Psycho a Go-Go/Echo of Terror (1965)

Psycho a Go-Go/Echo of Terror (1965)‘Well, Curtis is a freak, baby! Curtis a freak.’

Thieves fall out during a diamond heist of a private dealer. One of them is killed, and the loot ends up in the back of a pick-up truck of an innocent businessman. The criminals set out to recover the gems, but one of them is dangerously unhinged and has an unhealthy obsession with young women and murder…

Low-budget crime flick that was the first full directorial credit for the legendary Al Adamson, who is better known for notorious cinematic trainwrecks such as ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters’ (1970) and ‘Dracula vs Frankenstein’ (1971). Here, he examines the Underbelly of the LA underworld, focusing on a group of independent professionals, looking to pull that ill-fated ‘one last job’ that should make for a comfortable retirement from the business but always goes tragically wrong.

Criminal mastermind and all-round bad egg Vito (Lyle Felice) has come up with the perfect crime: knock over a private diamond merchant in a tower block opposite Jerry Lewis’ restaurant. He picks a crew of three to pull the caper: handsome Nicky (John Armond), the psychotic Joe (Roy Morton) and an unnamed associate apparently played by director Adamson himself. Waiting in the street in the getaway car is Felice’s moll, Vicky (Tanya Maree). The heist goes fine until the merchant’s secretary gets a hand free and manages to hit the alarm just before they can leave the building. Retreating upstairs, Adamson pitches the ice off the roof before Morton shoots him dead (because…why the hell not?) The jewels land in the back of a truck belonging to small businessman, Dave Clark (Kirk Duncan) who drives away oblivious before Maree can get across the street.

Psycho a Go-Go/Echo of Terror (1965)


Felice is seriously pissed about the way things have gone down when the remaining crooks turn up at his pad afterwards to give him the lowdown. Maree has got Duncan’s licence plate but, in the meantime, the innocent man’s young child (K K Riddle) has found the bag in the back of his truck and swiped a diamond necklace. Curiously enough, although the thieves help themselves to plenty of sparklers when they pull the job, from here on in everybody is only interested in that piece of ice, nothing else even gets a passing mention. Meanwhile, Duncan and pretty wife Linda (Tacey Robbins) give Riddle a little black doll as a present, and the girl loves it so much that she hides her booty inside. The doll also sings versions of old minstrel songs like ‘Camptown Races’ and ‘Old Folks at Home’ (more commonly known as ‘Swanee River’) in a strange high-pitched voice. It’s creepy enough to give Chucky from the ‘Child’s Play’ series a few sleepless nights.

From there, things develop in a way as painfully predictable as the dialogue. Felice sends Morton to locate Duncan and the loot, Duncan is kidnapped, but he can’t say anything because he doesn’t know anything, Morton kidnaps Robbins and Riddle, having no idea that the girl has the gems and Clark gets free thanks to the intervention of his brother (Joey Benson). Everything ends with a chase and a confrontation on the snowy slopes of the mountains in the Mammoth Lakes area of the Yosemite National Park. On the way, there’s an underdeveloped subplot about Maree and Armond planning to run away together, Morton kills a girl he picks up in a bar, and Robbins belts out a couple of songs in a club backed by a hot young combo The Vendells. This is all padding really (despite Robbins having an impressive set of pipes) because there isn’t enough of the main story to go around.

Psycho a Go-Go/Echo of Terror (1965)

‘Hi, I’m Christy, and I’m your friend till the end. Hidey-ho!’

But, despite the film’s obvious shortcomings, it does have some positive points. Adamson’s ace in the hole is Morton who gives quite a scary performance as the psychotic hoodlum. Ok, it’s hardly subtle, but it is convincing and goes a long way to make up for the lacklustre performances of the rest of the cast. There’s also some evidence of solid filmmaking technique, particularly in the climactic chase in the mountains (which was undoubtedly quite a challenge for a very low-budgeted production like this). The scene where Morton strangles the girl in the motel room is also surprisingly effective. Unfortunately, most of this good work is undone by the snail’s pace, the endless talk and the lack of any depth to the characters.

