REPOST: Santa Claus vs. the Devil (1959)

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we finish our last week of Mexican films, I’ve decided to bring back perhaps the most frightening one of them all. This is a movie that has obsessed me for years and I hope that you aren’t as damaged by it as I am. It originally ran on December 17, 2017.

Let’s get this out of the way. This is a movie made by maniacs who have nothing less than the goal of decimating your sanity. View this movie at your own peril.

René Cardona — who also brought us Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy — originally crafted this film, which was remixed for American audiences by K. Gordon Murray, known as the “King of the Kiddie Matinee.” Ever wondered why Santo was called Samson in the U.S. dialogue? You can thank Murray, who also provides the near-manic voiceover for this film.

On Christmas Eve, Santa is getting ready for his big night as he always does, by playing his organ while children all over the world sing, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa as he leaves his Toyland castle in space.

If you’re already wondering why anyone would change Santa’s basic character beats, well, buckle up. Have we got some Christmas magic for you.

In Hell, Satan tells Pitch, his main demon, to go to Earth and make kids hate Santa. Why? Who knows — we wouldn’t have a movie otherwise.

Pitch asks five kids to help him enrage Santa Claus. Four of them are complete assholes — three brothers who like to start shit and Billy, the son of rich but absent parents. They break some windows but Pitch fails to talk Lupita, a poor girl, into stealing the doll she wants. An angry Santa watches from space with the help of his magic telescope and children helpers. Remember that part of Santa’s songs?

Santa also has a device that allows him to watch the dreams of children, further creating a police state only dreamed of by elves on shelves and Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Lupita has a dream where adult-sized dancing dolls demand that she learn how to steal.

Then, the three brothers break into Billy’s home and steal all of his gifts. Then, they have the temerity to write to Santa and tell him that they have been good all year, but his voice takes over their minds and informs them that he can see everything.

Let me see if I can process what happens next: Santa is able to get gifts to everyone in the world because of his most trusted henchman, Merlin the Wizard. No, not Ringo Starr from Son of Dracula. No, this friend of Saint Nick gives him sleep powder, a flower that allows him to disappear, a magic key that will open any door on Earth and mechanical reindeer. But oh no — the three evil boys are plotting to enslave Santa. Enslave Santa — that’s how dark this movie is ready to get.

Want to get really dark? One of Santa’s helpers, Pedro, is played by an actor named Cesáreo Quezadas, who was also known by the stage name Pulgarcito, thanks to appearing in the popular film of the same name. This would be like us calling Bela Lugosi Dracula for the rest of his life. He often played plucky orphans, but as he hit puberty, his acting career suffered, leading to him holding up a shoe store in 1971. After some time in jail, he got married and had four kids, but ended up leaving his wife for his secretary, Claudia, and having two kids with her. Those two boys, Gridley and Guillermo, found a video of their father having sex with their stepsister, Mariana. He’s still in jail today, over a decade later.

Remember Lupita? Well, she and her mom pray that she gets a baby doll, but she asks for two — one of which she will give to Baby Jesus, which is kind of like when you ask your parents for money so you can buy them a gift at the Santa shop at school and all they get is a piece of shit covered with glitter or a cheap screwdriver set that you wonder why they never use.

Santa just wants to get gifts to everyone on Earth, but Pitch keeps screwing with him. And Billy? His parents go out to eat and just leave him all alone. Santa helps out there and even has time to give the three bad kids coal after they try and steal his sleigh.

Pitch is finally lucky enough to empty all of Santa’s dream powder and then the jolly old man drops his magic flower and he’s fucked. A dog chases him up a tree and the devil’s majordomo calls the fire department to come — so everyone can see Santa and ruin his magic — but Merlin helps our hero escape and blast the demon with a fire hose.

Don’t worry about Lupita. She gets her doll as Santa goes back to his castle. Whew.

This movie won the Golden Gate Award for Best International Family Film at the 1959 San Francisco International Film Festival. I can only imagine that this was one of the early LSD experiments and not a film festival based on artistic merit.

This movie has so many insane ideas, it’s difficult to summarize them. From learning that demons primarily eat hot coals to the fact that every child that works for Santa must wear a racist costume that denotes their country of origin (all Japanese children wear kimonos, all Americans are cowboys), this is a movie brimming with barely concealed menace.

