about David, his personality and history with Nell, we would fathom why he behaves the way he does, but we do not and thus have to just accept what the film feeds us.

Then there are the cardboard cutouts: Sheriff Fuller, Doc Lucas and Papers. These characters adhere to the thinnest of stereotypes and pretty much exist in the film to fill the requisite spots in the cast. The story needs certain people to do specific things at required times, and this gang is pretty much them. They pop in and out of the film every now and then to provide a conversation or two that helps steer the plot down the proper path. I will have to say that Doc Lucas was better at piecing together the mystery than the Sheriff, whose inability to see the connections between various things made him less credible as a law enforcement officer or civilian authority. About the only character that seems genuine is Nell Lucas, and I think that is because she spends the entire running time of the film reacting to what is transpiring around her rather than being one of those putting events into motion. She is never given the chance to make a bone-headed or unrealistic decision, and thus comes off as the most “real” person in the film.

Nobody appearing in this film can be accused of turning in Oscar-worthy work, but that is not to say the level of acting is on par with the worst performances of the same time period. Just about everyone does an adequate job. From Nick’s quiet unassuming demeanor, David’s slow burn into self pity, Papers’ drunken antics, Nell’s good natured personality offset by her growing confusion to Doc Lucas’s small town charm, the actors seem to be at least trying, even if not taxing their skills to the limit. If there is one element aside from the film’s brisk pace that helps the viewer maintain interest, it has to be the decent performances that help bring the characters to life – even if they don’t always behave like real people.

FX.
Almost none whatsoever. The biggest visual effect is when the physical appearance of one character slowly transforms into that of another. This is shown twice in the film and both times it is accomplished by using the same approach seen when Lon Chaney Jr. turned into The Wolfman: a sequence of dissolves between key frames…only here the method seems to have had less time and effort applied to it and comes off as even worse looking than its predecessor seventeen years earlier. In addition, since real animals could not be killed, and the budget was obviously too small to allow for any type of fake to be produced for appearance onscreen, any time an animal meets its demise, it happens off screen. Twice a goat is sacrificed for an evil ritual, but all we see are shadows on a wall, and when David Simpson beats his dog to death with a heavy urn, it occurs behind a tall chair.

Music.
Ronald Stein’s original music is good – definitely a step above the usual fare for such low budget films, but there is still little about it that stands out. There are a few nice themes, but they often get lost in the end product. About the only true noticeable moments are when he incorporates a theremin, the instrument used to create that spooky Woo-hee-ooo otherworldly sound so often found in 50’s horror and science fiction films. Even then, it seems more a cliché than anything.

Technique.
It is quite obvious that this film did not have a large budget. Shot on a handful of sets and with a small cast, there is a certain elementary feel to it as if it is lacking depth and scope…which I would say it does. Worst of all, the entire film seems like an extended episode of a television show…like a lost episode of The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents or even Thriller. Supporting that illusion are the brief “action” scenes, which retain all the excitement and sophistication of something shot for Sesame Street. The cinematography doesn’t help much, as the film fails to make many of its settings look like anything other than the sets they are, and the outdoor scenes seem to convey a dark, claustrophobic look and feel – even the ones shot in broad daylight and not suffering from the lousy day-for-night effects. Camera movement is kept to a bare minimum, which further fuels the feeling of static complacency that permeates the film. In essence, the movie has no visual zest to it and seems uninterested in providing anything to catch one’s eye and keep their attention. Again, all the hallmarks of a cheap production where everyone showed up long enough to do their job at the most basic level, collect a paycheck and then leave. No wonder it sat on the shelf for four years before being released.

Summation.
So basically what we have is a film shot on a few sets with a small but decent cast, characters who often seem unrealistic, a plot that never strays from its core idea, a serious lack of anything approaching a cinematic look or style and a positive dirge in the fright department. Yet, for all that it has stacked against it, The Devil’s Partner still manages to tell a story that never drags or gets bogged down in details. Some adequate performances help move things along, even if it all is more than just a bit predictable. The film’s saving grace is its sheer mediocrity, which keeps it from descending into true cheeziness. While offering up nothing exciting, it is an acceptable to way to kill some time, though it may not stand up to repeat viewings.

 

Expect To See:
Animals Gone Berzerk - One possessed dog and one possessed cow. In addition, Nick transforms into a seriously pissed off horse as well as an angry snake.
Comic Relief - Take your pick: Papers the goofy town drunk or Ida the man-starved cafe owner. Either one could be considered this film's odious comic relief.
Desert Hijinks - All the action takes place in the town of Furnace Flats, and while no one is seen running through the desert, people sure do bitch about the heat.
Magic - Nick Richards engages in some black magic to carry out his convoluted plans to get laid…then again, so do most guys when undertaking such a task.
Satan - Old Scratch appears very briefly. We just get a glimpse of his arm and hand when he pops up to sign Pete Jenson’s soul-trading contract.
Violence - One man is attacked by his dog and another man suffers the squish treatment from a horse.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

Total deaths: 5
Total animal deaths: 4
Goats who meet untimely ends: 2
Possessed animals: 2
Animals Nick transforms into: 2
Times the heat is mentioned: 5
Times people point out at that Nick doesn’t sweat: 4
Drinks consumed: 3
Kids traumatized for life by sight of dead body: 2
People traumatized for life by this film: who knows?
Years that passed after completion of film before it was released: 4
Years that will seem to pass while watching this film: Too many

00 Mins – Hey! It’s snowin…er…no it isn’t.
01 Mins - Somebody call PETA!
17 Mins - The Space Time Continuum is fracturing!
18 Mins - I had the same reaction to this entire film.
22 Mins - Somebody call PETA!
28 Mins - What is this, romper room?
40 Mins - Hey, hey, hey!! That’s another man’s dish!
44 Mins - Somebody call PETA!
51 Mins - What...you’re just going to leave the body there?
53 Mins - That's the police dog? Talk about budget cuts!
66 Mins - Gun + small snake = overkill (BTW…somebody call PETA).
70 Mins - Somebody call PETA! The End!


