Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Plot of Fear (1976)

Poster art for Plot of Fear (1976) #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn……………… Plot of Fear Plot of Fear Plot of Fear Plot of Plot of Fear (1976) by #PaoloCavara

w/ #CorinneCléry #MichelePlacido #TomSkerritt #EliWallach

A group of wealthy men and women get murdered one by one at a decadent weekend party full of orgies and drugs on the outskirts of Milan.

#Giallo #Mystery
#NotQuiteClassicCinema

I had never heard of Plot of Fear (1976) prior to picking up a copy on DVD sometime earlier this year. It was on sale and, looking at the box, I found it irresistible. The description on the back begins “Plot of Fear tells the story of a group of wealthy men and women who get murdered one by one at a decadent weekend party…”. Well, say no more – I’m sold.

It turns out that this description is a little wrong. The men and women are not murdered AT the party. They are murdered sometime AFTER the party – and we don’t even know about the party at first. It’s the thing that ties them all together and provides a motive for the murders.

Plot of Fear is a giallo. I’ve talked about the genre before, and how it has become one of my favourites. This one, starring Corinne Cléry from The Story of O (1975) and Moonraker (1979), features a heavy dose of sleaze including hookers, S&M, and the promised “decadent weekend party”. 

The film even includes a pornographic cartoon made by Gibba, who was an Italian animator (full name Francesco Maurizio Guido) who did several erotic animated films in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tom Skerritt appears in Plot of Fear as a Chief Inspector of the police. I thought for a minute that he was only going to make a brief cameo in one scene, but his appearances are actually peppered throughout the entire movie.

Eli Wallach also appears as Peter Struwwel, a private detective with some questionable techniques and morals – and his character is even more prominent than Skerritt’s.

 is the real hero of the movie. He has 130 credits on the IMDb, and may be recognizable from movies such as The Pyjama Girl Case (1977), Kleinhoff Hotel (1977), The Sicilian Connection (1985). and Big Business (1988) with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. In Plot of Fear, Pladico plays a police detective trying to solve a series of bizarre murders (as could only be found in a giallo – or maybe a slasher film). 

Plot of Fear is probably not the greatest giallo ever made, but it’s pretty darn entertaining – especially for those who appreciate a higher than average sleaze factor. It manages to keep you guessing as to what the hell is going on – and who is behind the murders. And it is certainly no carbon copy of every other giallo that came before it.

The director, Paolo Cavara, is probably best known for making Mondo Cane (1962) and other pseudo-documentaries that expose strange behaviour from around the world, like Women of the World (1963), Malamondo (1964) and  L’occhio selvaggio (1967). Plot of Fear is a drama that exposes the strange and shocking behaviours of a group of rich elite people in Milan, so it’s kind of like Mondo film in a way. 

Plot of Fear (1976) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that should appeal to fans of unusual giallos and other Italian exploitation films. It could certainly add a little spice to any cinematic line-up that seems a little too chaste for a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967)

Vide box for The Fiend with the Electronic Brain AKA The Man with the Synthetic Brain (1967)#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

The Fiend with the Electronic Brain
AKA
The Man with the Synthetic Brain (1967)
by #AlAdamson

w/ #JohnCarradine #RoyMorton #TaceyRobbins

An injured Vietnam veteran becomes violently insane when a mad scientist experiments on his brain.

#Horror #SciFi

#NotQuiteClassicCinema

Not too long ago I reviewed an Al Adamson movie called Psycho a Go Go (1965). As I said then:

One of the things that Al Adamson is known for, is using footage from old movies to create new movies. Or adding new footage to old movies, retitling them, and releasing them as new movies.

Psycho a Go Go was Al’s first feature film, and the original version of… well, let’s call it Psycho a Go Go. In 1969 (or was it 1967?), Al re-edited it and added some new footage of legendary actor John Carradine, playing a mad scientist. The “new” movie was released as The Fiend with the Electronic Brain.

Still not satisfied (or perhaps just seeing another opportunity) Al added some more material, featuring other actors – including his future wife Regina Carrol. He called this “new” movie Blood of Ghastly Horror. If that wasn’t enough, there was also a TV version created in 1972 called The Man With the Synthetic Brain.

There seems to be a lot of discrepancy and differing opinions as to the dates of some of these versions of Psycho a Go Go. Severin’s big box set of Al Adamson movies has The Fiend with the Electronic Brain. listed as 1964 – the same year they list Psycho a Go Go. The IMDb claims Psycho a Go Go is from 1965. The IMDb doesn’t even list The Fiend with the Electronic Brain as a separate movie. They simply send you to the page for Blood of Ghastly Horror (which they say is from 1967). Severin lists Blood of Ghastly Horror as from 1971. 

Severin also includes, as an extra on their Blu-ray, the alternate title sequence for The Fiend with the Electronic Brain, which uses the title The Man With the Synthetic Brain. They also include the trailer. 

