Hell’s Bloody Devils/Smashing the Crime Syndicate (1970)

‘What’s a groovy chick like you doing in the spy racket?’

A mob enforcer is sent across the country to link up with a neo-Nazi group offering to supply substantial sums in near-perfect counterfeit currency. Meanwhile, the federal authorities are on the case, targeting the German nobleman they believe to be the leader of the right-wing group…

This week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ is American actor Mark Adams, playing Federal Agent John Gabriel, placed undercover with the mob. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to swan around the glamorous capitals of Europe or play with any high-end gadgets because he’s appearing in a film from notorious low budget producer-director Al Adamson.

The federal authorities are concerned with an influx of counterfeit 20 dollar bills they believe to be the work of radicals attempting to fund a new Nazi movement back home. Agent Gabriel has already infiltrated the syndicate, and it’s the perfect coincidence when crime lord Joe (Keith Andes) sends him west to negotiate the wholesale purchase of the fake currency on offer. Although he’s tasked with breaking up the gang, his main objective is finding the original plates, which are believed to have originated in World War Two.

His mission is complicated by a whole array of local characters who may or may not be involved. There’s a local biker gang, the Hessians, the mysterious Count Otto Von Delberg (Kent Taylor), his girl Friday, Carol Bechtal (Vicki Volante) and rookie agent Jill Harmon (Emily Banks). He also begins an affair with dress shop owner Leni (Jacklyn O’Donnell), which seems to put them both in danger. Gabriel has to dodge the usual mixture of faceless assassins in sunglasses and suits while dealing with betrayal, double-cross, gunplay and conflicting loyalties before the final fadeout.

The main issue with Adamson’s film is the somewhat convoluted storyline. Characters are introduced without explanation, some have identities that are never clearly established, and others fulfil no function in the plot. The most obvious example is the biker gang, who are allegedly agents of the villainous Taylor. The film opens with them stopping a car on the highway and severely beating the two occupants. A piece of voiceover dialogue identifies them as ‘Commies’, and the Russians do get another namecheck later on in the film, but it’s their only (apparent) appearance. Also, the gang (or at least some of them) interact with only one other character in the film, Volante, who acts as their go-between with Taylor. This is because the biker footage was added later on to try and sell the movie, which initially failed to secure distribution. It also allowed the marketing department to put bikes on the poster and give it the tagline ‘They’re madmen on motorcycles!’

If this all sounds like a recipe for complete incoherence, that’s not the case. For once, Adamson papers over the cracks and inconsistencies pretty well, although there are more than a few moments when the scrappy, disjointed structure is rather obvious. There’s also a fantastic car chase where the protagonists stop at red lights and a cheap pen that doubles as a grenade/time bomb. There’s also a great scene when Adams takes O’Donell out on a (cheap) date to the local KFC only to have their romantic tryst interrupted by the real-life Colonel Sanders, who wants to check if they’re enjoying their delicious chicken meal.

We also get some Hollywood stars on their way down. As well as Taylor, Adams’ boss is played by one-time Oscar recipient Broderick Crawford! Despite first billing, he never leaves his office and has a total screentime of not more than five minutes. However, deputy Scott Brady does get in on the action at the end, even if he doesn’t have much in the way of dialogue, and that’s future cult film director Greydon Clark as a fellow agent. And, of course, here’s John Carradine popping up for his one-scene ‘paycheque cameo’ as a Pet Shop Owner offering twin blondes some salient advice about lovebirds with relationship issues. Fans of the original ‘Star Trek’ TV show will recognise Alyce and Rhae Andrece from their appearance in Season 2 episode ‘I, Mudd’.

Adamson was a prolific filmmaker from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s who favoured many of the usual exploitation genres. He tackled horror on several occasions, with cut-price flicks like ‘Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) and memorably awful patchwork outings ‘Blood of Ghastly Horror (1967) and ‘Dracula vs. Frankenstein’ (1971). He also delivered the monumentally appalling interplanetary adventure ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970). However, in the interests of balance, Western ‘Five Bloody Graves’ (1969) and actioner ‘The Death Dimension’ (1978) are pretty watchable. Sadly, his life came to an end in August 1995 when he was murdered by a man he had hired to work on his house.

