“Bill’s Bizarre Bijou”
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
BLUE MONKEY (1987)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if there’s a multitude of drag queens and camp sensibility, if go-go dancers in cages are featured, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.
Oh, those whacky Canadians!
The 1970s through the 1980s was a time for tax havens in the film industry, and Canada was one of the best places on Earth to produce a cheaply-made film that could reap so many tax breaks that the film would practically pay for itself before its release . . . ala THE PRODUCERS (1967). Thus was born Canucksploitation, in which many films were produced in the horror genre, some of which turned out to be quite good (BLACK CHRISTMAS, 1974, THE PYX, 1973, CURTAINS, 1983), but many were odd or just plain terrible (RECRUITS, 1987, THINGS, 1987, THE BRAIN, 1988). In fact, it was discovered that in the year 1979, half of the 66 films produced in Canada were never even released to the public!
Somewhere towards the end of this cycle was a bizarre film entitled BLUE MONKEY (1987), a creature feature that is so strange I have to love it. Capably directed by stalwart Canadian horror maestro William Fruet (THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE, 1976, SPASMS, 1983, and KILLER PARTY, 1986), this seldom-seen horror comedy is far more fun than it should be, and it deserves a second look. So, here we go!
An elderly woman, Marwella (Helen Hughes of OUTRAGEOUS, 1977 and TOMMY BOY, 1995) working in her greenhouse, plays music for her plants and entertains a gentleman who asks her out on a date, Fred (Sandy Webster of LOST AND FOUND, 1979). He is bitten by a bug on a newly imported plant from Micronesia and almost instantly goes into anaphylactic shock. The bite is swelling and looking grody, so she calls an ambulance, and he is rushed to the local hospital.
The first sexy E.R. doctor, Judith Glass (Susan Anspach of FIVE EASY PIECES, 1970 and in MONTENEGRO, 1981) thinks it looks like gangrene. Immediately, a cop, Detective Jim Bishop (Steve Railsback of HELTER SKELTER, 1976, THE STUNTMAN, 1980, LIFEFORCE, 1985) brings in his partner who has been shot, and they are attended by sexy E.R. doctor number two, Dr. Rachel Carson (Gwynyth Walsh of THE CRUSH, 1993 and STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, 1994).
Fred starts to flatline, gasping while a giant white worm crawls out of his mouth. Dr. Glass sends it to the pathology lab, while Fred goes into isolation. After she examines the detective (I guess just to get his shirt off), Dr. Carson gives Bishop a tour of the hospital, explaining how it used to be an insane asylum, but now look at the flashy, shiny, new laser laboratory where men in contamination suits are experimenting with lasers that can explode stuff real good (“There’s still a few bugs to work out,” says Dr. Carter! Get it, bugs!). Socialized medicine is awesome!
Bishop goes through the children’s’ ward, where he bonds with a little boy who wants his gun. He is part of a gang of kids with leukemia who all still have their hair and seem awfully energetic (including a little girl played by Sarah Polley, who would later become a great director and the star of DAWN OF THE DEAD, 2004 and THE SWEET HEREAFTER, 1997). Marwella gets admitted … for shock, I guess … and she is tracked down by a fellow patient Dede, who is blind, but finds her way into the isolation ward (played by Joy Coghill from SHIVERS, 1975).
The hospital administrator, Roger (John Vernon of NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE, 1978 and DIRTY HARRY, 1971) enters the pathology lab (“What the HELL is going on here?”). They try to operate on the worm, and it splits open and a bug emerges. Meanwhile, the paramedics that brought in Fred have come down with the same symptoms. Their bones are breaking down and flooding their circulatory systems. Fred goes into cardiac arrest, and when the sexy E.R. doctors try to revive him with defibrillator paddles, his chest explodes all over them! This bug is causing a bug that is dissolving peoples’ bones within them. How lucky is it that Dr. Carter is friends with an entomologist, Elliott Jacobs (Bill Lake of ZOOTOPIA, 2016 and POLICE ACADEMY, 1984), and she calls him.
In the pathology lab, the nurse who is supposed to be watching the bug is talked into a smoke break by a fellow doctor (“I don’t know; I’m not supposed to leave Jiminy Cricket alone!”). Guess what happens? The little bugger is set loose in the hospital by the leukemia gang, of course! They think it looks hungry, so they feed it some blue stuff in a bottle (the blue monkey of the title? No, it’s NAC-5, a growth hormone!).
Meanwhile, the CDC gets wind of this disease, and they put the whole hospital on lockdown, but not before the sexy pathologist and her boyfriend are eaten by the growing creature. So, trapped in the hospital are the roaming kids, the very drunk blind old lady, the detective, the sexy doctors, and a couple who may be having a baby, played by two SCTV alumnae Joe Flaherty of USED CARS (1980) and Robin Duke from GROUNDHOG DAY (1993).
Now, the bug—more than six feet tall (and played by Ivan E. Roth of NIGHT OF THE COMET, 1984 and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, 1986) and hungry—starts picking everyone off within the hospital as the disease continues to spread. It also begins laying eggs all over the place.
Will anyone survive? Can the disease be contained? How convenient is it that there is a laser that explodes stuff is in this very hospital? By the way, where is this hospital where every single doctor is played by a sexy actress?
BLUE MONKEY is incredibly fast moving (seriously, don’t look away or you’ll miss things) and chock full of fun characters for monster fodder. It truly doesn’t want to be anything other than a Saturday afternoon creature feature with some silly humor and a cool monster. I love that the giant bug was completely done as a man-in-a-suit practical effect. It actually appears more realistic than many of the modern CGI critters. It looks like a huge praying mantis, and the suit was created by Sirius Effects. This flick proudly wears its monster movie heart on its sleeve, and despite its R-rating, this should be a PG-13 or PG, as there is little gore, almost no swearing, and no nudity. It’s exactly the kind of movie older kids would love.
About that title . . . I have no clue why this was called BLUE MONKEY. There isn’t a single monkey anywhere to be found, let alone a blue one! At one point, the kids are roaming around in the subterranean tunnels beneath the hospital, and one asks, “I wonder what we’ll find here?” One answers, “I bet we find a big blue monkey.” That’s the ONLY reference to a monkey in the movie. One throw-away line. Which means nothing in the end.
Oh well, it still has a game cast of B-movie pros, fantastic fast pacing (seriously, you don’t get a chance to breathe), fun practical effects, and a giant bug running amok in a hospital!
I give Blue Monkey three non-existent monkeys out of four. Why the hell isn’t this one on Blu-ray? Demand it now!
© Copyright 2017 by William D. Carl