Beast of the Yellow Night (1971)
With the glory days of the Beach Party movies behind him, actor/singer/producer John Ashley found himself in a number of features being produced for the exploitation market in the Philippines. Which means of course that the villainous side of Vic Diaz will once again find work as an actor. Ashley serves as both a producer this time out and plays the title role which looks to be a cross between a Werewolf and the Green Gargantua. Either way, Ashley is totally unrecognizable under the silly putty.
The film begins in 1946 when a group of soldiers are tracking Ashley through some dense jungle. Bloodied bodies are strewn about and Ashley is nearing exhaustion. Finally collapsing, he is facing certain death when out of the mist and fog comes a taunting voice. The voice is clearly an evil one and we can only deduce it is Lucifer himself when a snake is seen in the mist. From the snake and mist comes a barely covered Vic Diaz. (not a pretty sight). Ashley begins to beg for his life and Lucifer obliges him though a heavy price is to be paid. In one of the gorier clips of the film, Diaz dumps a bag of organs and intestines to the ground so Ashley can replenish his strength by eating the raw flesh of what we would assume to be the bodies lying in the jungle.
Fast forward to the present day at the sight of a funeral. Up pops Big Vic who wanders over to the grave site after the grieving family has departed. He begins to carry on a conversation with the assumed dead man only to have Ashely answer from below the surface. One will quickly come to understand that Ashley is a condemned soul and will find himself revived in another body that looks amazingly like……. John Ashley!
Ashley wants to be released from his torment but when asked by Diaz as to his purpose must answer, “To awaken the latent evil in people that I come in contact with.”
His new role in life is as the husband of Mary Wilcox. Cue the sex scene with a fair bit of nudity to appease the exploitation quotient. I’m not sure what John is supposed to do here other than argue with his new wife and her lover. But the more he wants out of his existence and the hold Diaz has on him is only going to lead to a serious make over. Upon approaching a church in the hopes of salvation, John turns into the Beast. It becomes a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde situation. Much like the good doctor would change into Hyde at the least opportune times, Ashley has the same trouble. Anytime he shows his soft side like an attempt to once again bed the lovely Wilcox, he has a sudden attack of Monsteritis.
Ashley will find himself on the run from both the police and Diaz but no matter how far he runs, there’s no place for a man in a monster suit to hide. Like Karloff’s Monster, Ashley will actually find a friend in a blind hermit of sorts in the back alleys of Manila. Still, he can’t escape his destiny but he may find salvation.
While this may be far from a classic, the central part of the plot is kind of fun and had this been given a bit more budget and a larger cast, who knows? I like the idea of Ashley being reborn in one body after another to wreak havoc upon those that he comes in contact with which is the hell he has been condemned too. That idea alone could work itself into one of these made for cable ten episode series if it already hasn’t.
The film was directed by Eddie Romero with whom Ashley did a slew of films with including the Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Beast of Blood and The Twilight People.
If you happen to pick up the release from a few years back by Retromedia, there is a nice 20 minute bonus on the later career of John Ashely. It features interviews and memories from his widow Jan, producer/actor Andrew Stevens and director Fred Olen Ray.