KINO LORBER UHD AND BLU RAY RELEASE: Touch of Evil (1958)

Universal-International wanted to adapt Whit Masterson’s novel Badge of Evil and hired Charlton Heston as the star, Albert Zugsmith as the producer and Paul Monash as the writer.

Heston asked that Orson Welles direct the movie. He joined the project and rewrote the script, appears in the movie and directed the film. He also asked that the actors be part of the process, with Janet Leigh saying, “We rewrote most of the dialogue, all of us, which was also unusual, and Mr. Welles always wanted our input. It was a collective effort, and there was such a surge of participation, of creativity, of energy. You could feel the pulse growing as we rehearsed. You felt you were inventing something as you went along. Mr. Welles wanted to seize every moment. He didn’t want one bland moment. He made you feel you were involved in a wonderful event that was happening before your eyes.”

Leigh’s agent initially rejected the low salary offered without even consulting the actress. Welles sent her a personal letter about how much he looked forward to working together. Leigh told her agent that being part of a movie directed by Welles was more important than any money.

Welles also added the racism in the storyline — Americans racist toward Mexicans, which as you can assume wasn’t popular — and shift in the narrative point of view. He also was very involved in the editing of the movie, working with Edward Curtiss until creative differences caused the editor to be replaced by Virgil Vogel. The film was finished by Aaron Stell with Universal locking Welles out, at which point he left to make Don Quixote. Welles was so shocked by the new cut that he wrote a memo explaining how he would edit the film.

Universal cut fifteen more minutes and ordered reshoots that would be directed by Harry Keller.  Heston and Leigh were contractually obligated to be in these new scenes, including one that had a stand-in play Welles’ character. Heston said, “I have done worse work in the movies than this day’s retakes, but I don’t remember feeling worse.”

After eeing a second cut of his film, with scenes he never shot, Welles tried one more time to save the movie with a 58-page note where he outlined how he saw the film working. The studio demanded that Welles attend a dialogue re-record. He refused.

The film that was released was not the film Welles wanted. It really wasn’t the movie anyone wanted. In 1976, UCLA film studies professor Robert Epstein discovered the preview cut in the Universal archives. This 108-minute edit of the film was as close to Welles vision as had ever been seen by the public. The film was re-edited in 1998 using Welles’ 58-page memo.

What emerged with the re-edits was a movie that was way better than past contemporary reviews would suggest. That said, even the original version won the top two awards at the 1958 Brussels World Film Festival, an event Universal didn’t even want to screen the film at. The judges at that event were Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, who made Breathless and The 400 Blows shortly after.

The movie begins with a time bomb killing Rudy Linnekar and his girlfriend Zita (Joi Lansing), a crime investigated by Mexican special prosecutor Miguel Vargas (Heston), who is on a honeymoon with his American wife Susie (Leigh). He’s soon joined by Captain Hank Quinlan (Welles) and Sergeant Pete Menzies (Joseph Calleia), who interrogate — and plant evidence — on a man named Sanchez. Vargas suspects that the older policemen have done this before and starts looking into their past.

This puts the two lawmen against one another, with the stress of the battle finding Quinlan starting to drink after more than a decade sober and using the very criminal he’s been investigating, Uncle Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff), to not only assault Susie but to make it look like she’s using drugs and killed the crime lord.

Welles pushed each actor to doing things beyond what they did before, such as having Dennis Weaver be the opposite of his Gunsmoke character, as well as bringing in friends for small parts, including Marlene Dietrich, Joseph Cotton and Mercedes McCambridge, who has the movie’s most terrifying line, as the gang surrounds the helpless Susie: “I wanna watch.”

Touch of Evil may have taken years to be recognized — Welles originally hated the film’s title but eventually liked it — but now it’s a known classic.

Kino Lorber’s blu ray release of Touch of Evil has brand new 4K restorations of the theatrical (with one commentary track by Tim Lucas and another by F.X. Feeney), reconstruction (with one commentary track by Imogen Sara Smith and another with Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and reconstruction Producer Rick Schmidlin) and preview cuts (with commentary by Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore) of the movie. There are also two featurettes, Evil Lost and Found and Bringing Evil to Life, plus the trailer. You can purchase it from Kino Lorber.

The UHD version has all of the same features as the blu ray as well as Dolby Vision HDR versions of the three cuts of the movie. You can also purchase it from Kino Lorber.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: The Scare Film Archives Volume 1: Drug Stories!

Something Weird has made out lives so much richer, saving the strange, the smutty, the scary and everything in between. Working with the American Genre Film Archives, they created this mixtape of sheer lunacy which adds up the scare films of the past. You’ll never do drugs again until the next time to do drugs.

This blu ray has the following movies, all uncut and in 2K:

Beyond LSD (1967): This movie astounded me because instead of telling parents that their kids are maniacs, it tells them to listen to them because they’re going through some things. How is this even real?

Director Paul Burnford mainly made shorts and documentary films, like 1944’s Nostradamus IV and the 1943 blood transfusion ten-minute epic Brothers in Blood. He also directed the first movie in the Rusty series and an entry in the A Crime Does Not Pay series, Dark Shadows, which is about a psychiatrist matching wits with a killer.

In short — it’s less about drugs and more about how to treat your kids. It’s still relevant today.

The Bottle and the Throttle (1961, 1968): Narrated by Timothy Farrell, who was one of the two narrators and the psychiatrist in Glen or Glenda, as well Girl Gang, Pin-Down GirlDance Hall RacketTest Tube BabiesThe Violent YearsJail Bait and many more. He was also a bailiff for the Los Angeles Marshal’s Department when he was acting in movies like Paris After Midnight, which was raided by the Los Angeles Vice Squad during filming.

A bunch of kids a drinking beach beers — Budweiser, Schlitz and Hamm’s — and Bill has had one too many. He ends up driving home and killing a child and breaking the back of her mother. Was it worth it?

Do you remember that wheel of how many drinks you had and how long until you sober up back in driver’s ed or health class? Man, I used to think of that all the time and here I am, now trying to gauge edibles which are magical and unpredictable lunacy when compared to whiskey.

The major difference between the 1961 and 1968 films is that the former is made with the help of the Culver City Police Department and the Culver City Unified School District while the latter is made with the West Covina Police Department. I’d like to think these organizations were scammed and paid twice for one movie.

“The little girl died on the way to the hospital and the mother will probably never walk again. No matter how your trial comes out, you’ll always have to live with those facts, won’t you Bill. A child dead. A mother crippled. Not a pleasant future to face at the age of 18.”

Pure nihilism.

Sidney Davis Productions also made The DropoutBoys Beware (an anti-homosexual scare movie), the Ib Melchior-directed — yes, the guy who wrote Death Race 2000 and directed The Angry Red Planet — Keep Off the GrassSkateboard Sense and LSD: Trip or Trap!

Curious Alice (1971): Dave Dixon, the Culture Czar, was the lead DJ of the legendary “Air Aces” on Detroit’s rock station WABX and the first person to play Sabbath, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and The Doors in the Motor City. Beyond co-writing Peter, Paul and Mary’s “I Dig Rock & Roll Music,” he co-wrote this animated film that explains drugs through Alice In Wonderland which is totally right on with the kids and four years after Jefferson Airplane did the same thing in “White Rabbit.”

The art in this movie is mind-boggling, however, and you’ll be entranced as Alice learns about LSD from the Mad Hatter, speed from the March Hare, heroin from the King of Hearts and barbituates from the Dormouse.

Made by the National Institute of Mental Health in 1971 and meant for use with ten-year-old students, if I had seen this before my teen years I would have done all the drugs in high school. The National Coordinating Council on Drug Education agreed, writing that viewers “may be intrigued by the fantasy world of drugs” after watching it.

The Distant Drummer (1970): A short-lived series of four 22-minute American documentary films that warned the kids about drugs, these were all directed by William Templeton (The Fallen Idol) and written by Don Peterson.

The first two movies in this series, A Movable Scene and A Movable Feast, were narrated by Robert Mitchum, who served 43 days at a California prison farm for possession of marijuana in 1948, a conviction that was overturned in 1951.

Here’s just a sample of Mitchum’s speech: “Thousands of snapshots on police station walls remain the only link between many of America’s most affluent families and the children who embodied their great expectations. Nearly everyone in the hippie community smokes marijuana — whether they call it pot, grass, hemp, gage, joint or mary jane — the marijuana is the basic background for the shared drug experience. The experience is shared to such an extent that roach pipes are always in demand — a roach is a marijuana butt and it requires some form of holder for those last few drags. The new generation, whether they are runaways or rebels-in-residence, use marijuana as a symbol of discontent with the basic values of the establishment. For some, there exists a social imperative beyond flaunting society’s rules — for these adventurers the mind-expanding drugs open a window on a whole new frontier…”

The other two parts, Bridge from No Place and Flowers of Darkness, were narrated by Rod Steiger and Paul Newman.

Drugs, Drinking and Driving (1971): Herbert Moskowitz is now here to explain why you should never mix the three things in the title. I love that this movie has no issues with using the Mission: Impossible theme over and over and over, flaunting copyright law with each successive refrain.

This also seems pre-Jackass with a stunt where two drivers are each given drugs, one amphetamine and one barbituates, and then told to drive for 36 hours straight until they either pass out or wreck their cars.

LSD: Insight or Insanity (1967): “Now, everybody who takes it admits that there’s always the risk of a bad trip, a bummer, a freak-out, even a flip-out. But, why be lame, baby? Give yourself a real kick. Yes, a kick in the head!”

That’s Sal Mineo talking in this Max Miller-directed (the same dude who made the Sonny Bono anti-drug movie Marijuana) film which explains what LSD is, how it’s made and when people take it they jump in front of cars and take leaps off cliffs like Diane Linkletter out of the windows of the Shoreham Towers, blamed on LSD even if the last person who saw her alive — Edward Dunston — may have also was the last person to see actress Carol Wayne alive. Then again, both Dunstons could be different people and for some other reason, people seem to confuse them with David E. Durston, the man who taught us that Satan was an acidhead in I Drink Your Blood.

See, I may make some detours, but I always get you back on the road.

This ends with a Russian Roulette freakout and Mineo singing over the closing credits, which inform us that everyone in this movie was not an actor. You won’t be surprised.

LSD 25 (1967): Directed by David Parker and written by Hank Harrison — the father of Courtney Love — this movie is narrated by an LSD tab which proves that the creators of this may very well be getting high on their own supply.

“Today, you’re high. Tomorrow, you’re dead.”

Yes, LSD starts all happy explaining all the good things it does and by the end, your fingerprints can’t get out of any police database.

So go ahead and take that sugar cube. You’ll learn all the secrets of the infinite and then, you know, you won’t be able to tell anyone.

Because you’ll be dead.

Narcotics the Decision: Goofballs and Tea (1958): Written by Pittsburgh native Roger Emerson Garris, who was the story editor for the Sherlock Holmes TV series, this police training film is all about barbituates and marijuana. Yes, people once called drugs these words.

Narrated by Art Gilmore, who was on Dragnet and voiced the radio announcer on The Waltons, this movie lets kids know that it starts with sneaking their parent’s booze and ends up with you in jail, dead or worse. Avoid weed, avoid malt shops, avoid everything.

None for the Road (1957): Margaret Travis wrote 83 shorts that we know of, movies like The Other Fellow’s FeelingsHealth: Your Clothing and Rowan and Martin on the Driveway One Fine Day, an industrial film for Phillips 66 Petroleum where the future Laugh-In stars run a gas station. This movie, too.

But the director? That’s Herk Harvey, who made around four hundred or more industrial films like Shake Hands with Danger. And one very important movie, Carnival of Souls.

Three men all use alcohol in different ways: not at all, a little and too much. They’re like the lab rats that we later see injected with alcohol, which sounds like a good way to spend a weekend. But wow, we’ve been warning people about drunk driving for 65 years and not everyone listens.

The Trip Back (1970): It’s no accident that an episode of Strangers With Candy was titled “The Trip Back.” Jerri Blank on that show is literally the star of this movie, Florrie Fisher, played for comic effect.

Fisher was married four times by the time she filmed this speech, first an arranged marriage, then to a pimp, then another drug addict and finally to a man she met via the mail. She credited her recovery to Synanon, which was originally established as a drug rehabilitation program and became one of the most dangerous and violent cults America had ever seen.

Wait, what?

Founded by Charles E. “Chuck” Dederich Sr., Synanon — a mix of togetherness (“syn”) with the unknown (“anon”) — was an alternative community centered on group truth-telling sessions called the “Synanon Game”, a form of attack therapy during which participants humiliated one another and exposed each other’s innermost weaknesses. There are theories that Dedereich was given LSD by Dr. Keith S. Dittman and Dr. Sidney Cohen, as well as encouraged to start Synanon as part of the CIA MK Ultra program.

Headquarted in a former beachfront hotel in Santa Monica called the Club Casa del Mar, women who joined Synanon had to shave their heads. Men were given forced vasectomies. Pregnant women were forced to abort their babies. Married couples were broken up and had to take new partners as the group became the Church of Synanon.

After Synanon’s transition into an alternate society in 1968, the game became a 72-hour ordeal for most members. The program of rehabilitation went from two years to a lifetime rehabilitation program, as they now preached that addicts would never truly be well enough to return to society.

Throughout this period, San Francisco area media covered the adult and child abuse caused by the church, but were often sued for libel by Synanon’s lawyers. If all of this sounds like Scientology, well…there was a group within the group called the Imperial Marines authorized to beat members into oblivion.

When NBC started reporting on the church in the late 70s, executives received hundreds of threats and Paul Morantz, a lawyer who had helped members escape, had a de-rattled rattlesnake placed in his mailbox. It bit him and put him in the hospital. A police search found a tape of Dederich speaking about Morantz, saying: “We’re not going to mess with the old-time, turn-the-other-cheek religious postures. Our religious posture is: Don’t mess with us. You can get killed dead, literally dead/ These are real threats. They are draining life’s blood from us, and expecting us to play by their silly rules. We will make the rules. I see nothing frightening about it. I am quite willing to break some lawyer’s legs, and next break his wife’s legs, and threaten to cut their child’s arm off. That is the end of that lawyer. That is a very satisfactory, humane way of transmitting information. I really do want an ear in a glass of alcohol on my desk.”

The teachings of Synanon influenced groups like CEDU, Daytop Village (the very place Nancy Reagan visited and became aware of the drug problem, which led to Just Say No), Phoenix House and those boot camps that always show up on daytime talk shows.

Back to Florrie Fisher.

An interview with David Susskind led to her appearing on The Mike Douglas Show, speaking at schools and an autobiography, The Lonely Trip Back. This film captures her speaking at a New York City high school, barraging the audience with a rambling dissertation on turning tricks, six of her marijuana friends all dying in the chair, jailhouse sapphic antics and shouting things like “I now know that I can’t smoke one stick of pot! I can’t take one snort of horse! I can’t take one needle of cocaine because I am an addictive personality! And that’s all I need is one of anything. Ya know I need one dress. If I happen to like this dress in tan, I buy the same dress in green and black and pink. This is the type of personality I am!”

Despite how horrible Synanon was for some, it worked for Florrie. Sadly, she died during the lecture tour she’s on in this movie due to liver cancer and kidney failure.

This movie is totally worth the price of this entire blu ray.

Users Are Losers (1971): Think drugs are for teens? This kid is saving up his milk money to pay for his habit, doing odd jobs and being incredibly thrifty just to get some marijuana. It made me think, parents are always on kids for throwing their money away, but this kid knows what he wants, works hard for it and then is selfless and shares what he gets with his friends.

Some kids also find one of their friends dead on a mattress and some young narc says, “If you blow pot, you’re blowing your future.” Get off my TV, kid.

Plus, you also get DRUG STORIES! NARCOTIC NIGHTMARES AND HALLUCINOGENIC HELLRIDES, a full-length mixtape from the AGFA team.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go blow some pot. Get toasty toast. Go clambaking. Fly Mexican Airlines. Run within an endless field. Walk the green ducks. Roll into the Backwoods. Be a ninja. Do some chiefing at the Rooney statue.

You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 13: The Woman Eater (1958)

At the Explorers’ Club in London — yes, it’s all rich white dudes — Dr. Moran (George Coulouris) tells everyone that he’s going to the Amazon to get “a miracle-working JuJu that can bring the dead back to life.” While there, he watches Marpessa Dawn, a year removed from being in Black Orpheus — get eaten by a tree. Then he gets jungle fever and it takes five years for him to recover.

Dr. Moran has brought the tree and the drummer who controls it, Tanga (Jimmy Vaughan), to keep on working on bringing life to death, which starts with feeding Susan Curtis to the tree. I’m amused that Sara Leighton, who played the role, became a famous lady of British society known for her portrait painting.

Meanwhile, Sally Norton (Vera Day) is working at a sideshow dancing the hula-hula, because Hawaii was all mondo to British people in the late 50s. A local favorite named Jack Venner (Peter Wayn) ends up getting her fired and then hired by Moran, who must love Tanya Donelly because he can’t stop feeding that tree. And he starts falling for Sally, even strangling the woman who has loved him nearly forever, Margaret Santor (Joyce Gregg), all so she can start working in his lab.

The end of this movie gets all nihilist, as the drummer refuses to teach the secret of how to keep the brain alive after death and Moran realizes he loved Margaret and tries to bring her back to life, only to have her as a brainless zombie. Tanga tries to feed Sally to the tree, Moran sets it on fire and then gets killed by the drummer’s knife before Tanga kneels before the tree and lets it set him on fire.

What!?!

Director Charles Saunders and writer Brandon Fleming stopped making movies after 1963. That’s a shame because this movie is just…something.

You can watch this on Tubi.

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

A spiritual sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man — with a different cast — this movie starts with Joyce Manning believing that her gigantic brother Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning survived his fall from Hoover Dam in the last movie.

He does live, except that his face is disfigured and he’s lost his mind as it tries to deal with the traumatic fall that he took. This facial damage was because there was a new star — and also a stagehand on the film — Dean Parkin and this would disguise the fact that they changed up who would play the lead. Stranger still, the dream sequence in the movie shows original actor Glenn Lanagan.

War of the Colossal Beast was produced, directed and written by Bert I. Gordon — the king of these kinds of movies — and co-produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff. The last scene of the movie was shot in color and then made into black and white to match the rest of the film.

You can watch this on Tubi.

 

The Crawling Eye (1958)

Known as The Trollenberg Terror in England, where it was made, The Crawling Eye has exactly what you want to see: a giant eyeball. If we didn’t have this, we wouldn’t have The Fog, as this movie directly inspired John Carpenter. See, great things can come out of a movie whose special effects consist of cotton balls stapled to mountain photography.

Originally a six-episode TV miniseries, this was remade with American Forest Tucker placed into the lead so that audiences in the states would have someone to root for. Or maybe they’d be like me, excited to see gigantic eyeballs come rolling along at the camera.

He plays UN troubleshooter Alan Brooks, who has traveled to the Swiss mountain of Trollenberg to learn why the heads of climbers are being torn off their body and why a mysterious cloud is seen in the wake of the bloody destruction.

Do you know how you defeat a giant eyeball? A Molotov cocktail. Horror movies make you smart, right?

Santo vs. the Evil Brain (1958)

Five years before this movie was released, wrestler and actor Fernando Osés asked Santo to be in a movie with him. Santo had already turned down Rene Cardona’s El Enmascarado de Plata as he wanted to strictly be a wrestler and thought that the films would fail. Somehow, Oses was able to get the Mexican wrestling star to play his sidekick — Osés plays a masked cop named El Icognito — in this film and Santo contra Los Hombres Infernales. Of course, that wasn’t the title of either film as Santo was meant to just be the second banana. But after Santo contra Los Zombis became a success in 1962, both of these movies were rushed back out with Santo’s name in the title.

Strangely enough, both were filmed in Cuba with production ending literally the exact day before Fidel Castro entered Havana and declared that the revolution was a success. This seems like William Castle kayfabe BS, but who are we to deny Santo (or El Dandy, for that matter).

In the first fight of his film career, Santo loses to a trio of crooks who beat him down to the point that an evil doctor named Doctor Campos brainwashes the man in the silver mask and gets him to commit crimes. Luckily, El Icognito saves Santo, who is called El Enmascarado throughout the movie. By the end, Santo gets his revenge and El Icognito gets a bullet, even if he comes back for Santo contra Los Hombres Infernales.

This film does not fit into the crazed form of the later Santo films, but trust me, things will get much more interesting.

Also: Do not be confused with 1961’s Santo vs. the Diabolical Brain.

Giants and Toys (1958)

This film is all about the war over caramel sales, with the hunt for a new female mascot to get the public to keep buying candy. One company, World, hires a working class girl with bad teeth, dresses her up in a spacesuit and hopes to win the battle. She ends up becoming a popular idol singer and dancer before she leaves the candy world behind. Meanwhile, the ad man who discovered her spits up blood and makes his assistant sleep with other company’s advertising ladies. Anything goes, because there is a smaller and smaller share left after the market is increasingly dominated by imported U.S. candy.

