College girl Karen returns home to visit her marine biologist father on his small island in the Florida everglades. She’s brought a big group of her college pals to party and enjoy a weekend away from the stresses of academic life. Her father’s main assistant and gofer Egon, a disfigured fellow scientist, are there to greet her upon her return. The college kids all make fun of Egon, harassing him and driving him from the property. He goes off alone to sulk, and to…change. You see, there’s a monstrous beast that has been prowling the area lately, not seen or discovered yet, but soon it will make its deadly presence known to the college kids and Karen and her father. It is Egon, of course, having altered himself through genetic, biological experiments. He has become a living jellyfish man, or Portuguese Man-o-War, complete with stinging tendrils and a big plastic sack that fits over his head. Karen’s dad, wearing questionable swimwear, along with his main assistant and Karen herself, team up to try and stop Egon and his reign of terror before it is too late.
As you can already tell, this is one silly movie. There’s a lot to like about it, even a lot to love, so I am not mocking it at all. First off, you have the groovy style of the college kids and the Neil Sedaka music that they spend nearly half of the running time go-go dancing to. Then there’s the stiff acting, which only adds another layer of charm to the whole thing. The creature costume is pretty bad when they go for a full-body shot, but not so bad at all when they focus on just an arm, or a leg. Up tight it looks pretty damned good, comparable to the suit of the Swamp Thing in his first movie. Wider shots reveal swim flippers painted green—even the toes of the stuntman wriggling around in there—and the exposed pink flesh of the wearer as the seam opens around his ankle. Don’t get me started on that ridiculous, puffy, nearly transparent bag that sits over our actor’s head. It’s supposed to simulate the body of a jellyfish but it, uh, doesn’t. Mostly this movie plays out with all the naïve charm of a 50s creature-feature, but one that came out about ten years too late. The dashes of the 60s really helps to give it some extra energy. William Grefe, the director, was quite sincere in his efforts to make a scary movie, he just misses, and by a lot.
If you’re looking for a fun little horror film to pass the time, one that is guaranteed to make you smile and will certainly charm your pants off, you found one here. Sting of Death is a real ride, full of laughs, silly fashions, dated music and lingo, and plenty of pow and pizzazz. This flick makes an excellent Saturday matinee feature.