Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My reflection on "Kamillions" (1990)

"Kamillions" (Mike B. Anderson, 1990) was a movie I used to rent all the time from the Tower Records on Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan all the time when I was a kid. It was quite prominent in the "Midnight Movies" section, and was one of my favorites. It was in  this legendary Midnight Movie section where I found all my favorite films, and had the most interesting time learning about the absurdities of life.

Imagine my shock and surprise all these years later, more than 20 years, that my friendly acquaintance and fellow SubGenius member (one of the founding members I think) Dr. Hal had not only co-written this film and helped its production, but also had a starring role in it. It absolutely boggles my mind; it's as though I've been bred and prepped to become a SubGenius member since my youth. Or maybe I was always a SubGenius... 

"Kamillions" is an interesting film because it deals with Lovecraftian themes, weird science, and family dynamics but in a positive light and not with the normal cosmicist tone that most Lovecraftian-type stories tend to have. The Wingate family is a normal disfunctional family, but the're not at odds with each other; if fact there's a lot of love in this film. The Kamillions themselves aren't scary, but are capable of scary feats if they choose to act on them. There's no sense of cosmic horror, indifference, or dread. I think that's rather interesting for a film like this. 

The version I saw in my youth, as well as the one I saw recently online is the "Hong Kong edit" as the original directors cut is apparently lost. 

The plot revolves around a scientist named Prof. Nathaniel Pickman Wingate using a machine that brings our world in resonance with "Universe II", a strange alien universe that shares the same sub-atomic space as our own, and is filled with strange and alien creatures. One species of creature, nicknamed "Kamillions" (pronounced like "Chameleons") can change their appearance by means of an unknown energy force. Because of a mishap, Prof. Wingate is sucked into the machine, sent into Universe II, and two Kamillions enter our realm; one malevolent and one benevolent. In the meantime, the coolant (possibly an allusion to the holy herb and cooling agent of habafropzipulops) used to maintain the interdimensional device is running low and if it isn't refilled a large portion of the earth will be destroyed in an explosion!

The reason of why these Kamillions came into our world is quite funny, and revealed near the end of the film. I had forgotten the ending and when I re-watched it recently I had a good laugh. The special effects are also quite fun. No CGI that I can remember, just puppetry, stop-motion, and practical special effects are used in this film. 

I really love his movie, and I hope one day a full cut can be released into the public. Dr. Hal owns the rights to the film I believe, so maybe one day a deal can be worked out with Shout! Factory, Synapse Films, or another company that releases obscure and wonderful films. 

Currently, the only place you can view this fine film is on YouTube, but it's the Hong Kong edit, not the full film, and it is completely unauthorized. The quality isn't great either, you can't really see the full scope of what Universe II looks like. 

Prof. Nathaniel Pickman Wingate, of the Miskatonic University, the brilliant mind behind the Wingate Field Equations

Prof. Wingate is potrayed by Dr. Hal of Subgenius and "Half-Life" fame (he plays the character of Dr. Klein).

Wingate is a good-natured but somewhat absentminded "mad scientist" with dreams of academic grandeur and accolades. His momentous "Windgate Field Equation" leads us to Universe II, a truly alien realm that exists parallel to our own within the same sub-atomic space.

Early on in the film, Prof. Wingate is sucked into the machine and is trapped and weakened in the Universe II version of what we can maybe assume is a parallel earth.

This might also be a good time to mention how big of a fan I am of Dr. Hal's radio show. It is both enjoyable and enlightening. Poetry, song, dissertation, and lots of talk of dinosaurs. Not to mention the fun guests and co-hosts that appear as well. If you'd like to take a listen for yourself, click the image below.

Click above to listen to the amazing "Ask Dr. Hal Show"

The Kamillions

The Kamillions themselves resemble weird frog-roaches, or something like a horseshoe crab. These are not mindless creatures, they apparently have a consciousness like you or I, and beyond their already impressive shape-shifting abilities, when in our universe hey gain the ability of reality distortion and manipulation.

The Kamillion Jasmine takes the form of a beautiful model who appears on a poster, and seems to be her preferred form. 

The malevolent "Dezmon" take the form of Count Desmon of Liechtenstein, a cousin in the Wingate family tree, and really uses his shape-shifting abilities and other powers to their full extent throughout the film as opposed to Jasmine who seems  more modest in her use. Dezmon reminds me of a Loki type of character, or Puck fom "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

The above image was dawn by DeviantArt user "platypus12"

"Named after color-changing lizards in our world, the Kamillions were appropriately named by Nathaniel Pickman Wingate for their shape-shifting abilities, which allows to them to assume the form and identity of anything they encounter and thus pass themselves off as such, concealing their true identity. Naturally, this ability is used to mimic other forms of life in their world, possibly to evade predators by fooling them into thinking that the kamillions are one of their own and/or to lure prey. How they are capable of changing their form is currently dubious, though it is possible that they possess a special form of RNA molecule that they have some sort of control over, or that they can telekinetically restructure their molecules and atoms. 
Their culture remains unknown, but the kamillions are obviously intelligent to a sapient level, considering the behavior they display when imitating human beings and the fact that they seem to possess fluent knowledge on the use of the aforementioned telekinesis. Strangely enough, their also capable of altering other life forms than themselves. They also seem capable of telepathy, as they can read the brainwaves emitted from other intelligent beings through mere contact and thus learn their language. 
Another remarkable aspect of the kamillions is their physiology. Like most of the known fauna of Universe II, the kamillions possess a physiology that is a reminiscent to precambrian arthropods of our universe, with a segmented body shelled by exoskeletal hide. Their bodies are about the size of a human hand and are capable of curling up like pillbugs to protect themselves from predators. They have seven pairs of legs, one pair being a set of long, retractable legs—such legs, however, are only used for leaping and not for regular locomotion; this is done by the other six smaller pairs. Near the base of their eyeless heads is a pair of long tentacles presumably used for grasping, whilst a pair of similar tentacles trails at the creature's rear; their use is unknown, though they are presumed to be sexual organs, yet how they could be used as such remains dubious.
Like every other creature is their world, kamillions possess no visible eyes as we know them. It is possible that photoreceptors may exist in other forms, perhaps in the form of the facial feelers seen on the kamillions, but these may function as insect antennae. It is fair to assume that in their world, where light is spare, light perceiving organs may hardly be necessary whatsoever—it is possible that in the place of light perception, animals from the kamillions' world may be sonar-based, navigating through their dark world by emitting echoes that bounce off objects and project an image of its form, size, and distance. One fact remains certain: many aspects of the kamillions, their world, and everything within it are shrouded in mystery."

