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Friday, May 25, 2012

Horror of the Blood Monsters

Director Al Adamson was akin to a resourceful mother who could take several unrelated leftovers from the back of the fridge, toss in a few new ingredients and call it supper. His 1970 film, Horror of the Blood Monsters (HBM) was an ultra-cheap mashup of other people's movies, repurposed with some new footage. John Carradine stars in the glue segments as Dr. Rynning. Adamson's new space travel segments turned the old Filippino caveman film into a sci-fi. The story in HBM wanders, sometimes inserting unrelated material, but amounts to a spaceflight mission to a planet of vampire cavemen. HBM is an odd film.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Vampirism is spreading on earth. (Several people bite other people and become a vampire gang). The lurid narrator, speaking as one of the vampires, tells how the vampire virus came from a distant planet. A mission is sent to that planet to discover the cause and find a cure. Bryce, Willy, Bob, Linda and Dr. Rynning fly in a rocket to this planet. They encounter the usual random meteorite which damages their ship. They must set down for repairs. It just so happens that the nearby planet is the one they seek. Rynning must stay in the ship due to poor health. The other four trek around the planet with varying monochrome color. They see two tribes of cavemen fighting -- the Tagani and the Snake Men. They see some cavemen chasing a pretty brunette in a white one-piece swimsuit-cavegirl outfit. They shoot the pursuers and save the girl. They plant a communication chip at the base of Malee's brain so she can speak and understand english. Malee tells how the Tubaton, the vampire cavemen, always attack her peace-loving tribe, the Tagani, in order to suck out their blood. She was on her way with Sukie (Tagani boy) to the cave of the fire water, as only the fire water keeps away the Tubaton. Bryce figures out that "fire water" is crude oil. They can distill some crude oil to get the fluids they need to fix the ship. Malee shows them the way. We get to see the other Tagani group also headed for the cave. They encounter lobster men in the river and are attacked by Tubaton. Despite all this, they reach the cave. Inside, they are attacked by Bat Men. Sukie, Ramir and the other Tagani defeat the Bat Men, and carry off bags of fire water. Bryce and Bob go in after them to get some too. Meanwhile, at Ground Control, Colonel Manning and his wife (also a mission control engineer) are enjoying the electronic orgasmatron while they wait for word from XB-13. (?) Bryce and Linda carry back the oil cans. Bob and Willy go to help Malee's people. Bob is speared by a Tubaton. Willy gets sick from radiation (the colored world). Too late for Bob, but Bryce carries Willy back to the ship. They fuel up and blast off. Malee watches, all forlorn and fondling the necklace Willy gave her. Rynning theorizes that the planet once had intelligent life, but they developed thermo-nuclear fusion weapons and wiped themselves out. Watch the model ship "fly" over green-screen stars. Fade to black. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
HBM is a very scattered and zany film. At times, it almost makes sense -- but this doesn't usually last for long. But, how can you go wrong with Snake Men, Lobster Men and Vampire Cavemen? It's not cerebral, but it is certainly different.

Cold War Angle
The moral of the story -- if indeed there is one -- is that advanced thermo-nuclear weapons will destroy a civilization.

Filippino Footage -- Most of HBM comes from the 1956 Filippino film by Rolf Bayer. The original title, in Tagalog was Kahariang Bato. This film was then dubbed into english and retitled as Tagani. This original story was about a fight for survival by the peaceful Tagani tribe, beset by various evil fantasy tribes, such as the vampire Tubaton, the Snake Men and the Lobster Men. Amid all that, one Tagani named Takil has turned traitor. He helps the Tubaton kidnap the lovely Leela. Brave Ramir comes and rescues her. Bayer shot his film in black and white. It would seem that Adamson used the english-dubbed version. A few times, the original cavemen are speaking, but obviously dubbed. A few of the cavemen, such as wise grandfather, are voiced by Paul Frees.

Stock-osaurus -- The many "dinosaur" segments, Adamson lifted from the 1940 film One million B.C. These include the classic lizard vs alligator with fin glued on his back, both doing the death roll. Also, sharp-eyed viewers will see the "wooly mammoth" footage reused too. HBM then becomes just another in a long line of films which put cavemen and dinosaurs in the same time. Some evolutionary purists have a hard time with this.

Recycled Wizard -- Also recycled are all the space-travel segments. These were repurposed from The Wizard of Mars ('65, aka Horrors of the Red Planet). WoM also featured John Carradine as said wizard. Some of the rocket interior sets were either reused or built to match. (note the diamon-shaped-holes in the many tape reels). Some interior footage was reused if it didn't have any actors in it.

Orgasmitron? -- One of the total non-sequitur bits has Colonel Manning and Valerie -- who dutifully man the ground control consoles -- in bed under black satin sheets with electrodes stuck to their temples. They make out mildly, but overdubbed are heavy breathing and moaning, as the lights on the ograsmitron blink away. Manning has to go check and see if XB-13 had called in or not, but he promises to come back and turn the dial up to full, to give her the satisfaction she deserves. He does and she moans more. What has this got to do with anything? Did Adamson really wish to be making soft porn? These are very odd scenes.

XM Becomes XB-13 -- Fans of old sci-fi will note how the story (some of it) in HBM is a rehash of Rocketship X-M ('50). A rocket is diverted by a damaging impact. On the planet, they find mutant cavemen and some pretty ones. They find traces of a civilization that wiped itself out with nukes. One of the party is killed and left behind. Two of the crew are in love. Their repaired ship returns them to earth with the warning to lay off the nukes. Seem familiar? 20 years later, the basic story of RXM was still good enough to copy.

Bottom line? HBM is a very strange movie. It really can't decide what its story is. It starts out being about vampirism spreading on earth, but that gets forgotten. It's about a mission to another planet to find the cause of the vampirism, but they forget this and just try to come home. It's about modern electronic love. It's about cavemen and pretty cavewomen. It's about vampire cavemen. It's a love story. It's a film that somehow fails to equal the sum of its many parts. Yet, it has a train-wreck fascination to it. Don't watch HBM with any expectations. Just enjoy its eccentricity.


CavedogRob said...

I agree! It's a fun film if you know what to sometimes expect from Adamson! Never knew much about the original footage though. Nice review!

Nightowl said...

Thanks CavedogRob,
Yes Horrors is so eclectic that it's hard to NOT find something to like. And other than borrowing (loosely) from the plot of Rocketship XM, his movie is like no other. :-)

Darci said...

Re: "One Billion B.C. "
That's Hal Roach's 1940 "One Million B.C." A billion years ago would be the Mesoproterozoic, when the life forms would be algae, etc.
Hope this helps!

Nightowl said...

Good catch. I must have been thinking like a politician. :-)