Confession: I had never seen The Fiend with the Electronic Brain before last Friday. When I tweeted about the movie (right before I watched it) I took some images from the trailer, which I logically assumed were images from the actual movie. They were not.

I am guessing that they are actually from a later cut of the movie (that uses the title The Man With the Synthetic Brain. But I can’t really say for sure. You can see those images in my tweet, below.

In reality, The Fiend with the Electronic Brain is pretty much the same movie as Psycho a Go Go, but with the added footage of John Carradine. He talks about the character of Joe Cory, played by Roy Morton, being a Vietnam veteran – and how he experimented on Joe (to save his life) but may have made him violently insane. Oops.

I had been looking forward to seeing the more zombie-like monster version of Joe, which I thought that I was seeing in the trailer. Sadly, he was not in this movie. Perhaps I can look forward to that in the next version of this epic, Blood of Ghastly Horror. Only time will tell.

Is The Fiend with the Electronic Brain an improvement over Psycho a Go Go? Probably not. If you’re a big John Carradine fan you might think so, as any John Carradine is better than no John Carradine. It’s perhaps slightly crazier than the original movie, but I’ve always liked Psycho a Go Go as it was (and thought that it was plenty crazy in it’s own way). Still, I enjoyed this “new” version – and I think it’s a fascinating artifact for any fan of Al Adamson. I’ve always wondered about his penchant for reusing his old work, and now I can see one of the many stages of this strange film’s development.

Whatever you call it, The Fiend with the Electronic Brain is undoubtedly #NotQuiteClassicCinema. For fans of Al, it’s almost certainly a must see. And as I said the last time:

There are few sure things in this life, but I would say that any movie with Al Adamson’s name on it is going to enliven any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973)

Poster for The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973)I’ve talked about Jess Franco a couple of times, including how I first became aware of him – and then very quickly became a fan of him. The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973) is one movie of his that I did not see back in the early days Franco fandom. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw it before last Friday. Surprising, considering what a provocative title it is. I don’t think I ever came across a copy on VHS or Beta.

Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) were two of my favourite movies growing up. I’m not even sure how young I was the first time I saw them. Then, when I was about 8, I discovered Young Frankenstein (1974) and it blew my mind. I watched it on TV every chance I got.

Reading Famous Monsters magazine, I became aware of other versions of Frankenstein, most notably the Hammer Horror films like The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). I didn’t see the movies until many years later, but I enjoyed looking at the pictures in the magazine. 

Once I started renting movies in earnest, I tended to gravitate more towards slasher films, than classic monsters like Frankenstein. I guess I figured I’d already seen everything that those creaky old stories could offer.

Then one day I rented Flesh for Frankenstein (1973), or Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, as I called it. It blew my mind in a different way. Young Frankenstein (1974) contained some tasteless humour and sex. Flesh for Frankenstein (1973), however, was on a whole other level or perverse and graphic material. It opened my mind to the possibility of classic monsters starring in much more exploitative films. I’m not sure what Mary Shelley would think, but it was A-okay with me. 

Enter Jess Franco. Let’s face it, the man is a master of exploitation. He’s made everything from soft core sleaze to hard core adult cinema – some of it staring his wife, Lina Romay. He’s also made some surprisingly tasteful movies, like Attack of the Robots / Cartes sur table (1966). He also made a pretty straight-faced (some might say boring) version of Dracula called Count Dracula (1970). I remember seeing this movie on TV when I was young. It starred Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski – but it was no Hammer film. It also, oddly enough, wasn’t much of a Jess Franco film (as I would discover when re-watching it years later). It somehow lacked the tasteless good fun that many of Franco’s other films exude.

The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973) is neither straight-faced nor boring – and yes, it is sleazy and fairly tasteless at times (thank Jesús – Jesús Franco that is!).

Jesús “Jess” Franco is very much a love him or hate him kind of filmmaker – and The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein is very much a love it or hate it kind of movie. A quick look at the reviews on the IMDb tell the story very clearly. Some people call it “One of the crappiest looking Frankenstein monsters in film history!”, or a “Truly awful waste of time”. Others call it “a surrealist masterpiece, poetic, perverse, comic, and mesmerizing.” The truth is probably somewhere in between but it is amazing how polarizing Franco and his films can be.

For me, on first viewing, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein is not my favourite Franco movie, but it is also not my least favourite. It has some truly amazing scenes that are well worth the price of admission. It also has a few scenes that are a little closer to the boring end of the spectrum – but that’s okay. It’s like a song with a dynamic range; we need the quiet parts to be able to appreciate the loud parts. If it’s all equally loud, then the loudness loses it’s meaning and begins to sound, well, quiet.

If every scene in The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein was as batshit crazy as the scene that one IMDb reviewer describes as “a shrieking, silver-skinned Frankenstein’s monster relentlessly whipping a man and a woman tied together over a bed of spikes.”- (thanks mido505) – then we would soon think that it was normal (and that’s the last thing one should ever think when watching a Jess Franco movie.

