(US - 1971)
Directed by Al Adamson. Written by William Pugsley and Samuel M. Sherman. Cast: J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney, Anthony Eisley, Regina Carrol, Russ Tamblyn, Jim Davis, Zandor Vorkov, John Bloom, Shelly Weiss, Greydon Clark, Angelo Rossitto, Anne Morrell, William Bonner, Forrest J. Ackerman, Maria Lease, Bruce Kimball, Gary Kent, Connie Nelson. (PG, 91 mins)
Though he's made films that were better and films that were somehow worse, 1971's DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN is generally considered to be the career-defining statement of Z-grade exploitation legend Al Adamson, whose work has just been compiled in a near-comprehensive Blu-ray box set from Severin, because physical media is dead. It's by far his best-known and most-seen film thanks to its ubiquitous presence on late-night TV from the mid '70s to now (it still regularly runs on the sci-fi/horror channel Comet), and in nearly every way encompasses the whole Al Adamson "experience"--and why he's the Ed Wood of his era--in one painful 90-minute slog. It's a cut-and-paste patchwork of one or more abandoned projects where the new footage doesn't match the old, it's laughably cheap and unabashedly trashy, it's filled with nonsensical dialogue, it panders to the counterculture with hippies, bikers, groovy jams, and an LSD freakout, and it employs well past-their-prime Hollywood old-timers so feeble-looking that their presence, despite Adamson's noble intent in giving aging actors some work when no one else would hire them, is a sight so depressing that it borders on elder abuse.
SATAN'S SADISTS, with his new BFF Russ Tamblyn playing another sadistic biker. That was almost immediately junked as the project morphed into a horror film called THE BLOOD SEEKERS, though Tamblyn and the bikers were kept on as supporting characters. The crux of the plot dealt with a Santa Monica amusement park being a cover for mad, wheelchair-bound scientist Dr. Durea (J. Carrol Naish), his mute, brutish, ax-wielding henchman Groton (Lon Chaney, Jr), and obnoxious carnival barker Grazbo (Angelo Rossitto), who abduct young women and harvest their blood for bizarre experiments. One victim is local hippie Joanie Fontaine (Maria Lease), whose Vegas go-go dancer sister Judith (Regina Carrol, soon to be Adamson's wife) is summoned by hard-nosed detective Martin (Jim Davis, several years before becoming patriarch Jock Ewing on DALLAS) after a missing persons report is filed. Martin informs her that Joanie was living in a commune near the amusement park, known to be "a hangout for pushers and white slavery operators." Judith goes to investigate and is drugged by biker gang leader Rico (Tamblyn) and eventually rescued by a pair of Joanie's hippie friends, Strange (Greydon Clark) and Samantha (Anne Morrell). She falls in love with aging hippie Mike (HAWAIIAN EYE star Anthony Eisley) and yada yada yada, discovers that Joanie was one of the evil Durea's victims.
THE WOLF MAN, but he was largely unemployable by this time. He was barely able to speak, but he did appear in one more Adamson film, THE FEMALE BUNCH, shot in 1969 and released in 1971. He's an even sadder sight in that film, his voice a gasping, hoarse croak, bleary-eyed, puffy, and guzzling vodka on camera. These two Adamson films would constitute his final work before his death in 1973. Naish, a two-time Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee and one of the most in-demand character actors of the 1940s, would periodically dabble in the horror genre in his heyday, and he co-starred with Chaney in 1944's monster rally HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. But by 1969, he was only doing sporadic TV guest spots and hadn't appeared on the big screen in nearly a decade. The 73-year-old actor was in obviously declining health and arrived on the set in a wheelchair, had ill-fitting dentures, couldn't remember his lines, and could barely see to read the cue cards that were made for him. It also doesn't help that he had a glass eye and he's visibly reading those cue cards. And when Adamson plants the camera right in front of Naish's face, you can't really focus on anything aside from his functioning right eye reading the words as he babbles reams of dialogue while his glass left eye stares straight ahead.
Beaumont: "Who are you?"
Dracula: "I am known as the Count of Darkness. The Lord of the Manor of Corpathia. Turn here."
|DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN on a Halloween double bill
with the Paul Naschy werewolf movie FRANKENSTEIN'S
BLOODY TERROR in Toledo, OH on 10/25/1972
(US - 1969)
Directed by Al Adamson. Written by Rex Carlton. Cast: John Carradine, Paula Raymond, Alex D'Arcy, Robert Dix, Gene O'Shane (Gene Otis Shane), Barbara Bishop (Jennifer Bishop), Vicki Volante, Ray Young, John "Bud" Cardos, Ken Osborne. (PG, 84 mins)
DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN wasn't Al Adamson's first stab at tarnishing the legacy of a classic horror movie monster. Released in May 1969 by Crown International on a double bill with the dismal NIGHTMARE IN WAX, BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE started making the drive-in rounds about two weeks before Adamson's Independent-International kickoff SATAN'S SADISTS. But it had been on the shelf for quite some time after it was completed back in 1966, with its initial announcement in Variety coming a year earlier with Jayne Mansfield attached to star. That never happened, but Adamson did secure the services of the great character actor John Carradine, who never turned down a job and would star in several films for the director. Carradine also had a history with Dracula, having played the vampire in 1944's HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, 1945's HOUSE OF DRACULA, and 1966's almost Adamson-esque BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA. But since this is an Al Adamson movie we're talking about, of course BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE would be the worst Dracula movie in which Carradine would appear to that point, and of course it would somehow be a Dracula movie where Carradine doesn't even play Dracula, but rather, the pivotal role of Dracula's butler George.
"Next Train Out," an admittedly catchy tune. Her car runs out of gas and he's abducted by lumbering, deformed Mango (Ray Young). Cut to smarmy photographer Glen Cannon (Gene Otis Shane), who's doing a photo shoot with model/girlfriend Liz (Jennifer Bishop, billed as "Barbara Bishop") at L.A.'s Marineland, which is a perfect excuse for Adamson to inflate the running time a little more by taking a leisurely tour around the park, including a ride up the Sky Tower. Glen is notified that his uncle has died and left him a castle (played for the exteriors by the landmark Shea's Castle) that's been rented for the last 60 years by the wealthy, erudite, and ageless Count Charles Townsend (Alex D'Arcy) and his wife (Paula Raymond). Their butler George (Carradine) and his henchman Mango kidnap young women passing through and keep them chained in the basement as a fresh blood supply for the Townsends, who are actually the Count and Countess Dracula, drinking their victims' blood out of Bloody Mary glasses. Glen arrives and intends to politely evict them, around the same time Townsend family friend--escaped murderer Johnny (Robert Dix)--pays them a visit. Dracula and his wife intend to stay and they find Liz an appetizing source of blood that they wish to keep around.
|Crown International's BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE/
NIGHTMARE IN WAX double bill hitting Toledo, OH