You know, I’ve worked in advertising my entire life and this movie really feels like something I’ve lived through. This movie’s maverick director Yasuzô Masumura bucked the norm of Japanese society and made films that promoted the value of the individual. He was also the first Japanese filmmaker to study at Italy’s Centro Sperimentale Di Cinematografia, which led him to say, “In Japanese society, which is essentially regimented, freedom and the individual do not exist. The theme of Japanese film is the emotions of the Japanese people, who have no choice but to live according to the norms of that society. After experiencing Europe for two years, I wanted to portray the type of beautifully vital, strong people I came to know there.”

In case you thought all that Daiei Film made was Gamera, Zatoichi and Yokai Monsters, remember that this film — and JokyoRashomon and Ugetsu were all made at this studio.

You can watch Giants and Toys on the Arrow Player. ARROW is available in the US, Canada and the UK on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

Head over to ARROW to start your 30 day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly.

You can also get this on blu ray from Arrow. That release features trailers and new audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar Irene González-López, a newly filmed introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns and a visual essay by Asian cinema scholar Earl Jackson.

Repost: Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

Editor’s Note: This review previously ran as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror tribute month on November, 25 2019. It also ran on November 22, 2020, as part of our Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion tribute month. It’s time to bring it back as part of our “Bernard Kowalski Week” of reviews in tribute to his directing career. Be sure to click the “Bernard L. Kowalski” tag at the bottom of this review to populate all of his films we reviewed this week into one easy-to-reference list.

It’s hard to believe this forgotten—and to be honest, not very good—62-minute Roger Corman quickie shot in 1958 for a mere $68,000 over the course of seven days wound up in WGA arbitration, but it did: Writer Martin Varno disputed the writing credit given to Roger’s brother, Gene. Even harder to believe: Harold Jacob Smith, who worked on the film’s rewrites/dialogue doctoring, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Defiant Ones (1958). But, hey, look at what happened to James Cameron (Galaxy of Terror) and Ron Howard (Grand Theft Auto). (By the way: Don’t forget to read my “October 2019 Scarecrow Challenge” review of Ice Cream Man starring Ron’s brother, Clint.)

Damn this 27th galaxy to hell!

Starting out as a screenplay “Creature from Galaxy 27” and influenced by the Howard Hawks box-office smash, The Thing from Another World (1951), Night of the Blood Beast tells the story of the return of the first deep space astronaut—implanted with an alien embryo. Although astronaut John Corcoran’s body seems “dead,” it maintains a blood pressure and harbors strange, alien seahorse-like cells his blood stream that grow into a lizard-like fetus. Then the film goes off into a weird, homosexual subtext with the alien and Corcoran “protecting” each other.

Ah, a human male as a walking alien-baby incubator? I’ve seen this before. Well, besides the homosexual subtext, it does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Well, doesn’t it Dan O’Bannon?

Sadly, while Night of the Blood Beast is clearly an Alien antecedent, the film—because of its low-budget quality further stymied by the amateurish acting of TV series bit-players—goes unmentioned alongside the more formidable Alien precursors of Forbidden Planet, It! The Terror of Beyond Space, Queen of Blood, and, especially, Mario Bava’s Planet of Vampires. Well, doesn’t it, Dan O’ Bannon?

During its initial success, literary critics noted Alien’s similarities to the Agatha Christie tale, And Then There Were None (1939), and the short stories “Discord in Scarlet” and “The Black Destroyer” in A.E van Vogt’s collection, The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950), which could have possibly influenced Martin Varno’s storytelling. It certainly did influence—although he flat out denied it—O’ Bannon’s storytelling: so much so that 20th Century Fox settled with van Vogt out of court.

Speaking of familiar: B&S readers are familiar with Corman’s house of recycling: Stunt footage from Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto turned up in several of his ‘70s hicksploitation films . . . and how many times did we see Battle Beyond the Stars SFX shots reused? Thus, you’ve seen Night of the Blood Beast’s alien costume before: In Teenage Caveman (1958), which wrapped two weeks before Blood Beast began shooting. Some film reviewers describe it as “a bear crossed with a moldy parrot”—and they’re right! Is the costume as bad as Richard “Jaws” Kiel’s The Solarite—with the light bulb eyes—in Phantom Planet (1961)? Yep. And since when does an alien, only by monitoring Earth’s radio broadcasts, develop a dialect worthy of a Royal Shakespearean Company actor? Book this parrot for the CBS Evening News. He should be holding a skull and crying out for Desdemona. “The parrot is ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille!”

