THE BEACH BOY vs. THE CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION

In 1965, actor Aron Kincaid snagged his first lead movie role in The Girls on the Beach.  With his sun-drenched blonde hair, All-American good looks, swimmer’s physique and quirky charm, he epitomized the surfer boy image so prevalent during the mid-Sixties so it is no surprise that he quickly followed this with a number of sand-and-surf movie appearances, Beach Ball, Ski Party and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. But once the beach ball burst and the youth market’s taste in films shifted to biker and hippie movies, Aron Kincaid found himself starring in one of the now most popular “worst movies of the decade” Creature of Destruction (1968) directed  by self-described schlockmeister Larry Buchanan.

“Larry Buchanan was huge in stature and miniscule in the areas of charm and talent,” remarked Aron. The director had a deal with American International Pictures, which Kincaid was contracted, to remake a number of their 1950s horror opuses for limited theatrical release and TV broadcast as part of a syndication deal. Among the prior films he shot on miniscule budgets in Texas were The Eye Creatures (1965) with John Ashley; Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966) with John Agar; Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966) with Francine York; Mars Needs Women (1967) with Tommy Kirk and Yvonne Craig; and In the Year 2829 (1967) with Paul Petersen and Quinn O’Hara.

Kincaid became involved with Buchanan because of contractual problems with AIP due to his scheming manager (described by Aron as “a real devious son-of-a-bitch”) who never sent the studio his client’s signed contract. Kincaid just landed a small role in Walt Disney’s The Happiest Millionaire. His manager wanted him out of the AIP deal. When the studio wouldn’t increase Kincaid’s weekly pay for the second year after picking up his option, the manager wanted to use this to break the contract. Aron would not go along feeling loyalty to AIP, but he was forced to sue the studio and the matter was settled out of court. Kincaid confesses, “It is virtually impossible to describe what a legal battle with a motion picture studio can do to your life, your nerves, your family, and your sanity. After American International offered an out-of-court cash settlement, I was so relieved to see an end to the ordeal that the studio’s request for two more “play or pay” films from me seemed a small concession, considering that I was becoming physically ill from this seemingly endless army of people [managers, agents, lawyers] fighting over bits of meat.”

Feeling Kincaid was not right for the myriad of biker and hippie movies they were now producing (“Rightly so,” agrees Aron. “If they had offered me the third lead in The Wild Angels I don’t think I would have done it. I wasn’t into saying ‘Hey, man’ over and over.”), all AIP could come up with was the horror opus Creature of Destruction (1968) from Buchanan. This was an even lower-budget remake of the no-budget She-Creature (1956), which starred Chester Morris, Marla English, and Tom Conway. The film told the story about a hypnotist named Dr. Basso (Les Tremayne) who transforms his lovely assistant Doreena (Pat Delaney) back to a former incarnation, which is linked to a murderous prehistoric creature (actually a stunt man in a full-body wetsuit with a ridiculous mask head consisting of two bulging eyes and what looks like chop sticks for teeth). The mad doctor’s plan is to find fame and fortune by predicting the monster’s next murders and having the monster through Doreena carry them out. A third-billed Kincaid played stoic Ted Dell, a parapsychologist famous for his work in “combat psychosis” engaged to the daughter of wealthy country club owner Sam Crane (Neil Fletcher). Ted rejects his future father-in-law’s offer to exploit the murders and Basso’s predictions.  Instead he decides to try to solve the crimes and to help Doreena resist Basso’s hold on her. She does but pays for it with a bullet in the back from Basso who then turns his gun on himself. As Doreena draws her last breath, so does the creature of destruction.

Explaining why he agreed to do the movie, Kincaid wrote in Scarlet Street magazine, “Off the cuff, it sounded as if it might be sort of fun. I knew Les Tremayne for years and wanted to work with him—little did I know what was in store when the script arrived. Within one day of shooting, I was wishing that I were back with the lawsuit. It had been heaven in comparison.”

Before leaving for Texas, Kincaid called Tommy Kirk and Yvonne Craig to get a gist of what was in store for him working with Larry Buchanan. “They confirmed what I had feared from the beginning—I was in for fourteen days that would make my three-month boot camp stint in the U.S. Coast Guard look like a Sunday school picnic.” After arriving at the Dallas airport, Aron was picked up by limousine whose driver gave him a tour of Dallas on the request of Larry Buchanan. Then it was off to LakeT exoma where the filming of this opus was to take place.

