While most of the current Infinity Entertainment/Retromedia’s multi-packs have been pretty much limited to one particular genre (i.e. MUSCLE MADNESS), their latest bargain-priced set, MAD MONSTER RALLY, gives you a nice mixture of science fiction and horror. The only common denominator here is that these movies are generally considered to be “bad.” Well, I won’t lie to you -- some of them are. Some of these flicks are downright awful. And yet, there are a select few in this set that I think should be “elevated” from their present depths at the bottom of the B-Movie chain.
MAD MONSTER RALLY contains three individual double or triple feature DVDs. We’ll start with the SCI-FI TRASH-O-RAMA, since, well, I feel like starting with that one. The first title on this disc is Larry Buchanan’s CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION (1967). One of three uncredited Roger Corman remakes the late great Texas schlock pioneer made for AIP-TV, CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION takes all that was holy and just from THE SHE-CREATURE (1956) and reduces it to a pile of dried-out seaweed. If you’ve seen THE SHE-CREATURE before, you really don’t need to know the plot here -- especially considering it’s basically the same damn thing -- but, just for the sake of sounding all and official and stuff, I’ll give it to you anyway. Dr. Basso, a wrinkled old stage hypnotist (played by a wrinkled old Les Tremayne, looking a lot like Dr. Frasier Crane’s dad, Marty) is able to turn his assistant (Pat Delaney) into a ridiculous looking ping-pong-ball-eyed “monster,” which we are supposed to believe was one of her past life forms. Sensing he can finally escape the dreary depressing life of sideshow hypnotism, Basso “predicts” a series of murders and has the creature carry them out. Buchanan regular Tony Houston (CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE, MARS NEEDS WOMEN) takes the writing credit for this remake under the name Enrique Touceda.
The next feature on the SCI-FI TRASH-O-RAMA is not a feature, but rather a short subject. Long before the fellers over at Sunn Classics became obsessed with unidentified flying objects, the mini-doc THE FLYING SAUCER MYSTERY took a look at the then-new phenomenon. The short interviews include some brass from the military, as well as several eye-witnesses, writers, scientists, etc. Some of the onscreen faces (Frank Scully, August Roberts) are “introduced” by an unknown narrator, while several of the military personnel go unnamed (as did the ones behind the making of this). Footage of “real” UFOs are shown along with some interviewees. This early 1950s oddity makes no mention of Roswell, interestingly enough.
The last of SCI-FI TRASH-O-RAMA’s selections is UFO: TARGET EARTH (1974), a hallucinogenic nightmare full of swirly colors made by now-primitive video equipment.
The next disc, MORELLA’S BLOOD VISION, begins with a personal favorite. Del Tenney’s ZOMBIES (1964), better known as I EAT YOUR SKIN, is a wacky mixture of just about everything the 1960s had to offer. In it, a swingin’ novelist by the name of Tom Harris (William Joyce) journeys down to the Caribbean with his friend/agent (a boozer) and his friend/agent’s wife (also a boozer, but with two small rat-dogs and an annoying dubbed voice). There, they run afoul of an evil voodoo priest and his loyal crusty zombies that attack with machetes and dynamite. It’s all set to a hip slightly James Bond-ish 1960s soundtrack (which should be released on CD, dammit). Speaking of 007, note that our hero stays in the same famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami where Sean Connery met GOLDFINGER the same year. So, let’s tally this one up, kids: a swingin’ bachelor hero…booze, booze, and more booze…gorgeous bikini babes…a killer 1960s score…machete-wielding zombies…native chicks shaking their booties…and the same writer/director as THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH -- what is there not to like about ZOMBIES?
No collection of cheapo horror flicks would be complete without a submission from the Philippines. BLOOD SEEKERS (aka BLOOD THIRST) stars Robert Winston as Adam Rourke -- another suave, swingin’ 1960s bachelor-type fellow. Adam is a sex-crimes specialist from the Big Apple, and has come to the Philippines to help his detective friend Manilla (the great Vic Diaz, VAMPIRE HOOKERS) get to the bottom of series of bizarre murders. A weird looking creature gives the movie a very OUTER LIMITS feel to it and is actually rather fun if pre-Eddie Romero Filipino horror is your bag. This one was actually shot in 1965, but released Stateside six years later -- and, by then, the classier look of the 1960s had been pushed aside in favor of the white trash style that the 1970s is so well known for today. Also with the 1970s, color films became the norm at drive-ins -- and so U.S. distributor Chevron Pictures (with Techron?) tinted the movie blue, sepia, yellow, etc.
