Brazilian Stock Footage Tour
Were Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm transported into Curucu, Beast of the Amazon,” his sarcastic barb, “You will have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour?” changes to, “You will have Curucu in your Curucu story?”
Universal pumped out endless monster features in the ‘50s, still riding the studio’s unforgettable creature wave from the ‘30s and ‘40s, each trying to secure a legacy. Only Creature from the Black Lagoon earned the “Universal Monster” moniker. The rest faded into obscurity, like The Deadly Mantis. Then Curucu, who didn’t so much fade into obscurity so much as started there.
This is a terrible movie, so cheap, so sloppily constructed, and so hapless as to earn notice only for its putridness. Curucu’s desperation for thrills leads to editors reaching for black & white stock footage of piranha and stormy nighttime skies – this in a movie advertised on its Eastman color. Actors John Bromfield and monster movie starlet Beverly Garland ward off crocodiles in a scene that’s obviously two different films stitched together. A buffalo stampede haphazardly blue screens the stars in another wonky attempt to bring chills.
As for a story, Curucu tries to elicit empathy for the few white people in the script, ignoring their intent to privatize native lands for plantation work, fueling the Americans claiming ownership for profit. Curucu comes with a twist, but one that adds more sympathy for the villains than any “heroes.”
Then the title critter itself, which to genre fans is an infamous bait-and-switch that turns Curucu into a ‘30s era jungle escape saga rather than creature feature. In that sense, Curucu still isn’t enjoyable, one of the few 75-minute films to ever feel like three hours. Arduously paced, the thrills space themselves out to kill time (and viewer patience) without a single effective fright to report. It’s a disaster, but the rare kind that’s so hopelessly dismal as to attract the attention of any sleepless monster kid.
Sourced from a dupe negative according to the marketing materials, the print itself shows consistent, moderate damage in varying severity. Generally, it’s controlled well enough as to not be a bother.
A natural reduction in color over the years still leaves behind a pleasing saturation. Jungle greens and bronzed flesh tones stand out, and Curucu’s floral-like feathers prove striking when he appears.
Fading creates clipping in the contrast, sapping detail in a so-so HD master. Detail can survive the eras, but not to any grand degree. Facial definition shows up, but recedes just as quickly. Curucu is sharp enough all things considered.
In DTS-HD, Curucu’s sloppy source audio reveals the obvious post-dubbed lines. Those recorded live produce a gruffer, hazier quality than the others. The score, stock or otherwise, sounds fine, with some passable highs and drums catch the lows a little. Not bad.
Historian and author Barry Forshaw pairs with critic/author Kim Newman for a commentary track. Vinegar Syndrome then digs up a five-minute vintage featurette with director Curt Siodmak for a finale (but also a trailer and stills gallery).
Curucu, Beast of the Amazon
The slog to end all slogs, Curucu, Beast of the Amazon is among Universal’s worst “monster” misfires no matter the era.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 33 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: