Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rosalba Neri News # 26 LADY FRANKENSTEIN Blu-Ray Update

    Nucleus Films have posted an update on their ongoing restoration of Mel Welles 1974's feminist take on the Frankenstein mythos LADY FRANKENSTEIN. Their upcoming release of this Rosalba classic will clock in with a 99 min. (!!) running time - which is longer then all previously released versions ! They also put up some month watering frame grabs as seen below.  Sept is the projected release date.






Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BRAIN OF BLOOD 1971



     In 1971 after the successful run of Hampshire produced/Filipino shot Blood Island movies, Sam Sherman & Al Adamson's American Independent Productions (who had distributed Hampshire's product in the U.S.) discovered the Filipino production company's schedule booked solid and decided to produce an American version of the studios patented low budget horror.
    With the title alone (and maybe the presence of Kent Taylor from BRIDES OF BLOOD) attempting to tie it into the earlier Blood Island series Sherman and Adamson created a Southern Calif. produced horror product that that in a strangely opposite kind of way tried to hide its American origins and be passed off as a foreign production.
     Zooming in on a still photo of Middle Eastern-type palace we're introduced to King Abdul Amir (character actor Reed Hadley in his last role) of the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahlid. Dying of cancer, he's attended by Dr. Robert Nogserian (Grant Williams THE MONOLITH MONSTERS) who revels to Amir's aide Mohammed (Zandor Vorkov DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN) and his "# 1 secret agent"(!!) Tracy (the wonderful Regina "Freak-Out Girl" Carrol from ANGEL'S WILD WOMEN and SATAN'S SADISTS sporting a massive blonde hair-do & white go go boots) that he has a plan to save the beloved ruler. Explaining that he has a "mostly discredited"(!!) doctor colleague in the U.S. who can perform a brain transplant that would allow Amir's brain to live on in a new body, Nogserian proposes flying Amir immediately upon his death to the U.S. for the operation by his doctor buddy Lloyd Trenton (Kent Taylor from BRIDES OF BLOOD and BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR) as he explains there's a 15 hour (!!) window in which to remove the brain and successfully transplant it.

  

     At the blink of an eye Nogersian and Mohammed are driving through the canyons of So. California in a station wagon on their way to Trenton's lab with Amir laying in back wrapped in tin foil. Upon arriving at the lab Trenton informs them that he has no ready donor body but insists that this presents no problem as he can remove the brain and keep it alive with his nifty brain life support machine. Operating with his assistant Dorro (small person Angelo Rossitto from MESA OF LOST WOMEN & MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME - and who must push a chair up next to the operating table to assist) he removes the brain and sends his other henchman Gor (7' 4" John Bloom THE DARK and THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT) out to procure a body. Gor has a horribly scared face which we're shown in flashback as the result of a run in with beer swilling bullies & battery acid.
    Heading off to a hotel (seems Doc Trenton doesn't have guest quarters) Nogersian and Mohammed are forced off the road by an unknown shaggy haired assassin driving a big 'ol Cadillac in chase that seems to take up a 1/4 of the movies running time. Nogersian alone survives and thinking there's something fishy going on contacts secret agent Tracy to come over and help (and gets a buxom blond in line for some monster terror).




