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  Moonchild Haven't You Been Here Before?
Year: 1974
Director: Alan Gadney
Stars: John Carradine, Victor Buono, William Challee, Janet Landgard, Pat Renella, Mark Travis, Frank Corsentino, Marie Denn, Jack H. Conrad, Robert Randles, Andrew Chiaramonte, George Parrish
Genre: Horror, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Student (Mark Travis) may have been here before. He is a student of art and has set up his easel to capture this picturesque castle in pastels, but as he is engrossed in his creation a mysterious man, Mr Walker (John Carradine) approaches him and inquires what he is doing, proceeding to give him a lot of advice on how he should portray the bells the building contains. He goes further, inviting the young fellow up to the castle, leaving his easel and materials behind for the moment, reassuring him nobody human is around for miles. This despite that not being true - who is that over there? A homunculus, the older man replies...

There are some films you are better off not wading into expecting them to spell everything out, ones that you should draw your own conclusions from, and that's fair enough, not everything needs to spoonfeed the viewer even if ambiguity has fallen out of favour since Moonchild was released. On the other hand, if you want your film to consist of more than a collection of random images and impenetrable dialogue, then you have to do a little better than the writer and director Alan Gadney did here, crafting a work that obviously meant a lot to him, but would be hard pressed to have the same effect on anybody else who gave it a go.

Moonchild has a pretty terrible reputation, if indeed it can be said to have a reputation at all, for it is one of the most obscure American horror movies of the nineteen-seventies. Legend has it that it started life as a student film before being released by some enterprising entrepreneurs looking for cheap material to turn an easy, if modest, profit. Not every student film gets to hire name actors, and most of the cast here had had some kind of career before the camera, from limited (Travis) to one of the biggest list of credits of his generation (Carradine), and the location can't have come cheap either, though he made the most of it.

As a plot, this had one of those cyclical arrangements where you could really start watching anywhere, get to the end and start at the beginning and it would make about as much sense, that adherence to a dream - or nightmare - a stamp of many a student project, though Gadney's other credit was on a short directed by George Lucas, not bad in a prestigious kind of way, pre-seventies of course, where Gadney was the editor. No one seems to know what happened to him after he completed his studies, he certainly did not make any more films, so perhaps the experience of shooting this put him off for good: you could not really point to bad reviews or a poor box office as the reason for that, as to all intents and purposes this was out three years after it had been completed, with a dubious advertising campaign alluding to The Exorcist.

Along with Carradine, who pontificates and gabbles in a cod-Irish accent throughout, Victor Buono was the most famous name associated here, playing the Maitre D' of the inn, though he does not act like one and seems to be in conflict with the Manager (Pat Renella, who you may recognise from Bullitt). The editing was at least creative, dropping in flashforwards and flashbacks so often that you were unsure which were which, a vision of the innkeeper's daughter (Janet Landgard) tormenting the Student as someone he used to love or will love in the future (cue much canoodling, but nothing more than that). We went from present day to some kind of medieval version of the castle turned inn, where the Student had existed before he was plunged into the cycle of living the same pattern over and over, and if that sounds monotonous, then you would not be far wrong. The main trouble was, there was no real motive for this to last eighty minutes, so while there were stylish moments, it well outstayed its welcome. Music by Billy Byers and Patrick Williams (funk guitar and heavenly choir, together at last).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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