Axel McGregor (Donald Pleasence) is a world-famous author and big game hunter who, while on a hunt in the steamy jungles of Thailand, is maimed by a ferocious panther. With both his body and pride wounded, Axel posts a reward for the panther, demanding that it be captured and brought to his private island estate. When the panther is delivered, Axel plans to set it free so that he can hunt and kill it and regain his lost virility. Unfortunately, as soon as McGregor sets the panther free, unexpected guests show up at the island, Axel’s two daughters (Nancy Kwan and Jennifer Rhodes), his granddaughter (Lesly Fine), and an obnoxious tour guide named Ross (Ross Hagen). The panther proves to be harder to hunt than Axel was expecting and soon, one daughter has been killed and another daughter suffers a fate worse than death when she becomes Ross’s default love interest.
Night Creature is a strange film. It was obviously made as a part of the nature-gone-wild cycle that started in the wake of Jaws but, once the daughters arrive at the island, there are several lengthy stretches where the movie concentrates more on the love triangle between Ross and the daughters than on the panther. When the panther does show up, the attack scenes are so confusingly shot that it is difficult to be sure what has really happened. Director Lee Madden goes overboard with slow motion shots of the panther stalking its prey and an attempt to introduce some psychic bond between Axel and the panther largely falls flat.
At least we get Donald Pleasence, playing one of his twitchy roles and suffering another extended nervous breakdown. Night Creature may not offer much but it does have one of the best Pleasence freakouts ever captured on film. It’s always a pleasure to watch Pleasence chew the scenery, especially when he’s joined by panther.