The most interesting aspect of the production, however, is what happened afterwards. Information is a little contradictory (to say the least), but it seems that Adamson was unable to secure a release for the original film as presented here under the title of ‘Echo of Terror’. So he shot new sequences with mad doctor John Carradine, revising the plot so that Morton’s character became a Vietnam vet whose murderous rampage is the result of an experimental, electronic implant. Some sources suggest that it still remained unreleased after this revision, others that it came out in 1967 under the title ‘The Fiend with the Electronic Brain’. I have even read that it this version that came out as ‘Psycho A Go-Go’ but Carradine is completely absent from this print.

Later on, Allied Artists approached producer Sam Sherman with a request for a horror movie to add to a TV package, so Adamson shot yet more new footage. This iteration put a zombie spin on the plot, and new scenes included ex-Disney juvenile Tommy Kirk as an investigating cop, Adamson’s wife Regina Carroll as a woman who believes in voodoo and Kent Taylor as her zombie investigating father. This cut was called ‘The Man with the Synthetic Brain.’ Probably. Then Adamson spiced it up some more by adding a little gore and sent it out to theatres as ‘Blood of Ghastly Horror’ (1972). Or that may have been the tile of the 1967 version. Who knows for sure? Told you the available information is contradictory!

Psycho a Go-Go/Echo of Terror (1965)

‘Excuse me? I was just looking for Mr Carradine?’

Although performing both sides of her ‘My LA’ single here, Robbins never went on to make a serious dent in the pop world. However, she did sing with Pérez Prado, who was the orchestra leader responsible for the Mambo craze in the 1950s. His big hits included ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’ and ‘Mambo #5’ which became an international smash all over again for Lou Bega in 1999. Of the rest of the cast, only Duncan went on to any kind of acting career, his limited credits including an appearance in TV movie ‘The Clone Master’ (1978). Adamson went onto carve out a niche in the fringes of low-budget cinema, his threadbare productions earning him a place in the ‘Worst Director of All Time’ debate, which seems a little a little unfair when you view this film, but not if you watch some of his others!

There is a surprising success story behind the camera, though, one that comes with an Academy Award! Yes, director of photography William Zsigmond certainly paid his dues early on in his career, working with Adamson on multiple occasions and on vehicles for Arch Hall Jr such as ‘The Sadist’ (1963) and ‘The Nasty Rabbit’ (1964). A change of name to Vilmos and work on ‘Red Sky at Morning’ (1971) sent him flying into the big leagues and Robert Altman’s acclaimed ‘McCabe and Mrs Miller’ (1971). From there, it was a short step to John Boorman’s ‘Deliverance’ (1972), and working with a young Steven Spielberg; first on ‘The Sugarland Express’ (1974) and then ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977) for which he took home the Oscar. Many other prestigious films followed such as ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978), ‘Blow Out’ (1981) for Brian de Palma, ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ (1987), ‘Maverick’ (1994) and several later projects with Woody Allen.

Inevitably, later versions of this film are more than a little confused, but the original exhibits an adequate competence, even if it’s firmly mired in its low-budget roots.

Too Soon To Love/Teenage Lovers (1960)

Teenage_Lovers_Too_Soon_To_Love_(1960)‘Just yesterday she was playing with dolls…and now she’s playing with emotional dynamite!’

A group of teenagers get into trouble at a local fairground, but one of the hell raisers returns to cover for a quiet, bookish girl when she is stopped by the police. An unlikely romance develops, but her increasingly active social life does not meet with the approval of her strict family…

To a modern audience, this exploitation flick revolving around an unwanted teen pregnancy may seem more than a little quaint, even melodramatic when hormone-fuelled hero Richard Evans resorts to burglary to pay for his teen-lover’s illegal abortion. But it’s important to remember when the film was made, the attitudes of society back then and the stigma surrounding children born out of wedlock.

