Review Date: March 23, 2001
Released by: Troma
Release date: 2/27/2001
Region 0, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
A dark alley somewhere in a bad neighborhood of Los Angeles - a man is in the process of soliciting a prostitute when suddenly a pasty-faced zombie/ghoul pops out of nowhere and strangles both of them to death. Next, the creature slaughters an unfortunate woman passing by, and then decapitates a police officer investigating the death screams of the other victims.
The LAPD is understandably baffled by the bizarre killings. Lt. Cross (Tommy Kirk
) is desperately looking for a lead when a mysterious package with no return address is delivered to his office. He opens it and is shocked to discover the severed head of the murdered officer, and a note reading "All will die for Corey". Despite the gruesomeness of the discovery, Cross now has a clue to the mystery - there's only one person he knows of named Corey, and that was somebody involved in a case many years earlier. Cross shifts into flashback mode as he recalls the events...
Joe Corey (Roy Morton
) and several other lowlifes had just held up an L.A. jewelry dealer and stolen a half million dollars in diamonds, and were on the way out of the building when a secretary had managed to pull the alarm. The building's security guards were alerted, and one of the robbers was shot dead. To get rid of the jewels and avoid detection, the men threw the bag containing them into the back of a flatbed truck and fled the scene, with the intention to reclaim the loot later. The man who owned the truck drove home and the bag fell out in his driveway where his daughter found and hid it.
The police were able to identify Corey as one of robbers, but there was one problem - according to their records, Corey had died two years earlier. It seems that he was a soldier in Vietnam, and was one of the first American casualties that the war produced. He had come back home with a shell fragment lodged in his brain, rendering him a vegetable for life. He later died on the operating table. A detective was sent to interview Dr. Howard Vanard (John Carradine
), the doctor who had been performing the operation. Vanard acted nervously, like he was hiding something. Later, the sinister truth of the matter was revealed - since Corey had no known relatives, Vanard had taken it upon himself to try and insert an electronic brain component he had developed into the poor soldier. At first the operation appeared successful, returning Corey to consciousness - but then Vanard realized that the implant had affected a change in the man, causing him to be prone to sudden outbursts of violence. Vanard covered the whole thing up by reporting the patient as dead.
Eventually, Corey sought out Vanard again and killed him for his troubles. The criminal and his gang managed to track down the man who owned the truck, but were unable to find any trace of the jewels. They dispatched Corey to track down the man's wife and daughter, who were vacationing at Lake Tahoe. Eventually he was shot and killed by the police.
Lt. Cross is wondering how the story of Corey connects to the murders, but as luck would have it, he happens to get a visit from Susan Vanard (Regina Carroll
), Dr. Vanard's daughter. She was living in Europe when her father was killed and is now desperately searching for information on what happened to him. But what neither of them realize is that Joe Corey did have one living relative - his father, Dr. Elton Corey (Kent Taylor
), who was lost in the jungles of Jamaica for many years. But now the elder Corey is back, and looking to use the knowledge of voodoo, zombies, mental telepathy and black magic that he learned there to avenge the death of his son!
Blood of Ghastly Horror
has an in incredibly sordid production history that spans nearly a decade. It all began in 1964 when a young director named Al Adamson filmed a movie called Echo of Terror
, a.k.a. Two Tickets to Terror
, that was a fairly straightforward crime/chase thriller about a thug named Joe Corey trying to recover the loot from a robbery. Unfortunately for Al and his partner Sam Sherman, the film proved to be unmarketable and they couldn't give it away. So, they tried again, adding more footage and calling it Psycho a Go-Go
to capitalize on the go-go dancing craze. Still no luck. Then a little while later, more footage with John Carradine and his electronic brain component were added to explain Joe Corey's homicidal behavior. Finally, Adamson and Sherman added the zombie/police scenes with Tommy Kirk, Kent Taylor and Regina Carroll and turned the film into a horror picture called Man With the Synthetic Brain, which they then sold to television. It was so successful on the tube that the two tried a theatrical release under the film's final title of Blood of Ghastly Horror, which was even more successful.
