Movie Review: Twilight People

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The Twilight People (1972)
Directed by Eddie Romero
Starring John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier, Ken Metcalfe, Tony Gosalvez, Kim Ramos, Mona Morena, Eddie Garcia,

If you’re a fan of Filipino cinema, then you really don’t need to read any further other than to know that this movie came from Eddie Romero and John Ashley. Those two names alone would get any fan of the Blood Island movies to sit down with this one with open arms. If you’re not familiar with the plethora of titles to come from this little Southeast Asian country, and are a fan of cult cinema, then you now have a chance to experience a whole new sense of wonder when you take a cinematic journey there.

While the country was making films since the early days of cinema, the horror output really exploded in the ’60s, mainly due to the work of Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero, who are responsible for the famous Blood Island trilogy: Brides of Blood, Mad Doctor of Blood Island (both 1968), and Beast of Blood (1970). Those were all made for Hemisphere Pictures and starred John Ashley. But after Beast of Blood, Romero and star Ashley left to start their own production companies, Four Associates Productions. They only made a few titles, with The Twilight People being one of the last ones. Just imagine taking Island of Lost Souls and adding in a little element from The Most Dangerous Game, and then you’ll have The Twilight People, though maybe not on the same level of quality in production. But is it entertaining? Because isn’t that what matters in the end? I happen to love most of these Filipino horror flicks of that time period, so my praise for this movie has to be taken with that in mind. Is this a high quality, well made film? Not even close. But damn if it isn’t crazy as hell and just a lot of fun.

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Ashley plays Matt Farrell, a well renowned sportsman, who is captured while scuba-diving and taken to some remote island to be part of an experiment by a mad doctor, ala Dr. Moreau, played by Charles Macaulay. He feels that mankind isn’t evolving fast enough for the new world so he is out to speed up the process, by combining humans with different animals. We get to see the results of his work in the forms of the panther woman (played wonderfully by Pam Grier), the Ape-Man, Wolf-Woman, Antelope-Man, and the most impressive one, the Bat-Man, who actually does fly and is one of the best parts of the movie. We do get a very brief cameo by Eddie Garcia, who is kind of a big deal in the Philippines and made more than a couple in the horror and exploitation genre.

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As much as I do love Ashley and these low budget films that he made, he’s not the best actor and he shows that really well here. But then again, we’re watching a movie that has a bat-man and antelope-man, so should we really expect that much? Macaulay had a bit part playing Dracula in the AIP film Blacula (1972), that puts the eternal curse of William Marshall’s character. Jan Merlin plays the doctor’s main enforcer, who knows of Ashley’s athletic achievements and would love to hunt him like an animal. This is where we get the nod to The Most Dangerous Game. Merlin was known for playing the villain and does a real nice job here as well. Cocky, arrogant, but fun to watch. Pat Woodell made a name for her on the TV series Petticoat Junction, but exploitation fans will know her from her work in films like this one, as well as Big Doll House (1971) and The Woman Hunt (1972).

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The makeup for the creatures is a bit crude, but for me it really adds the charm to the overall picture and fun. Figuring the low budget they were working on, as well as the technology they had there on the island, I think what they came up with was pretty interesting. Pam Grier’s Panther Woman is one vicious creature and comes across perfectly. Seeing the antelope-man back-kicking his opponents is just a riot.

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This new disc from VCI comes with a newly remastered 2K scan from the 35mm negative and it looks really good. Some of the colors are a bit off, with a yellow tint around some of the shots and even with Ashley looking like he’s wearing lipstick a time or two. But overall, it is the best this film has probably looked since its initial release. There is a great interview with director Romero that gives us his history in the film business. Romero is one of those filmmakers that really needs to be remembered for his contributions to the genre and the many hours of entertainment he has given us film fans. There is also a commentary by film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker David Decoteau, who give us some history about the film, the makers of it, and the other people involved, but spend more time talking about other things like working in the Philippines, but not necessarily about this particular title.

I would say that this film is a must for all fans of these kind of movies and this new print is well worth upgrading your old out-of-print DVDs for that alone. I mean when is the last time you saw a giant bat-man flying around and biting people?

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