Monday, 2 May 2022

When Dracula Met Frankenstein

Sherman Fountain

When Dracula Met Frankenstein:
My Years Making Drive-In
Movies With Al Adamson

by Sam Sherman
Murania Press ISBN: 9798530794858

What a great book!

Just a quick shout out to something which will be a nice addition, I’m sure, to many a film enthusiast’s book shelves. You may remember when, a couple of years ago, Severin films put out a very pricey but, as it turned out, worth every penny boxed edition of 32 Al Adamson films, as part of a package to accompany the documentary movie Blood And Flesh - The Reel Life And Ghastly Death Of Al Adamson (which I reviewed here). Well, I went through that boxed edition of Adamson films and, though I found some titles to be terrible, I found others to be pretty good and sometimes beyond that but, whatever I thought about them (and I reviewed every one of them for this blog), going through that wonderful set reminded me of just how great an art form cinema could be and it revitalised my slowly waning interest in the medium.

Now, as I said, you can find my reviews of those on this blog and you can check for a title in the second ‘movie’ section of my site index (link at top left) or, if you want to go a more direct way, I also wrote an article specifically about the box, Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection, as a bookmark section, from which all my reviews are linked... and you can access that here.

As I waded into the set, two things bacame apparent and impressed me. One was that Adamson’s films were more often than not produced by Sam Sherman, who seemed a really sweet guy and came across in all the interviews as someone very knowledgable about the world of film, demonstrating a genuine love and affection for movies in general. He seemed like someone you would want to hang out with in a bar and buy drinks for so he won’t stop telling fascinating, illuminating stories about his decades in the business.

The other thing which came across to me was that, heck, I really needed to read a decent biography, or at least an enthusiastic book, on the films of Al Adamson and so I looked for one on Amazon and various online book stores but couldn’t find anything in print at the time. There was apparently one published in 1998 called Schlock-o-Rama: Films of Al Adamson but, yeah, good luck even finding a copy now, even at the ludicrous price I’m sure it would go for if anyone had a copy to sell. Well, that was a year ago so, imagine my surprise when I’d found out that, not only had a book which was much of what I wanted been published since I’d last looked but, it took the form of a memoir by Sam Sherman, about the films he’d produced with Adamson (and others) at Independent International Pictures.

When Dracula Met Frankenstein, subtitled My Years Making Drive-In Movies With Al Adamson, is a valuable, well written tome from somebody who’s about as no nonsense and as fair a person running a business as you can get. Going out of his way to help people along in the process of his career and championing the art form while still managing to make tonnes of money from... well, if you ask me... from some unlikely pictures. Sherman managed to make something out of both his own productions and others peoples (as I’ve talked about in some of my reviews of... let’s call them ‘rescued films’) and is a genuine success story, capturing various niche markets as and when required.

The various forewords to the book tell it all in terms of Sam’s character, with the people writing those intros singling him out as a nice, honest human being (which really comes across in both this book and various interviews on the Severin set, not to mention his little audio section on the Dracula VS Frankenstein soundtrack CD). And cinephiles will have a ball with many of the anecdotes on offer here.

The book is split into two sections. The first half being a look at his personal history with ‘the age of celluloid’ with tales of Al’s dad, cowboy star/director/producer Denver Dixon, how Sam himself got started on the road to producer by re-releasing an old 1930s Hollywood production of The Scarlet Letter in the 1960s, how he hired out equipment from the late great Kenneth Strickfadden (there’s a book about him I reviewed right here), how he worked with the infamous Hemisphere Pictures and so on. And really great stories I’d never heard before such as how he managed to generate income for the old Hammer films adaptation of the TV serial The Abominable Snowman (reviewed by me here) and, of course, how some of those Adamson flicks like Brain Of Blood and Nurse Sherri turned out like they did (and just why they did too... which was an eye opener). He even had famous artists like Neal Adams (who passed away last week) and Basil Gogos designing and painting promotional posters, sleeves and whatever else was needed to give a movie a first run lift or, often, a new lease of life when required. In fact, there’s a very interesting section which explains the early days of the sudden, burgeoning Home Video market and just how he was able to ‘more than stay afloat’ with some of his old titles.

The second section of the book is a rundown of chapters devoted, alphabetically, to various films he’s been involved with (mostly but not limited to, working with Adamson) and, as you would expect, he has quite a few stories to tell of just what happened on those productions. Blazing Stewardesses which, I’m sorry Sam, I really didn’t like compared to their original The Naughty Stewardesses, certainly makes more sense now in terms of just why the heck it ended up being the film it is now, for sure. Also, the inside story on just what happened with the ending of Girls For Rent is kinda interesting.

There’s also more than a hint in the book that Sam is working on a second book of memoirs (which I’ll be first in line for if it’s publicised better than this one was... I need to know about it before I can buy it) of all the other things which he’s been involved with outside of IIP. Frankly, there’s an unexplained photograph of Sam in the book (it’s also loaded with plenty of photos relating to the various stories, if that’s your thing) where he’s standing with the one and only Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe and, yeah, I really want to hear about that meeting, for sure.

As you can see, I had a real blast with When Dracula Met Frankenstein and I’m sure glad Sam’s still around to share his stories. This is another of those essential film books every cineaste shouldn’t be without, as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps Tom Weaver, a film historian whose name I tend to associate with his expert knowledge on the classic Universal horror movies of the 30s - 50s, says it best when he shares an anonymous quote that... “When an old man dies, a library burns down.” That’s a really nice way of putting things and I couldn’t agree more. When Dracula Meets Frankenstein is available now from Amazon and, as the saying goes, all reputable book stores and... I sure hope Sam gets his skates on writing that second book. I want to read it sooner, rather than later.

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