Giuliano Carnimero is perhaps better known for his trashy but entertaining giallo, "The Case of the Bloody Iris". His 1988 slasher flick "Rat Man" occupies that frustrating but all too familiar niche in the exploitation category: namely, films-that-sound-far-more-entertaining-than-they actually-turn-out-to-be when-you-finally-get-to-see-them. Since its been for years unavailable on DVD or anywhere else apart from grey market VHS tapes, UK label Shameless are ideally placed to give this bizarre film its first ever release in the UK - complete with a cover that parodies the "Jaws" poster, and the classy tag line, "The Critter from the Shitter!" The line refers to perhaps the film's most memorable and entertaining sequence — which occurs about half way through — when, having found an abandoned village in the middle of the jungle (on an unnamed Caribbean island) a young photographer's assistant, after retiring to the run-down bathroom of one of the cabins, is busy prettifying herself in the mirror when, behind her, a two-foot high man, covered in matted fur and sporting protruding plastic-looking fangs, emerges from the toilet bowl, pounces on said unsuspecting young woman and gnaws her to death with his sharp teeth and tiny claws!
It's a rare moment of the kind of trashy high comedy and unbelievable bad taste that almost justifies films such as "Rat Man", but unfortunately, in this instance, it turns out to be a rather isolated case in an otherwise dull and unimaginative piece of b-movie "doggerel". Casting Nelson del la Rosa in what has been called "the most degrading film role ever conceived" should have been the cue for much squirm-inducing exploitative manipulation on director Carnimero's part; but the actor billed as 'the smallest man on earth' finds himself confined to the shadows for most of the film, only emerging sporadically into the full light of day for brief moments such as the one mentioned above. The rest of the time he spends skulking about in semi darkness after being disturbed from his initial hiding place: under a dirty sheet in a cupboard! The misnamed Rat Man is, in fact, meant to be the result of a genetic crossbreeding experiment combining the genes of a monkey and a rat — an experiment performed for no apparent reason by a disheveled, drunk-looking scientist, deep in the jungle, on the island where the rest of the action is set. Toiling in the belief that he is about to win the Nobel Prize for this wonderful achievement, the scientist treats his creation with all the reverence and respect one would hope to find exhibited by a man of progress: he keeps it in a flimsy wire bird cage!! Strangely enough, the little monkey-rat thingy has no difficulty escaping his "bonds" and going on the predictable kill-crazy rampage, slaughtering young women who don't wear very many clothes with an enthusiastic abandon.
The first of these victims is perhaps the most unlucky: after her taxi breaks down in the middle of nowhere, she sets out to walk the rest of the way into town, only to be stalked by a knife wielding local who tracks her to an abandoned barn. She hides in a cupboard while the psycho creeps around looking for her outside; but — you guessed it — she has accidentally stumbled into the lair of the cupboard-dwelling rodent-monkey whatsit, who terrifies her so much by clawing at her leg, that she has a heart attack and promptly dies! Since the woman had borrowed the dress of a fashion model friend who is working in the area, the police think it is she who is the victim and they contact her sister, Terry (Janet Agren). She flies in, and soon meets smooth-talking crime novelist Fred Williams (David Warbeck) who is on the lookout for material, and who joins her on her trip to the local morgue to identify her sister's body. Of course, they soon discover that there has been a mix-up, and Fred and Terry set out to track down Terry's sister, who is, at that moment, holed-up at the scientist's digs in the jungle, taking soothing soapy showers while being spied on by the rat creature! The scientist and his assistant are trying to keep the existence of their escaped experiment a secret, but that soon most becomes difficult when the gnawed bodies start piling up with alarming regularity!
Shameless have compiled the transfer from various sources in an attempt to release the most complete version of the film possible. Unfortunately, although the transfer is fairly uniform despite its coming from this mosaic of sources, it is also uniformly blurry and washed out! — looking little better than an old grainy VHS tape throughout. Dardano Sacchetti was presumably on autopilot when he knocked up the plot for this one; for the film contrives to make the essential weirdness and silliness of the material appear dull and perfunctory at every turn, offering little that will make connoisseurs of trash cinema sit up and take notice. The gore is simple and uninspired and achieved by throwing a lot of fake blood around, and by knocking up some prosthetic claw marks for the dead bodies. Eva Grimaldi is on hand though to provide flashes of skin when the boredom factor threatens to overwhelm one's resilience!