If you need more fun-filled, Roger Corman sci-fi tomfoolery, check out Night of the Blood Beast’s John Baer in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and Ed Nelson in Attack of the Crab Monster (1957).

If you want to go deep into the Alien cottage “homage” industry with B&S Movies, then surf on over to Ten Movies that Rip-off Alien and A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip-offs All at Once.

It freaks me out that I’ve seen all these movies. I don’t know if that makes me cool or just a very sad excuse for a human being. Is my admitting that a trope or a cliche?

Hot Car Girl (1958)

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our first review in our three-day “Bernard Kowalski Week” tribute that takes us from 1959 to 1989. If you don’t know his film work, you know his TV work. Kowalski directed multiple episodes of the hit ’80s series Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I., Jake and the Fatman, and the epic (it was for me), Airwolf. Here’s his first movie for Roger Corman.

Oh, be sure to click that “Bernard L. Kowalksi” tag and the end of all of the reviews this week to popular the reviews in one easy-to-use list. Let’s get day one started, shall we!


“She’s hell on wheels . . . and up for any thrill!”

Seems Mr. Screenwriter dipped the pen into the Shakespearian ink; for this is Othello with hot rods.

Duke (Richard Bakalyan; you’ve seen him across his 150 TV credits into the early ’90s) and Freddie (John Brinkley, who’s traveled this rockin’ road before in Hot Rod Rumble, Teenage Doll, and T-Bird Gang) finance their hot roddin’ lifestyle by stealin’ cars n’ strippin’ auto parts for a fence. When they, along with Duke’s girl, Peg (June Kenney, also of Teenage Doll, but also of 1959’s Attack of the Puppet People and Roger Corman’s Sorority Girl), are goaded into a road race by the resident bad-girl, Janice (Jana Lund, also of High School Hellcats with Yvonne Lime, Elvis Presley’s Loving You, and the rock flick classic, Don’t Knock the Rock . . . but since this B&S About Movies: it’s all about Frankenstein 1970 for our Lundness), a motorcycle cop dies. Let the frames and double crosses, blackmailing and betrayals begin, Desdemona.

Oh, almost forgot: Bruno VeSota is in this as Joe Dobbie (seriously). What ’50s and ’60s film wasn’t the Big V in? Yep, there he is in Attack of the Giant Leeches, A Bucket of Blood, and The Wasp Woman . . . but also of the early rock flicks Daddy-O, Rock All Night, and Carnival Rock. It is actors like you that gives our lives at B&S meaning, Mr. VeSota. We bow to you, sir.

And it’s all brought to you by a man whose directing career we’re tributing this week: Bernard Kowalski, who followed this up with Night of the Blood Beast, then his third film, Attack of the Giant Leeches. Before going into business with Roger Corman, Kowalski got in start in television, directing episodes of the ’50s westerns Frontier and Broken Arrow, along with the David Janssen-starring cop drama, Richard Diamond: Private Detective, and the military drama, The Silent Service. Has anyone ever encountered his lost TV Movie pilot for the Peter Graves-starring Las Vegas Beat (1961)? We’d love to see it. You know us and TV Movies around here.

We previously featured Hot Car Girl as part of our weekly “Drive-In Friday” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Giant from the Unknown (1958)

You may have seen this movie as Giant from Devil’s Crag and The Diablo Giant. It’s directed by Richard E. Cunha, who also directed She Demons, Missile to the Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. It tells a story that started way before it became a big deal in the 70s — cattle mutation by alien forces!

It stars Buddy Baer — the man who nearly beat Joe Lewis and the brother of Max Bear — as the gigantic Vargas. And even better, it has makeup by Jack Pierce, the same man who did the effects for the Universal Monsters.

Just as interesting in light of UFO theories that also became more popular years later, the alien creatures in the film are thought to be demons or gods by the Native Americans that have encountered them for centuries.

You can watch this on Tubi.