But here’s what’s really weird — even though Santa has made all of his children codified by country, none of them know anything about the countries they come from. What is happening?

This is a movie that explains how Santa can be everywhere at once: he is from the Fifth Dimension and as we all know from reading Grant Morrison comics, that is the dimension of imagination. Therefore, as a Fifth Dimensional being, Santa is able to transcend the reality of our dimension and do things that would break our minds were we to contemplate them too long — just like I am doing when I write this. I am putting your brain in danger right now by forcing you to reason with the fact that the physical properties that ground us in the Third Dimension can be pushed beyond the infinite. Merry Christmas.

Santa Claus can also feel physical pain when his mechanical manifestations are hit with rocks. This makes even less sense. Why, in a world where Lucifer constantly is trying to murder him, would Santa put himself in such mortal peril?

This is a movie that raises more questions than it does answers. You ask, “Where does Santa come from,” knowing that he comes from the North Pole and are shocked to learn that everything you know — including the very way our universe and its laws are governed — is a lie. This is a movie made to keep children occupied, whether on TV or in the movie houses where it ran yearly for three decades, while parents try to get a merciful break. But a central point of the film is for parents to stop ignoring their children, so any child ignored in such a way will have to feel lost in the maelstrom of emotional pain that this movie wields like a scalpel.

This is what I get for watching Santa Claus vs. the Devil at 4 AM. Pure pain, questions that chatter at my mind and the slowly evolving knowledge that this motion picture could have only been created by the eldritch powers of the Ancient Ones who wait for us Behind the Wall of Sleep, where their madness will infect our souls and cause our children to eat their way from their wombs.

You can watch this movie on Amazon Prime or on YouTube.

BONUS: Here’s some art that I made of this movie that ran in Drive-In Asylum special 3.

The Killer Shrews (1959)

During World War II, Ray Kellogg was a US Navy Lieutenant as part of the O.S.S. Field Photographing Branch. That’s where he met John Ford and when Kellogg came back to the U.S., he headed off to 20th Century Fox, where he eventually became the head of the special effects division and helped invent CinemaScope.

He directed four films: The Giant Gila Monster; My Dog, Buddy; and The Green Berets, which he co-directed with John Wayne and Mervyn LeRoy.

But today…today we’re here to discuss the fourth of his films: The Killer Shrews.

James Best has the lead in this movie as Captain Thorne Sherman. Best is probably best known for playing Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard, but he was a classically trained actor. So was Sorrell Brooke, who played his partner-in-crime Boss Hogg. The two often delighted in improvising most of their scenes together. And while they were working with younger and even untrained actors, by all reports they treated everyone incredibly well.

In addition to acting, Best was also a painter of some renown, a writer, a black belt and even ran an acting school, counting Burt Reynolds, Gary Busey, Clint Eastwood (who posted the insurance bond on Best so he could be on Dukes as the actor had a history of heart attacks), Roger Miller, Glen Campbell, Regis Philbin, Lindsay Wagner (who was his family babysitter before he encouraged her to act) and Quentin Tarantino as his students. Here’s some trivia: he was also a cousin of the Everly Brothers.

So why did he do this regional horror film? “I did the original The Killer Shrews as a favor. I made a movie with Sammy Ford, who was friends with a special effects man, Ray Kellogg, who wanted to direct his own picture. And we looked at the original’s script, and he didn’t have hardly any money whatsoever, but I did him a favor by acting in it. Ken Curtis, of course, was producing it from the start. I like Ken, and he wanted me to do it, so I went down there to Texas where we shot this thing. I didn’t realize it was so cheap. I mean, it was really cheap. For me it was a blast, but it was so bad! I think it was voted the worst picture of the year at the time. And then it caught on as a drive-in cult film, and believe it or not, after so many years I noticed that it was playing all over the place.”

