A genetic engineering professor is trying to further his knowledge by experimenting on humans and passing on the results to the leader of a circus freak show who has a glandular disorder which has affected his appearance. He actually used to be part of the act himself.
This film is a doozy. There’s so much to love here. The opening credits of time-lapse footage of flowers blooming and mushrooms sprouting is gorgeous. This goes into a lecture being given by the professor (played by legend Donald Pleasance) and it’s so captivating that I thought that an hour and a half of this would make me happy.
I loved that the ‘freaks’ in the circus act are treated with utter respect and as the gorgeous human beings they are. The obvious reference point here is Tod Browning’s similarly brilliant film Freaks. But, The Mutations distinctly has the feel of a 70’s exploitation film. The circus act leader is played by Tom Baker (who in my humble opinion is the best Doctor Who) and as ever his performance is fantastic. I love the sequence where he goes to Soho and visits a prostitute. This reminded me of an early scene in slasher classic The Burning in which Cropsy goes in search of ahem, female company. In fact, there is another similarity here: Cropsy and Baker’s character dress in a long coat, a scarf obscuring their features resplendent with a large hat. Both characters look like the villain from a Giallo movie.
In fact, The Mutations is also a great 70’s London movie. There’s even a scene that takes place outside the Royal Albert Hall with beautiful shots of the gorgeous architecture.
The makeup is fantastic and way ahead of its time. Stills of these creations were used extensively for publicity for the film.
The music by Basil Kirchin and Jack Nathan is extraordinary. It contains such leftfield fare as oscillating sounds fed through darkly psychedelic effects and loud discordant violins. The composers were truly thinking outside the box and it reminded me of the great soundtracks for such films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. I hope one day the soundtrack for The Mutations will be released as an album.
The Mutations is a fantastic piece of British 70’s horror that is terrifying and hallucinatory but also very humane where it counts. It also fantastically depicts a time in British horror history when there seemed to be no limits especially when it came to imagination.
4.5 stars out of 5