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When we last left our heroes, Al Adamson and Sam Sherman, their first feature, Blood Of Ghastly Horror, had finally been loosed upon the world. It had been a long gestation period, with the egg stage Echo Of Terror morphing into the larval Psycho-A-Go-Go!, which was then re-shot and re-edited into the pupa stage The Fiend With The Electronic Brain, which itself was reshot and reedited into what finally emerged as the glorious butterfly that is Blood Of Ghastly Horror. Despite being shot by a young Vilmos Szigmond, Blood Of Ghastly Horror was, as its title implies, grindhouse, drive-in fare. It was and is a strange and colorful film, as were the people who made it. Strange and colorful. As you will learn.
Al and Sam’s next venture was a horror movie entitled Blood Of Dracula’s Castle. Blood of Dracula’s Castle starred John Carradine, again, and was written and co-produced by a guy named Rex Carlton, who had previously written the exhilarating The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (we’ll be The Brain That Wouldn’t Die-ing soon enough). An online synopsis of Blood Of Dracula’s Castle ends thusly: “He rams and axe in Mango’s back, then lights Mango on fire. Mango then crawls off the ledge of the cliff to his death, his body aflame, with the axe still lodged in his back.”
From there, it was onto Hell’s Bloody Devils, a film that is famous for, if nothing else, involving both Col. Sanders and The Manson Family. You read that right. Like Blood Of Ghastly Horror, Hell’s Bloody Devils began life as a totally different film, a crime drama called Operation M. Operation M was soon changed to The Fakers. Again, Rex Carlton was co-producing. Rex was very inventive in finding money and saving money and finding ways to save money. This would often result in breathtaking inventiveness and also, sadly, his eventual undoing. In David Konow’s excellent book, “Schlock-O-Rama - The Films Of Al Adamson,” Adamson recalled, “Rex Carlton somehow got hold of the publicity people for the Colonel (Sanders) and he worked out a deal where they gave us all the fried chicken we could eat for the shoot. And all we had to do was put him in the film. So we did that."
Of course, eating fried chicken every day for several weeks straight probably has a downside, but what do I know? I'm not a chicken scientist! Despite Col. Sanders' appearance in the film (his line is, “Isn’t that the best chicken you’ve ever eaten?”), The Fakers didn’t pop.
According to Sam Sherman, again, in Konow’s book, “We couldn’t give The Fakers away, it was a straight secret agent / crime movie.” In an attempt to make the movie more appealing to a youthful audience, extra footage was shot incorporating a biker gang. The plan was to make it a biker gang / secret agent / crime movie. But where to shoot the biker gang footage? Well, if you recall, Al Adamson was the son of a cowboy star, Denver Dixon, and dad had cowboy connections.
“George Spahn was a friend of my father’s,” Adamson told Psychotronic Video magazine. “He was blind at the time and these hippies were taking care of him there. When we first went over there, we didn’t know it was the Manson gang.”
Rumor has it that on more than one occasion, members of the Family had to be literally shooed away from the set. And everybody lived!
Well, almost everybody.
You see, here’s how independent producing works: an independent producer, without a studio’s backing, has to raise money to make a movie. Some ways can be very clever (see: chicken, fried, too much of). Other ways are more traditional, like borrowing money from a bank. Others are stupid, like borrowing money from, “the wrong people.” You know, people who operate like a bank but without the fancy offices and with much more severe default penalties. People who have had movies made about them with titles that rhyme with stuff like Schmoodfellas and The Blodblather.
So, let’s say you borrowed money from the wrong people to make a movie, and then used the projected profits from that movie to borrow more money for another movie. But then the first movie gets hung up in a legal wrangle because you owe money to the film lab. Unable to pay, the film lab then moves to recoup its losses by auctioning the movie off to a third party. Well, should that happen, your projected profits from said movie go up in smoke and you are now on the hook for a bunch of money to, as they say, ”the wrong people.,”
Sadly, that is apparently the situation poor Rex Carlton found himself in when, according to reporting found on the website Fandango, on May 6th 1968, he wrote a short note complaining of “events going badly,” and, foreseeing an unsavory penalty for his looming loan default, made the ultimate expression of, “You can’t fire me, I quit!” and took his own life. A sad ending to an inventive and talented guy.
For Al & Sam, it was just another in a series of stranger-than-fiction stories they lived through on their way to what would become their first unqualified smasharoo hit, the Russ Tamblyn led biker epic, “Satan’s Sadists.”
And yes, we’ll be discussing it. But first, in honor of the holiday, this Wednesday we’ll be taking a short detour to discuss one of the greatest turkey-based horror films of all time, 1972’s Blood Freak!
And I thank you.