Sherman and his crew are delivering supplies to a remote island that’s manned by a group of research scientists led by Marlowe Cragis (Baruch Lumet, who was a Yiddish theater actor), research assistant Radford Baines (Gordon McLendon, a former pirate radio operator who went on to create one of the first mobile news units in American radio, as well as the first traffic reports, jingles, all-news radio station and “easy-listening” programming; he also produced this film, The Great Gila Monster and Escape to Victory), Marlow’s daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude, the Swedish daughter of a steel factory manager that had been Miss Sweden for 1956; her Universal Pictures contract wasn’t successful, although she was in the TV show Love That Bob and the Rowan and Martin movie Once Upon a Horse…), her about to be cucked fiancee Jerry (Ken Curtis, who was the lead singer for the Sons of the Pioneers on their big hit “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” before he was Festus on Gunsmoke) and the man who takes care of all of them, Mario.

They picked the wrong research lab to visit, because it turns out that the scientists have been experimenting on shrews to test a serum that will shrink humans to reduce world hunger. But the problem is that the drug makes shrews twice as big. You’d think they would have figured that out long before they started injecting shrews, but I’m no scientist.

Before long, the shrews show up — The Rats Are Coming! The Shrews Are Here! could be another title for this — and chew right through the walls of the lab, along with anyone that gets in their way. The humans confound these monsters by using oil drums as suits of armor and making it to the beach, just in time for Ann’s fiancee to get eaten alive when he stays behind. She and the manly hero celebrate with a kiss as they leave behind the island and the shrews to their fate.

The beauty — or horror — of this film is that the close-ups of the shrews are all hand puppets, while the long shots are coonhounds with giant rugs over them. This is the same effect technique that was used in the rat movie Deadly Eyes twenty-three years later.

A sequel, Return of the Killer Shrews, was produced in 2012, bringing back best after fifty-four years as Thorne while Bruce Davison (Willard himself!) taking over the role of Jerry. It also features Best’s Dukes co-stars John Schneider and Rick Hurst. There was also a parody remake in 2016.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi. It’s also available in color on Amazon Prime or you may choose to hear riffing over the movie from Mystery Science Theater on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Girls Town (1959)

Mamie Van Doren was the bad girl of her era and this movie is one of the many reasons why. Despite being 27 at the time of filming, she plays 16-year-old Silver Morgan, who fends off an assault by knocking a man off a cliff. That is enough to send her to Girls Town, a place where bad girls turn to God thanks to some nuns.

Can Silver win over the tough women of Girls Town?

Will Serafina get to meet Paul Anka?

Will Silver’s sister Mary Lee (Elinor Donahue, Father Knows Best) escape the evil clutches of Fred (Mel Torme, the Velvet Fog!) and white slavery in Tijuana in time to reveal that it was really her that killed the man and not her sister?

Producer Albert Zugsmith was a master of exploitation, getting his start with movies like Invasion U.S.A.The Incredible Shrinking Man and Touch of Evil before finding his niche with movies like High School Confidential!Sex Kittens Go to College and the perfectly named Movie Star, American Style or; LSD, I Hate You. He also wrote, produced and directed noted comic strip bomb Dondi, which I really need to get to soon.

Director Charles F. Haas studied under T.S. Elliot at Harvard, which seems the perfect place to learn how to make movies like Summer Love with John Saxon, The Beat Generation with Van Doren and Platinum High School with Mickey Rooney.

The Great Gila Monster (1959)

Filmed near Dallas, Texas, this movie was produced by Dallas drive-in theater chain owner Gordon McLendon who wanted his own movies. This was shot back-to-back with The Killer Shrews. Unlike most regional drive-in films, both received national and even foreign distribution.

This movie is also a lie. That’s no Gila Monster. It’s a Mexican Beaded Lizard.

A young couple are pre-arrdvarking as they overlook a ravine when the giant Gila Monster appears and murders them. The rest of the movie is spent with their friends alternatively looking for them and running from the lizard.

If you ever wanted to see a small lizard play with a model train set and then bother some teens as a sock hop, then this is the movie for you.

Luckily, Chase Winstead is on hand, ready to drive nitro-filled hot rod dead center into the monster, blowing it, as they say, up real good.

Ray Kellogg, in addition to the previously mentioned The Killer Shrews, also co-directed The Green Berets. He got to direct this movie in exchange for creating the special effects. It was produced by Ken Curtis, who played Festus on Gunsmoke.