Indeed, we really are in a long lost world here; a teen-centric playground of drive-in’s, malt shops, car hops, rumbles and white-walled tyres, all undercut with the apparent threat of violent delinquency. The film opens on the local boardwalk where a gang of teens are running riot. Well, they hijack one of the rides anyway, and that’s no surprise when you realise the main instigator is a grinning Jack Nicholson! Yes, there’s already a touch of the devil in him, even in just his fifth screen appearance. Good girl Jennifer West is too dopey to realise what’s going on and is snagged by The Man, until handsome Richard Evans’ line of smart talk defuses the situation. Even so, by today’s standards, this example of juvenile delinquency would barely qualify as horseplay.

After that, the two start an on-off romance, cemented when Our Jack gets a bit hands on with West in the back of her friend’s car, and Evans gets a good kicking for interfering. Sadly, that’s the end of Jack’s involvement in the movie with barely a quarter of an hour gone. From there on, we’re focused almost exclusively on Evans and West as their romance develops, much to the disapproval of her straight-laced father Warren Parker. Things start going bad for our golden couple when they are arrested for necking in his car in the woods (‘We try not to encourage that sort of thing’ says The Man) and Parker slugs Evans when he tries to explain. One night, West sneaks out and the two go to the beach but the moment she lies back and disappears out of shot, quickly followed by Evans, we know exactly where things are heading. Especially when her white scarf flies off and lands in the ocean (symbolism alert!)


‘Most people don’t like to go to the dentist but I rather enjoy it myself.’

This is all fairly familiar territory, of course, with the usual crop of adults playing teens; Evans being in his mid-twenties at the time of filming. But all is not quite as it seems. Instead of condemning our leading couple for their sins, the film paints the adults as the real villains of the-piece. Parker is a self-righteous, judgemental, violent control freak hidden behind horn rimmed glasses and a respectable suit. He has stubbornly refused to move with the times, expecting standards of behaviour that belong to a society that is already passing away with his generation. Ultimately, his inflexibility (and that of society as a whole) is pushing the younger generation in the very direction that they are so quick to condemn.

Debut director Richard Rush also co-authored the screenplay and it’s no surprise that he went on to helm bigger films such as ‘Getting Straight’ (1970), ‘Freebie and the Bean’ (1974) and ‘The Stunt Man’ (1980). His work here in both departments is definitely a cut above this kind of low-budget b-picture. In particular, an almost wordless sequence where Evans and West visit a backstreet abortion clinic is gritty, and shot with a strangely poetic realism.

Co-author Laszlo Gorog did not climb so high, though. His best known work was already behind him; science fiction cult ‘classic’ ‘The Mole People’ (1956), lightweight ‘Jurassic’ forefather ‘The Land Unknown’ (1957) and Bert I Gordon’s appalling ‘Earth Vs. The Spider’ (1958). West only had a couple of more acting gigs, but Evans made acting his career, most famously with a featured role on hit TV show ‘Peyton Place.’

On the surface a generic, bottom of the bill ‘torn from the headlines’ programmer, but not far beneath the surface is a quiet plea for greater understanding and a better level of communication between generations.

The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967)

The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967)‘In case you’re interested, I can kill you with this and play your funeral march at the same time.’

Confederate spies steal a gold shipment from the San Francisco Mint in the closing days of the American Civil War. They use a travelling medicine show as cover and operate out of notorious local saloon the ‘Barbary Coast’ where one of their number entertains the customers with his guitar and unique vocal style.

Producer Sam Katzman was not famous in Hollywood for his films so much as his ‘cash conscious’ approach to the medium. Beginning his career in the 1930s with ‘poverty row’ studios like Monogram, his prodigious output included movie serials, Westerns, Jungle pictures and several 1940s horrors with a declining Bela Lugosi. This lightweight tale of music, stolen gold and the Old West was originally intended as a vehicle for Elvis Presley, but the King passed so Katzman went to a somewhat unlikely Plan ‘B’: Roy Orbison.

A decade into his singing career, the Big O’s popularity was in a state of decline, his material out of step with the latest musical trends. Hoping for a change in fortune, he signed a 5 picture deal with MGM studios, and this underwhelming release was the first result. It was both and critical and commercial failure and Orbison never acted again.