The Victims

Angelica Wingate is Prof. Wingate's disgusting sister. 

Alex is Sam Wingate's (Prof. Wingate's son) best friend. He's kind of annoying, and a bit of a goof.

Rev. Lawrence Newman is a born again Christian and Southern preacher with a penchant for sex with escorts. His junk becomes a horrifying dragon-like monster. Rev. Newman also talks about something he called "Dynagenics", an allusion to the L. Ron Hubbard book "Dianetics". 

And I couldn't help but notice that Rev. Newman looked a bit like the High Epopt of the Church of the SubGenius, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, the Living Slackmaster! Could this have been one of "Bob's" many forms? An avatar for his shit-eating grin to appear incarnate within the bounderies of our meager senses!? The answer is a definite "maybe!"

(Seriously he's just missing the pipe)

The Cast

The information below I dug up in the old "Kamillions" official website.

   Count Desmon (Christopher Gasti):
"Just `Desmon` is fine."  The pride of the family, cousin Desmon has become a count in Liechtenstein.  No one would ever suspect anything from a man as practically perfect as Mary Poppins.
 Jasmine (Dru-Anne Cakmis):
A Kamillion who has taken the form of Sam's favorite pinup model.  She is looking for the Kamillion who has disguised himself as Desmon
 Angelica Wingate (Kate Alexander):
Angelica is the part-owner of the Wingate mansion, sister of Nathan Wingate.  She has a very nasty disposition coupled with the dead animals she wears around her neck and the cockroaches she loathes.
 Sam Wingate (Dan Evans):
Nathan's son, obsessed with the pinup model Jasmine, he is quite surprised to have her appear in his closet in her underwear and a blue sheet.  He is even further surprised when she chooses him as a boyfriend.

Nancy Wingate (Laura O'Malley):
The wife of Nathan and mother of Sam and Linda, she grew up with Desmon and is very close to him.  She is quite certain he would not be up to any mischief.
 Floyd (Chuck Bartelle):
A crusty mechanic who is friends with Alex.
 Rev. Lawrence Newman (David Allan Shaw):
A college friend of Nathan's, he has gone from "Escort Service Larry" (as Angelica calls him) to a preacher offering courses in "Dynagetics."

Alex (Andrew Ross Litzky):
Sam's best friend isn't nearly as bright as he is, and his personality suggests to Sam that he had hired Jasmine to appear in his room.

Nathan Wingate (Harry S. Robins):
A professor at Miskatonic University, he wishes to prove the existence of alternate dimensions alongside our own.  He is so obsessive he is unenthused by his own fiftieth birthday party.

Linda Wingate (Allison Rachel Golde):
She never stops talking on the phone, so Desmon stuffs it in her mouth.  She is nicknamed "Lindy."

 Emma (Lynn Applebaum):
She is the Wingate's saucy French maid. She is attracted to Desmon, but the Kamillion impersonating him has trouble maintaining his shape and sends her running.

Waitress at Cafe (Holly Corbett):
She is befuddled and amused at the odd way Jasmine takes to sharing a milkshake with Sam.

 Albert (Jeff Robins), Harold (Marc Hayden Bryman), Stew (Steven G. Allen):

Three of Nathan's nerdiest buddies.
Chauffeur (Rich Cunningham):
Desmon is such a nice guy that he lets his chauffeur use his limousine for whatever he wishes about
town while he is at the mansion.

Cab Driver (Lee Mason):
Angelica demands exact change for a fifty, leaving him with no tip whatsoever.
Cafe Customers:  Joan Carlson
                           Donald Wu
                           Ęgir Gudmundsson
                           Antoine Maron
                           John A. Burke
                           Marci Livermore
                           Reonne Haslett
                           William Rice

Desmon Double:  Jay Mason
Jasmine Double:  Michelle Dunne
Angelica Double:  Marci Livermore  
Birthday Party Guests: Mr. James Ivy
                                   Mrs. James Ivy
                                   Lorna Grosso
                                   Justin Grosso
                                   Daniel Grosso
                                   Prof. Kun Chang
                                   Mrs. Kun Chang
                                   Charles Ying
                                   Roz Matthews
                                   Meredith Bjornsson
                                   Robyn Anderson
                                   Rita Ricardo
                                   Rod McCasky
                                   Marilyn Mason
                                   Jean Dent
                                   Ron Bartlett
                                   Alice P. Larkin
                                   Jean Gerards
                                   Adora Halseth
                                   Tasaday Lewis
                                   Jeff Bedrick

VHS Covers

Here are some of the VHS covers I found.

The cover below is the one I remember from that old Tower Video rental place I used to go to. I have really fond memories of that place and as soon as I was reminded of this film my mind was flooded with memories of that particular time period in my life. I kind of wish I could have a poster made of this particular image, but the quality is far too low. 

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