This movie features Don Sullivan (The Monster of Piedras Blancas), French Miss Universe 1957 contestant Lisa Simone (she’s also a Moon Girl in Missile to the Moon), former Sons of the Pioneers member Shug Fisher, Fred Graham (who falls to his death at the beginning of Vertigo) and local disc jockey Ken Knox, who helped pick the music for the movie.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime or download it from the Internet Archive. There’s also a colorized version on Tubi. You can also watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

There are so many movies worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space.

This is a movie that should have had the budget of an epic, yet had the budget of your grocery store visit. Yet it doesn’t stop trying to be that movie, no matter what.

I blame the Medved brothers who named it the “worst film ever made” in their book The Golden Turkey Awards. Wood and his film were also posthumously awarded the Golden Turkey Awards for Worst Director Ever and Worst Film. Many of the people who think of this as a bad movie have never seen it.

If you’ve seen it on TV, you may laugh about seeing the boom mics and pieces of the other film equipment. Wood never intended for this to happen. Plan 9 was composed and shot for the 1.85:1 aspect ratio theatrical projection, the predominant widescreen format of its day. It was never intended to be seen in a 1.33:1 open matte aspect ratio or on a TV screen. Then again, Wood also incorporated stock footage as well as other film he’d shot of Lugosi in the 1:33:1 format, so everything looks cropped improperly.

The film begins with Criswell, one of Wood’s friends, playing the narrator, starting things off by saying, “Greetings my friends! We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives!” Jeron Criswell King — The Amazing Criswell — grew up in a troubled family in Indiana where he learned to sleep in a coffin.

At some point in the mid-50’s, Criswell began buying time on Los Angeles TV channel KLAC Channel 13, selling his Criswell Family Vitamins. At some point, he started filling out dead air on the show by proclaiming predictions for the future. Eventually, this made him something of a celebrity and even friends with Mae West (who sold him her old luxury cars for as little as five dollars), appearances on The Jack Paar Show and a writing career that included a weekly syndicated newspaper colum and three books, including From Now to the Year 2000, Your Next Ten Years and Forbidden Predictions. In these books, he predicted that a laser beam would destroy Denver, that cannibalism would become commonplace and that the world would end on August 18, 1999. Sadly, Criswell died 17 years before he could see if that prediction would come true. Supposedly, he claimed that JFK wouldn’t run for re-election because something would happen in November 1963 and friends like Maila Nurmi  — who are we to deny Vampira herself, may I ask you? — claimed he really as a psychic.

He also appeared in two other Wood-related films, Orgy of the Dead and Night of the Ghouls. In this film, he literally says “my friends” four times in under a minute and speaks in his typical televangelist style. I also adore that the judge from TV’s Divorce Court, Bob Shields, was Criswell’s announcer.

Man, I could talk about Criswell all day and how he predicted Mae West and Liberace’s brother would go to the moon with him or how his wife had a dog she was convinced was her cousin Thomas reincarnated or that Mae West actually recorded a song about him, but we gotta get back to this movie.

“Can your heart stand the shocking facts about graverobbers from outer space?”

After a funeral, a UFO causes a plane to nearly crash. That same UFO lands at a graveyard and causes the dead — Vampira! — to rise and kill the gravediggers. The old man, distraught at the loss of his wife, steps in front of a car and kills himself. And that’s how Bela Lugosi — at least Bela in stock footage and being played by Ed Wood’s chiropractor — shows up in this movie.

This is a term known as a fake Shemp, given because there were four shorts that the Stooges had to contracturally finish under their 1955 contract with Columbia (Rumpus in the Harem, Hot Stuff, Scheming Schemers and Commotion on the Ocean). Sadly, Shemp Howard died of an unexpected heart attack at age 60. So what did they do? Well, through a combination of Joe Palma standing with his back to the camera and stock footage, the films were completed.

This term was invented by Sam Raimi, who used it to describe the many ways that he and his friends — Bruce Campbell, Rob Tapert, Josh Becker, David Goodman and his brother Ted Raimi — would fill in for roles on the original Evil Dead for people who had long since left the production.

See — I get distracted easily! Back to the action!