Although he can’t compete with Carradine (who could?!), Brady still has an enviable list of cult film credits to his name. Starting his career in undistinguished low-budget Noirs, a role for director Nicolas Ray in his dark fable ‘Johnny Guitar’ (1954) saw him typed in Westerns until the 1960s. Work on the range began drying up, and he diversified into science fiction b-pictures such as ‘Destination Inner Space’ (1966), ‘Castle of Evil’ (1966) and David L Hewitt’s intermittently interesting ‘Journey To The Centre of Time’ (1967). The association with Hewitt continued with an embarrassing encounter with ‘The Mighty Gorga’ (1969), although minor roles in more legitimate pictures came along occasionally, such as the astronaut drama ‘Marooned’ (1969). A lot of television followed throughout the 1970s before he capped his career as Sheriff Frank in ‘Gremlins’ (1984).

Underwhelming, low budget mash-up of crime and spy thriller from the notorious Adamson. Choppy and disjointed but just about coherent by the time the credits roll.

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.

Blood of Ghastly Horror (1966/1967/1972 etc.)

Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972)‘Patience, Akro, the replenishment of your potion is forthcoming.’   

A deformed man goes on a rampage in the city at night, killing a number of people including two policemen. The detective assigned to the case recalls a similar incident from a few years prior, when a brilliant scientist created a psychopathic zombie by experimenting on an injured Vietnam veteran.

Mad medico John Carradine just wouldn’t quit. Not content with creating ape women, Astro Zombies and bulletproof phantom dogs, he was at it again here, using a construction site hard hat and lots of curly cables to…um…do something or other sciency that…err…turns his patient into some kind of human fiend. But that’s all in the past, as retold in a lengthy flashback by ex-Disney child star Tommy Kirk (desperately trying to look like a cool cop, and failing spectacularly). According to him, this monster man was also part of a criminal gang, and we see them bungling a jewellery heist.

Before Kirk can finish the tale, however, he gets a visit from the fiend’s ex-wife (and the director’s actual spouse) Regina Carrol. As expected, she wants to talk about her nightmares of drums and strange voodoo rites. Rather than regard this as a spectacular waste of police time (as you might reasonably think), Kirk gets quite excited as her ex’s father (Kent Taylor) actually disappeared in Jamaica years before while studying telepathy and local supernatural stuff. Could he be behind the new wave of killings, or is new fiend Akro (Richard Smedley – think Michael Myers without the personality) simply acting alone? Carradine certainly doesn’t seem to be involved as he never leaves his lab, which actually looks more like someone’s bathroom than the room in the hospital it’s supposed to be. Probably because of the tiled walls and what looks like a large, blue shower curtain.

By this point, of course, any sneaking suspicions that the audience might have held that this is a few unfinished projects badly cobbled together into an incoherent mess have been confirmed about ten times over, although that assumption does turn out to be slightly inaccurate. But the flashbacks to the original case crop up almost randomly, and are so protracted that it’s often hard to follow the story (such as it is), and remember when the action we’re watching is supposed to be taking place.

Shot in ‘Chill-o-rama’ and ’Metrocolor’ (stop laughing at the back!) producer-director and co-writer Al Adamson’s film is actually a re-shot version of one of his much older efforts, a crime flick called ‘Psycho A Go-Go’ (1965). The hook of that project was that one of the criminal gang involved (Roy Morton – truly terrible) had an implant in his head which turned him into a soulless killer. Audiences weren’t impressed, but Adamson wouldn’t let it lie, adding new footage a year later (probably the sequences with Carradine) and putting it out as ‘Fiend with the Electronic Brain’. He was such a perfectionist, though, that he added more new scenes with Kirk, Carrol and Taylor in the early 1970s and gave it a brand new title: ‘The Man with the Synthetic Brain.’! It also hit theatres at different times as ‘The Fiend with the Atom Brain’, ‘The Man with the Atomic Brain’, ‘The Love Maniac'(!) and ‘Blood of Ghastly Horror‘, the title by which it’s more commonly known today.

Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972)

Motorhead’s new lineup were having problems with Lemmy again…

If all this tinkering seems like a bad thing, it’s probably a mercy in a way, because some of the original ‘crime’ footage is so boring that audiences probably suffered serious brain damage. Adamson’s shot framing is also truly eccentric, with some actors shot in such extreme close-up that we only see half their faces. Although this could be an aspect ratio issue with current prints, it only occurs in a couple of scenes. Elsewhere, the action scenes are poorly staged, and the murders unconvincing and crude.

