2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 5: Underworld (1985)

5. REEKING HAVOC: Sewer dwellers making a mess of things up on the surface.

The synthpop band Freur did the music for this, but they ended up getting better known when they took the name of this movie as their own: Underworld.

They’re not the only famous people who are part of this movie — also called Transmutations — that nobody really talks about. Clive Barker — yes, that Clive Barker — wrote the story and co-wrote the script with James Caplin. As for the lead, it’s Denholm Elliott — yes, Marcus Brody — as Dr. Savary, a doctor who has created a mind-controlling drug that he uses to keep an army of deformed sewer dwellers under his command. And the main reason, beyond Barker, that I chose this as my underground sewer movie? It has both Miranda Richardson and Ingrid Pitt in it!

But when Savary abducts high class hooker Nicole (Nicole Cowper, who went below the crust again for 1988’s Journey to the Center of the Earth) from her brothel, businessman Hugo Motherskille (Steven Berkoff, Octopussy) gets her former lover Roy Bain (Larry Lamb) on the case. Meanwhile, all these proto-Nightbreed creatures are doing monster cocaine to stay alive.

So how did this weirdo movie ever happen? George Pavlou wanted to direct a movie (he’d also direct another early Barker script, Rawhead Rex). Barker wanted to write one, so he put together a mash-up of mobsters, monsters, film noir and horror. The money people wanted something else, so they got it rewritten and Barker washed his hands of the whole thing. And then Vestron Video released it as Transmutations.

It looks great though! 1985 great, all blue color and billowy dresses and face paint and movie punk and you know, who cares if it’s kind of silly? Monsters in sewers kidnapping prostitutes who can enter your dreams with the power they get from magical powder? Sounds kind of wonderful, when you think of it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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