There are (at least) two cuts of The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein circulating out there. The French cut, which is shorter but contains all of the nudity and sleaze, and the Spanish cut, which is longer, tamer, and features Lina Romay in a small role. As much as like Lina Romay, I would put my money on the French cut. Of course, true Franco completists must see them both.

The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973) is a #NotQuiteClassicCinema reimagining of a classic monster movie. It would be wrong to say that it is in the same category as the original Frankenstein (1931) or The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), but for those with a taste of Jess Franco’s brand of cinematic madness, it’s a perfect addition to any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I remember finding a shitty-looking black and white photocopied looking clamshell VHS box of I Drink Your Blood (1970) on the shelf of my favourite video store many years ago. I had never heard of the movie, which made it interesting, and the shitty-looking box somehow made me all the more curious about it. It looked like the owners of the video store had made the box themselves – and probably the movie, too. It just looked like an ordinary blank VHS tape with a sticker slapped on it. The sticker just had the title of the move on it – not a fancy designed looking version of it, but simple looking text probably done on a typewriter.

Black and white add for I Drink Your Blood (1970)I figured that I Drink Your Blood (1970) must be some kind of special movie for somebody to have gone to all this trouble. Maybe it was so extreme that no official company would release it. I immediately took it up to the front to rent it

The guy behind the counter looked at it and said, “I’m not sure if this version is uncut or not. Let me know.”

“Okay, ” I said – but had no idea how to even tell if the movie was uncut of not. I had never seen it before. I’d never read about. I didn’t know what was supposed to be in it. How could I tell if something was missing?

I suppose if it had been really obvious, like someone is in the middle of saying something: “Alright man, I’m gonna take this axe and -” – when suddenly there’s an ugly looking cut in the film, and then we’re watching some dude’s horrified looking face as he says ” Whoa, man, why’d you go and do that?! You didn’t have to chop him thirty-seven times!”

Maybe then I would have thought that something had been cut out of the movie. As it was, I just didn’t know. I enjoyed the  movie, however.

A few years later, a friend invited to a bad movie night with some of his other friends. He asked me to bring some crazy movies. So I went to an independent store that had a lot of crazy movies in it. I mean rare bootleg tapes with cheapass photocopied covers, a lot like the one that I had rented years ago. And lo and behold, they had a copy of I Drink Your Blood. This box stated very clearly “Uncut Version – Never Before Seen!” So I rented it, along with a copy of other crazy looking movies, and took them to the all-night-movie-watching event.

Unfortunately, those guys already had so many movies that they wanted to watch, that they never even considered looking at anything that I brought with me. And I had to return the tapes the next day, so I didn’t even get a chance to watch them on my own. I had wasted my money that day, and the store went out of business shortly after that. I never did see the uncut version of I Drink Your Blood.

Now, thanks to Grindhouse Releasing, I own the super-deluxe Blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood, and it contains two different cuts of the movie; the uncut X-rated version, and the director’s cut. The director’s cut is actually a longer version of the movie – but not because there’s more gore and violence. It contains more story. Honestly, I’m not sure which version of the movie is better, so I am thrilled to have them both in my collection.

I Drink Your Blood was one of the first films to be heavily influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968). Instead of zombies, I Drink Your Blood features people infected with rabies. The effect is similar, but almost more like the fast moving zombies of the distant future (such as in Dawn of the Dead (2004)). 

The villains in I Drink Your Blood, and the first ones to become rabid maniacs, are a group of satanic hippies. This might sound like a ridiculous and campy idea (satanic hippies?!) but at the time the movie was made, some people were actually afraid of hippies. Their music, their fashions, their use of drugs, their rejection of normal society – this all seemed strange and dangerous to “respectable” people. They just didn’t understand hippies, so it wasn’t a big leap to imagine that hippies might worship Satan, or be part of a cult.

And let’s not forget that Charles Manson and his murderous crew were basically hippies gone wrong. And they had just committed their crimes the year before I Drink Your Blood was released. Hippies were definitely ripe for exploitation by the horror genre at that moment.

I Drink Your Blood features Lynn Lowry in one of her earliest film roles. She may have made Lloyd Kaufman’s The Battle of Love’s Return first, but it came out after, so I’m not sure. In any case, she was pretty much unknown when she made I Drink Your Blood. Her part was small, and her character was basically mute, but she really stands out from the rest of the cast. That’s not to suggest that the other actors are bad. I actually think that many of them are quite good, but Lynn Lowry somehow makes the strongest impression. She has a lot of screen presence, and manages to draw focus in every scene that she is in. It’s no surprise that she would go on to legendary cult status, thanks to films like The Crazies (1973), Score (1973) Shivers (1975), Cat People (1982) – and this one, of course.

Lynn Lowry dropped out of film and TV acting for about ten years in the mid 1990s, but since 2005 she has appeared in more than a hundred movies – many of them independent horror and other other genre films. Here’s hoping she makes another hundred.

