Tuesday, February 2, 2010

THE CREMATORS: Giant Fireballs Invade The Earth!

By Steve D. Stones

Harry Essex, director of the 1971 classic Octaman, brings us this low-budget gem. Essex is also credited as a co-writer responsible for the 1953 classic Creature From The Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space. The DVD of this film is distributed by Retromedia, and has a “Bikini Drive-In” introduction by Fred Olen Ray and his sidekick Miss Kim. The film stars Maria De Aragon, who went on to star in Star Wars episode IV in the costume of Greedo the bounty hunter. As an added bonus, the DVD contains an interview with De Aragon.

The film opens with a local native Indian being chased by a giant fireball, which apparently has come from outer space. The fireball rolls over the Indian and burns him to the ground, reducing him to ashes. The opening narration sounds like the voice of Arch Hall Sr. from Eegah. Later sequences in the film show the same stock shot of human ashes being blown into the air after the fireball attacks victims.

Meanwhile, Ian Thorn, a local scientist, is studying the waters off the local shoreline. It is never clear throughout the entire film where it takes place, but we have to assume it is Florida or any small coastal town, since many of the shots show an ocean shoreline. Director Essex shot Octaman in Florida, so this is why I also suspect The Cremators was also shot there.

Thorn finds strange, small glowing crystals in the local waters. He takes some of them back to his lab to be studied and places one in a package to be mailed to a colleague in Michigan for further investigation.

While delivering the package to a local post office, Thorn gets the feeling he is being chased by something. He gets out of his truck, but finds nothing. He delivers the package to a postal carrier. The carrier is later chased in his vehicle by a giant fireball and burned to death. Ian and the local sheriff later investigate the burned remains of the postal carrier’s vehicle. Ian’s package is found but not completely destroyed in the remains.

Later, a local native brings his dead cat to Thorn to try and discover what killed the cat. Thorn conducts an autopsy and discovers a fragment of one of the glowing crystals inside the belly of the cat. He also discovers another crystal fragment inside the belly of a dog he finds by the side of the road. Somehow local animals are eating the glowing crystals found in the local waters of the town.

Although I greatly enjoyed viewing this film, I find some of the plot points a bit confusing. For example, what does the glowing crystals being eaten by local animals have to do with the giant fireballs attacking local citizens? I suppose the connection is that many of the victims find a glowing crystal just before they are attacked and burned by the giant fireballs.

However, this still adds some confusion. Are the giant fireballs attracted to the glowing crystals, or are they a result of the glowing crystals? Plus, why don’t the giant fireballs attack the animals who eat the crystals, and why do they only attack when someone picks up a crystal? These are all questions that enter into my mind as I view the film.

The film certainly leaves more questions to the viewer than it answers. At the end of the film, Thorn arranges a small circle of crystals on the ground in an attempt to attract the giant fireball. Like a hen looking for her newborn hatchlings, the fireball comes for the circle of crystals. Thorn is able to destroy the fireball with an explosion.

If you are familiar with It Came From Outer Space, it is easy to see some similarities to this film. However, It Came From Outer Space is a much better scripted and well-produced film. Fans of Octaman are encouraged to see The Cremators, if only to see what director Essex made after Octaman. Enjoy!

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