The late Al Adamson looms tall among the illustrious figures of the '70s drive-in heydays. As the son of Hollywood's Victor Adamson (a.k.a. Denver Dixon) and Delores Booth he was literally born into show business. But it wasn't until his early 30s that Adamson began to make his mark as an independent filmmaker. During those early days he partnered with friend Samuel M. Sherman and together they hopscotched through the popular genres of the moment. Making movies to entertain the nation's then thriving drive-in audiences. Biker films like Satan's Sadists and Angels' Wild Women. Mad-scientist pictures like Brain of Blood and Dracula vs. Frankenstein. Sexploitation movies like Blazing Stewardesses and Nurse Sherri. These were flicks designed for profit, but produced with tangible skill and style. Which is why the director of more than 25 B-films was a lasting success.
Adamson married his favorite starlet Regina Carrol and they shared 20 happy years together before she succumbed to cancer in 1992. Three years later, tragedy struck again, when Adamson was murdered and entombed beneath his hot tub by an employee who then attempted to assume the filmmaker's financial life. Adamson was 66. He is well remembered by his many friends and by fans the world over.
Troma Team Video has joined with producer Sam Sherman to release five Al Adamson cult classics on DVD. The deluxe collector's edition discs feature insightful video introductions and audio commentaries by Mr. Sherman who guides viewers through each film with both reverence and humor. Tons of behind-the-scenes photos (many showing the director at work). Brief documentary on Independent-International Pictures. Theatrical trailers. TV spots. Motion-video menus with audio. Dracula vs. Frankenstein takes things a step further with an alternate ending, an interview with Dr. Acula (Forrest J. Ackerman) and his lost footage, plus Sherman's location scouting reel. While Satan's Sadists features a radio interview of Ms. Carrol during promotion of the film. Each movie is presented in fullframe.
Widely dubbed the Citizen Kane of biker flicks and deservedly so. Ordinary folk are brutalized by a gang of seven riders who've named themselves after the Prince of Darkness and try their darndest to live up to the rep. First, they rob a guy and take turns diddling his girlfriend, although she doesn't seem to MIND all that much. After killing them both, it's time for dinner, so the gang rumbles into a secluded roadside cafe to fill their stomachs and raise even more hell. In so doing, the gang's malevolent leader Anchor (subtly acted by Russ Tamblyn) executes two diners and the owner for sassing him. The cafe's dingy waitress (Jackie Taylor) and her Marine hero (Scott Brady) are able to overpower their attackers and escape into the desert where they're hunted by the homicidal motorcycle maniacs for the rest of the picture.
Notables: Four breasts. 15 corpses. Waitress licking. Reefer madness. Scalding coffee to the face. Force feeding. Rattlesnake necktie. Russian roulette.
Quotables: Tracy has goals, "I don't want to be a waitress all my life. I want to be somebody ... I've got to get to a big city and meet somebody important and get married." Anchor knows how to let a gal down easy, "Love? What do you know about love? You're good for one thing and one thing only. And you know something, now that I think about it, you're not even so good for that anymore. You ain't nothing anymore to me baby ... you're just nothing but a piece of dead meat."
Time codes: Acid reads from "Pot: How to Plant, Cultivate, Harvest, Cure, Prepare -- Enjoy" (8:42). Fallen biker babe Gina (Regina Carrol) tries to seduce her man with a table dance (23:55). Anchor gets heavy, man (32:35). "We secretly laced their coffee with LSD" (1:07:10).
How's THAT for a title!? If only the flick were as interesting. Still, it's the swan song of screen legends Lon Chaney Jr. and J. Carrol Naish who both went on to their final casting call upstairs. Naish is Dr. Durea, a descendent of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, who secretly experiments with human blood for dubious reasons -- while also running a carnival sideshow in his spare time. Chaney is the doctor's mute assistant Groton (think Of Mice & Men's Lenny) who serves as both lab rat and specimen procurer. Meanwhile, a costume-jewelry obsessed Count Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) digs up the original Frankenstein monster and offers it to Durea as part of some convoluted plot to rule the world. It's all very confusing, especially when Cleavage Queen Regina Carrol comes looking for her missing sister (procured with an axe by Groton), but winds up tripping out on LSD and falling for a slimy beach slug played by Anthony Eisley. Yes, there IS a battle royal as the title so sheepishly implies, which should be especially amusing to fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That is if you can SEE anything, because the scene's so dark it looks like Adamson forgot to take the lense cap off. Keep an eye peeled for the legendary Forrest J. Ackerman as doomed Dr. Beaumont.
Quotables: Bad news spreads quickly, "They found a guy chopped up down at Rocky Point. He was all bloody in bits and pieces. They never found his girlfriend, though. A guy can't make out in peace anymore! Man, it's a real bummer." When he isn't trying to score, Mike can be downright philosophical, "How do you recognize madness? Of all the aspects of a man, madness can be the most impossible to observe."
Time codes: Babe gets head lopped off with axe (5:40). Mr. Adamson's cameo (8:00). Russ Tamblyn serves up more trippy coffee (28:30). "IT'S ALIVE!!!" (34:30). Cop runs out of bullets and uses pistol as club (55:35). Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1:15:50).