I Drink Your Blood (1970) is legendary #NotQuiteClassicCinema that every fan should see at least once. I’ve already seen it three or four times, and I will look forward to many more. It will always be a welcome sight on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966) w/ Barbara Steele

Barbara Steele was in a lot of horror films. I knew her name long before I’d ever seen her in anything, because I had an old Famous Monsters magazine which featured pictures from Black Sunday (1960). The movie looked scary, and I really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, this was years before home video became a thing, and there was simply no way to see an old movie unless it happened to come on TV late one night. Even after I was able to rent movies on Beta, Black Sunday was not one of the titles available at my local video stores. I finally bought a VHS copy years later, which was put out by Something Weird Video (?!). I guess there was no mainstream distributor for that movie at that time.

Meanwhile, I had read a few horror movie review books, and I knew that Barbara Steele was in a lot of other horror movies. Many of them had been made in Europe, and had similar sounding titles and descriptions. Many of them had been released under several different titles, in fact – perhaps trying to sound like their more successful brothers and sisters. The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) was also known as The Terror of Dr. Hichcock, The Frightening Secret of Dr. Hichcock, Raptus (?!) and The Terrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock.

The Ghost (1963) was retitled to The Spectre, Le Spectre du professeur Hichcock, and Lo spettro de Dr. Hichcock.

Castle of Blood (1964), which was sometimes called Danse Macabre, is a similar title to Nightmare Castle (1965), which was also known as The Night of the Doomed and The Faceless Monster.

One day I bought a cheap VHS tape in a bargain bin, because it had Barbara Steele’s name on it. I had never heard of the movie, but it had Hitchcock in the title. It turned out to be a movie that was better known under another title. It’s been so long now that I’ve forgotten which movie it was (and I lost that tape years ago).

After that experience I would always ask myself, upon coming across an unfamiliar Barbara Steele movie, have I already seen this movie? Do I in fact own this movie? Is this just a retitling of another, more famous, movie? It got to be very confusing, and I passed up more than a few VHS tapes and DVDs over the years.

Recently I came across a very nice Blu-ray edition of Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966), starring Barbara Steele, and I immediately asked myself the questions. I managed to figure out that the movie was also known as The She Beast, and that seemed really familiar to me. I could picture the old VHS box in my mind, and I was convinced that it was very similar to a movie called The Faceless Monster.

There’s also an unrelated movie called She Freak (1967), which might have been adding to my confusion. I wrote about that one not too long ago on another Friday night

VHS box for She FreakVHS box for She Beast starring Barbara SteeleDVD box for The Faceless Monster starring Barbara SteeleAnd then there was the description of the plot…

The She Beast: “The wife falls into a mountain lake and her life force reactivates a hideous old witch…”

This sounds a lot like the description of another Barbara Steel movie called An Angel for Satan (1966): “Steele is a beautiful tourist at a mountain village where she’s possessed by a vengeful spirit formerly housed in a statue found at the bottom of a lake.”

How many mountain-lake-evil-spirit-possession movies can there be?

I was convinced that I had probably seen Revenge of the Blood Beast before – and that I may even own a copy on VHS or DVD – but I was certain that I did not have the Blu-ray. So, I decided to pick it up (since it was on sale).

I was shocked to discover, last Friday night, that I had never seen Revenge of the Blood Beast under any title. Even more shocking, given the fact that this one tends to get more negative reviews than many other Barbara Steele movies, is that fact that I quite enjoyed it.

I had been afraid that it would be a somewhat confusing, mostly boring, lesser example of a Euro-horror film. It was more like a good old fashioned B monster movie. The kind of movie that I used to watch on Not Quite Classic Theatre all those years ago. It actually shares a lot of similar traits with one of my favourites B-movies from that era, Monster on the Campus (1958), which I wrote about just a few weeks ago. Both are about normal people transforming into murderous monsters when exposed to the right waterborne stimulus (in one case, a prehistoric fish, in the other, a dead witch at the bottom of a lake).

Revenge of the Blood Beast has a sense of humour, and moves along quite quickly. It’s never particularly confusing, and I was never bored. It rates lower on the IMDB than many of the other Barbara Steele movies. Black Sunday gets a 7.2, The Ghost rates 6.2, Castle of Blood scores 6.8, etc.  Revenge of the Blood Beast only manages a 4.6. This would normally suggest a sub-par viewing experience, but I couldn’t have been more delighted. Perhaps my expectations had been sufficiently lowered by that 4.6 – and the bad reviews I had read, but I’ll never know for sure. 

Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966) is a fine example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that may not be the best of Barbara Steele’s oeuvre, but it’s an entertaining B-movie monster movie that I’m glad to have (finally!) seen. I will definitely be watching it again on a future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Touch of Death (1988)

I never saw Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) back the day. I’m not even sure if I’d ever heard of it. I was a fan of films like Zombi (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) AKA The Gates of Hell (as I first knew it), which I rented on Beta pretty early on in my video store days. Later I made of point of buying any Fulci movies that I came across on VHS. I also tracked down and watched a few obscure titles online, once that became possible. Still, Touch of Death remained unknown to me – and unseen.

