(US - 1969)
Directed by Al Adamson. Written by Dennis Wayne (Greydon Clark). Cast: Russ Tamblyn, Scott Brady, Kent Taylor, John "Bud" Cardos, Robert Dix, Gary Kent, Greydon Clark, Regina Carrol, Evelyn Frank, Jackie Taylor, William Bonner, Randee Lynn, Bambi Allen. (R, 87 mins)
Last year, Quentin Tarantino's ONCE UPON A TIME...IN HOLLYWOOD renewed interest in the history of Spahn Ranch, the old western movie set where Charles Manson and his followers were squatting around the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders in August 1969. Severin's exhaustive, 14-disc, 32-movie mega-box set of the films of Z-list exploitation auteur Al Adamson (1929-1995) was secretly in the works before the Tarantino film was released (because physical media is dead), but it's an interesting supplement in many ways, as several of Adamson's schlocky drive-in hits of the late '60s into the early '70s were shot at Spahn Ranch, where Manson as well as his followers were often present during some shoots. Additionally, according to WEST SIDE STORY and THE HAUNTING co-star Russ Tamblyn in David Gregory's feature-length 2019 documentary BLOOD & FLESH: THE REEL LIFE & GHASTLY DEATH OF AL ADAMSON (also in the box), Manson was a disruptive enough presence during the making of THE FEMALE BUNCH (shot in 1969, unreleased until 1971) that Adamson's co-director John "Bud" Cardos had to physically remove him from the set. Tamblyn, a Best Supporting Actor Oscar-nominee for 1957's PEYTON PLACE (he lost to Red Buttons in SAYONARA) was in enough of a career slump by the late '60s that he wound up becoming a member of the Adamson stock company. His truly repugnant performance is one of the most memorable aspects of 1969's lurid biker shocker SATAN'S SADISTS, one of the key titles in Adamson's dubious body of work and one of the very few times when the director came within striking distance of technical competence and achieving the almost-professional appearance of a real movie.
|Al Adamson (1929-1995)
SATAN'S SADISTS opening in Toledo, OH on 9/3/1969
(US - 1970)
Directed by Al Adamson. Written by Jerry Evans. Cast: Broderick Crawford, Scott Brady, Kent Taylor, Keith Andes, John Carradine, John Gabriel, Robert Dix, Erin O'Donnell, Vicki Volante, Anne Randall, Jack Starrett, Emily Banks, Dan Kemp, Jerry Mills, Bambi Allen, Jill Woelfel, Carol Brewster, Leslie McCrea, Gene Otis Shane, Greydon Clark, Gary Kent, John "Bud" Cardos, Kent Osborne, Alice Wong, Colonel Harland Sanders. (PG, 90 mins)
HELL'S BLOODY DEVILS, on the other hand, is a typical Adamson cut-and-paste patchwork that began life in 1967 as a spy thriller called OPERATION M, which became THE FAKERS at some point during production. John Gabriel starred as Mark Adams, a loyal underling to Vegas mob boss Joe Brimante (Keith Andes), who's brokering a shady deal for a syndicate partnership with Count Otto von Delberg (Kent Taylor), a wealthy German looking to create the "New Nazi Party" and finish what Hitler started. This alliance involves working with von Delberg associate Carol Bechtel (Vicki Volante), the go-between for Brimante to acquire some WWII-era counterfeit plates for phony $20 bills and to funnel other contraband through the Vegas syndicate. It turns out Adams is actually an undercover Fed, installed by FBI bureau chief Gavin (Broderick Crawford), who's also got agents Brand (Scott Brady) and rookie Jill (Emily Banks) on the case.
title track by Nelson Riddle (he didn't work on the movie; it was an existing cue that Carlton and Adamson licensed), and the end result ends up strangely watchable. That's due in large part to the curio value of its bizarre cast, including a cameo by Colonel Harland Sanders inside a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a trade-off when he supplied the cast & crew with KFC during the shoot. In addition, you get the usual motley crew of slumming Hollywood vets who've fallen on hard times: John Carradine drops by for about 45 seconds as a syndicate-connected pet store owner (!); Taylor, a sort-of third-string Clark Gable/Errol Flynn-type in the '30s and '40s, found a lot of work in Adamson movies, as did JOHNNY GUITAR co-star Brady, whose fortunes would improve with appearances in films like 1979's THE CHINA SYNDROME and 1984's GREMLINS, his last before his death in 1985; and Crawford, a Best Actor Oscar-winner for 1949's ALL THE KING'S MEN, was mainly doing B-movies and TV guest spots by 1967, and Adamson managed to get his scenes shot in one day. Other than a visit to see a hospitalized Agent Adams, all of Crawford's scenes take place in an office that Adamson probably commandeered during a used car salesman buddy's lunch hour. Crawford participates in the climactic showdown from afar, standing in front of a map of Los Angeles county, marking on it with a pencil as he barks "Car 1, proceed to point 9...Car 2, proceed to point 27" into a dispatch mic in a competely-disconnected-from-the-action-but-still-appearing-to-be-the-star kind-of way that probably inspires Bruce Willis to this day. According to the exhaustively-researched, 116-page booklet in Severin's Adamson set, written by Bill Ackerman and Amanda Reyes, THE FAKERS (also included in the set) did eventually surface on syndicated TV in 1972 as SMASHING THE CRIME SYNDICATE, apparently without the biker subplot unique to the HELL'S BLOODY DEVIL'S cut.
|DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, ANGELS' WILD WOMEN and
HELL'S BLOODY DEVILS: Al Adamson conquering Toledo, OH's
drive-ins on 10/25/1972 (along with FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY
TERROR, another Independent-International release)