Directed By: Conrad Brooks
Starring: Conrad Brooks, Rock Savage, Gary Schroeder
Tag line: "Jan-Gel, The Monster, is More Horrifying Than Frankenstein!"
Line from the film: "This is some mystery"
Conrad Brooks is probably best known to B-movie fans as the actor who appeared in several Ed Wood pictures, including Glen or Glenda (where he portrayed a Banker, a Reporter, and a “Pick-up Artist”), Bride of the Monster (in the pivotal role of “Suspect Outside Office”), and Plan 9 from Outer Space (“Policeman”). In fact, the opening moments of 1999’s Jan-Gel: The Beast from the East, a film Brooks wrote and directed, offers the following:
This made me smile. A picture dedicated to Ed Wood that, at the same time, calls Tor Johnson a “Swedish Angel”? What’s not to love about that?
Little did I know this was going to be the highlight of Jan-Gel. It’s all downhill from there.
The “creature” of the title is an ancient caveman king named Jan-Gel (Dale Clukey), who, after being discovered frozen in the ice, was on his way to America when the boat carrying him sank in the Atlantic. But not to worry... a little thing like dropping to the bottom of the ocean isn’t going to stop Jan-Gel! Now completely thawed out, the royal Neanderthal makes his way to West Virginia (don’t ask how… it’s never explained), where he commits a series of murders. With no idea who’s behind these vicious killings, local authorities turn to the only man who can possibly solve this mystery: Conrad Brooks (playing himself, though not well)!
Jan-Gel: The Beast from the East is nearly unwatchable. Shot with what appears to be someone’s home video camera, the movie, at times, looks dreadful, and Brooks’ uninspired direction doesn’t help matters much. As for Jan-Gel, how this lumbering ox manages to murder anyone is probably the biggest mystery of them all; his first victims are a married couple (Glen Hendrickson and Beverly Kane), wading in their backyard swimming pool. Seeing as they were smack dab in the middle of said pool, I can’t figure out how Jan-Gel even got hold of them. Was he that good of a swimmer? Couldn’t the couple simply paddle to the other side and run away (later on, a guy walking down a motel hallway side-steps Jan-Gel, escaping with almost no effort at all)? I ask these questions because Brooks doesn’t show us what happens. He simply cuts to the next scene right after the couple spots Jan-Gel and screams. In fact, we see very few of the killings. Hell, the picture quality is so bad that, occasionally, we see very little of anything. And I hesitate to bring up the ‘acting’, because that might lead you to believe there were actors present. From the looks of it, Brooks pulled innocent people off the street and asked them to be in his movie. Criticize the actors? I feel sorry for them.
As it is with Ed Wood’s movies, you’ll find plenty to laugh about if you decide to watch Jan-Gel: The Beast from the East, though I’m not recommending you do so (like I said, the film is awful). In all honesty, I can’t even draw a comparison between this movie and one of Ed Wood’s pictures; next to Jan-Gel, Glen or Glenda looks like Lawrence of Arabia. It’s that bad.
But dedicating it to Wood and Tor Johnson? Yeah, that was a nice touch.