Dr. Who, the fourth incarnation...
Dr. Loomis, the one and only...
...together in the same movie?
Are you fucking kidding me?
Are you yanking my chain, son?
Not today I ain't.
Yes, folks, it's The Freakmaker, more popularly known as The Mutations, one of my favorite genre films of all time.
Unlike Alex Winter's Freaked, which was much too self-consciously weird and caught none of Todd Browning's atmosphere of menace and tragedy, Jack Cardiff's little classic of '74 crept into cinemas (no, shuffled!) and gave audiences what they'd been missing for forty years -- authentic freakshow magic.
And he did it with the help of British heavyweights Donald Pleasence, close to the greatest genre actor of all time, and Mr. Tom Baker, my favorite scarf-wearing doctor of the original era.
And is that a scarf I see on Baker's "Lynch" , the tragic hero of the film?
I first stumbled upon The Mutations, as it was known in Australia, when my brother and I snuck into the city to to get up to no good. Part of our no good was visiting the cinemas and staring at the lobby cards for upcoming releases. Another part of no good was figuring out ways to acquire them (we never did).
Outside the Hoyts Midcity Cinema in Bourke St., Melbourne, the three lobby cards below caught our attention, to put it mildly.
What the hell WAS that?
My God, it's so... beautiful...
Mad Scientist and his Freak Assistant.
We HAVE to see this?
The "R" rating at the bottom of the poster rained hard on our parade.
I'd have to wait six years to see it.
My brother would have to wait my six and another two.
We could always shoot ourselves. Or get someone else to do it.
When I did finally see the film many, many years later in an uncut, restored edition, it worked its way like a crawling hand into my heart.
A scene that captures the essence of why I love fantasy cinema is when Lynch, who has never been with a woman, visits a prostitute, who is then repelled by his appearance.
All he wants from her is tenderness.
Director Jack Cardiff, who was born in 1914, photographed The African Queen, Conan The Destroyer, Black Narcissus, Rambo - First Blood Part II and Death on the Nile before directing a handful of excellent films including the offbeat The Girl on a Motorycycle ('69) and Sons and Lovers ('60).
The Freakmaker was his last directorial effort.