Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Take a good look at the DVD keep case cover art shown above. The one-sheet artwork for HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS is by comic book legend Neal Adams and it is absolutely the only decent thing about this film. You are freely encouraged to admire the art and stop right there. The film isn't as good as the promotional material and that's saying something. 

HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS is one of the weirdest, wildest bad movies ever made. And I should know. I've seen a lot of them. On the surface, the film tells the tale of a spaceship (with a crew of genre vet John Carradine, three no-name actors and one hot Swedish blond babe) on a mission to a planet inhabited by prehistoric vampire cave-men. That alone would make this a stinker but it gets worse when you see the film and know what's really going on here.

The back story of HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS, is a fascinating case study in the lost art of exploitation film making and marketing. I actually watched the film a second time (at least half way) just to hear the audio commentary by producer Sam Sherman and learn the amazing origin of this incredibly bizarre movie.

It seems that Sherman and director Al Adamson gained possession of TAGANI, a prehistoric caveman epic which contained vampires, snake-men, crab-men and man-bats (among other lurid elements). Shot in black and white in the Philippines, TAGANI is a one-of-a-kind piece of work on its' own merits. But Sherman and Adamson had to figure out a way to release the material to American audiences that would make it profitable. A 90 minute dubbed Filipino caveman film in black-and-white simply wouldn't sell.

They came up with the idea of tinting the film in various primary colors: red, blue, yellow and green. They tinted only the best parts of TAGANI (those involving vampires, snake-men, crab-men, man-bats and for some inexplicable reason, midget cavemen). But this material alone wasn't enough for a feature film.

Adamson then shot the spaceship footage using one crude set that was re-dressed a couple of times and shot from various angles to make it look larger than it really was. The blond Swedish actress had to have her dialogue dubbed in post production and it looks like Carradine was reading his lines from off camera cue cards. The crew probably had to shoot Carradine's scenes in the morning because legend has it that he was no good after lunch (which came in a bottle of booze for the aged actor).

But they still needed some special effects shots of the spaceship and since there was no budget for that, they lifted footage from yet another film, THE WIZARD OF MARS.

After getting all of the interiors in the can, Adamson and crew ventured out into the Southern California wastelands to shoot black-and-white footage of the three men and the blond running around. They meet up with a fetching brunette in a white one-piece made of animal skins. She's supposed to match a similarly attired, dark-haired woman in the TAGANI footage.

The newly shot exterior footage was also tinted (red, yellow, green and blue) and cut into the tinted scenes from TAGANI to make some semblance of a story. There's also footage of dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals and fighting monitor lizards and alligators (made up to look like "dinosaurs") on miniature sets. The source material of this mis-matched footage is unknown.

To add to the weirdness, Adamson and Sherman decided that they needed to explain why everything was tinted red, yellow, green and red. To do this, they shot a scene containing lots of expository dialogue featuring the man and woman from mission control scenes from earlier in the film. The trouble is, this new footage was shot in 1970 (the original footage was filmed in 1965). The man and woman look slightly different in this sequence in which they talk about the "chromatic radiation" while engaging in computer enhanced sex (which features a prop left over from the Broadway sex play OH, CALCUTTA!). A ray gun that emits the various colored rays was given to Forry Ackerman after the scenes were shot and resided within the legendary Ackermansion for many years.

 Oh, and Sherman shot some totally random footage of various vampire attacks on innocent men and women to pad out the beginning of the film (with voice over narration by Brother Theodore). This footage was also shot in 1970.

When HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS was sold to television in the '70s, the title was changed to VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET. When STAR WARS hit it big in 1977, the film was re-released with yet another title: SPACE MISSION TO THE LOST PLANET.

HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS is quite simply a mess. But it's an entertaining mess that has to be seen to be believed. I admire the pluck and determination of Adamson and Sherman to make something out of almost nothing. They succeeded and the film was actually quite profitable. At one point during the commentary Sherman remarks that exploitation films were more about the concept and not the content.

To put it another way, they sold the sizzle, not the steak. And they did it quite well.

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