Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Joe Corey died...and a psychotic killer was born!"

Al Adamson had a problem.

He had recently gotten a taste for the movie business after helping his father (Victor Adamson, veteran of more than a hundred zero-budget westerns) with his 1961 film Half Way to Hell. Adamson decided to become a film-maker himself and directed a crime movie called Echo to Terror. The film took itself seriously, and featured a gang of jewel thieves lead by a brutal killer. Made quickly on a shoe-string budget, Adamson couldn't find any distributor interested in his movie. He significantly re-edited the film and changed the title to the alliterative Two Tickets to Terror, but he still had no luck. How could he make money off of this thing?

Determined to get his movie shown on the silver screen, Adamson decided that it was the crime theme that was prevented Two Tickets to Terror from being picked up. He made further edits to emphasize the killings (as well as new footage of go-go dancers) and pitched it as a horror movie called Psycho a Go-Go. In 1965, the film was released by Hemisphere Pictures (which had previously introduced America to a Filipino vampire movie called The Blood Drinkers). It received little recognition.

Adamson went on to forge a successful partnership/friendship with Sam Sherman, owner of the Independent-International Pictures. With Sherman usually acting as his co-writer and associate producer, Adamson directed several exploitation movies for drive-ins and grindhouse theaters. The movies were made cheaply and each one reaped a good profit. In 1972, after releasing Hell's Bloody Devils, Five Bloody Graves, Blood of Frankenstein, and the brain-transplant odyssey Brain of Blood, Adamson and Sherman began work on their next picture. Independent-International had secured a deal to have their movies shown on television. Adamson remembered the neglected Psycho a Go-Go and decided that it was time to let this movie shine. Both men agreed, however, that more re-working was in order to make it a solid hit.

Psycho a Go-Go underwent further mutation. New footage was filmed involving a mad scientist implanting electronic devices into people's brains. To portray the deranged brain surgeon, low-budget horror icon John Carradine was brought aboard and he made the most of severely limited material. After inserting this footage into the movie, Adamson and Sherman evidently felt that it was still missing something. The solution was to film even more scenes. Adamson's wife, dancer Regina Carrol, had a the dubious honor of playing a woman transformed into a zombie. The freakish, triple-headed film that resulted was unleashed upon the nation as Blood of Ghastly Horror. What began as an attempt at a serious crime-thriller ended up as something strange beyond belief.

The...ahem...plot of Blood of Ghastly Horror goes as follows.

Soldier Joe Correy, just back from the Vietnam War, is abducted by scientist Dr. Vanard and has an electronic implant inserted into his brain. The implant turns him into a deranged killer, so naturally he gathers a gang of thieves and goes on a few jewel heists. He is ultimately gunned down by police, which serves to enrage his father, Dr. Elton Correy, who is also a scientist. Correy creates a few zombies to murder those responsible for Joe Correy's death. Hijinks ensue.

Schizophrenic and supremely cheesy, Blood of Ghastly Horror flickered across drive-in screens in the summer of '72. It was also broadcast on TV under the winning title of The Man with the Synthetic Brain. Adamson wasted no time in following it up with Mean Mother, a blaxploitation film with the memorable tagline of "Super Cool & Wild! Smashing the Man and the Mob for his Women!" He went on to direct 13 more trash films, retiring in 1983 to pursue a career in real estate. A few years later, Blood of Ghastly Horror was released on VHS and Adamson unexpectedly found himself one of several schlock directors championed by the cult movie crowd. He was even interviewed for a few documentaries focusing on exploitation films. Adamson was reportedly considering a return to moviemaking in the early nineties. Tragically, he never had the chance to direct again as he was murdered in 1995 by a man he had hired to re-tile his bathroom floor at his California home.

Several of Adamson's movies are out on DVD, and Blood of Ghastly Horror has been recently released by Troma. The DVD features an introduction by Sam Sherman and commentary by the same. Sherman has expressed interest in restoring Echo of Terror, but whether Al Adamson's first film will ever be available in its unaltered state remains to be seen. For now, we must content ourselves with one of the strangest horror movies ever made.

Would you like to know more?

Lease Holder Addendum: If one takes a look at Al Adamson's filmography, every title of every movie he directed could easily be the name of a band. The Female Bunch, the Dynamite Brothers, Black Samurai, and the Blazing Stewardesses are among the best.


  1. Melvin GuilstrongJuly 16, 2009 at 8:47 PM

    Sounds like a Frankenstein's Monster of a Movie! Though not as cultish as my mutt of a wife, Charelene. She was in an accident that left her amputated from the elbows. She had a pair of arms attached from, ironically, from the poor soul in the same accident (had the same matching blood types coincidentaly). Later in life she had to get a heart transplant due to her insistance on eating foods high in cholesterol. This time, she recieved a heart from a poor Chilean who gave his heart so that his family could have money after extensice blood testing and hygenic check-ups (all paid). Cruel, but it's the American way...I suppose.

    Now disfigured, my monster of a wife had also failing eyes due to the high blood pressure caused by the diet of high cholesterol. It came to a point, no pun intended, that she was so blind that she had actually tripped on a curb and landed, eye-first, into one of those little lawn signs warning of pestiside application. It was not a pleasant "sight to see." Rushed to the ER, the doctors said it was going to be impossible to recover the eye and went ahead and advised to get a glass eye for her. As a joke, I got her a green eye, to contrast her blue. Turned out to be quite a mistake. Now she looks just as freakish as her temper.

    Anyways, where may I get a copy of this movie you speak of so I may be distracted from the pink elephant in the room (if you know what I mean)?

    Oh, and by the way, I'm starting to get addicted to these stories, fables, myths, monsters, and mayhem(s?). I have bookmarked this page.

  2. I want them....I want ALL of the Hyper Kitchens!