Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970)

Poster for Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970)Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970) by #AlAdamson
w/ #JohnCarradine #RobertDix #VickiVolante #JenniferBishop

Earthlings leave on a space mission to destroy flesh creatures of a prehistoric lost planet.

Far-Out, Frightening Terror!”
You’ll scream yourself into a state of shock!

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

It seems like I’m (re)visiting the weird and wonderful world of Al Adamson at least once a month these days. As I may have mentioned before, I have quite a few of Adamson’s movies in my collection – well, now I have almost everything, thanks to The Masterpiece Collection put out by Severin. But prior to that, I had collected quite a few VHS tapes and DVDs. One of those tapes, which I purchased at a dying video store after an all night drive to Edmonton, was Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970).

I still recall arriving in the early morning and spotting the old video store at the side of a moderately busy street. I got out of the car and went in (while my two travelling companions continued to sleep). I found Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970) in a small horror section in the back corner of the store. I’m not sure if I’d ever heard of it before, but when I saw the name Al Adamson on the box, I knew I had to have it.

I didn’t have to do anything else for the rest of the weekend to feel like my all night drive had been worthwhile. Technically, I was in Edmonton for a wedding – but finding a new Al Adamson movie was far more exciting to me.

That was a long time ago. I recall thinking that Horror of the Blood Monsters was a bonkers good time (like most Al Adamson movies), but I don’t recall learning much about the story behind it. Now that I have the Severin Blu-ray, complete with Sam Sherman commentary track, I know a whole lot more. I won’t try to explain all of the behind the scenes insanity here, but I will say this: Horror of the Blood Monsters is another movie that Al Adamson created out of an older, already existing movie. This one started out as a Filipino film called Tagani (1956) by Rolf Bayer.

Al Adamson shot some new footage, which he carefully matched to the existing footage, and lo and behind he had a whole new movie (sort of). Honestly, he did a pretty good job. I’m not sure that I noticed the seams between the two movies the first time I sat through it.

Actually, he also included footage from other movies, such as One Million B.C. (1940) and Unknown Island (1948). But it was mostly Tagani and the new stuff.

Horror of the Blood Monsters apparently made money for Independent-International, and played all over the world in theatres and on television. And eventually on home video as well. Watching it again for the first time in many years, I was so entertained by the first three minutes or so (by the super-energetic prologue about vampires on Earth) I felt like I’d already had my money’s worth. Admittedly, the film does slow down considerably for a while after that, but that opening sequence left me feeling satisfied.

Of course, there are many other moments of inspired lunacy throughout.

All in all, Horror of the Blood Monsters makes for a pretty fun #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. Although it came out in 1970, it feels much older. This could partly be because Al Adamson shot most of his parts in 1966 – and also used pieces of much older films. It almost seems like one of the 1950s or ’60s B-movie, Sci-Fi monster movies that I might have watched on Not Quite Classic Theatre back in the ’80s. A little worse, perhaps; a little cheaper, a little shoddier, and a whole lot less sane – but definitely part of that genre. Would I have enjoyed it as much back then as I do now? Probably not. But all I can say for sure, is that Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970) is 100% Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema – and that’s good enough for me.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969)

Poster for Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) by #AlAdamson

w/#JohnCarradine #PaulaRaymond #AlexanderDArcy #RobertDix

“HORROR BEYOND BELIEF LIES WAITING FOR ALL WHO DARE ENTER THE VAMPIRE’S DUNGEON!”

“…YOU’LL NEVER GET OUT!”

#Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

By now it should be fairly obvious that I’m a fan of Al Adamson. As one of my Twitter buddies once said, “You’re either a fan, or you’re not.” And I think it’s fair to say that there are plenty of people in this world who are not. They may want to avoid Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) like the plague. Even I, as a fan of Al Adamson, have my doubts about whether this one is all that great. Al intended it to be a comedy, and as people like L.A. Morse have observed, (and I paraphrase greatly here):

“Bad movies can be hilarious and fun – but bad comedies are just bad.”

Indeed. If a comedy is funny, how can it be bad? So the term “bad comedy”, pretty much implies unfunny movie. “Bad horror film,” on the other hand, can mean get ready to laugh your ass off. At least that’s what it seemed to mean to my friends and me when we were teenagers. As an adult, I seem to have developed a way of enjoying bad movies without laughing –  but that’s another story…

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve watched Blood of Dracula’s Castle at least four times in my life. LIke all of Al Adamson’s work, it has it’s rewards. I just don’t think it’s his best work. 