OK, pay attention. This one's tricky. In 1964, Adamson made a jewelry heist picture called Echo of Terror that was soon recut into Psycho a Go-Go (1965) as a star vehicle for aspiring singer Tracey Robbins. Years later, as part of a television deal, Adamson shot additional footage and The Man with the Synthetic Brain was excreted. Having gone to all that trouble, the flick was also released in theaters as -- drumroll, please -- Blood of Ghastly Horror. How it works is this, we open with a zombie snapping necks like Pixy Stix and some homicide detectives who try to sort out the mess. One of the detectives rubs his chin thoughtfully, and we flashback to Echo of Terror for 20 minutes. Somewhere in the middle, we flashback even further for some mad scientist stuff with the immortal John Carradine who puts a transistor radio, or some such, into a catatonic Vietnam vet's brainpan. As a result, Roy Morton tragically loses his personality and slides into an electronic crush, kill and destroy mode. He becomes a crime world enforcer where we eventually catch back up with him at that jewelry heist where the bag of loot gets lost and he starts turning people inside out (literally) to find the goods. But don't get too comfortable with him, because we flash forward again and a revenge plot boils up to make sense of that zombie junk from the first of the flick. Sorta.
Notables: No breasts. 15 corpses. Gratuitous ransom note. Message written in blood. Severed head in a box. Scissor murder.
Quotables: Joe's one mean dude, "Look, you don't know this guy! He gets his kicks out of HURTING people!"
Time codes: Shot of the Jerry Lewis restaurant (10:48). Adamson gets gunned down (11:50). Carradine's big mad-scientist scene (26:30). Regina Carrol zombies out (1:20:20).
This promises to be a rough and tumble look at biker babes, but Adamson really never delivers the goods. But that may have never been his intention, as he's got the soulful leader of a motorcycle gang (Ross Hagen) fist fighting with his brother over a chick, which is then followed by a love montage. Things get somewhat more interesting when all the boy bikers leave their women folk behind to blaze off and play drinking games, race cycles and whiz on each other. The gals pass the time by whupping up on a pair of rapists, and later reverse roles and force themselves on a man. They also manage to run amiss with Johnny Law. But it's when they wander into a commune run by a hippie named King (William Bonner) that all the peace and love turns deadly. Seems King is actually running a marijuana farm and he'll slaughter everyone he has to in order to keep his secret -- including our starlets.
Notables: Six breasts. Six corpses. Gratuitous Nazis. Multiple brawls. Cigarette burn to the hand. Motorcycle acrobatics. The ol' handful-of-sand to the eyes gag. Gratuitous urination.
Quotables: He doth protest too much, "Poontang is Poontang, but these sex orgies is unnatural!" This gal is stoned, "Look at those eyes. She didn't get that from reading her Bible."
Time codes: Wait a minute, is that Charles Napier as Rapist #2 (2:40)!? Terri has her way with a farm boy, while her friends hold him down (28:40). Adamson liked to put objects -- like bushes, fences, trees -- between the actors and his camera (53:15). An homage to Hell's Angels '69 (1:21:05).
Originally conceived as Girls for Rent -- a thematic sequel to Women for Sale -- this film roared from script to screen in just 60 days. Pornstar Georgina Spelvin stars as Sandra, a ruthless con busted out of a Mexican prison by the syndicate to murder a politician who's outlived his usefulness. She dupes the geezer's mistress into poisoning him mid-diddle. Horrified by what's happened, Donna (the oh-so gorgeous Susan McIve) skedaddles for Mexico in her Pinto. She's pursued into the desert by Sandra and fellow hit-gal Erica (Rosalind Miles) who must silence the no longer trustworthy witness. We slide into very rewarding cat-and-mouse territory, with the killers just steps behind lovely Donna while she endures further torments like having her car stolen and being kidnapped by rednecks. Spelvin's character is truly sadistic, which is shockingly evidenced in a scene toward the end of the flick where she brutally redefines coitus interruptus.
Notables: Eight breasts. Eight corpses. Cat fighting. Topless kung fu. Multiple diddling. Star gazing. Car chase with explosion. Multiple foot chases.
Quotables: Dirty ol' H.R. (Robert Livingston) wants Donna to, ahem, date his boy, "You've been around lady. I can tell. After all, what's one more loaf in the oven?" Sandra quizzes Ben on the facts of life, "Don't you know what you've got down there in those pants, honey?" Donna's story overwhelms Chuck, "Murder and prostitution!? That's a lot to lay on a guy!"
Time codes: Members of female chain gang attempt to scratch each other's eyes out (6:15). Mikel James appears as the deep-tissue masseuse (15:38). Regina Carrol's leggy cameo (20:46). Donna attempts to coax Ben into manhood (53:00). Sandra has better luck with the kid (1:08:30).
A puritanical cut of Adamson's Black Samurai is also available on DVD, but is not part of this collection. Coming up, Mr. Sherman has entered an agreement with EI Independent Cinema to release discs for Cinderella 2000, Nurse Sherri, Blazing Stewardesses and Naughty Stewardesses as part of their Retro-Seduction Cinema line.