At the tail end of the second great war, Philippines based U.S. army deserter and Japanese sympathizer, Joseph Langdon, runs for his life as the Philippines police and guard track him down through the jungle for committed heinous acts that not only include treason, but also rape and murder. Exhausted and dying from his wounds, Langdon will do anything to stop the process of pain and death, including making a deal with Satan himself. In exchange for saving his life, Langdon commits himself to eternal servitude at the malevolent pleasures of Satan by inhabiting various souls and bodies through the decades and extracting the latent evil from his interactions with people, but Langdon finds himself again exhausted and exacts free thought and a rebellious stance against his master after inhabiting an American business man and given back his own face. The Dark Lord, as amusing as he wicked, bestows upon Langdon the ability to transform into a flesh hungry man-beast whenever his desires boil to the surface and he becomes the most wanted man in the Philippines, but how can they stop a monstrous fiend they can’t kill? The answer lies solely with the damned Langdon himself.
Rarely does a horror film birthed from the Philippines reach my critical virtual desk and, fortunately, “Beast of the Yellow Night” lands smack-dab in my lap as an absolute jewel from the early 1970’s from writer-director Eddie Romero. The 1969 “The Mad Doctor of Blood Island” director, who’s heritage is Pilipino, had visions of grandeur for his large scale features that stem from an infinitesimal budget, but with enthusiastic energy from former musician and beach party, teen heart throb John Ashley, the duo cofounded their theatrical finance company, Four Associates Ltd, to produce their very own horror feature films straight out of the Philippines which “Beast of the Yellow Night” was one of first to be released, if not the very first to be produced. Additional funding was provided by a little known distribution company, New World Pictures, jointly founded by the genre-setting Corman brothers, Roger and Gene, and thus forth “The Night of the Yellow Beast” was built upon a rich and solid cult foundation that began a Philipino-film circuit conversely well-known in the U.S. and put Eddie Romero on the proverbial map of relatively unknown and granular cult directors while providing a branching out of yet another successful credential façade for John Ashley that doesn’t involve country music or being just another pretty face in the beach party moviegoer crowd.
If you haven’t guessed by now or if you’re just as dense like myself, John Ashley also stars in his co-produced creature feature and Ashley, who goes without saying that he stands in his own rite, is also the Paul Naschy equivalent of the Philippine Islands with his all hands on deck attitude toward filmmaking and being the man behind the gnarly man-beast makeup that more than likely takes hours to apply. His performance as even tempered Joseph Langdon is a stark contrast from the wild and vicious beast with a flesh appetite and knack for mauling that herd this film into the werewolf category according many descriptive plots, summaries, and reviews, but “The Night of the Yellow Beast” actually resembles more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde familiarity as Langdon doesn’t transform when the full moon is high, but rather at the whims of his tormentor, in this case it’s Satan rather than an ill-fated elixir, and then he morphs more rapidly and explosively during exhilarating and endorphin stimulated moments like intimacy to further exacerbate his dreadful curse on Earth. Langdon and beast Langdon are befriended by a blind, long-tooth ex-con, Sabasas Nan, played by “The Big Bird Cage’s” Andreas Centenera and Centenera captures the gentle nature and extended wisdom of a man at the tail end of life and looking to right the wrong for his past mistakes. Sabasas Nan is similar to the blind man in the tale of Frankenstein that doesn’t judge, become frightened, or even shun the ugly shell of a monster, but though visionless, both blind men are able to clearly see into the soul of what used to be once a man. “Beast of the Yellow Night” also stars leading lady Mary Wilcox (“Love Me Deadly”), Leopoldo Salcedo, Eddie Garcia (“The Woman Hunt”), Ken Metcalfe (“TNT Jackson”), and labeled as the Filipino Peter Lorre, Vic Diaz (“Black Mama White Mama”) as the pot-belly Satan and Langdon’s mischievous master.
Eddie Romero’s deep and intellectual script sticks out amongst the fray of time lapse and post-skirmish makeup effects that teeters “Beast of the Yellow Night” on a B- to C- movie. Not that the special and makeup effects were completely awful or subpar by any means, but the directing filmmaker pushes the boundaries to scribe the pull strings of a man’s soul, really digging into the anguished flesh of redemption and mankind’s mortal coil, which puts a lightly coated dampening on Langdon’s transformations from man-to-beast that hasn’t yet reached the Paul Naschy level of editing and progressiveness toward his horror films. In fact, the “Yellow Beast’s” effects are merely one step below that aforementioned level. However, the beast is no wolf of any sorts, but nor it isn’t a man in a cheap leathery or latex rubber mask that materializes a rather mangled, mangy beheld fiend with razor sharp canine teeth shown through a ferociously hungry and breathy-snarling maw set below equally ravenous eyes that yearns for the blood of man. For 1971, the effects are exceptionally marvelous, but Romero’s script just blows the practicalities out of the water being ahead of its time and sorely overshadow the effects work.
MVDVisual and VCI Entertainment proudly gift to us “Beast of the Yellow Night” onto 2-disc all region DVD/Blu-ray home video. Produced from a 2K scan of the original 35mm negative, VCI Entertainment’s widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation in full Metrocolor is mondo cult cinema exhibited on a high level and despite some blotchy patches, the corrected coloring and cleaner picture are by far the best we’ll ever see while still sustaining a healthy amount of beneficial cinematic grain. The prologue has coloring issues with about 20% of the right side of the film strip in sepia harboring in sepia town, but becomes corrected after the title and credit sequence. The English and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, mono audio track has lossy bite that’s expected and yet, still maintains ample dialogue track and a solid and balanced in range ambient track. Optional English subtitles with SDH are also included. Bonus features include a 2018 commentary track by writer and filmmaker Howard S. Berger and the head of Mondo Digital, Nathaniel Thomspon, old and insightful video interviews about John Ashley and the Filipino films of the 19870’s with Eddie Romero, Sam Sherman, Patrick Wayne, Peter Tombs, Eddie Garcia, Gloria Hendry, Sig Haig, and Jan Martin, a Remembering John Ashley featurette that includes interviews with wife Jan Ashley, filmmaker Fred Olen Rey, Steve Stevens, and Andrew Stevens, original theatrical trailer and TV spots. Plus, a thorough inner liner essay from Howard S. Berger that goes examines “Beast of the Yellow Night” and the films of that era that are a metaphor for much, much more. “Beast of the Yellow Night” is a simple message cause and effect. If vileness becomes you, then villainy will forever run fluidly through your icy veins in this Eddie Romero and John Ashley monstrous picture that pulls at the tattered strings of a downtrodden soul.