One of the things that always surprises me about Blood of Dracula’s Castle, is the fact that John Carradine is in it but he doesn’t play Dracula. You’d think I’d remember that after seeing the film multiple times, but John Carradine is such a natural choice to play Dracula  – in fact, he did that twice before this (House of Dracula (1945), and House of Frankenstein (1944)) – that I always just assume that he did it for Al Adamson, too. But alas, no…

Alexander D’Arcy plays the famous vampire in this movie, and he’s kind of a charming, likeable version of the count. His wife, the Countess, is played by Paula Raymond, who has about 90 credits as an actress – including appearances on many famous TV shows. Carradine plays George, their Butler.

Blood of Dracula’s Castle is a pretty silly movie. It’s not much of a comedy, although it does provide a few laughs here and there (I’m not sure how intentional they were). It features attractive women chained to the wall in the dungeon, but it manages to be fairly light on the sleaze. It’s also pretty tame in the violence department. In spite of this, there was an alternate TV version of the movie created with new footage directed by . Not sure why they couldn’t just air the original version. It may simply be that they needed to stretch out the running time a bit. There’s really nothing too offensive in it (which may be one reason that it’s less fun that many of Al’s other movies).

Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) is most definitely #NotQuiteClassicCinema. If I’d seen it as a kid, on Not Quite Classic Theatre, I’m sure I would have thought it was the worst movie I’d ever seen. Many of the films they showed back then were really quite good. This one is not. But still, there’s a certain charm to it. And I’d like to think that it would have inspired me, the way so many of those movies did back then, by making me think “Hey, I could do better than this…”. Perhaps I would have scribbled down a bunch of ideas for my own weird, modern day Dracula story. Who knows?

As it is, it’s always seemed like a perfect second or third feature in an all night bad movie marathon. It’s unlikely to be the highlight of the night, but it just might provide some welcome relief between the edgier, more intense entries in your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Five Bloody Graves (1969)

Poster for Five Bloody Graves (1969)Five Bloody Graves (1969) by #AlAdamson

w/ #RobertDix #ScottBrady #JimDavis #JohnCarradine #PaulaRaymond

“Lust-Mad Men and Lawless Women in a Vicious and Sensuous Orgy of Slaughter!”

“SEE: MEN FIENDISHLY TORTURED!”

“Inhuman” “Brutal” “Shocking”

#Western
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

While discussing Half Way to Hell (1960) a while back, I was already thinking about checking out this movie, Five Bloody Graves (1969). I’ve been a fan of Al Adamson for a long time, and I have quite a few of his movies in my collection – well, now I have almost everything, thanks to The Masterpiece Collection put out by Severin. But prior to that, I had collected quite a few VHS tapes and DVDs. Five Bloody Graves was not one of them. In fact, I had never seen it. 

I first heard of Five Bloody Graves when I read an article about Al Adamson’s murder in my local newspaper. I was shocked – first of all, that Al Adamson was murdered, but more so by the fact that they were talking about him in my local mainstream newspaper. I never would have seen that coming.

In that, admittedly brief, article about Al Adamson, they referred to him as a movie director who had made movies with titles like –

And then they listed a few particularly nasty sounding horror titles. I think they were trying to draw a connection between his brutal murder, and the types of movies he made. I knew all of the titles, except one: Five Bloody Graves.

I was instantly intrigued. Five Bloody Graves sounded like my kind of movie. I had no idea what it was about, but I assumed that it must be a kick-ass horror film, done only as Al Adamson could do it. I was a little surprised when I found out that it was actually a Western. I don’t want to say I was disappointed, because I had also been a fan of Westerns since I was a kid. But I couldn’t quite imagine Al Adamson making Westerns. On the other hand, I would watch anything with Al Adamson’s name on it, so this was a definite must see.

As the years passed by, I never managed to get my hands on a copy of Five Bloody Graves. I’m not sure if it was hard to come by, or if I just wasn’t looking in the right places. Needless to say, I was very pleased when I realized that I would finally be acquiring it as part of the The Masterpiece Collection

I now know that Al Adamson kind of got his start in Westerns – the first film he directed (or at least co-directed) being Half Way to Hell (1960), which I quite enjoyed. And this is what made me all the more excited to FINALLY get to see Five Bloody Graves. So, last #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn I decided to do it.

Let me just say that within the first five minutes I knew that I was having a good time. I suppose a part of me had been worried that it was going to be just another forgettable B-Western (and I’ve watched far too many of those in my life). As I may have mentioned in the other post, a lot of B Westerns can be quite tedious. I don’t know why. I find them harder to take than, say, really cheap slasher films. Or really cheap horror films of any kind. So, I tend to get a bit apprehensive whenever I’m about to watch a really cheap B Western. But Five Bloody Graves put me at ease within minutes (or maybe even seconds). It may be a cheap ass B Western – but it’s an Al Adamson movie! I should have realized he could never let me down.

