Ratman (1988)

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I have my friends Val and Nick to thank for this – on holiday in Edinburgh, they spotted the DVD and thought of me. One way of looking at it – it’s good to have friends who buy you things like this; the other way – why did they torture me so? To say it didn’t exactly seize the attention of the people in the room is something of an understatement, but there’s stuff to talk about, should you, dear reader, be in a Fopp shop and wondering whether to drop your hard-earned cash on one of Shameless Videos’ releases.

 

The original title for this movie is, translated from the Italian, “The Villa At The Bottom Of The Park”, which is even less descriptive than the one we ended up with (perhaps “inspired” by “The House At The Edge Of The Park”, because if you’re going to be sleazy you might as well go all out). A scientist, going for his Nobel Prize, has successfully crossed a rat with a monkey.

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Wait, what? Wouldn’t the title of the film be “Rat-Monkey”, then? I wrote that in my notes at the beginning of the movie, and I now dream of the time when that was my biggest problem with it. If you’re in a forgiving mood, you can imagine that Peter Jackson was inspired by this to create the Sumatran rat-monkey which is the driving force behind all-time gore-comedy classic “Braindead” – he is a student of the genre, so it might well be true.

 

So, back to the rat-monkey, which the scientist has left for some reason in the world’s tiniest and most flimsy cage. The hybrid has poison in its claws and teeth which is fatal; and escapes pretty quickly. Ratman is played by Nelson De La Rosa, who was 2’4” and weighed around 16lbs at the time; you may remember him from “The Island Of Dr. Moreau”. I’m not really sure what to think of his use in this movie, although it lends it an exploitation authenticity that few others can touch. Slap a set of fake teeth in him, smear him in brown makeup and put some rags on, and you’re good to go.

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Nothing happens for half an hour. Then Rat-man watches a woman take a shower, at incredible length. Then nothing happens for another half an hour. Finally Rat-man kills a bunch of people, overpowering each and every one of them despite him being about the same size and weight as a small  dog, and being so clearly disabled that his walk is a slow side-to-side trot that anyone could run away from in seconds. Not a single person fights back or shows any desire for self-preservation at all.

 

There are a couple of main characters in it – Janet Agren (“City of The Living Dead”) and David Warbeck (“The Beyond”), but I’ve got no idea why they know each other or what their relationship is. She’s the sister of a model who goes into the jungle for a job, and they both go looking for her and instead encounter Rat-man. Even remembering what happened in this film 24 hours ago is a miserable experience, but I think I’ve given you the highlights.

 

This could well be the dirtiest, sleaziest, broke-looking movie we’ve ever reviewed. Every room is dingily lit, and the walls and floors are filthy. Everyone looks sweaty and ground-down by life, although this could just be the attitude of the actors who were obliged to take roles in a piece of crap like this.  According to about half this movie’s other reviewers, the main highlight is a full-frontal nudity shower scene featuring 80s Euro-hottie Eva Grimaldi, but luckily for those of us in 2016 who want to see that sort of thing, there are millions of websites and DVDs with nothing but nude ladies in them, rendering the need to watch 80 minutes of nothing to see two minutes of showering entirely moot. Add on to that an ending my notes merely described as “bullshit” (luckily, I remember none of it, thanks, chest infection!) and you’ve got something that resembles a movie!

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I’m actually sort of delighted that the era of exploitation cinema is over. It’s useful to remember why they were made – because unpleasant people wanted to make money as easily as possible. They’d have made ballet movies, or documentaries about concrete, if that’s where the money was, and almost to a person had no aptitude or particular interest in making movies. So we get hype – “you’ve never seen anything like this!” to describe miserable experiences, where huge chunks of nothing are broken up by female nudity or violence. Take “Ratman”, for example, whose DVD cover proudly states:

 

“a glorious exploitation fest of bad taste, worse acting, needless nudity and tense wince-inducing slaughter”.

 

Let’s clean that up a bit.

 

“A boring movie, with some needless nudity but barely any gore”.

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You’re welcome, Shameless Cinema. Of course, the current business model of companies like Shameless are partly responsible for the great swathes of old crappy exploitation movies. I imagine it goes something like:

 

  1. Person finds an old movie he loves and wants to release on DVD
  2. He does so, setting up a company along the way
  3. The connections and money he makes allows him to find some other cool old movies to give the same treatment to
  4. Eventually, quite quickly, he runs out of half-decent movies
  5. He carries on sweeping up whatever garbage movies he can find
  6. He has to lie ever more strongly to generate any interest in it
  7. Everyone stops caring

 

“Ratman” is just so un-entertaining. I feel annoyed towards everyone involved – the director (whose career looks like a series of bandwagon-jumps – spaghetti westerns to giallo to crap like this, plus “Exterminators Of The Year 3000”, and he retired immediately after “Ratman”, dying last month – September 2016); the producers who paid not one cent for any set dressing or anything that might be remotely nice to look at; and now the company that chose lying over just stopping with the DVD producing and obtaining gainful employment elsewhere.

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Is this caring too much about some trash with a Rat-man in it? Probably. It’s dull as hell, though, no matter how much or little you care about it. Sorry, Val and Nick! Thanks for the pressie though!

 

Rating: thumbs down

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