Inspector Clay (Tor Johnson!) is on the case. Well, he is until he’s killed off by Vampira and not-Bela in zombie form, renanimated by Plan 9, the fiendlish plot of Eros (Dudley Manlove, the best name ever), who uses it to resurrect the recently dead by stimulating their pituitary and pineal glands.

Eros has come to Earth because  human weapons development will one day discover Solaronite, which can blow up sun particles and start an uncontrollable chain reaction that just might blow up the entire universe. Yeah — I wouldn’t trust humans with that weapon either. After all, we are as Eros says, stupid. “You see? You see? Your stupid minds. Stupid! Stupid!”

All it takes is a block of wood to knock out zombie Tor Johnson and save the day, rescuing the zombified Paula Trent and blowing the UFO — or is it a model kit or a hubcap or perhaps a paper plate — up real good.

Art by Mitch O’Connell. https://www.mitchoconnell.com

In true Ed Wood fashion, everyone and any one had a role in this movie. The Rev. Lynn Lemon, who plays an unnamed minister, was one of the Baptist producers of the film, while gravedigger J. Edward Reynolds was a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention in Beverly Hills and executive producer of this movie.

I love Plan 9 From Outerspace. Sure, that’s just a shower curtain getting reused over and over. Yes, one of the cops keeps pointing his gun at himself. And man, the story makes no sense and then makes even less by the end. But who cares? Are you not entertained? Can you forget it? And how many people know of this film that don’t know one other 1950’s science fiction movie?

Art by Mitch O’Connell. Available from https://www.outregallery.com/products/plan-9-from-outer-spaceYou have so many options if you want to watch this:

Tubi has the film available by itself, with Rifftrax and also a live Rifftrax version.

Amazon Prime has the movie in black and white, colorized, with Rifftrax and also has the documentary Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy all about the true story of the film.

You can also download it at the Internet Archive.

NOTE: The UFO poster art for this article comes from Pittsburgh artist Jim Rugg.

House On Haunted Hill (1959)

William Castle is one of my heroes. While he isn’t a world-class director, he was a top of the line showman. His book Step Right Up!…I’m Going to Scare the Pants off America is required reading. You can also check out the great documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle story to learn more.

One of his gimmicks that he used to sell his movies was called Emergo. As theaters played this movie, an elaborate pulley system released a plastic skeleton that would fly across the presumably horrified — or amused and even rancorous — audience.

This movie ended up being a huge success. Alfred Hitchcock — who Castle often imitated in movies like Homicidal — took and made his own low-budget horror film. You’ve probably seen it. It’s called Psycho.

It’s such a simple set up: Frederick Loren (the always awesome Vincent Price, whose line in this movie “It’s close to midnight” starts off the Michael Jackson song “Thriller,” a track on which he also appears) is an eccentric millionaire — is there any better kind? — who invites five people to a party for his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart, Spider Baby) in an allegedly haunted house.

If any of these people can survive one night, they get $10,000. They include test pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long, who was the professor on Nanny and the Professor), newspaper columnist Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum, yes the sister of Robert), psychiatrist Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal in his next to last film; the actor Marshal died two years later from a heart attack while appearing in Chicago with Mae West in a production of her play Sextette. He had a heart attack on stage but finished the performance. The show, as they say, must go on…), Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig, probably best known for this movie) and Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Mr. Nicklas from Rosemary’s Baby).

The only thing that these strangers have is that they all need money. The Lorens also hate one another and are convinced that they are trying to kill one another. And for what it’s worth, Watson believes that the house is genuinely haunted by the ghosts of those murdered there, including his brother. There’s also a vat of acid in the basement that was used to kill the previous owner’s wife.

So is the house truly haunted? Is Annabelle trying to kill her husband Frederick? Who will survive? And how cool would it have been to have seen this movie in person with a giant skeleton bursting loose at the right moment?

House On Haunted Hill was filmed at the Ennis House in Los Feliz California, which was designed in 1924 by Frank Lloyd Wright. It also appears in the movie Blade Runner and was the mansion that Angel, Spike, and Drusilla lived in on the TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was also used on the soap opera show within a show Invitation to Love on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

This was remade in 1999 and that film also had a 2007 sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill.