“The crew was sloshed to the gills when we pulled into Lake Texoma’s Tanglewood Country Club around midnight,” recalls Kincaid. “It wasn’t to be any different for the next two weeks. What’s worse, I was to become one of them in an effort to survive. I had just checked into my cottage when Mr. Buchanan came to the door to welcome me. The prop man, who was fussing over an object he was carrying in his arms, accompanied him. It looked to be a large rubber frog suit with zippers all over it. I was told that this was the creature and that when a head was added and the body filled out with a human, it would be quite serviceable. I fell back in a fit of laughter that vaporized when Buchanan said my hair was to be darkened to a dark brown in the morning to de-emphasize my youth.” Cast as a parapsychologist, Buchanan felt that Kincaid’s teenybopper appeal had to be minimized.

On the first day of shooting, Kincaid wandered onto the set with dark green hair and a deadly hangover from Grand Marnier. The shoot quickly ran into a problem as constant jet traffic from a neighboring Air Force base kept ruining take after take. (“I figured with my green hair nobody would notice a few jets.”) Buchanan made a fast trip to the base and returned with a captain’s uniform. Kincaid’s character now became Captain Ted Dell, a parapsychologist in the Air Force. Now Buchanan was able to leave the roaring jets on the soundtrack while inserting a few shots of planes hurtling across the sky.

Still determined to squelch any appeal the handsome actor may still have to the female teenage population, Buchanan made sure that Kincaid had a cigarette dangling from his mouth at every opportunity. It was the first time Aron had smoked on screen. “In some scenes there was so much smoke that you couldn’t see my lower face,” he laughs. “Too bad it didn’t cover some of the dialogue. The uniform was ill-fitting, the humidity unbearable, my green hair was turning burgundy, my bar bill was astronomical, and everything was covered with a film of tobacco smoke!”

Thinking things couldn’t get any worse they did. Buchanan was setting up shots around the clock in order to bring the project in on time. Featured players were brought in fromDallasor just recruited off the road to Texoma. Kincaid thought the shoot was improving when eighty elegantly dressed extras showed up to film various scenes in the country club’s main dining room as Dr. Basso’s hypnotizes Doreena on stage. “I couldn’t believe such production values until somebody showed me an ad from the local newspaper heralding a free buffet dinner at the club to anybody who showed up in fancy clothes. Once they were packed inside, Buchanan literally sealed off the exits until he had completed four or five hours of incompetent filming. Many of the freeloaders had tried to leave, but were told that they already had been ‘established’ in the master shots and that they must stay to the bitter end. Everything seemed to go awry. Just as we thought we were finished, a crew guy would say we had to do it again because something was wrong with a camera or the sound or whatever. Finally, around one in the morning, the sweat-soaked ensemble was told that they could go to their cars, but that they must run and look terrorized while doing so. The direction was hardly necessary, as the nearly 100 Texans quickly raced to the parking lot in an effort to flee their first encounter with the worst kind.”

The only people that made this shoot minutely bearable for Aron were his co-stars Les Tremayne and Pat Delaney. Kincaid had been an admirer of Tremayne since he was a little boy and saw him on the big screen in The War of the Worlds. Fans of 1970s Saturday morning television remember Tremayne as the Mentor to Captain Marvel on Shazam! for three seasons. “Les had a wonderful sense of humor and the stories of his early days in radio helped me through this mess immeasurably. Pat Delaney was a lovely woman. The script called for her to be in various stages of hypnotic trance throughout the entire film. In a situation like this, a trance was a great form of protection plus she barely left her room when we weren’t shooting”

Meanwhile back on the set, Buchanan was filming thirty to forty takes per scene. The actors became grips when half the crew walked off the picture and headed back to LA when their paychecks stopped coming. Kincaid was contracted to work fourteen days and he was elated when that last day finally arrived. “I told Buchanan that I would be leaving the following morning on the first flight out of Dallas for home. He became outraged and bellowed, ‘Don’t you realize that we still had three days of shooting left?’ I told him to check my contract. The next day Buchanan accompanied me to the airport. Sitting in back of a taxi, he had me read the un-filmed portions of the script into a tape recorder. I couldn’t imagine how he could use any of it in the picture.”