Shadow's Drinking Game: Any time the heat or Nick's ability to not sweat is brought up, take a drink.

 

Images Click for larger image

Pete won the Shadow Puppet
Championship when he
hauled out his
“old man taking a crap” maneuver.



What? Satan’s Hollow was
already taken?


Argh! This tastes like ass! Wait
until I get my hands on the guy who
sold me this liquid viagra!”

“Green Acres is the place for me…!”  


Hey moron! Pentagrams have five
sides, not six!

I know Rin Tin Tin is technically
a celebrity, but having him on
Dancing with the Stars is a bit much.


 
“Oh, god I’m on hold again…with Muzak!”


  “I realize you are a firm believer in
safe sex, but don’t you think
you’re taking it too far?”

That guy is so oily and greasy,
I think he came to the service
station for a lube.

“Look pal, if you ask about the vintage
one more time I’m gonna shove
this bottle so far up your ass that
you’ll have to swallow a corkscrew
to open it.”

“Why did Daddy jump off the
overpass…and why is he
just laying there?”

“He’s dead, Jim.”
 


“Ok, I’ll just remove this last
bandage and we’ll get a look
at your fac…yikes!”

 

 

Immortal Dialog

Sheriff Fuller reflecting on the death of Dr. Marx.

Sheriff Fuller: “Doesn’t make sense, a hunk of beef killing a man like Doctor Marx.”

Shadow’s Comment: Eat a steak at Denny’s and you’ll understand perfectly.


Nell and Nick discuss David (who is still alive).

Nell: “David was so kind and gentle, he wouldn’t have been rude to a living soul.”
Nick: “Then why did you slap him?”

Shadow’s Comment: My guess is that he left the toilet seat up.

 

Keep In Mind
  • Contrary to popular opinion, the devil is best summoned by using a six-sided emblem, not a five-sided one.
  • Jezzer Hora, like the name Uwe Boll, is one of the Devil’s aliases.
  • Drinking goat’s milk will cause you to drop dead.
  • Handing over the keys to your private business to someone you just met is not foolish at all.
  • Old winos always pay their debts.
  • There is a metallic crashing sound when a car collides with a stationary cow.
  • Old drunks are deathly afraid of cups containing blood.
  • Horses are not scary, no matter how much the filmmakers try to make them so.
  • After investigating a crime scene, its ok to leave any dead bodies behind.
  • Innocent people should not mind law officers (and their dogs) entering their homes and rifling through their personal possessions when they aren’t there.
  • Dogs hate service station attendants.
  • Having a single large scar counts as being “horribly disfigured.”
  • Snakes are only slightly less fast than a car.



This Film & Me

Here is yet another film that somehow eluded me during my formative and early adolescent years, when such 1950’s fare was a staple of my preferred TV viewing. It wasn’t just that I missed any opportunity to watch it, but until I saw the film listed in a Sinister Cinema catalog in the late 1980’s, I had never even heard of it! I had seen the ad for Sinister Cinema in Starlog magazine and decided to send for their catalog. When it arrived, I was astounded at the number of science fiction and horror films from the 1950’s that I had never seen. The Devil’s Partner was one such film, but since my tastes back then ran more towards cheezy epics about giant bugs and alien invasions, I did not express too much interest in the film. As the years went by, it was always a title I would see from time to time – either in the latest catalog from Sinister Cinema or in one from some other outfit specializing in hard to find films. Then in the last few years, with the DVD boom and my financial ability to spend insane amounts on what others would classify as crap cinema, I began floating the film’s title in my head for possible future purchase. Then I came across Oldies.com where one can buy a veritable shitload of DVDs for little money (true, Alpha Video’s releases are more often than not pretty crappy copies of such films). In a glorious haze of spending frenzy, I ordered over thirty titles at once. The Devil’s Partner was among them. At last I got the chance to see this film and I was quite surprised that it was not anywhere near as crappy as I had expected. Indeed, despite lacking a budget for…well, for anything, it still manages to keep one’s interest. And nothing more can truly be asked of a B-Movie.

Shadow's rating: Five Tombstones



The Good

  • One semi cute chick
  • Traumatized children
  • Decent pace

The Bad

  • Plays like an old TV show
  • Rather unexciting
  • Unfunny drunken bum antics
  • Movie fails to live up to poster

The Ugly

  • Horses and cows are not scary
  • Cut rate satanic rituals
  • Who the hell is Jezzer Hora?

This review is part of the Rogue Reviewers The Devil Made Me Do It Roundtable:

Review Round-Up
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