Unbelievably, the director of photography was Vilmos Zsigmond (hiding under the name William) whose later career included such little known flicks as ‘Deliverance’ (1972), ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977), ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1979), ‘Blow Out’ (1981), ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ (1987), ‘Maverick’ (1994), some later projects for Woody Allen and many other famous titles. How did he go from lensing Adamson’s bargain basement atrocity ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters’ (1970) to working with Robert Altman on ‘McCabe and Mrs Miller’ (1971) barely a year later, and then onto gigs with Spielberg, De Palma, Don Siegel, Michael Cimino and directorial projects by actors Sean Penn and Jack Nicholson is one of life’s great mysteries. But there’s little doubt it was well deserved after toiling in low budget hell on such films as this, ‘The Nasty Rabbit’ (1964), ‘Satan’s Sadists’ (1969) and ‘Hot Rod Action’ (1969). It’s a fair bet that he’s the only person involved with an Al Adamson movie that went on to win an Oscar.

Such a patchwork enterprise is bound to have its limitations, of course, but Adamson’s film manages to transcend them, becoming something so truly abysmal that it’s a classic of bad filmmaking. Watch it at your peril.

Doctor Dracula (1978)

Doctor Dracula (1978)‘A prescription of terror – blood donors wanted!’

The reincarnated spirit of Svengali occupies the body of an academic, writes a bestselling book about it, and becomes a celebrity. Some local Satanists try to grab a piece of the action while Dracula cruises the local bars for victims posing as a psychiatrist…

As is often the case in the world of low-budget cinema, the origins and circumstances surrounding this production are somewhat obscure. Apparently, it began life as ‘Lucifer’s Wives’ (1974), a low-budget film about devil worship, directed by Paul Aratow with technical advice from Anton LaVey. He was a well-known occultist, founder of the Church of Satan, and author of ‘The Satanic Bible.’ However, despite the existence of press and advertising material, it seems likely that the film was never completed. The footage was picked up by notorious exploitation director Al Adamson, who shot new scenes in 1978 with a fresh cast including old friend John Carradine. Brand new plot elements including Count Dracula and re-incarnation were also introduced, and the finished product finally saw the light of day in 1981.

Inevitably, the results are a little muddled. The film opens with a demonstration by Larry Hankin, who claims to be the reincarnation of Svengali. This involves hypnotising a room filled with people as he saws a woman in half. Already things seem to be a little confused. After all, wasn’t Svengali a fictional character, rather than a real person? And was he supposed to have a magic act? Never mind. After all, the suave psychiatrist in the crowd (played by Geoffrey Land) seems to be none other than Count Dracula and he was fictional too, so I suppose it doesn’t matter. Also presents are some satanists led by John Carradine (who compiled this guest list?!) and Regina Carroll who wants to find out the truth behind her mother’s murder (hint: there were two strange puncture marks in her neck). Oh, and Svengali’s publisher is another reincarnatee who needs to move on from his sick body. He rather likes the look of Jane Brunel-Cohen, but the man whose body Svengali is using rather likes her too…and so on. Confused yet?

Doctor Dracula (1978)

‘What do you mean I’m fictional?’

Unfortunately, if this all sounds like a recipe for a ‘so bad, it’s good’ experience, then think again. It’s just rather dull. Even throwing in some satanic rituals (presumably from ’Lucifer’s Wives’) fails to liven things up, and a family reunion between Carroll and the corpse of her dead mother also ignites few sparks. The acting is generally rather poor, the dialogue never gets beyond the usual claptrap, and the camerawork is lifeless and static.

Unusually for this kind of film, there is actually too much going on, rather than too little, and there seems to be no excuse for it, given that there seems to be limited footage from ‘Lucifer Wives’ to stitch into the narrative. Dropping either the Dracula or the Svengali angle and focusing on the one that remained would have helped, but there were probably circumstances that dictated the inclusion of both; availability of actors/money, etc.

Carradine gets more screen-time than in some of his appearances of the period, but doesn’t actually do very much, apart from pontificate at ritzy parties. Land’s Count is handsome but has zero charisma, and, although Hankin’s wide-eyed performance as the legendary mesmerist provides what little entertainment there is, it’s hardly award winning. He did go onto bits in some huge hits, though, most notably ‘Home Alone’ (1990), Billy Madison (1995), and ‘Pretty Woman’ (1990).