I won’t bother describing the plot – or really anything about Five Bloody Graves. If you’re a fan of Al Adamson, you’ll know what to expect. If you’re not, you may want to steer clear. I say “may”, because maybe you’re just a fan who hasn’t happened yet. Maybe Five Bloody Graves is the movie that could turn you into a dedicated Al Adamson admirer. In all honesty, I would say you’re probably more likely to be recruited by something like Satan’s Sadists (1969) or maybe Girls For Rent (1974), but who knows?

Five Bloody Graves (1969), like all Al Adamson movies, is undeniably #NotQuiteClassicCinema of a a very special kind (at least to me). It may not be my favourite of his movies (at least not yet), but I’m glad to have finally seen it – and I will definitely be watching it again (assuming that I don’t suddenly first meet an unexpected end like Al Adamson did) on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Half Way to Hell (1960)

Promo Materials for Half Way to Hell (1960)Half Way to Hell (1960) by #VictorAdamson & #AlAdamson

“THEY WENT “HALF WAY TO HELL” TO GET WHAT THEY WANTED!”

“SEX-MAD KILLERS LOOSE ON THE DESERT!”

“A RUTHLESS RENEGADE PLUNDERS FOR POWER and WOMEN!”

#Action #Western
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

In keeping with my recent streak of Al Adamson movies – or, more specifically, my recent exploration of three different versions of the same Al Adamson movie, which in fact started out as his very first feature film as a director,  Psycho a Go Go (1965), which then became The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967), and then finished as Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971) – I thought I’d look at another very early Al Adamson movie. In fact, the truth is that Al Adamson made this one (uncredited) before his official debut. It was a co-directing job with his father, Victor Adamson, and as you may have guessed by now, it’s called Half Way to Hell (1960). I decided that I had to take a look at this movie which may well have inspired Al Adamson to become a film director. 

It’s not the kind of movie that I usually feature at the Home Drive-in. It’s a Western. Don’t get me wrong. I love Westerns. I watch them all the time. I used to watch one a week, minimum. And there was a time, when I was working on writing my own epic Western story, that I immersed myself in Westerns and watched one pretty much every day – except for Fridays.

I’m not sure why, exactly. Westerns certainly were common drive-in movie fare back in the day. I guess I’m still stuck on the fact that it was horror and monster movies that really got me into the drive-in appreciation society. Having said that, I enjoy many other types of drive-in movies, as you may have noticed if you’ve ever read this blog before. I have, in fact, featured at least a couple of Western crossover films in past posts. One was Jack the Ripper Goes West aka A Knife for the Ladies (1974). So, it’s not unheard of for the Wild West to make an appearance on these blog pages. It just isn’t… usual, I guess.

In any case, I am still experiencing the technical difficulties and inconveniences of modern life that made me have to cut last week’s blog post short. So, alas, I will have be brief.

Half Way to Hell (1960) is a low budget B Western that probably came and went without much fanfare back in the day. Having seen quite a few B Westerns in the past, I wasn’t really looking forward to it, because I find a lot of them to be kind of tedious.  I was pleasantly surprised, however. It’s by no means a masterpiece, but it’s far more entertaining than I ever expected it to be. It held my interest, and I kind of liked it. I found the ending to be a bit of head-scratcher, but what can you do? If this is the movie that made Al Adamson decide to be a filmmaker, then it deserves to be celebrated for launching a true master of #NotQuiteClassicCinema on his epic journey. 

I probably won’t watch it a lot of times in the future, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Half Way to Hell (1960) gets another chance to entertain me on a dusty #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)

Poster for Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)
by #AlAdamson

w/ #JohnCarradine #KentTaylor #TommyKirk #ReginaCarrol

A mad doctor creates a fiend with an electronic brain.

“Human Zombies Rise From Their Coffins As Living Corpses”

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

What can I say about Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)? It’s the third (or is it the fourth?) version of Al Adamson’s first feature film (not counting the movie he co-directed with his father).

According to Sam Sherman, it started life as something called Echo of Terror, which was a pretty good low budget crime film. Unfortunately, Al Adamson couldn’t find any distributor willing to take it. So, he added in some music and go-go dancing and changed the name to Psycho a Go Go (1965), which did find some limited distribution.

This is the first version of the movie that I ever saw – and I liked it. I wrote about it on a previous Friday:

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

Still, it wasn’t a huge success. So, Adamson (and Sherman) got the idea to add some more footage into the movie and make it more of a horror film. They also hired famous actor John Carradine to appear in it. This would make the movie more marketable. They managed to sell it to television, where Sherman claims it played quite a bit in syndication. This version of the movie was called The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967) and I wrote about it on another Friday:

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

Still not satisfied, Adamson and Sherman added even more horror footage to the movie – this time featuring zombies of a sort – plus some new scenes with character actors Tommy Kirk and Kent Taylor. And some scenes featuring Adamson’s wife, Regina Carrol. I believe that they were going for the drive-in market with this one, and they pretty much got it. Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971) played top and bottom halves of drive-in bills for years. 