You can get this movie as part of Shout! Factory‘s The Vincent Price Collection II on blu ray. Or you can watch it with or without Rifftrax commentary on Tubi. You can also watch it in black and white or in color on Amazon Prime. It’s also available on the Internet Archive.

One last bit of trivia: The theme song to this movie actually has lyrics! They are:

“There’s a house on Haunted Hill / Where ev’rything’s lonely and still / Lonely and still / And the ghost of a sigh / When we whispered good-bye / Lingers on / And each night gives a heart broken cry / There’s a house on Haunted Hill / Where love walked there’s a strange silent chill / Strange silent chill / There are mem’ries that yearn / For our hearts to return / And a promise we failed to fulfill / But we’ll never go back / No, we’ll never go back / To the house on Haunted Hill!”

Terror Is a Man (1959)

Call it Blood Creature, Creature from Blood Island, The Gory Creatures, Island of TerrorGore Creature or it’s most well-known title Terror Is a Man, but what you should really call it is the first of the Blood Island films. These movies, produced by Eddie Romero and Kane W. Lynn, include Brides of Blood, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood.  I guess you can include The Blood Drinkers too, if you want.

This movie was in theaters for nearly ten years — all the way until 1969, when distributor Sam Sherman re-released it as Blood Creature with a warning bell that alerted the audience to impending gore.

William Fitzgerald (Richard Derr, who was almost The Shadow in a TV pilot that was turned into a movie called The Invisible Avenger) is the lone survivor of a ship that has crashed on Blood Island. Also there are Dr. Girard (Francis Lederer, whose Simi Hills home is considered a landmark residence), his frustrated wife Frances (Greta Thyssen, who was in three of the Three Stooges shorts and Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers) and his assistant Walter Perrera.

Much like The Island of Dr. Moreau, Girard is making half-man, half-animals like the panther he’s been experimenting on that tends to attack villagers. Of course, the doctor’s wife falls in love with the protagonist and the beast gets loose and kills all sorts of people, including his creator. But hey — that mummy like cat-eyed fiend seems to survive at the end, as a small island boy sends him away on a rowboat.

Gorgeous natives. Strong men. Crazy doctors. Werecats in bandages. Blood Island. Truly, this one has it all.

You can get this in its best format ever from Severin.

The Wasp Woman (1959)

Produced and directed by Roger Corman, this movie was originally a double feature with Beast from Haunted Cave. When it was released to TV two years later, a new prologue was added by director Jack Hill to add to its running time.

The musical score from this film may seem familiar, because it’s the same music from Corman’s A Bucket of Blood. It was written by Fred Katz, who sold Corman the same score was used for a total of seven films, including The Little Shop of Horrors and Creature from the Haunted Sea.

Janice Starlin is the founder and owner of a large cosmetics company,  (Susan Cabot). She starts losing money when the public begins to see that she is aging, so her scientists reverse the aging process by using the royal jelly of the queen wasp. It doesn’t work fast enough, so she breaks into her own company’s lab and injects herself multiple times.

So she gets twenty years younger over the weekend, but occasionally transforms into a wasp woman who kills people. At the end, when acid is thrown in her face, that scene was more real than it should have been. Someone had filled the breakaway bottle with water and it was so heavy that when hit her, she thought that her teeth had been knocked out. To make matters worse, the fake smoke used to simulate the acid also choked her. So after she fell through the window, she found herself unable to breathe. To save herself, she tore off her makeup as well as a good chunk of skin around her neck.

Things didn’t get much better in life for Susan Cabot. This was her last film and at the end of her life, she suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. The psychologist that she was seeing felt that she was so troubled that he could no longer see her and her home was filled with trash and rotting food.

After her mental health continued to worsen, Cabot’s 25-year-old son, Timothy Scott Roman, beat her to death with a weightlifting bar. While he would initially claim that a man in a ninja mask was the killer — thinking that no one would believe her struggles with mental illness — the truth was that she woke him screaming and attacked him with both a scalpel and the barbell. His defense attorneys claimed his aggressive reaction to his mother’s attack was due to the drugs he took to counteract his dwarfism and pituitary gland problems.

