Saturday, November 14, 2015

Oddball Film Report: THE SEEDS OF EVIL (1976)

Note: This piece was prepared as a Video Cheese review for and has been published here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.

THE SEEDS OF EVIL (1974 - color)
    "There's something weird about that hunky gardener and the plants he grows with almost supernatural speed."

    This one had me a little nervous for a reel or two. Our set up is this: the wife of a businessman (who's never home) spends time chatting with her over-sexed friend, and then hires a hunky giant of a gardener who never wears a shirt. All this is filmed in 1970's Cheap-o-vision, so it seemed destined to turn into a skin flick* at any moment. Thankfully (?), it didn't. The poster, meanwhile, promised a monster movie (I was expecting to see a mad scientist growing plant people in his green house). The bulk of the action is more a mystery story, as it becomes increasingly clear that there's something odd about the gardener, and his employer begins to dig into his background. 

(*Actually, given the film's rating, the way it was advertised, and regional distribution practices at the time, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were different cuts of this film. One for more general releases, and one for more 'adult' audiences. Given how boring this whole thing is, I can only imagine the racier cut, if it exists, might at the very least be more interesting to watch....)

   The opening sequence is intriguing, as it opens with a is-it-real-or-isn't-it frame which sticks with us during much of the show. We see a woman in a hospital bed, and the nurse brings in a vase of flowers. Waking, the woman sees them and freaks out. The nurse rushes in to find her dead, but did she die because the flowers were releasing some kind of poison, or did she scare herself to death? 

    Much of the film will walk this tightrope, letting us know something isn't quite right about the gardener, but keeping things framed in such a way as to make us wonder if it isn't just in our imaginations. That's not to say this is a great movie or anything. It certainly isn't concerned about pacing. In the end, I've seen much, much worse. However, I've also seen much, much better, so take it from there.

   The last reel changes everything about the movie, so I'll have to discuss the film in full. Should you wish to view the film at any time, beware that I must blow several plot twists. Spoilers ahead, ye be warned.

   The story: A woman hires a gardener, impressed by the work he did for his previous (now deceased) employer. In a short time, the gardener has transformed the back yard into a lush jungle. However, he's upsetting the other servants, and downright terrifies the maid. 

   As his plants grow, he also seems to be demonstrating a supernatural sway over his employer, who sees nothing wrong despite the odd behavior of the man, and his plants. Her husband keeps getting cut by supposedly harmless plants potted and taken into the house. Some flowers the gardener provides for a costume the lady wears seem to put her in a trance until her husband pulls them off, bloodying his hand in the process (earlier, they were poking him whenever he tried to touch her, but she could find no sharp points anywhere). 

   When a visiting relative (a hot-to-trot young hippie chick who tries to seduce the gardener -I'm telling you, it was always two steps away from becoming a porno) vanishes after being alone with him, our heroine finally decides there's something fishy about the gardener.

    Rather than drop him outright, she forms a plan to vacation with her husband for a few months so she can hire the mysterious figure out to her slutty friend. The pair then do an extensive background check and discover the man has a history of his employers turning up dead or terrified. (Sorry to be so generic, by the time I got around to writing this, I'd forgotten all the characters' names!) 

   At any rate, this background of terror and death is enough to convince our heroine, but not her slutty friend (who seems more eager than before to have the guy hanging around her place), that something smells rotten in the garden..... Last chance to turn back if you don't want to learn the twist ending.

   Our heroine checks in on her friend, and we finally delve fully into monster-movie horror. Now, if we're watching a science fiction of a fantasy premise being played out, that's left to our imaginations. She finds her friend clinging to a gate, vines growing into her body! 

   And no, that isn't explained in any way.

   Our heroine tries to cut her friend loose, but the vines are full of human blood and the friend dies from the wounds to the vegetation. (A more interesting film might have been watching the police investigate the aftermath of all this.) Now gunning for the shirtless gardener, she darts off after him. Knowing his number is up, he suddenly begins sprouting vines!

   Also completely unexplained, by the way. 

   When she catches up to him, she sees him transforming into a tree! (This image was used for the poster art, and while the image is indeed in the film, I think was a bit of a cheat to show us something that concerns only the final two or so minutes of screen time.)

   With the monster escaped, and our heroine likely going to be held responsible for the death of her friend, and this being the mid 70's and all, I expected the film to end on this note.

   However, they decided not to just end things as they are. Instead, our heroine grabs a can of gasoline, douses the tree, and burns it to the ground. I really admired seeing a character do something intelligent like that. Still, we're sort of left with a question as to if what we just saw was 'real' of just a delusion suffered by our heroine......

   The final word: An intriguing picture, but one of those more interesting upon reflection than when actually watching it!

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