If nothing else, Blood of Ghastly Horror
is also a good way to get a look at some notable actors late in - or the end of - their careers. Kent Taylor, whose last appearances before his death in 1987 were all in Al Adamson movies, worked at Paramount many years earlier, while his co-star Tommy Kirk used to be featured in Disney movies like Old Yeller
. Taylor's career gradually withered away as the years passed, while Kirk's ended rather abruptly after problems at Disney. Only John Carradine, as Dr. Vanard, had not reached the end yet. He would continue working in dozens of 'B' films, and a few major ones as well, right up until his death. Adamson and Sherman were both fond of using older actors who weren't used much by Hollywood anymore, or who were otherwise down on their luck. The performers were reliable, talented, still had name value, and yes, were not as expensive as major stars.
Although it's not a movie that everyone is going to enjoy - or even tolerate - Blood of Ghastly Horror
is still one you might be able to have some fun with. It's a bad movie, but it's still enjoyable as "camp", and if you're a fan of bad movies, it's one that you can't afford to miss.
Unfortunately, the image quality here is not very good at all. The first problem is that Blood of Ghastly Horror
is presented full-frame at 1.33:1. Why is this a problem? Because unlike many other low-budget schlock movies, this film was not shot full-frame. Both the original Echo of Terror
and all the footage tacked on later were filmed widescreen at 2.35:1. The result here is that the film looks hideously cropped, with picture information missing not only from the sides, but apparently from the top and bottom of the frame as well. It looks like at least 50% of the picture information has been lost. Yuck!
Bad as the cropping may be, though, the other problems with this transfer are no less troublesome. Although the print used was in overall good shape, there still was a little damage noticeable, and overall the whole movie has a very grainy look to it. Colors are dull and washed out throughout the entire film. Blacks often look muddy and brownish. Dark scenes are almost always way too dark, with poor shadow detail. Some minor digital artifacting could be detected, although it was not nearly as bad as on some earlier Troma releases.
Although some of the problems can be attributed to the fact that this movie was shot over such a long period of time, using different cameramen, different types of equipment, as well as different lab processes and film stock, it's also clear that a lot more work could have been done on this transfer, and overall I'm extremely disappointed by it.
The soundtrack is in Dolby 2.0 Mono, and considering it's age, the soundtrack holds up very well. There's only a hint of background noise, and the dialogue is very clear and easy to understand, even if the original recording sounds a little tinny at times. In fact, the audio was clear enough for me to be able to easily hear someone behind the camera coughing during the scenes with Tommy Kirk at the police station! The music is also reproduced very well - the Joe Corey segments were scored with a wonderful jazzy soundtrack that I've always loved, and it sounds great here, much better than on my old muffled VHS tape.
Although not quite the "Deluxe Collector's Edition" listed on the cover, there are a few nice extras here. First off is a commentary track with producer Sam Sherman. He covers everything from the basics of low-budget filmmaking and distribution to which scenes were filmed for which version of the film. He also talks about the first version of the film, Echo of Terror
, and about how he would love to make it available in it's original form. There are some quiet spots during the commentary track, but they are few in number.
Also included is an over-the-top theatrical trailer, a TV spot under the "Man With the Synthetic Brain" title, a very short still gallery, and "Producing Schlock", a short 8-minute Sam Sherman interview/documentary that's also included on all the other Troma/Al Adamson discs, and trailers for the other Adamson films Troma has just released.
Troma has organized some good supplemental material here, but overall this release is compromised by the cropped, poor-quality of the transfer. Still, Blood of Ghastly Horror
is a movie that all lovers of bad films must see, and I'm still glad to have this movie on DVD, despite the faults of this disc.
Movie – C
Image Quality – D+
Sound – B+
Supplements – B
- Running Time - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Rated PG
- 1 Disc
- 10 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
- Commentary by producer Sam Sherman
- Trailer/TV spot
- Still gallery
- "Producing Schlock" documentary
- Other Al Adamson trailers