     Unfortunately Gor finds a suitable body donor by catching a burglar in act and pitching him off a roof. Scolding Gog after finding the body unusable Trenton comes up with the idea of transplanting Amir's brain into the hulking body of the acid-scared Gor (Hey, what can go wrong here??). Trenton also keeps a couple of women chained up his his dungeon as he periodically needs blood for his experiments along with Dorro being able to terrorize them ever so often (in addition the scene provides for a memorable publicity still).
     Unlike most of Adamson's other films BRAIN OF BLOOD was filmed as a complete movie and is minus his usual trademark of mis-matched footage cobbled together from other acquired and/or aborted projects. This all leads to a kind of cohesive storyline that while more like an actual film is missing the daffy of wackiness of HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (which is a true mind bogglingly experience to sit through).
      Complete with a bloody brain operating sequence and that along with the presence of Tito Arevalo's score for MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND used throughout, BRAIN OF BLOOD does get some atmosphere of the Blood Island mayhem it was trying to emulate with Regina Carrol more than ably filling in for Angelique Pettyjohn or Beverly Powers. The fetid humid jungle atmosphere is missing however along with blood soaked bare female flesh (and John Ashley).
     Grant Williams (who started out singing in the New York City Opera) was a Universal contract player in 1950's and along with MONOLITH MONSTERS is most famous for the title role in THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN in 1957. Later he opened an acting class in Hollywood with BRAIN OF BLOOD being his last screen credit.
     After being reported missing in 1995 Adamson was found brutally murdered and buried under his hot tub with his contractor later being arrested & convicted for the crime. Along with his horror output he directed some hugely entertaining and brutal biker films including SATAN'S SADISTS (1969), ANGELS' WILD WOMEN (1972) and HELL'S BLOODY DEVILS (1970) along with the Russ Meyer inspired I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE.








Monday, May 1, 2017

THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE 1959




     Released at the tail end of the 1950's sci/horror nature rum amok cycle 1959's THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE was also one of those that fell into relative obscurity in the coming decades. Largely unseen as for some reason it was absent from the TV "monster kid" boom of the 60's and 70's with only the admittedly ludicrous looking still of heroine Beverly Garland struggling in the grasp of the title creature (a scene that never appears in the film) that popped up in magazines and books. It was finally given a DVD release by Fox in 2004 and more recently as nice Region B Blu (the UK version of which can be had for less then $10.00).
    Often unfairly lumped in with the hipster "so bad, it's great" crowd, that while having it's share of  unintentional laughs (i.e. the alligator man running about in dress slacks and skinny belt) it's a highly atmospheric little production thanks in part mostly to B&W CinemaScope photography by the great Karl Struss (F.W. Murnau's SUNRISE and the 1931 version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE). It also has a highly capable cast including the above mentioned genre favorite Beverly Garland (IT CONQUERED THE WORLD), George Macready (PATHS OF GLORY) and of course Lon Chaney Jr. doing one of his patented late career drunken lout roles.




    Directed by Roy Del Ruth (this was his last feature in a career going back to 1920), it was produced by the independent company API (Associated Produces) as a co-feature for the company's THE RETURN OF THE FLY and was distributed (and probably partly financed) by 20th Century Fox. Most likely one those screen properties whose fruition worked backwards from a title (and maybe even a poster) as you can picture a group of studio-types sitting around a table throwing out various animal names to attach to a project in conjunction with Fly's return. Access to the Fox production facilities also gave both films the use of the studio's CinemaScope process that for double feature play dates made it that projectionists didn't have to change lenses.
    At a large unnamed city clinic nurse Jane Marvin (Beverly Garland) suffers from a lapse of memory as she is missing an entire year out of her life. Given sodium pentathlon by psychiatrists Bruce Bennett (MILDRED PIERCE) and Douglas Kennedy (THE LAND UNKNOWN) she recounts in flashback her marriage to Paul Webster (Richard Crane THE NEANDERTHAL MAN). On their honeymoon and traveling by train we learn in casual conversation that Paul survived a horrific plane crash and is spite of suffering severe bodily injury he bears no scars or lingering injuries. While stopped at a station he receives a telegram that causes him to suddenly bolt from the train and disappear as the train pulls away leaving Jane alone.