Adamson did a lot, lot worse than this; ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters’ (1970) and ‘Dracula Vs Frankenstein’ (1971), but rarely was he this dull. When Svengali tells Carroll to ‘Look into my eyes, you are getting very sleepy’ we know exactly what how she feels.

Death Dimension (1978)

Death_Dimension_(1978)‘There’s a very funny smell in the air and all the stink’s coming from the Pig.’

A brilliant scientist experimenting with weather control has invented a ‘freeze bomb’ but realises his work is going to be used for evil purposes by The Pig. His assistant’s goes on the run with the secret and a top cop who specialises in martial arts is given the job of bringing her in.

Jim Kelly was International Middleweight Karate Champion in 1971 as well as being a tennis pro. In 1973, he appeared in a leading role in Bruce Lee’s classic final film ‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973) and his own movie career was launched. Kelly played ‘Black Belt Jones’ (1974) in a series of films and he was heavily featured in several other ‘Blaxploitation’ flicks of the time. And it’s not hard to see why. As well as bringing his formidable physical skills to the table, Kelly had an easy, laid back charisma on screen (even if he was never required to do much acting) and he often outshone better known performers, who were often taking a paycheque on their way down the Hollywood food chain.

Here, Kelly reunited with low end filmmaker Al Adamson (‘Horror of the Blood Monsters’ (1970)), having worked with him before on ‘Black Samurai’ (1976). Even though the two films are very similar, it still must have seemed like the big time to Adamson. He had a budget (of sorts), stars (kind of) and a killer screenplay with non-stop thrills and action (well, not really). Actually, it’s just 90 minutes of relentless, grinding mediocrity as one pointless action scene follows another and the plot goes nowhere.

But what about the star-studded supporting cast? We get George ‘Bond’ Lazenby as Kelly’s boss and Terry Moore, the girl who originally starred opposite ‘Mighty Joe Young’ (1949). We also have Hollywood veteran Aldo Ray (‘We’re No Angels (1955), ‘The Naked and the Dead’ (1958)) giving it his best shot in a nothing role as a foreign buyer interested in the ‘freeze bomb’. But, best of all, the villainous Pig is portrayed by Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata (that’s how he’s billed, folks!) Unfortunately, it turns out that he was far more adept with a bowler hat than a line of dialogue.


‘For the last time, kelly, I’ve never come across the guy in the bowler hat before. You’re thinking of that other fellow…talk to him…’

Although the Professor’s assistant (not his daughter for once) makes a feisty heroine, nearly all the other female characters are faceless prostitutes, save for Kelly’s girlfriend and even she gets a tasteless nude scene. So proceedings are not exactly enlightened, although Kelly does seem to be genuinely broken up about what happens to his squeeze. Well, for about ten seconds anyway, until someone takes a shot at him in the hospital car park and then we’re off again into another aimless action scene with no consequences.

But it’s the martial arts stuff we’ve come for, right? And here Kelly delivers (particularly with the nunchucks), although the combat is staged with little imagination. Our hero is backed up by Myron Bruce Lee (that’s how he’s billed, folks!) who drifts in and out of the film, as if he just turned up for an afternoon’s shooting. As per usual, everyone is incapable of covering someone else with a gun and the idea that the portly Sakata can outdistance Kelly in a footrace and stand up against him in a fight is plainly ridiculous.

And just what does the title mean? Your guess is as good as mine…

Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)

Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971)‘You see! You must open your eyes to see things!’

Dr Frankenstein runs a ‘House of Horrors’ at the local fairground, whilst carrying on monster experiments assisted by the psychopathic Groton. A blonde nightclub singer searches for her missing sister along the beachfront and Count Dracula turns up for some reason or other.

This film is often cited as a bad movie classic and director Al Adamson’s ‘masterpiece’. Actually, it started life as a sequel to his biker flick ‘Satan’s Sadists’ (1969) and footage was shot of the motorcycle gang and their leader, the returning Russ Tamblyn (continuing his spectacular career nosedive). The gang are being investigated by Regina Carrol, who is looking for her sister. The detective assigned to the case is ‘Jock’ from ‘Dallas’ but she’s not impressed with him at all.

