The Revenge of Dr X (1970)
aka The Devil Garden
aka The Double Garden
aka Venus Flytrap
Dr. Bragan (James Craig) is a workaholic rocket scientist with NASA who is coming unglued from the stress. A colleague arranges for him to take a much needed holiday in Japan, and Bragan accepts, hoping to use this free time to pursue his first love, botany. He brings a potted Venus Flytrap with him, with plans to study carnivorous flora and prove his theory that human beings are descended from plants. His Japanese assistant, Noroko, arranges for them to work in seclusion at her father’s abandoned resort hotel, located on a mountain next to an active volcano. They get to work in the greenhouse, toiling night and day to strengthen the Venus Flytrap with the alien Nipponese soil, which causes it to grow to an unusual size. But Bragan is as obsessive and abusive as he was in America, and his constant mood swings cause Noroko to suspect that he is going mad. An experimental graft with a Japanese carnivorous plant succeeds in creating the “Sectovorus,” a bizarre, vaguely human creature with vicious flytrap paws, and Bragan knows he is on the right track. Unfortunately, the beast must be fed mice, chickens, puppies and eventually human blood to keep it alive, and the stronger it grows, the more dangerous it becomes. When the Sectovorus learns to uproot itself and venture to a nearby village for victims, Dr. Bragan must decide whether to protect his work of genius, or lure it into the volcano to save mankind. Revenge of Dr. X was scripted by cult filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr., and is also known as The Double Garden, The Devil Garden and The Venus Flytrap.
The recent interest in Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s life and career has unearthed and made popular many bizarre pictures that the reputed “worst filmmaker of all time” had any kind of hand in. Revenge of Dr. X has so far escaped the attention of most cultists, thanks to a curious quirk in its original videotape release; the opening credits are inaccurate, taken instead from an entirely different film called The Mad Doctor of Blood Island, so no mention of Wood’s script writing or the actual cast is included. Apparently released in 1970 as The Double Garden, this obscure Japanese-American production was helmed by Kenneth G. Crane (director of the better known science-gone-wrong epic The Manster) and features lapsed star James Craig, though the identities of other cast members are more difficult to discern. The film is a loopy cross-pollination of cliches from the classic Universal monster movies and 1950s sci-fi, making it feel curiously dated for the era in which it was made. Western horror touches like hunchbacked servants, misty Christian graveyards, lonely wolf howls in the night and even a mob of torch-bearing villagers are comical when combined with the authentic Japanese locations. This innocent veneer is cracked a bit by some sudden nudity halfway through, courtesy of some topless lady skin divers, but otherwise the production is lightweight and kiddie-matinee safe. James Craig chews up the scenery in an outlandish split-personality performance, alternately blowing his stack and begging forgiveness, and his Japanese co-stars all seem to have learned their lines phonetically. It’s a slow, one-dimensional ride, but lovers of schlock will find quotable dialogue (“Your mother was the soil ... perhaps the lightning will become your father!”), pseudo-scientific nonsense that anyone with a high school education will laugh at and one of the best bad monster costumes ever designed. The “Sectovorus” is a remarkably silly creature with the same rubbery consistency as the average Godzilla opponent, and since it spends the bulk of its screen time as a deeply rooted potted plant, the best it can do is sway gently and make weird noises. This forgotten masterpiece was briefly re-released to video as The Venus Flytrap with the Ed Wood connection proudly advertised as the main selling point. Under any name, it’s solid entertainment for the psychotronic-minded.