Raro Vdeo Blu-ray of Touch of Death (1988)Recently, I came across a Raro Vdeo Blu-ray of Touch of Death, and I was quite amazed that it was a Fulci film that I did not know. The back of the box claimed that it was from 1972, which made it even more amazing that I’d never heard of it – as that had been a pretty good year for Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) is one of my all time favourites). Needless to say, I immediately bought it.

It turns out that Touch of Death is not from 1972,  but from 1988 – and it was made for the direct-to-home-video market. I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but it was still a Lucio Fulci film that I’d never seen, so I had to watch it sooner or later. So why not on Friday night? After all, what says “home drive-in” more than a direct-to-video piece o’ crap my friends and I might have watched on an old VCR back in 1988?

I know it’s generally believed that Fulci peaked and did his best work between about 1979 and 1982. After that point, it’s often said that Fulci went downhill, and made some downright bad movies – or at least some mediocre ones. I definitely saw a couple that I could take or leave from those years. I fully expected Touch of Death to be a prime example of this side of Fulci.

Much to my surprise, I loved this lost Fulci film. It’s a very dark comedy of sorts, and is at times hilarious. There are a few over-the-top gore gags, which fans of Fulci will appreciate (as those moments  are often not there in his later work). There is also a bit of tasteless sleaze, which is often a welcome addition to a Fulci masterpiece (The New York Ripper (1982) being a primo example).

Don’t get me wrong. Touch of Death is not as extreme, or as good, as Fulci’s best movies. Some might dismiss it as a lesser work. I, on the other hand, found it to be a delightful surprise, and am very glad the I bought it. I would speculate that Fulci had a good time making this film and, as a result, I had a good time watching it.

The movie stars Brett Halsey, who was “one of Hollywood’s busiest and handsomest actors of the mid-to-late ’50s and early ’60s” according to his bio on the IMDb. This might explain why he was the perfect choice to play Lester Parson, a middle aged gigolo who seduces and murders a variety of rich widows in Touch of Death. He guest starred on just about every TV show from my childhood – including The Love Boat (1977-1987) and Fantasy Island (1977-1984), which I was just talking about it my last post

His victims include Zora Kerova, who was in Fulci’s The New York Ripper, as well as Cannibal Ferox (1981) and Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper (1980), and Sacha Darwin, who was in Fulci’s final film as a director, Voices from Beyond (1994).

Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) is a lost gem of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that should be seen by all hardcore fans of Fulci’s work. It may not be his best, but it’s an entertaining late-period film that deserves to be better known. I for one will be happy to see it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Drive in Massacre (1976)

The first time I saw Drive in Massacre (1976), I hated it. I had seen the VHS box on the shelves of my local video store, and it had been calling to me to rent it for quite some time. I loved slasher films, and I loved old fashioned gore films (hello Herschell Gordon Lewis), so this film seemed likely to be something that I might enjoy. However…

It was very short, according to the running time on the box, which may have been one reason that I hesitated and passed it over a few times. I’ve always liked to feel like I’m getting a good deal. A two hour movie would cost the same to rent as a 90 minute movie. Same with a three hour movie, or a two movie set (which was rare, but it happened occasionally). Drive in Massacre was only 78 minutes (it was actually less than that, but I can’t remember how much less). Why would I pay the same amount of money to rent a 78 minute movie when I could have so much more?

The answer eventually became “because I want to see this one.” So, one night, when it was late and I was tired, I decided that a 78 minute movie might be just about right.

VHS tape for Drive in Massacre (1976)I say that it was actually less than 78 minutes. That’s because 78 minutes is the running time of the uncut version of Drive in Massacre. The VHS tape that I rented turned out to be a censored version of the movie. There was no gore whatsoever. And if you’ve ever seen Drive in Massacre, you know that aside from the gore there isn’t too much to recommend it. At least not to a young, unsophisticated viewer who has yet to develop a taste for the truly trashtastic limits of Not Quite Classic Cinema.

All I can recall about that edited cut of Drive in Massacre is that is was boring. Nothing happened (on screen). And it was ridiculously short, which offended me on principle in those days, but in this case might have been a welcome mercy. I was so angry that I had wasted $1.99 and my time on this movie that I actually wrote a message on the back on the box before returning it to the store: “Very bad – don’t rent,” or something very close to that. This was the only time that I ever dared to do something like that. I’m not sure if the store ever noticed, or tried to erase it, but they never asked me about it. Maybe they knew that tape deserved it.

Some years later, I bought a cheapo DVD set called Drive-In Classics, and was intrigued (and perhaps a bit disturbed) to see that Drive in Massacre was included in the set. I watched it, prepared to be just as bored and annoyed as the first time, but was pleasantly surprised to see that this copy of the movie contained some pretty over-the-top gore. And perhaps for this reason – or perhaps because my expectations had simply been lowered so far that nothing could have been bad enough to meet them – I found the movie much more enjoyable the second time.

