Thursday, 13 May 2021

Horror Of The Blood Monsters

Crusty Asian Crustaceans

Horror Of The Blood Monsters
USA/Philippines 1970
Directed by Al Adamson
(plus various, I guess)
IIP/Severin Blu Ray Zone A/B/C

Horror Of The Blood Monsters is the next film in the wonderful Severin Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection Blu Ray boxed set I’ve been watching but, to paraphrase a great writer, this must be some strange usage of the word ‘masterpiece’ of which I was previously unaware. This film is easily one of the worst movies I’ve seen and, I can tell you, I’ve seen some real clunkers in my time.

The film stars what seems to be the magic triangle of Al Adamson’s regular cast around this time, John Carradine, Robert Dix and the lovely Vicki Volante and, out of the three of them, Carradine seems to be the only one really doing a good job of it although how, with the dialogue they have here, anybody could attempt to make this work is beyond me. Dix and Volante did a pretty great job in Five Bloody Graves (reviewed here) and you wonder how their acting took such a nose dive that they got to this. The only other member of the cast worth talking about is Joey Benson, who actually does a brilliant acting job despite a script filled with science fiction techno-babble that doesn’t in any way reflect real life. You may remember him from Psycho-A-Go-Go and its subsequent recuts as Fiend With The Electronic Brain and Blood Of Ghastly Horror (all of which I reviewed here) and it’s a shame this guy was only in a few movies because, of all the actors here, he’s the one that most deserved to go on to better things. I think.

The film itself is an Al Adamson patchwork job. He liked an unreleased Filipino movie directed by Rolf Bayer called Tagani from 1956 (goodness knows why) so he bought the rights out of his own pocket and shot a load of new footage (at least half of this movie, maybe a bit more) to add to it, creating a new storyline which is both ridiculous (that is to say, even more ridiculous) than the original and that also doesn’t really hold together that well as a single, focused through line. He also added footage from some other films as well such as Man And His Mate and Unknown Island but, well, if there was ever a case for less is more then maybe this film would go some way towards demonstrating that idea.

Okay, so somebody in distribution must have wanted a horror picture because the first five minutes of Adamson's footage is about vampires on the streets and, although the IMDB seems to have the plot summarised pretty easily, I can’t say I came away with an impression as to why it’s here at all, other than to say the vampires (one of whom is Adamson himself, in a cameo) come from another planet and are bringing their disease of blood drinking to Earth. If they’re meant to resemble any of the creatures in the spliced in footage from other films well... it would be a huge leap of faith, for sure. There are no real vampires on the planet on which our ‘intrepid crew of explorers’ end up journeying to, apart from... no, I’ll save that bit for later.

So John Carradine leads a crew, including Bishop, to another planet to inspect the Spectra Solar System he has discovered. At ‘mission control’, Robert Dix and Vicki Volante communicate with pseudo-scientific babble and keep tabs on the crew. Actually, let me tell you about mission control for a minute because, frankly, most of the time it’s a static photo of the backs of two actors' heads from another film while a television screen image of the one or other of the crew are either superimposed onto or, possibly, just showing through a TV shaped hole in the picture. This then doesn’t match in any way with the single shots of the front of Dix and Volante’s heads as they talk their space race drivel when cut to. They are both seen head and shoulders only with some kind of black drape cloth behind them and, if I said this is worse than anything you can expect to see in an Ed Wood movie then, yeah, maybe you’ll get some idea of what this movie is like. The two are never seen in the same shot at the same time in their mission control setting, which makes me think that there was only a small amount of black backdrop to go around and they both just filmed their scenes sitting on the same stool in a photo studio.

However, when a couple of completely random scenes of Dix and Volante having tame sex are inserted for, from what I can make out, absolutely no reason whatsoever, they do at least share a screen. And a bed. And also this is the one time you might get a sense that this film is supposed to be set in our future as the two have ‘future sex’, which means they roll around kissing but have electrodes fitted to their heads with bright lights and beepy sounds. At one point, one of them confesses to making love in the ‘old way’ but, honestly, I’m past caring by this stage. And if I’m not even interested in the sex scenes in a movie, well... they’ve really lost me.

Meanwhile, the heroes have reached the planet and their footage is intercut and merges seamlessly with footage about two warring tribes on a prehistoric Earth, some of whom have tusks for teeth and look just like the three beast-men Buster Crabbe fights at the end of episode one of the 1936 serial Flash Gordon (which I reviewed here). But, you know, a lot worse. And when I say seamlessly, well... there were traces of irony and sarcasm to be found in that sentence I’m afraid because... okay... so did I mention that the footage from Tagami is in black and white. So, when our crew get to the planet they are also in black and white but... drive-ins wanted colour movies for their shows so everybody on the planet (other footage included), are tinted in different colours throughout like an old silent movie... which is somehow explained (or attempted to be explained) by the fact that the atmosphere of the planet emits some kind of chromatic radiation which means everything looks like hand tinted monochrome that constantly changes from red to green to yellow etc. Um... yikes.

Anyway, our crew rescues a slave girl called Lian from one of the warring factions, played here by Jennifer Bishop and, yes, of course her footage doesn’t match up with the Filipino movie she purports to have come from. Of course, she speaks alien but, that’s okay, because John Carradine’s professor character talks in the radio from their spaceship and instructs the away team on how to do a quick bit of minor brain surgery and place a translator device directly into Lian’s head. Lian is none the worse for wear from this invasive procedure (she doesn’t even need any of her hair shaved) and can now, of course, understand and speak perfect English.

And then there’s more shenanigans including some kind of crab men, some flying bat ape men who, well they have to be seen to be believed and kind of bounce rather than fly but, yeah... I’m sorry to say that both these ridiculous beasts, along with some truly pathetic looking men-in-suit tyrannosaurs (worse than you could possibly imagine in their saggy costumes) in no way save the film and turn it into a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of experience. They are highlights in a very weak production it’s true but, no, this film gets beyond saving very quickly and I have to wonder why this was even accepted for distribution (something like 5 years after it was in the can, to boot).

I don’t know how people like uber cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond got work with a regular studio after working on ‘filler’ material like this but, well, I guess nobody must have looked at his CV that closely and, in an age before the internet, I guess it was fairly easy to hide your involvement in projects such as this one. You know, it’s funny but every time I see a touch of promise in the films of Al Adamson like Psycho-A-Go-Go or Five Bloody Graves, he then comes out with something which is some of the most terrible rubbish I’ve ever seen, like Horror Of The Blood Monsters. Once again, though, I am grateful that Severin have made stuff like this available to us and, as usual, they’ve done their best to save this with a great transfer from what must have been a shoddy print. So, yeah, I shall continue my occasional journey through their Al Adamson box set as the weeks go on. The man worked in a lot of different genres, it would seem.

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