Sometime later, Adamson decided to ‘re-imagine’ the project as a horror movie (i.e. he got some more money) and recruited two-time Oscar nominee J Carrol Naish to star along with genre icon Lon Chaney Jr. Dwarf actor Angelo Rossitto provided support and Ken Strickfaden brought the original lab equipment he’d designed and built for ‘Frankenstein’ (1931). Rossitto had worked with Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre and Laurel & Hardy back in the day but had to make ends meet by running a Hollywood street corner newsstand for many years. At 7’ 4” John Bloom was the tallest man ever to fill the Monster’s concrete boots while Dracula was played with a mouthful of plastic teeth by the intriguingly named Zandor Vorkov. He was actually a stockbroker named Roger.

This was the last time out of the gate for both Naish and Chaney. Both were in very poor health at the time. Naish acted from his wheelchair and had to read the lines from cue cards. One of his eyes was glass so only the other one moves. You can also clearly hear the clicking of his false teeth when he delivers his lines. Chaney didn’t get any dialogue at all but that was because he could no longer speak, rendered mute by the throat cancer that would kill him a short time later. His character has a thing about puppies, a curious echo of Lennie’s love of rabbits in Chaney’s breakthrough role ‘Of Mice and Men’ (1939). It would be nice to think that was the actor’s own idea.

Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971)

‘Could I interest you in a hedge fund? It’s perfectly safe…’

Proceedings are understandably chaotic and owe a lot to Universal monster mash ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944), in which both Chaney and Naish had starred. The monster’s face looks like a pizza someone has stepped in and Rodge fires animated lightning bolts from his Dracula ring, when we’d pretty much forgotten he was in the picture at all. Old Pizzaface isn’t stopped by police bullets, especially when you only hear them on the soundtrack and the cast aren’t bothering to fire their prop guns. The climatic wrestling match between the Monster and King Vamp is lame at best, with Old Pizzaface ending up like John Cleese’s Black Knight in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1975). Naish obviously hadn’t used enough superglue or was pretty rubbish with a needle and thread.

Adamson was able to get actress Regina Carrol to return to film the new ‘horror’ scenes and that does help makes sense of the storyline a little. Mind you, they were married at the time so he probably had to do all the washing up for a month and promise to put the toilet seat back down when he’d finished.

This is a seriously bad film but, given the circumstances, that outcome was pretty much inevitable and it’s certainly not in the same wretched league as Adamson’s own ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters’ (1970). Splicing together mismatched footage shot at different times has produced far more incoherent films than this one. Take almost anything made by Jerry Warren for example, or David L Hewitt’s epic ‘The Lucifer Complex’ (1978), or even ‘They Saved Hitler’s Brain’ (1964) for that matter!

Buy ‘Dracula Versus Frankenstein’ here

Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970)

Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970)‘The strange Chromatic Radiations of deep, dark space have created many ghastly mutations while they turn the air, and everything in it, into a one coloured mass of yellow…green…blue… or blood red!’

Earth is overrun by vampires with pointy joke shop teeth. Apparently. John Carradine rockets into outer space to the bloodsucker’s home planet to sort it all out. Somehow.

Al Adamson directed this horror and science fiction mash-up, which sat on the shelf for 4 years before being released under a half dozen lurid (and fairly misleading) titles during the 1970s. Mash-up is the most appropriate word to describe a movie that features a lot of cavemen footage from a Fillipino film called ‘Tagani’ (mid-1960’s), spastic dinosaurs from ‘Unknown Island’ (1948), lizard dinosaurs from ‘One Billion BC (1940) and SFX from David L Hewitt’s terminal bore ‘The Wizard of Mars’ (1964). Other reviewers claim to have seen bits of ‘Robot Monster’ (1953) in there as well and, in Italy, bits of Gerry Anderson’s ‘UFO’ (1969) TV series were added to the mix! Before this, the only Adamson film I’d seen was ‘Blood of Dracula’s Castle’ (1969) (again with Carradine) and that was poor but I was still completely unprepared for such a wretched effort as this.

Our story begins with a whole lot of random plastic fang action in gloomy streets and alleys. Necks are smeared with dabs of tomato sauce. This is accompanied by a hilarious voiceover by one ‘Brother Theodore’, whose camp ‘end of the pier’ Lugosi routine is priceless. This is by far as good as it gets and has little to do with what follows. My advice: stop here. Go and find something more interesting to do instead. Anything, really.