Fast forward a lot of years, and I decided that I had to revisit this movie of dubious quality and decide once and for all if Drive in Massacre is a horrible waste of time, or a rare gem of cinematic wonder.

Two cops in Blood Feast (1963)

Two cops in Blood Feast (1963)

The first thing that struck me about Drive in Massacre is that it bears some resemblance to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Nowhere near as good, of course, but I had to wonder if the filmmakers had perhaps been going for that. Just like in H.G.L.’s Blood Feast (1963), there are a series of gory murders, and two male cops investigate. And by investigate, I mean they do a lot of talking – to each other. This is something that always amused me about Blood Feast. We see a murder, and then we see two cops sitting around the police station talking about it. I’m sure it was due to budgetary concerns, but I always wondered why they didn’t get out there and DO something.

The two cops in Drive in Massacre (1976)

Are these two cops played by the same actor?!

The two cops in Drive in Massacre (1976)

Unbelievably, these actors are not even related.

The cops in Drive in Massacre are played by John F. Goff and Bruce Kimball and I swear to the Godfather of Gore that they look exactly alike! I thought for a minute that they were being played by the same actor! They are both overweight, dark haired, and they could be brothers. If they weren’t together in the same shot, I couldn’t tell which one was which. Hell, I couldn’t tell them apart when they WERE in the same shot. I’m not sure what kind of casting genius was at work here – maybe they both auditioned for the part of the cop, and the director couldn’t decide which one he liked better, so he cast them both. I think more likely they were the biggest names that the producers could convince to be in the movie, so they went with them even though they look a bit too much alike (a bit?!).

My friend Séan and I talked about this kind of casting phenomenon in our discussion of Canadian horror film Rituals (1977). To apply our thoughts to this movie, why not cast one cop with dark hair and one with blond or grey hair? Or one fat cop and one thin cop? Or one tall cop and one short cop? Or one man and one woman? There are endless possibilities that could have made these two characters easier to tell apart.

Having said this, as a connoisseur of the finer things in life (like Not Quite Classic Cinema), I actually LIKED the fact that Drive in Massacre made this strange casting choice. It added to my enjoyment of the movie.

The director, Stu Segall, had a long career in Hollywood. He made a few bad movies  – I mean, Not Quite Classic Cinema classics, like Saddle Tramp Women (1972) — which is featured in Drive in Massacre, by the way. Other titles include Harvey Swings (1970), The Suckers (1972), and C.B. Hustlers (1976). He also made some golden age adult movies like Teenage Sex Therapy (1976), Spirit of Seventy Sex (1976), Teeny Buns (1978) and the X-rated classic Insatiable (1980), starring Marilyn Chambers.

As a director, Segall did more porn than non-porn, to be honest. But starting in about the mid-1980s, he produced a whole bunch of respectable TV shows and movies – starting with the classic Hunter (1984-1988). Other shows include Silk Stalkings (1991-1999), Pensacola: Wings of Gold (1997-2000), and 18 Wheels of Justice (2000-2001). His last credit was a show that only lasted for 4 episodes called Saints & Sinners in 2007. What an amazing career!

Drive in Massacre (1976) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema for those with an appreciation for Herschell Gordon Lewis, and a tolerance for sub-par imitations of Herschell Gordon Lewis. At only 78 minutes, with its gore scenes intact, it’s pretty easy to sit through. Without the gore scenes, it might be a bit of an endurance test. But if, like me, you take pleasure from campy details like two cops who look suspiciously alike, then you will find yourself amused throughout the movie. And let’s face it, any movie called Drive in Massacre will always be a welcome sight on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Revenge of the Dead (1983)

I remember going to Adi’s Video to rent movies on Beta back in the early 1980s. Hard to believe now, but Adi’s was the largest chain of video stores in Winnipeg. This was years before Blockbuster, Jumbo and Rogers came to town. Adi, as far as I know, was a just a local guy who started a business that grew and grew as more people bought VCRs. Sadly, he was wiped out by the corporate chains years before the internet and streaming services started to kill the whole concept of video stores (although, oddly enough, they’ve never completely gone away – and some local mom-and-pop stores have actually outlasted Blockbuster and those other assholes).

VHS box for The Witching (1972)Adi’s is where my family bought our first VCR, as I may have mentioned a while back. It’s also where I rented most of the tapes I watched in those early years. They had a pretty good selection of unusual stuff, which was great for a guy like me. While other people were putting their name on a waiting list to be able to get hold of Risky Business (1983) starring Tom Cruise, I was renting movies like The Witching (1972), Zombie (1979) and Revenge of the Dead (1983) – which in retrospect must have been pretty brand new.