Prosecutors changed the charge to voluntary manslaughter at the end of the trial, as no evidence had been presented to support the premeditation required for a murder conviction. Roman, who had already spent two-and-a-half years in jail, was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Corman remade this with director Jim Wynorski for his Roger Corman Presents series on Showtime.

You can watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime. You can also watch it with the Cinematic Titanic crew riffing on it on Tubi.

Invasion of the Animal People (1959)

Known internationally as Terror In the Midnight Sun and in its native Sweden as Space Invasion of Lapland, this movie was brought to the U.S. by Jerry Warren, who cut 25 minutes from its running time — including a nude shower scene with lead actress Barbara Wilson — as well as shooting a new beginning featuring narrator John Carradine. Of course, when he sold the film to syndication later, a whole bunch of new material had to be shot to pad out the film’s running time. That new footage features several doctors discussing the mental problems of the lead character. Warren also shot a new UFO abduction scene. Never let it be said that the maker of The Wild World of Batwoman didn’t keep up on trends.

However, in Fred Olen Ray’s book The New Poverty Row, he did reveal “I’d shoot one day on this stuff and throw it together…I was in the business to make money. I never, ever tried in any way to compete, or to make something worthwhile. I only did enough to get by, so they would buy it, so it would play, and so I’d get a few dollars. It’s not very fair to the public, I guess, but that was my attitude…You didn’t have to go all out and make a really good picture.”

Diane Wilson and scientist Erik Engstrom just want to fall in love, but all the mutilated reindeer keep getting in the way. That’s because three humanoid aliens have a gigantic and hairy fanged beast that they’re commanding to tear up houses and eat Santa’s steeds. Yes, this movie is years ahead of modern paranormal theories that place Bigfoot in the employ of grey extraterrestrials.

Virgil W. Vogel, the director of this movie, also was behind The Mole People. He was an editor on Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man and Touch of Evil, too. Most of his career was spent directing for television, which he did all the way up to his death in 1996.

You can watch this on Tubi with help from Rifftrax or on Amazon Prime.

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Gene Corman broke into the film industry before his brother Roger, working as an agent before becoming vice president of MCA, representing such clients as Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Richard Conte, Harry Belafonte and Ray Milland.

By the late 50’s, he moved to produce his own films before starting his own producing unit at MGM. and then becoming vice-president of 20th Century Fox Television.

This film is directed by Bernard L. Kowalski, who also created Night of the Blood Beast and Sssssss. It was written by Leo Gordon, who had hundreds of roles as an actor, as well as being the author of movies like The Wasp WomanThe Cry Baby Killer and Hot Car Girl.

Did you know that there are larger than human intelligent leeches that live in the Florida Everglades? Yep. There sure are.

Those leeches love nothing more than dragging human beings down into their underwater caves and slowly feeding off their blood.

Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers, who was Playboy‘s July 1959 Playmate of the Month in a centerfold that was photographed by Russ Meyer; she’s also the girl who starts all the trouble by cheating with the husband of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) is the first victim. Again, she plays a loose woman who is cheating on her husband, so she and her new man must pay.

Game warden Steve Benton (Ken Clark, who was Dick Malloy in the Agent 077 series of films), his girlfriend Nan Grayson and her doctor father are the heroes here and they deal with the leeches in the way that we all knew they would: they use dynamite to blow them up real good.

So yeah. Giant leeches. Wanton women. Dynamite. Cheap film making.

How cheap? Corman didn’t want to pay the grips the extra money for pushing the camera raft in the water, so at first, the director did it, then his brother and finally Corman himself. The cold water led to Corman getting pneumonia and ending up in the hospital. And yes, that is the same music from Night of the Blood Beast. The exact same music is also in Beast from the Haunted Cave.

This movie had some legs. In 1959, it played a double bill with A Bucket of Blood. Then, a year later, it ran alongside Corman’s brother’s film House of Usher. It was also remade in 2008 by Brett Kelly and written by Jeff O’Brien in a film that starred no one you’ve ever heard of.

You can watch this on Tubi with and without commentary from Mystery Science Theater. It’s in the public domain, so you can also grab it from the Internet Archive and watch it on Amazon Prime.