  

    Perplexed she spends the next year trying to track him down and finds a clue in the form of a Louisiana address on his college admission paperwork. Taking a train to the desolate town of Bayou Landing she arrives at the depot of the seemingly deserted town. Spying a wooden crate marked "CAUTION Radioactive Cobalt 60" she takes a seat on it (!!) and in a moment hook-handed Manon (Lon Chaney Jr.) shows up and offers her a ride to her destination which is the mysterious Cypresses plantation. After casually throwing the crate of radioactive material in the back of his truck he and Jane head off the remote plantation where Manon works as the handyman/lackey. While driving through the swamps Manon spies a couple of alligator "wranglers" trussing up a live alligator all the while waving his hook about and cursing the alligators who we learn had chomped it off earlier (he even gleefully runs over one as it crosses the road !).
     Arriving at the plantation the owner Mrs. Lavinia Hawthorne (Frieda Inescort THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE) coldly greets Jane and insists she's never heard of Paul Webster. Discovering that she's missed the last train that day Lavinia allows Jane to stay locking her in a bedroom. Later that night Manon drunkenly shots at alligators in the nearby swamp while a maid warns Jane that the house is "deeply troubled"imploring her to leave immediately.
     Discovering other mysterious goings on including "swamp doctor" Dr. Mark Sinclair (George Macready) preforming creepy skin revitalization via alligators experiments and patients swathed in bandages, Jane soon begins to realize whats up with her errant husband and the purpose of  the experiments - a deduction viewers will guess long before hand.  Along the way, in a pretty shocking scene for 50's drive in/matinee fare, she escapes a near rape by Manon.
     Something that's different here is that there's no actual hero in the film with no leading man to save the heroine from the beasties clutches at the climax and it can be augured (in a 180 degree turnaround) that Beverly's "Jane" is the hero of the film. Sure she recoils at the sight her alligator skinned husband but then immediately runs into the swamp after him - with Garland gamely splashing about in mucky water and skipping over live alligators. Macready's Dr. is no evil scientist as he actually cares about his "patients" and deeply worries about the afflictions which his experiments have caused. Chaney's scenery chewing Manon although viscous & mean isn't even a real villain - just a drunken oaf who inadvertently sets in motion the finale.




     When you pay to see a movie titled ALLIGATOR PEOPLE you better see a alligator person and in spite of its maligned main monster the movie does deliver and is no better or worse then what should be expected, plus does add to the film's charm and place in the genre.  The makeup by Dick Smith (no, not that Dick Smith) probably would work best if kept in the shadows (think Val Lewton) with the scaly skin makeup effects on the partial gator men being pretty effective. The entire sequence at the begiining with Garland and the two psychiatrists feels kind of tacked on (the film would work fine without it) and was added to most likely beef up the running time as the film also gets bogged down a bit with lots of running about the swamp and creeping about the mansion.
     Although some sources site Louisiana as a filming location the swamp & plantation setting have a very dusty southern California look to them and were most likely filmed on standing sets (probably at the Fox Ranch in Malibu). With its lighting and B&W scope photography ALLIGATOR PEOPLE has a unique look among the 50's big bug/reptile features. Del Ruth doesn't use the scope screen for any real atmosphere (mostly just having two talking heads on either side of the screen) and it's the lighting which really helps elevate the look of the film.
    The professional cast elevates the sometimes talky script cast with Macready's line readings bringing a depth and seriousness to the proceedings while Beverly as usual jumps into her role with both feet. Garland always played strong resilient women and in her work for Roger Corman, he obviously saw this casting her in such roles as SWAMP WOMEN and GUNSLINGER while even in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD she shoulders a rifle and strides off to Bronson Cavern to hunt down the invader from Venus.












Friday, April 14, 2017

THE NECROMANCY 1972

Bert I. "Mr. Big" Gordon's take on ROSEMARY'S BABY
 and all things Satanic 70's with Orson Wells and Pamela Franklin !


"Life To The Dead And Death To the Living...."




    During the 1970's when he wasn't appearing on Johnny Carson or shilling on TV commercials for wine that's located on the bottom shelf in chain grocery stores Orson Welles lent his presence and distinctive voice to a wide ranging slate of projects including this 1970 effort from Bert I. "Mr. Big" Gordon (THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN & EMPIRE OF THE ANTS). Gordon who leading up this seemed to be attempting a "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" style of film as his output included family matinee fare, a (very bad) sex comedy and thrillers before jumping on the 70's Satan bandwagon with this project.
   Written, produced and directed by Gordon it was shot in 1970 but legal wrangling kept it unreleased until 1972 when Cinerama released it often double billing it with their Euro imports such as the 1972 version of BLUEBEARD with Richard Burton. In 1983 it was re-edited with additional nude scenes shot (by persons unknown and a bit from the original shoot) in a satanic orgy with the original lopped off and Fred Karger's invocation score replaced by a cheesy 70's synthesizer where it was released under the title THE WITCHING. There are some surviving stills that show that Gordon originally filmed a hardwr cut before trimming it down.