Creature of Destruction is s full of production gaffes, scenes horribly enacted that drone on endlessly, and bloopers such as seeing Larry Buchanan failing to pass himself off as Aron Kincaid in an early scene where the character Ted and his girlfriend Lynn are walking along the shore or seeing Pat Delaney’s throat keep moving as she is supposed to be dead.

Surprisingly, the best part of this talky not very scary horror movie is the nonsensical musical interludes provided by local Dallas singer Scotty McKay and his Quintet. At a country club dance he performs two catchy songs called “You Know I Love You Baby” and “Batman.” Later on the beach, he sings solo a sad ballad about contemplating suicide over a lost love, but it doesn’t stop his teenage audience from jumping to their feet to dance to it! He then drives off on his motorcycle only to be mauled to death by the Creature of Destruction when he gets stuck in the sand.

Though the movie was produced for television it did play the bottom of double bills in Southern drive-ins before going into syndicated television. Explaining his third billing behind Les Tremayne and Pat Delaney, Aron says, “Since I won my law suit versus AIP they had nothing vested in me anymore so they could have cared less how I was billed. To be honest, I wish they would have left me off the credits and I could have been the mystery leading man!” And despite their agreement, AIP never asked Aron Kincaid to do another film.

Determined to put the whole trying experience behind him, Kincaid made a succession of TV guest appearances on such shows as Hey, Landlord, Get Smart, Death Valley Days, The F.B.I., The Beverly Hillbillies, and The New People. He then quickly jumped at the chance to star in the adventure film Black Water Gold (1969), which was filmed on location in the Bahamas. Returning to LA after a month-long shoot and thinking the Creature of Destruction was dead and buried, a friend of Kincaid’s living inSan Diego called him after seeing a listing for the movie on local TV. Curious to see how this mess of a film turned out, Kincaid booked himself into a San Diego hotel and settled in for the start of the movie. “What I saw left me numb. The movie was even worse than I had thought possible! Buchanan had squeezed his 6’5” bulk into my size 40-medium uniform and finished the film by playing my part in long shots, with the muffled voice-over from our taxicab recording session. The zippers on the rubber monster glittered in the moonlight as it stalked victims, the entire cast sounded like a junior-high drama class on drugs, and I stumbled around looking smoky, green, and drunk. It by far has the worst acting, the worst direction, the worst production values, the worst soundtrack and scoring of any motion picture ever made on this planet! This was the professional low point of my entire career.”

A movie this bad has to develop a cult following and to Kincaid’s chagrin it played on Los Angeles television every three months without fail for years. Reportedly, groups of teenagers would watch while chanting the awful dialog along with the actors. In the early Nineties, Kincaid bought a copy of the movie. He explains, “I just wanted to make sure there would be one less print in the world. The seller was wonderful. When I told him I wanted to buy it, he said, ‘Are you sure?  Have you…uh…ever seen it?’”

Copyright © 2012 Tom Lisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Sadly, Aron Kincaid passed away from heart failure on January 6, 2011. This was my last interview with him. He was a wonderful friend and is sorely missed.

 

 

Comments: 6

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  • John Black

    Reading about or writing about a Larry Buchanan film is always more fun than actually watching the picture.

    Enjoyed seeing the mention of Scarlet Street, as I wrote for them for years.

    It’s a shame that Kincaid isn’t still around. Perhaps he could have appreared as a guest on the upcoming TCM Spring Break series.

     
     
     
    • My TCM gig was bittersweet because Aron is not here to watch. He lived and breathed TCM and I know would have gotten such a kick out of it especially with them flashing on screen him on the cover of my Hollywood Surf and Beach Movie book. I did pay him homage especially during the Ski Party intro.

       
  • As I read this, I could feel myself in Aron’s living room while he told the story. Thanks for this wonderful writing about a friend I miss.

     
     
     
  • […] of quintessential shlockmeister Larry Buchanan–and who isn’t?–will enjoy this article on Creature of Destruction from his website. Great to renew your acquaintance, Tom! Like […]

     
     
     
  • Very nice piece, Tom, and that is indeed a shame about Aron. I survived a detailed analysis of Buchanan’s “IT’S ALIVE!” (which economically recycled the same hilarious creature) for my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN, because it was a mercifully uncredited bastardization of Matheson’s story “Being.” As awful as it is, Buchanan’s work somehow remains endlessly fascinating…

     
     
     
    • Thanks Matt. Yes, I think the back stories of the making of Buchanan’s movies are more interesting than the films themselves.

       
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