VHS box of Revenge of the Dead (1983)I rented Revenge of the Dead with my brother, and what attracted us to it was the cover art on the Beta box (just look at it! If that didn’t scream rent me to every young horror fan in the store, then there was something wrong with the universe) and the title, of course. Revenge of the Dead – this sounded (and looked) like an unauthorized sequel to Dawn of the Dead (1978) – and what could be better than that?

As it turns out, Revenge of the Dead was not like Dawn of the Dead at all. Or Zombie for that matter, which was in fact a sequel of sorts to Dawn of the Dead. We didn’t know it at the time, but Revenge of the Dead was originally titled Zeder, and was not really a zombie movie as we had come to know them. It’s more of a weird, creepy mystery about a writer who (thanks to a used typewriter ribbon) stumbles onto a story about a scientist who had discovered places in the world, called K-Zones, where the dead could be brought back to life.

Oh, that old chestnut, you might say! But at first it seemed to hold some promise to my brother and me. After all, if the dead could be brought back to life in a K-Zone, that could lead to a zombie apocalypse, couldn’t it? SPOILER ALERT:  It doesn’t.

My brother and I were greatly disappointed that there were no George Romero, or Lucio Fulci, style zombies ripping people apart in impressive displays of blood and gore. No, there was really nothing like that. What did we get instead? Plot and dialogue – perhaps even some character development. We were very unhappy about that. In fact, we felt completely ripped off by Adi’s, the people who made the film, and the people who made the box cover art (it’s the best part of the movie!). Revenge of the Dead was on my list of most hated films for a few years. However…

I never forgot about it. Something about the weird story, the K-Zones and the typewriter ribbon kept coming back to haunt my memories. As an adult, I actually found myself wanting to track it down and watch it again. Why?!! my twelve year old self might have screamed. Maybe it’s nostalgia for an almost forgotten experience, maybe it’s because I’ve never seen another movie quite like it (at least the way I remembered it) – I simply had to find out what that crazy old movie was all about.

Zeder, or Revenge of the Dead, was almost certainly retitled by greedy distributors who wanted to cash in on the lucrative zombie genre. They are the ones I should have been mad at – not the filmmakers. Pupi Avati wrote and directed the film. He’s had a long career, and has made over fifty movies and TV shows (so far), but is probably best remembered for The House with Laughing Windows (1976). Knowing more about him now, it’s no surprise that Revenge of the Dead was not just another typical zombie movie. And as much as I love that kind of movie, I can now say that Revenge of the Dead is actually much more interesting than that. It’s creepy, atmospheric, intriguing and unusual – if you accept it on it’s own terms. When I was a kid, I wanted to see more of a Fulci styled gore-fest and was disappointed. It’s much better than I realized back then.

Probably due to it’s misleading promotional campaign, Zeder, or Revenge of the Dead, doesn’t seem to get talked about very often. It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could have achieved more respect if it had been given a fair chance. But regardless of how respected it was, or how much money it made back in the day, it would still be a perfect addition to any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – provided that the audience isn’t full of screaming kids expecting to see a non-stop spectacle of blood and gore.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Screaming Skull (1958)

When I was a kid, I saw a TV special about true ghost stories. One of the true stories was about a skull that kept “drilling itself” up out of the ground and screaming in the middle of the night. This story scared the crap out of me. Later I bought an old paperback called something like The Screaming Skull: True Stories of the Unexplained. I seem to recall that the story in the book was a little different than the one I’d seen on TV, but still creepy.

There is a also a short story called The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford. It was written in 1911, and is about an old sea captain who inherits a house from a doctor friend. Again, not the same story as the one I had originally seen on TV – and presumably not a true story.

I can’t find that old TV show anywhere, although there was another show called The Classic Ghosts which had an episode titled The Screaming Skull. Coincidentally, it’s going to be shown in a few days (on October 7, 2021) by the The UCLA Film & Television Archive. It’s a one time live event and it’s free. As cool as that is, however, it’s still not the true screaming skull story that I remember seeing as a kid.

Lobby card for The Screaming Skull (1958)I had no idea that screaming skulls were so popular. Even AIP got into the act when they made The Screaming Skull (1958). When I first discovered that it existed, I hoped that it would be a dramatization of the same story that had scared the crap out of me on TV when I was a kid. it was not. However, I could believe that the story of the movie was inspired by the same “true story” that the TV show had presented. This is, of course, assuming that there was a “true story” about a screaming skull – and that the TV show hadn’t simply made it up in the 1970s.

I don’t know what the truth is, but I suppose it’s rather beside the point. The Screaming Skull is a black and white horror film from exactly the same era as the other black and white horror films I had first fallen love with on Not Quite Classic Theatre. It’s not about a giant monster or an oversized bug, but it’s still exactly the kind of movie I might have watched back then.

1958 saw the release of several classic #NotQuiteClassic movies, including The Fly (1958), Fiend Without a Face (1958), The Blob (1958), It! the Terror from Beyond Space (1958), and one of my personal favourites, Monster on the Campus (1958). It was a good year for bad movies. And I mean good bad movies, which are basically good movies to me.