Cut to a plastic bottle wrapped in silver foil in a model desert (sorry, a highly sophisticated rocket sitting on the launch pad and shivering with barely restrained power). It disappears out of shot as someone picks it up. You don’t actually see their hand but it must have been a close run thing. Inside this sophisticated tribute to modern technology (and washing up liquid) is John Carradine, only 60 years young at the time of filming and obviously perfectly capable both of space travel and leading the expedition. He’s accompanied by a small crew of various boring lunkheads and a good looking blonde who seems to be reading her lines from a cue card. After being hit by the inevitable meteor (sorry, a sun thingy), they are forced to crash land on a nearby planet. We never find out if this is really the vampire’s home world but some of those cavemen sure have pointy teeth (in some shots, anyway) so I guess it’s close enough.

Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970)

Do you really have to do that right now?

Back on Earth, mission control actually has a decent number of staff for once (oh, hang on that’s actually a shot from another movie). Instead we get Col (Dr?) Manning, his assistant and a bloke wandering around with a clipboard. Manning and assistant nip off for the odd bunk up, which involves writhing around in a hideous homemade disco. She’s not happy with his efforts but instead of getting round to it the next time, he brings home a ‘Spectrum Gun’ so he can explain about ‘Chromatic Radiation.’

Now, I don’t want to get too scientific here and confuse you but the planet where our zeroes have landed is soaked in this ‘chromatic’ stuff. The result is that everything periodically changes colour. This very special effect is achieved by putting various coloured lenses on the camera. This was not an artistic statement or a nod to psychedelia but had a far more practical motive. You see, most of the old movies that Adamson wanted to include clips from were filmed in black and white and he needed a colour movie. So, he tinted both the old and new footage in various garish colours to achieve a seamless match. Of course, it looks completely horrible.

And there a few other issues with this ‘collage’ approach to filmmaking. At one point our anonymous heroes capture a cavegirl. Unfortunately, she doesn’t speak any English. Most inconsiderate. But it’s nothing that a little homemade brain surgery can’t fix. Fine. Only, later on in the picture, all the cavemen are speaking English! Of course, they never interact with our dull heroes because they’re not really in the same film. This might all be forgivable if the prehistoric footage was anything but deadly dull. Yes, there are lobster men! Furry bat men (on wires)! But it’s hard to imagine how it could have been any less exciting.

Carradine had the right idea. He stays in the ship throughout, delivers the film’s final message and exits stage right, grabbing his paycheque as he goes. Usually, he made some effort with the material, however crummy the project was, but there’s little evidence he could be bothered here.

Painful. An early contender for my list of the Worst Movies of this year.

Buy ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters’ here. But don’t blame me if you do.

Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969)

Blood_of_Dracula's_Castle_(1969)‘If you violate our sacrifice, you can never be one of the eternal ones…’

Count and Countess Dracula are dead and well and living in an isolated American castle. They are looked after by faithful old retainer George, an escaped psychotic killer and a deformed giant called Mango.

Al Adamson is a notoriously bad film maker, known chiefly for his horror movies of the late 60s and early 70s. His most famous (or should that be infamous?) was ‘Dracula Vs Frankenstein’ (1971) which featured the final performance of Lon Chaney Jr. The old horror icon on duty here at Dracula’s castle is John Carradine in the role of butler George. Of course he’d first played Dracula himself in ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944) and had donned the fangs again for the seminal ‘Billy the Kid Vs Dracula’ (1965) but here the Count is portrayed by cuddly Alex D’Arcy and the Countess by Paula Raymond, the heroine who helped fight ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’ (1953).

Bloody hell, how did we fail the audition for the Addams Family?

Bloody hell, how did we fail the audition for the Addams Family?

The interaction of these 3 veterans is by far the picture’s greatest strength. You see, the vampires are just like an any other retired married couple; taking drinks by the fireside before going off to bed. Of course they sleep in coffins and there are some young girls chained up in the cellar but everyone is entitled to some little eccentricities at their time of life. Actually, it’s the servants who do all the dirty work which mainly involves the new owners of the castle. You see the property’s only rented! The culture clash between the hip young couple who want to move in and the comfortably settled old bloodsuckers provides some wry humour amid the rather tedious thrills.

There’s little here to suggest that Adamson belongs in the same breath as terrible film directors like Ed Wood, Larry Buchanan or Andy Milligan. Sure, the movie is cheap, slow and completely unconvincing but it’s fairly professional overall and actually mildly entertaining. However, I have read that ‘Blood of Dracula’s Castle’ (1969) is Adamson’s most coherent and accessible work so I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen some further examples…