 I love phone shots in movies !


    After their baby boy is born dead Lori Brandon (Pamela Franklin THE INNOCENTS and LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE) and her husband Frank (Michael Ontkean TV's THE ROOKIES & TWIN PEAKS) decide to move from Los Angeles to the small town of Lilith where Frank has accepted a position at a toy factory owned by Mr. Cato (Orson Welles). While driving there the couple witness a fiery car crash where at the scene Lori finds a creepy rag doll with fingernail clippings in the doll's pockets (which would seemingly send any sane person screaming straight back to the big city). After they inexplicably run out of gas Frank hikes to a station and Lori is drawn by the sounds of chanting to a strange funeral overseen by folks in black robes whom all suddenly disappear and the returning Frank insisting she dreamt it all.
    Upon arriving in Lilith the find everybody nice & friendly in a Stepford Wives and/or satanic cult sort of way and while at dinner with Mr. Cato he strangely explains that his workers create "magic rather then toys". Paying special interest in Lori. Mr. Cato encourages her to read a black arts book entitled Grande Grimore while at the same time she begins to noticing disquieting things about town as they are no children or adults over the age of 30 besides Mr. Cato. She also befriends a strange young woman & coven member (Lee Purcell MR. MAJESTYK) who runs a local store filled with mysterious bric-a-brac.




     Drawing on many tropes from various movies as anyone whose seen ROSEMARY"S BABY can guess the motives of husband Frank (although compared to Cassavetes Broadway aspirations in ROSEMARY'S BABY, Frank and his desire to be a big wig in toy factory seems a bit trivial). NECROMANCY doesn't break a whole lot of new ground but Gordon does maintain an atmosphere of slowly encroaching dread along with parading a checklist of occult movie set pieces including flashes of a goat headed demon, images mysteriously appearing on tarot cards and in goblets along with robed figures chanting. There's also a WTF rat attack which suddenly appears out of nowhere as well as a bizarre pre-credit sequence with Franklin floating through space. Awash in bright sunshine it has a definite post-Manson 70's hippie California vibe to it (it was filmed in Los Gatos) and would make an excellent double feature with 1971's BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN.
     Pamela Franklin who had appeared as a child actress in Jack Clayton's classic THE INNOCENTS in 1960 and Hammer's THE NANNY from 1965 was one of few genre actors who moved easily into adult roles such as the sadly fallen through the cracks AND SOON THE DARKNESS from 1974 and the outstanding THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE in 1973. Franklin (who's never looked prettier) has an odd accent here as it floats from British to American (sometimes in the same sentence) but does an admirable job with Gordon's sometimes head-scratching dialogue. She meant her husband Harvey Jason (COLD TURKEY) on this film and they remain married to this day and he owns the Mystery Pier bookstore in West Hollywood.
    Wells with a large prosthetic nose reads his lines with all the somber tones of a Shakespeare tragedy and seems to be trying to channel Vincent Price in one of his Corman/Poe roles. Although obviously slumming it here he bring a sense of nobility to the proceedings.
     Code Red's Blu-Ray release of Gordon's original theatrical version  oddly has a MPAA PG rating card at the beginning of the film but then finishes with an R card. Featuring some topless nudity (courtesy of Sue Bernard from FASTER,PUSSYCAT KILL ! KILL !) and some fleeting Pamela boobies it was one of those 70's movies that as released straddled both ratings and could have very easily carried a PG in spite of the bare flesh.

"We'll sell no wine before it's time"