Lobby card for The Screaming Skull (1958)The Screaming Skull is not the best of those movies, but it has a lot of the elements that I really appreciated. Creepy atmosphere, a pseudo gothic location, a screaming skull –

To be honest, I’m not sure that the skull actually screams in this movie. The lead actress, Peggy Webber, screams when she sees the skull. Or rather, her character, Jenni Whitlock, does. Jenni has recently married Eric Whitlock, whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances. Jenni has a history of mental illness, and she starts seeing (and hearing?) the screaming skull. In some ways, it’s almost like a forerunner of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971). Is she really seeing this skull? Or is her mental illness coming back?

The Screaming Skull is also like a few other movies which I don’t want to to name because I feel that it might spoil some of the fun if I did. Suffice it to say, it’s a familiar type of story, used by other, perhaps better (or at least better reviewed), movies that came before it. One obvious, non-spoiler comparison might be to the films of William Castle. Not so much in terms of the story, but the gimmicky feel of the ad campaign.

“FREE!! We guarantee to bury you without charge if you die of fright during SCREAMING SKULL!” the posters screamed. I doubt very much if anyone was that terrified while watching The Screaming Skull, but it does have some moments of legitimate suspense.

The film isn’t unlike something that William Castle might have made, in that it feels a bit like a B-movie version of Alfred Hitchcock. Nowhere near as good, of course, but still a lot of fun. And at 68 minutes, it’s pretty easy to take.

The Screaming Skull (1958) may not be the “lost” TV episode of my childhood, but it’s a worthy entry in the surprisingly crowded screaming skull sub-genre (whatever that is). It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema that seems tailor-made for the second or third part of an all night triple feature on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Psycho a Go Go (1965)

Psycho a Go Go (1965) is, for all intents and purposes, the first feature film directed by Al Adamson. He was an uncredited director on Half Way to Hell (1960), but Psycho a Go Go was his first official directing gig. As I may have mentioned before, I’ve been fan of Adamson since first seeing some of his movies on VHS many years ago.  I was excited to get to see his first movie, partly because I had thought that it didn’t exist anymore.

One of the things that Al Adamson is known for, is using footage from old movies to create new movies. Or adding new footage to old movies, retitling them, and releasing them as new movies. Sometimes they were movies that other people had made, and that Al (or his producers) had gotten the rights to, and then altered to make them more marketable (or something). Other times, Al would cannibalize his own movies to create something new.

Lobby card for Psycho a Go Go (1965)Psycho a Go Go was Al’s first feature film, and the original version of… well, let’s call it Psycho a Go Go. In 1969, Al re-edited it and added some new footage of legendary actor John Carradine, playing a mad scientist. The “new” movie was released as The Fiend with the Electronic Brain.

Still not satisfied (or perhaps just seeing another opportunity) Al added some more material, featuring other actors – including his future wife Regina Carrol. He called this “new” movie Blood of Ghastly Horror. If that wasn’t enough, there was also a TV version created in 1972 called The Man With the Synthetic Brain.

So, knowing that all of these different cuts and versions of Psycho a Go Go had been released, I wasn’t sure if the original Psycho a Go Go even existed anymore. Thankfully, Troma released it on DVD a few years back and I was able to finally see it. What a thrill that was, and in some ways Psycho a Go Go turned out to be the best version of Psycho a Go Go that Al had ever made.

Psycho a Go Go is pretty much a straight up crime film. It’s a violent and nasty piece of work about a psychotic jewel thief who kills one of his own partners and then goes after a woman and her little girl because they may have inadvertently taken possession of the stolen diamonds.

Sounds tense, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry because in between moments of suspense there are plenty of nightclub scenes featuring singer, and actress, Tacey Robbins performing with The Vendells. Apparently Al was trying to promote her career at the time he made Psycho a Go Go so he featured her talents as much as he could. In real life, Tacey Robbins released one 7″ single of My L.A. / Ordinary Boy, both of which are featured in Psycho a Go Go.

Psycho a Go Go isn’t going to give movies like Cape Fear (1962) a serious run for their money, in terms of 1960s noir and suspense, but it’s maybe aiming to be in that ballpark. Perhaps Ray Dennis Steckler’s The Thrill Killers (1964) would be a better comparison, although Steckler’s movie is probably still much better made. Adamson, even in his first feature film, is already displaying his mastery of the “bad movie”. It becomes more apparent in the subsequent versions of Psycho a Go Go (like Blood of Ghastly Horror). Still, one can see  Al’s distinct touch in Psycho a Go Go, and imagine his future greatness.

Psycho a Go Go (1965) is almost a good movie, but it is undoubtedly #NotQuiteClassicCinema. For fans of Al, it is a must see. For those looking for a way into Al appreciation, it’s not a bad place to start. There are few sure things in this life, but I would say that any movie with Al Adamson’s name on it is going to enliven any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.