The recent release of the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse was meant to evoke memories of those days gone by when one could catch a few B (or Z) grade movies at the local theater. Even though the movie didn't perform as well at the box office as predicted, this event has no doubt triggered thoughts of those older films in many fans and home video companies. Thus, we get DVD releases such as this Al Adamson Double Features of Five Bloody Graves and Nurse Sherri.
Despite the fact that it sounds like a horror film, Five Bloody Graves is a western. Here we meet Ben Thompson (Robert Dix), a gunslinger who roams the barren desert of the old west. He learns that a Native American named Setago (played by John "Bud" Cardos) has been roaming the area attacking settlers. Ben tries to warn and save as many people as he can, including an old flame, Nora (Vicki Volante). He eventually finds himself protecting a group of showgirls who are traveling with an old preacher (John Carradine). As the group moves through the canyons, they are stalked by Setago.
Five Bloody Graves is narrated by Death. Yes, the Grim Reaper, who is voiced by Gene Raymond. Death waxes poetically about how Ben Thompson and Setago are his messengers and how he rides his pale horse beside them. That is a weird and novel touch. And that's the only unique thing going on here. I'm not a fan of westerns and could count on one hand the number that I've seen, but even I can tell you that there's nothing special going on here. The first half of the movie is very episodic, as Ben rides from place-to-place, either warning or rescuing people. Once Ben joins the showgirls, the movie drags even more as we wait for Setago to attack. That final fight is brief and rather dull. Then, we have the fact that the Native American's are clearly played by Caucasians in make-up. I'm sure that directed Al Adamson and writer/star Robert Dix had good intentions with this movie, but in the year following such landmark films as The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Five Bloody Graves was most likely an unwelcome throwback to the B westerns of the 1950s.
The second feature here is Nurse Sherri, also known as Hospital of Terror AKA Beyond the Living, and so on. (This multitude of names verifies the film's drive-in movie pedigree.) As the film opens, Reanhauer (Bill Roy), a cult leader (if you can call six people a cult), has a heart attack while attempting to resurrect a dead body. He's rushed to a hospital (well, "rushed" may be an exaggeration), where he dies in surgery. This make Reanhauer very angry, so he possesses a nurse named Sherri (Jill Jacobson), and seeks to exact his revenge on the doctors who let him die through her. He also shows up as a ghostly head and bothers some other people. Sherri's co-workers, including Tara (Marilyn Joi), note Sherri's odd behavior and attempt to help her.
Drive-in movies were notorious for attempting to cash in hot trends, and Nurse Sherri tries to cram in as many as possible. Possession, cults, blaxploitation film, action films, and sexy nurses were all in vogue in the mid 1970s and this movie has them all. Unfortunately, it doesn't add up to much. Nurse Sherri is a bargain-basement stinker which will test even the "so bad it's good" crowd. The acting is awful, the "hospital" set is a hallway with a water fountain, the special effects would make Sid & Marty Krofft blush, and the story is confusing. Is Reanhauer a ghost or a possessor? Does it matter? The pacing is incredibly bad, as seemingly important scenes run short, while a car chase goes on for nearly 10 minutes. Lacking gore or T&A (more on that in a moment), Nurse Sherri will only disappoint exploitation fans.
Five Bloody Graves & Nurse Sherri rides onto DVD courtesy of Shock-O-Rama. Both films are presented full-frame and certainly have that worn look. Even if a deleted scene didn't confirm it for me, I would have known that Five Bloody Graves was shot widescreen, as there are several scenes where things are clearly not there which should be. Both transfer show a great deal of grain and defects from the source material -- ie they're littered with scratches. The colors are washed out on both and each contains severe splicing problems. If you want that old fashioned use drive-in copy look, then you'll get it here.
Both films offers digital mono audio tracks which are awash in hissing, along with pops and scratches. Five Bloody Graves sounds especially high-pitched and the constant over-the-top music is annoying. Some of Nurse Sherri comes off as muffled.
Both films receive AUDIO COMMENTARIES from producer Sam Sherman. He speaks fondly about both movies and has an incredible memory for detail about each of them. In addition, Five Bloody Graves has comments from writer/star Robert Dix recorded in 2001. Sherman has more to say about Nurse Sherri (maybe because it was more recent), but I must question the fact that he claims Carrie was about possession. There is one DELETED SCENE from Five Bloody Graves which runs about 4 minutes and is a sex scene with brief nudity. Just like Grindhouse, there are a series of trailer and concession stand ads which can be viewed between the films. This DVD contains a second disc which has an alternate cut of Nurse Sherri. This cut is three minutes shorter, but contains all of the nudity and sex which one would have expected from the film. This disc also contains bonus trailers as well as a 13 minute interview with Nurse Sherri's Marilyn Joi.
One of the great things about DVD is that it allows long-forgotten films to have a second life. But, some movies, such as Five Bloody Graves and Nurse Sherri should stay dead. Shock-O-Rama has created a nice drive-in retro feel here, but the movies are simply too dull.