So what went wrong? Well, for once, the blame can’t be laid at Katzman’s door. Sure, the film’s certainly no epic, but the budgetary constraints aren’t too obvious, even though the woeful lack of action at the climax robs the story of any final dramatic punch. The problem is that the film fails to find a consistent tone under the direction of Michael D Moore, probably because the final script was an attempt to rewrite what was originally a serious drama as a candy floss concoction of soppy romance, pop songs and comedy.

Given Orbison’s total lack of experience as an actor, he’s double teamed here with TV veteran, the young and handsome Sammy Jackson. It’s a wise move. Orbison isn’t terrible in front of the camera but he’s no natural either, and it’s frightening to think how things might have turned out if he’d had to carry the picture on his own. What really doesn’t help, however, is that events play out in a thoroughly predictable manner, with our heroes doing their duty for the South whilst getting plenty of another kind of action with the Chestnut Sisters (Maggie Pierce and Joan Freeman), dancers who are part of their robbery scheme. Orbison sings half a dozen songs (the best parts of the film), appears without his trademark shades and has a guitar that (unconvincingly) doubles as a gun!

Director Moore started out as an actor in silent cinema, graduating via the Art Department, to become one of Hollywood’s most respected Second Unit and Assistant Directors. He fulfilled those roles on many big hits, including ‘War of the Worlds’ (1953), Cecil B DeMille’s ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956), the Oscar-winning ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969), John Huston’s ‘The Man WhoWould Be King’ (1975), ‘unofficial’ James Bond flick ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983) and the first three Indiana Jones films! It’s a very long, and seriously impressive, list. Unfortunately, his efforts at calling the shots himself were less-than stellar, being limited to some TV work and just half a dozen films, the most famous being one of Elvis Presley’s dreariest vehicles ‘Paradise: Hawaiian Style’ (1966).

Heroine Freeman also had royal connections, acting opposite the King in ‘Roustabout’ (1964), before turning up 20 years later in ‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’ (1984)! Her dancing partner Pierce may be familiar to Vincent Price fans from Roger Corman’s ‘Tales of Terror’ (1962) and she also starred in notoriously awful 1960’s sitcom ‘My Mother The Car.’ Further down the cast, we find Lyle Betteger and John Doucette, both familiar faces from countless TV Westerns in the 1960s, with Betteger then reporting for duty on many network cop shows in the following decade.

Writer Robert E Kent scripted musicals, crime programmers, Westerns, ‘Zombies On Broadway’ (1945) with Bela Lugosi, a couple of early 1960s Vincent Price vehicles and episodes of TV’s ‘Wild Wild West.’ But his biggest successes came with Katzman in the 1950s when the duo hit pay dirt with ‘Rock Around The Clock’ (1956), ‘Don’t Knock The Rock’ (1956), ‘Twist Around The Clock’ (1961) and ‘Don’t Knock The Twist’ (1961)!

If all the assembled talent here seem a little second-rate, then sadly that is reflected in the final product. lts not a disaster by any means but, without the presence of The Big O, it would likely be long forgotten now. As it is, it’s a curiosity for his fans, rather than anything else.

Kitten With A Whip (1964)

Kitten With A Whip (1964)‘You live behind walls, man, where I come from it’s outer space!’

A would-be senator finds a teenage runaway in his house when his wife and daughter are away. When he hears her story, he helps her, but the truth is that she’s escaped from juvenile hall and is wanted by the police. When her friends turn up for a party, things start to spin out of control…

Agreeably trashy B-movie thriller with a 23 year-old Ann-Margret tearing up the scenery in the title role. This really is a film with a classic three act structure; the first being her struggle of wills with Mr Respectability John Forsythe. She plays upon his good nature and tries to manipulate him, while he seeks a way out of the situation once her true self is exposed. There’s underlying sexual tension throughout the film, but particularly in these early scenes with our female star appearing in a series of semi-revealing outfits. Of course, given the vintage of the film, we know this isn’t really going anywhere, but she does rip his shirt open and scratch his bare chest when he’s talking to his wife on the phone, and that was pretty near the knuckle for its time.