Sherman admits that the best version of the movie is probably the original version that never saw the light of day. It just wasn’t marketable, and at the end of the day, this was a business. So, even though he had to compromise his artistic vision, Al Adamson was okay with “ruining” his movie to create these other films.

Ruining is my word, but Sherman has used it in the past to describe what he did to other movies by adding new footage, so I don’t think he would mind me using it here.

Basically, I think I agree with Sherman. Psycho a Go Go (1965) is my favourite version of this film. I can enjoy the added scenes with Carradine, and I’m always glad to see Regina Carrol, but basically the movie worked best as a low budget crime film. The added horror stuff is fine, but it doesn’t really belong. 

Of course, I haven’t seen the Echo of Terror version, which may have been the very first version (if it in fact exists). But I actually LIKE the songs performed by Tacey Robbins – and the go go dancing – so I think I’m going to assume that Psycho a Go Go is the most satisfying version of the movie. 

Still, Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971) is about as #NotQuiteClassicCinema as any movie can be. It was made for drive-ins, and it certainly deserves a chance to  improve – or ruin – your next #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: 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.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Female Bunch (1971)

I’ve been a fan of Al Adamson for a long, long time. So long that I’m not sure how my minor obsession began all those years ago. It might have been when I first saw Satan’s Sadists (1969). I was considering writing a biker musical as a follow up to Bad GIrls Jailhouse, so I was watching every biker movie that I could put my hands on. Satan’s Sadists blew me away and became one my favourites. At some point I started buying any and every bargain bin VHS tape that had Al Adamson’s name on it. Some of them were horrendously bad, some of them were surprisingly good – but they were always entertaining. The Female Bunch (1971) was not one of the movies I bought, or rented on VHS. I think I had read of its existence in some book or magazine, but it seemed to be a fairly elusive movie (at least to me). 

VHS box for The Female Bunch (1971)I had visions of The Female Bunch being a companion piece to Satan’s Sadists (1969). After all, The Female Bunch was made two years after Satan’s Sadists and it had Russ Tamblyn in it again. It was about a group of female outlaws, and I imagined that they might be bikers, like the guys in Satan’s Sadists. Unfortunately, that was all wishful thinking on my part. 

The Female Bunch is more of a weird, modern day Western. The outlaw women ride horses, not motorcycles, and hang out on a ranch somewhere in the desert. They are all women who hate men. They’ve all been screwed over by men in some way (this actually makes it closer to Bad GIrls Jailhouse than any biker musical I might have written), and they have  formed a secret, outlaw society as a response to their bad times with bad dudes. There are no men allowed on the ranch – except for an old and decrepit alcoholic stuntman played by Lon Chaney Jr.. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like Chaney is having to stretch very far to play this character. According to some of the other actors who were in the film, he had to be supplied with one bottle of vodka per day to keep him going. And anytime that the production ran low, they had to send someone out to buy more booze. This was a task made more complicated by the fact that they were shooting in Utah, which was a dry state (or at least their part of it was). Thankfully, they had a plane which figured into their story about drug smuggling, and when not being filmed it could be re-purposed to smuggle booze. 

Behind-the-scenes stories like that one could be more interesting than the film itself. Roger Ebert, who had been an early champion of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), was somewhat less enthusiastic about Al Adamson’s The Female Bunch. Ebert wrote: “There’s no level at which “The Female Bunch” is any good…” I suspect that most of the critics – and audience members – felt that way back in 1971. As a connoisseur of Al Adamson’s oeuvre, I can say that I don’t entirely agree.

Poster for Satan's Sadists (1969)Honestly, The Female Bunch is no Satan’s Sadists. It’s closer to some of Al’s lesser films, although it does have some standout moments. Russ Tamblyn, as a man who makes the mistake of thinking he can sneak onto the ranch to have sex with one of the outlaw women, is excellent. The beginning of the film works well enough, as we follow a new recruit into this wild and crazy world. The final act also more or less works. The film really starts to sprawl in the middle, as there is very little forward movement in the story and not quite enough sleazy goodness (or should I say, sleazy badness?) to make up for it. Still, there is some sleazy goodness, and some inadvertent humour, so it’s not a total loss, either. 

Al Adamson is true master of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and perhaps one of the genre’s greatest auteurs. Ed Wood gets a lot of credit for his efforts to further the art form – and deservedly so – but a guy like Al Adamson deserves just as much recognition for his accomplishments. The Female Bunch (1971) is not one of his greatest works, but that’s okay. I’m glad that I finally have a copy in my Al Adamson collection, and it certainly is essential viewing for anyone who has a taste for Al’s particular brand of cinematic madness. Perhaps, like some of his other films, The Female Bunch will only get better the next time it’s screened on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.