BLOOD STALKERS (1978), also known as THE NIGHT DANIEL DIED, features an all-grown up Kenny Miller (of I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF fame) as one of several city-folk that make the mistake of ignoring a local yokel’s warning about venturing into the South. Mike (Jerry Albert) is dead-set on returning to the cabin where he grew up in the Florida Everglades, and he even cons his wife (Toni Crabtree) and friends (Ken Miller and Celea Ann Cole) to go along with him. Arriving at the cabin, Mike and pals soon find themselves the victims of the titular characters. There’s a lot of borrowing from DELIVERANCE and STRAW DOGS here, folks -- but it’s interesting nonetheless. Note that one of the backwoods characters is British. To say that the years had been kind to Ken Miller would be an insult to time: the poor guy looks and sounds just the same in this as he did 20 years before. Normally, that would be a good thing, but with his impish face and high-pitched voice, well…
The third and final disc in this box set is entitled MORELLA’S ALL-NITE SPOOKTACULAR, which begins with Rick Sloane’s HOBGOBLINS (1988). Naturally, the less said about this movie, the better. And when it comes to finding something positive to say about this shameful, sleazy, no-budget GREMLINS rip-off, most people are at a true loss for words. The HOBGOBLINS in question are barely animate puppets that grant your deepest darkest desires and subsequently kill you. When a hapless idiot accidentally frees the critters from their confines in a film vault (?), he and his equally-hapless and more-idiotic friends are terrorized by the creatures, leading to a climax in Club Scum (where future voice actor extraordinaire Daran Norris awaits). MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 parodied this one to hell and back (and deservedly so) -- although the MST3K exposure may have actually inspired Sloane to make his sequel, HOBGOBLINS 2 (due out on video later this year from Shout! Factory).
HOUSE OF BLOOD (1972) is a re-titling of HOUSE OF TERROR. In it, nurse Jennifer Bishop is hired by a Hal Linden impersonator to take care of his ill and cranky wife (Jacquelyn Hyde). When Bishop’s ex-boyfriend (Arell Blanton), recently released from prison, appears to take his woman back, he cooks up a scheme so they can make off with the dough. Hyde also plays the dying woman’s sister and BLOOD FEAST star Bill Kerwin is in there, too.
Lastly, we come to THE CREMATORS (1972), the story of giant alien-made balls of fire that roll around the land and sea alike, burning people up into ashes. Hard to believe, but this one was adapted (from sci/fi writer Julian May’s first published story, The Dune Roller) and directed by Harry Essex, who also wrote CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. Canadian actress Maria De Aragon (who later played Greedo in the original STAR WARS -- and most definitely did not shoot first!) co-stars with a bunch of mostly unknowns in this Roger Corman-produced “epic.”
Special features are pretty limited with these titles. The first sign of an extra is on SCI-FI TRASH-O-RAMA is a collection of three vintage sci-fi toys from the 1950s and 1960s (The Great Garloo, Robot Commando, and King Zor). ZOMBIES, BLOOD SEEKERS (both on the MORELLA’S BLOOD VISION disc), and all three movies on the MORELLA’S ALL-NITE SPOOKTACULAR disc feature optional “Graveyard Theater” introductions by busty ghost hostess Morella (aka Kimberly A. Ray, wife of Fred Olen Ray, filmmaker and head of Retromedia). HOBGOBLINS and THE CREMATORS also include the intros with Fred and Kim from their prior Retromedia releases. The former two titles also come complete with their respective trailers (HOBGOBLINS is narrated by the late Don LaFontaine). THE CREMATORS also includes an interview with star Maria De Aragon (this release is also carried over from the older DVD).
Most of the movies here are presented in a full frame format. A few of them appear to be from VHS sources (some of the footage in CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION, too), while others are probably from TV prints, such as HOUSE OF BLOOD (how else can one account for the omission of even the most mild swear words, whereas all of the violence is still intact?).
Out of the lot of them, BLOOD SEEKERS looks the best, which makes me wonder if it isn’t the same print from the Image DVD release (co-billed with BLOOD SUCKERS). The only two titles to be shown in widescreen here are BLOOD STALKERS and ZOMBIES. BLOOD STALKERS has undoubtedly been culled from a rather murky full frame VHS print and the image cropped down to a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen, so there is a lot of lost information on the top and bottom. While it’s exciting to see ZOMBIES in an anamorphic widescreen format, it’s looks like the movie may have been matted over a bit. The image is rather clearer-looking, but it seems a bit “off” to me. There appears to be some more information on the left and right, but the top and bottom look cropped. I’d say the correct ratio of the movie is 1.66 or so. Maybe this is Retromedia’s way of copyrighting, I dunno.
MAD MONSTER RALLY may not have the absolute best gems of B-Moviedom, but with a retail price of $25 (you’ll be able to find it for much cheaper than that if you look around, kids), you can’t go wrong. Besides, where else can you find Del Tenney, Larry Buchanan, HOBGOBLINS, trippy UFO films, generous portions of cleavage, and a Barney Miller impersonator all in one neat package? If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. (Adam Becvar)
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