The second act kicks off with the arrival of smooth-talking Ron (Peter Brown), violent Buck (Skip Ward) and ditzy Vera (Patricia Barry). The heroine’s invited them around for a party, and we know this isn’t good news for Forsythe. This leads to our final act; an unconvincing Mexican finish not helped by some hideous process shots during a car chase. However, it does provide us with the film’s best sequence; a sweaty, messed up Forsythe running into some important and terribly respectable backers for his senatorial campaign. He tries to cover up what’s going on by taking them to a questionable border town cabaret with less than brilliant results. The group includes Richard Anderson, who is wasted as his best friend and political advisor.

The film has a pretty awful reputation these days, but it’s not entirely justified. Sure, there’s a lot of terrible ‘hep’ dialogue that will provoke laughter in a modern audience, and things threaten to tip over into hysteria on several occasions, but the professionalism of our leads just about holds things together. Ann-Margret’s performance is interesting, but it was probably far too early in her career to attempt such a complex character, whose mood swings and unpredictability suggest serious mental illness.

Kitten With A Whip (1964)


Writer-Director Douglas Heyes had a long career  as a writer, adapting Alastair MacLean’s ‘Ice Station Zebra’ (1968), and scripting episodes of shows such as Rod Serling’s ‘Night Gallery’ and for cowboy-detective ‘McCloud.’ He also penned the screenplay for underrated science fiction thriller ‘The Groundstar Conspiracy’ (1972) and created US Civil War mini-series ‘North and South.’

Story development is very slow, which is inevitable given that the action hardly leaves the one set until the final 20 minutes, but this is still an energetic little title, which manages to remain entertaining through most of its 82 minutes. That’s mostly because of its’ flaws, of course, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Anatomy of a Psycho (1961)


‘Look, Mac, when you’ve got the bracelets ready, come and get me. Until then stay off my back!’

 A young gang member spirals out of control after his brother is executed for murder, eventually turning on his friends and his sister. She is planning to marry the son of the man who was the secret eyewitness at the brother’s murder trial. 

 Ron Burns was the adopted son of comics George Burns and Gracie Allen and had appeared on their popular TV show. But his career as an actor never took off and this was his last feature. His performance in the title role is a little on the hysterical side but then so are script and subject matter. This is more of a study of juvenile delinquency than psychosis but of course the word ‘Psycho’ was big business at the time. 

 Our hero and his gang hang at the shed where one of them lives and look particularly dangerous for white college boys in comfortable cardigans. They beat up the District Attorney’s son wearing masks, smoke cigarettes and play cards. Burns broods, shouts and is generally far ‘too cool for school.’ When someone foolishly invites him to the tamest pool party in history, he puts the host’s head through a mirror and burns the house down! The second half of the picture is dull courtroom drama that doesn’t skimp on the clichés, my favourite being the weak but loyal gang member that won’t tell the truth. However, Michael Grainger is quite good as the local cop on the case. 

Ronnie's Adam Ant impression was a little half hearted.

Ronnie’s Adam Ant impression was a little half hearted.

 The main talking point now is the possible involvement of Ed Wood. It has been suggested that he was ‘Larry Lee’ who is credited as co-writer. There is some circumstantial evidence to support this theory. For a start, director Boris Petroff (as Brooke L Peters) and scriptwriter Jane Mann were also responsible for monster flick ‘The Unearthly’ (1957). That film has no apparent connection to Wood but it does have Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson playing ‘Lobo’, essentially the same character he’d played in Wood’s ‘Bride of the Monster’ (1955).

Some of the music used in Wood’s ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (1959) also turns up in ‘Anatomy of a Psycho (1961), although this was library music and freely available. There are no obvious Wood idiosyncrasies in the dialogue but juvenile delinquency was a subject Wood had tackled before (‘The Violent Ones’ (1956)) and Petroff did film Wood’s script for ‘Shotgun Wedding’ (1963)

 So the case remains unproven.

Perhaps the greatest argument against Wood’s involvement was the quality of the film. It’s certainly not a big budget picture but it is professionally made and a long way removed from a bargain basement Wood production. 

Buy ‘Anatomy of a Psycho’ here