“To act like a scientist is to try to change for the better the lot of mankind and not man himself.”
Professor Nolter (Donald Pleasence), from all outward appearances, is a mild mannered professor, doctor and scientist. In reality he is quite evil. And crazy. He is obsessed with genetic manipulation. His aim is to create a new life form by combining plants and animals. His ultimate aim is to create a new race of plant people. A race of men with all the properties of plants. Whatever that is.
In order to advance his theories Nolter needs two things, plants and people. The plants he has. For the people he needs a little help. Lynch (Tom Baker) is the owner of a circus of freaks. Lynch is also deformed. Nolter has made a bargain with Lynch. He will perform an operation on him to make him “normal” and in turn Lynch is to provide Nolter with subjects to experiment on. Lynch provides these subjects by kidnapping people. Specifically Professor Nolter’s students.
Nolter has run in to a snag when it comes to his race of plant people. The results of his experiments have a tendency to turn his subjects into disfigured mutants. The mutants Nolter gives to Lynch. Lynch uses them in his circus as special attractions.
The other residents of Lynch’s circus are suspicious of some of his unusual ways. They are also not happy with the way they are being treated by him.
“The Mutations” AKA “The Freakmaker” was released in 1974 and was directed by Jack Cardiff. It is a British film. The first five or six minutes are credits, but there is some cool time lapse photography to look at while the credits are rolling. What adds to the strangeness of the movie is the sound of a heart beating in the freaky parts. It’s a strange off-beat kind of film.
Director Jack Cardiff is only known for directing about fifteen movies. He is better known as a cinematographer. He has been director of cinematography for such movies as “Rambo: First Blood Part II” 1985, “Cat’s Eye” 1985, “Conan the Destroyer” 1984, “Death on the Nile” 1978 and “The African Queen” 1951.
As Lynch, the circus owner, Tom Baker is unrecognizable, except for his resonant baritone voice. Although his wardrobe is a little reminiscent of his Dr. Who persona. He is quite eerie and frightening, not just in his appearance but in his demeanor as well.
The film has been compared to Tod Browning’s “Freaks” 1932. It’s not surprising. Both deal with circus freaks, although with “The Mutations” it’s not the main story. It does however; have a “One of Us” type party scene.
As for the rest of the movie, the further on it goes, the weirder it gets. It’s a little like an old fashioned 50’s mad scientist horror movie but with a touch more gore. The pacing is decent and the acting is good. With solid performances by Baker, Pleasence, and Michael Dunn it’s a fun horror movie.
There’s a little nudity sprinkled here and there.