For all fans of late-night TV and drive-in movies, "Twilight People" is a real joy to behold. It's the kind of movie you remember watching on an independent local TV station at 11pm (when 11pm was really late to be awake). Or else maybe you caught movies like "Twilight People" at the drive-in, probably playing second on the bill, and were amused by its low-budget Halloween-costume charms.
Anybody else is going to think this movie sucks.
Technically it does, on every level of imagination. The script is as bad as a script about half human-half animal mutations can get. As previously mentioned by another reviewer, this movie passes itself off as a cross between "Island of Lost Souls" and "The Most Dangerous Game". Actually it's more like a low-rent version of "Island of Dr. Moreau", although that film wasn't made until several years after this one (and with similarly laughable results, as well).
But for all its shortcomings, "Twilight People" has a real sense of fun. I think anyone who was waiting for some believeable special effects was in the wrong place to being with. What the movie has going for it is an authentic feel of bonafide 70s drive-in delirium.
Our hero is John Ashley, veteran of classic drive-in trash like the "Blood Island" movies. Here he plays Matt Farrell, not to be confused with the 'Jim Farrell' character from "Brides of Blood". Matt Farrell is apparently a noted adventurer who attracts the attention of our resident mad doctor, Dr. Gordon. Farrell is kidnapped and taken to Gordon's secluded isla, where he is to be used as a brain-transplant donor for Gordon's quintet of genetic freaks. The 'monsters' include a Bat Man, Antelope Man, Wolf Woman, Ape Man, and none other than Pam Grier as the "Panther Woman".
Of course what would a trashy 70s flick be without sex, and there is plenty of sexual tension on this island, in the most surprising places. The doctor's daughter (who is conveniently beautiful in a 70s kind of way) is ripe for the picking, and Farrell is just the kind of stud to show her what a real man is. But Steinman, the Doc's hired goon, has designs of his own...he wants Farrell for himself! No kidding. Neva and Steinman even have a catfight over Farrell in one of the movie's best scenes. OK, Steinman wants Farrell so he can hunt him down and KILL him...but there's a definite undercurrent of lust in his lines with Farrell, from the minute they snatch him from his skin dive in the movie's opening scene.
But no matter. Farrell only has eyes for Neva, and fortunately she chooses the moment of Farrell's arrival to turn against her father and run off with the freaks. It's at this point where the movie starts to veer off into the truly bizarre. We have a romance that develops between Antelope Man and Wolf Woman. We get to see Pam Grier rolling around on the ground and purring after a meal. And wow...that Bat Man is not to be missed. After a few failed attempts at flight, he really gets going by the time the movie's climax rolls around. And that's not even mentioning the 'surprise' mutation that crops up during the finale (if you can't figure it out ahead of time, you weren't really paying attention).
I especially loved the sequence where the Panther Woman takes out a few of Gordon's henchmen, then suddenly turns on her own kind and tries to kill Antelope Man for no apparent reason. The animal people are mostly identifiable by the familiar animal-sounds on the soundtrack (the Wolf Woman's canine utterings are priceless), although I have to admit the Ape Man was more than a little disappointing (not to mention confusing), especially when he tries to rape the suddenly good-hearted Neva.
The movie's big finish is also a little bit of a letdown, especially the unresolved tension between Steinman and Farrell. I was just a bit confused about their final scene---you'll know what I mean if you're adventurous enough to actually watch "Twilight People".
Technically everything is done on the cheap, but since there was obviously such a low budget, I'm impressed that they managed to pull off the nice touches of the movie. I liked the sets they used for the interiors of Gordon's mansion, especially the dungeon and the prerequisite "secret passageway". I've never seen a more blatant disregard for continuity in regards to day-for-night filming, except maybe in "The Eye Creatures" (which, ironically, also featured John Ashley). Obviously sunny days are the background for scenes that are supposed to be taking place in the dead of night, like Farrell's escape from the mansion.
There's also some amusing comic-book lighting going on here. Much of the interior scenes are tinged with red and green lights, and a few scenes in the laboratory feature a multi-domed contraption that houses orange brains underneath yellow plastic.
The makeup of the animal people is so hokey that you can't help but be amused by it, and the performances are alternately zombified and deliciously over-the-top. Although it's obvious that nobody thought they were making great art with "Twilight People", they may have been aiming for B-movie greatness, and this movie has drive-in appeal in spades.
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