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GRISLY MURDER ASIDE, AL ADAMSON’S CINEMATIC OUTPUT LIVES ON AS HIS TRUE LEGACY


While luridly titled horror films – including but not limited to Horror of the Blood Monsters, Blood of Ghastly Horror and Brain of Blood – were Ad- amson’s bread and butter throughout his career, he also dabbled in west- erns (Five Bloody Graves), action thrillers (Doomsday Voyage), biker movies (Satan’s Sadists, Angels’ Wild Women), Nazi biker movies (Hell’s Bloody Devils), softcore skin flicks (The Naughty Stewardesses), and an oddly suc- cessful mashup of blaxploitation and martial arts (Dynamite Brothers, Black Samurai), depending upon shifting market demands.


O, HERE WE ARE, IN AN UNPRECEDENTED BOOM PERIOD WHEN HORROR FILMS ARE SETTING BOX OFFICE RECORDS AND DRAWING RAVES FROM MAINSTREAM CRITICS. Yet, in spite of all the accolades, horror’s most hardcore fans still celebrate our beloved genre’s outcasts and underachievers. Amid all this newfound respectabil- ity, Plan 9 From Outer Space and Troll 2 still do repeat business at rep cinemas, Shudder programs Invasion of the Blood Farmers, and Rue Morgue lets me spill ink on wonky obscurities mere pages away from interviews with Robert Eggers and Clive Barker. David Gregory’s 100-minute documentary Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson covers the prolific writer/ director/producer/occasional actor’s gruesome murder in 1995 but, happily, his catalogue of more than 40 mi- cro-budget features isn’t given short shrift. Al Adamson was part of an unofficial coterie of inde- pendent American filmmakers who churned out horror and sundry utilitarian fodder for drive-ins and grind- houses between the 1960s and mid-’70s. Roger Cor- man would ultimately transcend the scene to become a phenomenally successful category unto himself; Herschell Gordon Lewis would gradually amass a cult following for films whose incompetence was surpassed only by their graphic gore. The rest – including Adam- son, Ted V. Mikels, and Del Tenney – would fall short of genre film immor- tality, but all retain small cult followings today.


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Properly cataloguing Adamson’s filmography can be problematic, since he routinely released multiple versions of the same picture with different titles – in some cases, deconstructing the films to the point of incoher- ence. It’s not that the dodgy practice of reshooting, re-editing, retitling and re-releasing grindhouse fare to pander to current trends was Adamson’s exclusive domain – far from it – but he was one of its more accomplished (or at least insistent) practitioners. When his pulpy crime drama Echo of Ter- ror failed to interest distributors, Adamson shot some additional footage of gyrating dancers and released the film as Psycho A Go-Go; when it tanked, he added John Carradine as a mad doctor and Tommy Kirk as his zombie creation, and Blood of Ghastly Horror was born… and bombed. Adamson was also fond of employing fading stars for marquee value, especially when they were desperate enough to work at bargain-basement rates. He cast Broderick Craw- ford, Yvonne De Carlo, Kent Taylor, forgotten vaude- villians The Ritz Brothers and, in their final sad haze of substance abuse and illness, John Carradine and Lon Chaney Jr. (David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino have gone this route as well, albeit somewhat more successfully, in the process reanimating the stagnant careers of Dennis Hopper, John Travolta, Harvey Keitel, and many more.) Perhaps more notable is the roster of now-renowned cinematographers Adams employed, including László Kovács (Easy Rider, The Last Picture Show), Vilmos Zsigmond, who would later win an Oscar for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Gary Grav- er, who moonlighted with Adamson between gigs with Orson Welles.


Adamson was hardly the re-inventor of any wheels (or reels), but he certainly deserves to be better known for his sizable output of schlocky thrills than for his sad


and senseless death. Let’s hope Blood & Flesh turns things at least partway around.


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