Reviews

Monster Tales (2002)

David “The Rock” Nelson, flailing about in a Don Post “Tor Johnson” mask, finds himself entering a Chicago library. Inside, he terrorizes the employees, who are assembling an art exhibit. The library in question is one that I actually frequent. In real life. But…is this real life? Nobody believes in Nosferatus, Tor Johnsons, or werewolves! Or do they?

Hosted by Nelson in a “haunted” cemetery, Monster Tales presents three schizophrenic shorts from 2002: “Nosferatu Bites” (40 mins.), “Tor Terrorizes” (50 mins.), and “War of the Werewolves” aka “Werewolf vs. Wolfman” (the rest of the tape). Seeing as this is my fifth Rocky Nelson video experience, I’d consider myself something of an expert by now. A lofty proclamation, yes, but also a necessary one. I’ve become a fine connoisseur of Nelson films. Their formula is quite simple: weirdness + hilarity + brevity = solid gold entertainment. The weirder Nelson’s films get, the more enjoyment I get from them. So how do these three titans of terror hold up?

If you’re a Nelson enthusiast, “Nosferatu Bites” and “Tor Terrorizes” might seem a bit familiar. Both shorts follow the same trajectory: a rubber-masked monster (Nosferatu or Tor Johnson, take your pick) terrorizes Chicago bar Delilah’s and the Monster Bash picnic, Detective Rock refuses to believe said monster’s existence (mostly while talking on the phone), and barrels of food go down the ol’ tubes. Both shorts seem to be spread a little thin, with recycled footage and situations held over from other productions. But that’s not to say the hilarity level is toned down at all. Gads, no! Check out the brazenly gratuitous rubber-bat footage (complete with solarized night vision), Tor’s outhouse bathroom breaks, cuts signified by Nelson pulling a remote out of his pocket and pressing “stop” while in monster garb, over-use of Criswell’s “Never to return again!” line from Plan 9, and an amazing movie-within-a-movie called “Werewolf Meets Tor.” There’s also a ton of monster action, and both fiends receive points for their shoddy, yet somehow effective, costumes.

So you’re thinking that “War of the Werewolves” might follow a similar suit? Completely out of this world, but pretty straight forward by Rock Nelson standards? Take heed, my friend.

This dose of werewolf vs. werewolf action finds David “The Rock” Nelson at his most eccentric, and therefore, most engrossing. Right off the bat, things are different. In keeping with “Night of the Pumpkinmen,” this short features an actual narrative (kind of) and a knack for diverging into totally unexpected plotlines. It also has higher “production values” than his other works. We see that Dr. Weirdo (Nelson) is concocting a werewolf plasma potion comprised of Kool-Aid, orange juice, and mold. After drinking, we get a transformation scene to end all transformation scenes. Unbeknownst to Dr. Weirdo, another werewolf, bred in a secret lab location, is also on the prowl! It all leads up to a hilarious final battle, which looks like it was choreographed by senior citizens. There are Super 8 exterior shots from Nelson’s Marine stints, an out-of-nowhere-self-haircut, tons of rubber-masked werewolf footage, a spooky score, the Rock directing on-camera with his werewolf mask, and a pinnacle achievement: the pointed study of a gigantic turd in the toilette du Nelson.

I’ll let you take that in for a moment.

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