The Film (3/5)
If you had told me back in 1989 that I’d be adding Transformations (1988) to my collection some day I would have thought somebody had cracked you upside your thinker. I was fully aware of it before I saw it on cable, but having checked Fangoria’s index last night there’s no sign they ever covered it or even reviewed it, but I have a memory of coming across it in one of their issues. My reaction to it was not good. I remember thinking this is just pure shit. Cut to 2016 and my reaction to it is no longer that strong, but it’s still a bad movie, a borderline good-bad movie. I’m talking just a hair beyond the shit line.
Transformations’ concept is solid (futuristic tale of a space pilot contracting an alien STD), it’s just unfortunate the idea wasn’t executed properly. If done right it would’ve reminded me of one of those Roger Corman produced 80s sci-fi/horror flicks, like Forbidden World (1982) or Galaxy Of Terror (1981), which it still does, in a way, but without all the creativity and bloody spunk.
Logic is really lacking in this one and when I get to the extras section you’ll know why, but in the meantime settle in and follow the exploits of cargo pilot/arms smuggler Wolf Shadduck (Rex Smith) who on this particular day is celebrating his birthday, and his friends who he’s talking to on the monitor tell him they’ve hidden his present on the ship. Wolf sets his autopilot and goes to get some shut-eye. For reasons that are never explained the movie cuts to a monster walking around the cargo bay. All we see of it is its legs, and they’re pretty damn gooey and monstrous as all monster legs should be. But by the time it gets to Wolf’s compartment (how did it know where he was?) it’s a hot, semi-naked chick. Wolf naturally assumes this is his present, a hooker, but as she seduces him the camera pans down to a bottle of wine with a bow on it that was hidden in his room.
Okay, so this chick isn’t his present?
It’s hard to say. His friends may have sent along a hooker and some wine to chase her down with, but later on we’ll meet a priest, Father Christopher (Patrick Macnee), who tells a tale of 26-years prior of this man on this space station who had contracted a similar disease, but Father Christopher’s explanation of it’s origin is more demonic. An Incubus was the cause, the disease is simply Evil in the flesh, so are we dealing with an alien STD movie or a flick about supernatural evil? The end credits list the woman who played the “hooker” in the beginning as ‘Woman Succubus’ and the fact that his encounter with her just randomly happens out of nowhere I’m going to assume this is really a tale of supernatural evil. Personally, I like the alien STD angle better; that his present was in fact a hooker and she happened to have this rare STD she passes on to him.
As they fuck she begins to shape-shift, but he’s so in the throes of passion with his eye closed he doesn’t see this happen. Something more to add credence to this “supernatural angle,” as she’s transforming and acting all monstery, he suddenly “wakes up.” Did it really happen? Well, there are three claw rips on his bed to suggest something “weird” may have occurred. But we never get any kind of explanation why Wolf was targeted by this “evil force.” Maybe just being Wolf Shadducks was enough to piss off a seething force in the underworld.
He crashes on a mining/prison planet (I smell shades of Alien 3 here), and meets the movie’s heroine, Miranda (Lisa Langlois), who’s a nurse, but not a doctor, so she knows next to shit when Wolf’s skin starts to, well, look like shit. He also suffers general, crippling pain, and blackouts. During these blackouts he wanders into the colony’s bar, picks up random women and fucks them, passing on the disease. As it begins to really take hold of him and mutate him even more, he kills the chicks he fucks.
The dude in charge of the colony tells him to stay put because it’s a prison planet and it wouldn’t be safe for him to wander. More Alien 3 tickles my smeller. But he does anyway. Like we didn’t see that coming.
There’s a subplot of three inmates trying to escape, and they plan to use Shadduck and his ship for that. Christopher Neame plays the Alpha Male, and I have to say, despite the production value being on the low end they managed to attract some “name” actors for this one. Smith, Langlois, Neame. Macnee, I’ve seen all these guys in much bigger movies before and since. Acting-wise, it’s not bad. Neame and his two inmate “friends” provide the best acting here, and that’s probably because they’re so angry, scummy and desperate and they act it.
Now it’s time to address the special effects. The creature that fucks Shadduck, and the creature he turns into is, well, odd, to say the least. It has a beak, which shouldn’t have been added, it gives the actors wearing it a far too comical look. Actually the creature looked like something that should have been in The Ice Pirates (1984). Having said that it’s ultimate form is so strange looking you hardly notice the beak. It’s humanoid and covered in slime, which proves yet again if you have an effect you’re not sure you can sell to the viewer just had a healthy dose of slime and even a lame creature effect looks pretty good. 80s monster movies always upped the slime factor. Modern, independent filmmakers need to be re-educated on this. Slime up your practical monster effects and it gives them that million-dollar look. And then light the effect like it’s monster slime porn. Case in point, look at Hellraiser (1987) and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), the slime is lit so lovingly you want to jerk off to it.
The ship effects are another story. The reveals of Shadduck’s transport are never consistent. His ship seen in space and his ship he finally gets back to and flies off in at the end are totally different.
The 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen transfer looks like they filmed it yesterday. I had no problem with the 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio; sounded great to me.
You get two interviews (both running 9-10 minutes), one with Director Jay Kamen and one with star, Lisa Langlois, and a commentary with Jay Kamen, moderated by Code Red DVD owner, Bill Olsen. Lisa’s interviews are always good and informative, but if you want the real dirt on the making of this movie check out Kamen’s contributions and you’ll understand why this flick wasn’t all that it could have been. He filmed this in Rome for Empire Pictures and basically his Italian crew simply hated him for being an American director. They hindered him at every turn. There’s also reverse cover art of what I suspect is the poster that Charles Band (Empire Pictures) came up with that inspired the movie and the shape-shifting monster looks nothing like the final product. Neither does the monster on the primary cover art, but I like that one better.
I still think this movie is noteworthy. At the time of it’s releaseShivers (1975) was the only movie in existence, I think, that told a tale of a monstrous STD. Nowadays we have a small clutch of them (It Follows, Contracted, Contracted: Phase II, but Transformations stands out because it’s the only one that takes venereal diseases into a futuristic space setting.
If you’re a Gen-X’r who saw this back in the day, you’ll understand why I now have some fondness for it. You may too if you’re a collector of “memory movies” from your youth.