A Disastrous And Wonderful Film Called Horror Of The Blood Monsters

I knew nothing about The Horror Of The Blood Monsters when I innocently clicked “play” and sat back in my chair. It’s a low budget piece of junk cobbled together from several other low budget pieces of junk like a cut-rate junkenstien, but the sum of all this junk is greater than the individual pieces of junk that constitute the whole. It may be a mess but it’s an endearing mess like a kindergartener’s school play. In fact, many of the production decisions seem as if they were last-minute solutions made by a five-year-old. For instance, large parts of the film were in black and white and when Al Adamson, the director/producer tried to sell the film to drive-ins (his target market) they weren’t showing black and white films anymore, so Al processed the black and white portions of the film turning them into red and white. Again emulating the lack of impulse control indicative of a kindergartener Al decided while he was coloring things why stop at red and white? Al changed some parts to yellow and white, others to blue and white, or pink and white. The movie switches colors every few minutes and then switches to full color and then to stock footage and then to purple until your eyes just want to give up and leave your skull in a huff.

The black and white film clips were originally a Philippine production called Tagani from 1956. The Philippines had a history of producing low budget horror films. I highly recommend The Blood Drinkers by Gerardo de Leon. Adamson liked Tagani so much that he bought the rights to it allowing him to chop it up into little pieces, color it, and generally have his way with it. The stock footage he added included some actual footage from the 1969 moon landing and a clip stolen from a Soviet sci-fi film called The Prehistoric Planet. Then Adamson shot some new material to tie it all together.

Somehow he managed to get John Carradine to star in a few scenes, if you can call sitting in a chair and being grumpy, starring in something. In the film, Carradine is the head scientist but he has a heart attack on route to the planet and so is confined to a chair for the rest of the film. I don’t know what actually happened but it smacks of another kindergarten level fix for some kind of last-minute problem.

Adamson himself makes an appearance in the film. He plays a space vampire stalking the back alleys of a nameless city looking for victims. The film begins as a vampire movie and then becomes a space vampire movie and then a prehistoric planet movie and then a kind of Planet of the Apes thing until it’s just a series of images floating freely across a screen untethered by purpose or meaning.

In the middle of the film, the storyline is interrupted by a completely unrelated plot about a sexually unsatisfied couple and their sex-machine. No, they don’t have James Brown locked in the closet, they have a line of phallic cathode tubes that light up and enhance their lovemaking or their extended hugging sessions as seen in the film. There are also several vulvic racks of holes that surround the bed for some reason. Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow knows. Regardless the film randomly cuts to their bedroom to watch them mush their bodies together. The scenes have absolutely no relation to the rest of the film. I’m thinking Adamson slipped them in to help sell the film because half-hearted simulations of sex sells.

The full-color scenes which were added last are mostly of either mission control or inside the spaceship. Mission control scenes are made up of medium shots and closeups. The mediums shots are a still photograph taken from a science fiction movie I recognize but can’t place. Admunson puts the still up on screen and dubs in sound and sometimes replaces the blank monitor screen in the photo with his own moving images. The close-ups are all shot against black so there is no continuity problem matching a set with the photo, It’s a good thing too because Admsonson keeps cutting back to the still over and over, over again. Admunson may not have had any money, or talent, or skill, or ingenuity, or know-how, or creativity but he didn’t let that stop him. He’s an American success story.

In one scene we watch as a nervous member of the ground crew tries to communicate with the spaceship but she keeps losing the connection. She turns to the guy sitting next to her and unknowingly gives voice to what the audience is thinking, “I feel so helpless just sitting here watching.” Then her male counterpart answers her “I don’t know Valery, all we can do is wait, and hope for the best.” Unfortunately, I think by this point the audience is past hoping for “the best” and is just hoping to make it to the end.

Once the rocket crew has landed on the mysterious planet they find it is identical to earth in every way. They discover that it is inhabited by several different tribes of humans along with a whole bunch of dinosaurs. One of the astronauts exclaims. “It’s like a million years ago!” Um, not exactly. Either Mr. Astronaut missed that day in class or he is a Christian. Either way, the result is the same.

Admunson steals footage from several different films to provide dinosaur imagery. In one clip we see two dinos fighting to death except they are a real gila monster and a poor little baby alligator with a prosthetic spiny sail glued to its back. I’m guessing he was supposed to look like a dimetrodon but with his big baby eyes, he looks like some deranged Margaret Keane painting. Sadly the gila monster makes quick work of him.

There are also crayfish people, bat people, and a race of people with snakes growing out of open sores on their backs, but more terrifying than all of these mutations put together is the mullet tribe marked by their matching haircuts. Everyone fights everyone throughout the movie. The fight choreography is surprisingly good. Some moments look a little too real. I’m not sure what the actors union was like in The Philippines in the 1950s but I hope they had good medical coverage.

The first ten minutes of the film set up the premise that astronauts are being sent into space to find a poison to kill a bunch of invading cosmic vampires back on earth but after the first ten minutes are over we never hear about vampires again. There are many dead end turns and unresolved plot points but it doesn’t get in the way of the entertainment value.

You can buy the Al Adamson box set on Amazon for a mere 449 dollars. You get 32 of his films including such titles as: Black Heat, Black Samurai, Blazing Stewardesses, The Naughty Stewardesses, Blood Of Ghastly Horror, Brain Of Blood, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, Mean Mother, Nurse Sherri, Nurses For Sale, Psycho A-Go-Go, Satan’s Sadists, The Female Bunch, The Fiend With The Electric Brain,, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Adamson made Horror Of The Blood Monsters in 1970 and died in 1994. He was murdered by a construction contractor he had hired to work on his house. The contractor bludgeoned Adamson to death and entombed him in cement, then buried him under the terracotta tiles where his jacuzzi once sat.

Epilogue

I remember back in 1994 when I was in art school, I was in the silkscreen studio and I put my cassette tape of Slim Whitman in the ink spattered boom box. As I started singing along with Indian Love Call I realized I had finally crossed over from listening ironically to this goofy crooner to just plain loving him. It felt confusing at first but I knew the day would come. I can feel such a day approaching in regards to film. Already I would rather watch Horror Of The Blood Monsters twice than sit through Wonder Woman or John Wick once. Horror Of The Blood Monsters is far less predictable, and more visually interesting than whatever Hollywood blockbuster lumbers onto the screen next. I’m sinking deeper into the putrid quicksand of bad cinema and it feels warm and cozy.

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I have an MFA in painting and I’m an art professor but I managed to convince the school to let me teach film. https://twitter.com/Filmofile1

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