Welcome to the first installment of what will become the Tomb site for my longtime project Morpho’s Lair (or Tomb of DVD as it was first dubbed) as well as a current blog on the myriad things I’m watching and working on.
I was inspired to start here by the ever amazing blog of Curt Purcell at GROOVY AGE OF HORROR really-and hope to give any readers a wide array of entertainments and suggestions. Trash film, comics, books (groovy and more modern horrors mostly) and a whole lot of Jess Franco talk are forthcoming… so instead of me rambling on and on, lets get to it.
Unlike a lot of other cult movie fans, the Blood Island Trilogy wasn’t a staple of my local TV for the most part… though I do remember Brides of Blood from the fuzzy UHF broadcasts. The Image DVD boxset made me a fan for life. Here are reviews for the three DVDs in the set that are Philipino films.
Upcoming features will be some books of ghoulish delight, the incredibly strange true story of Lucker the Necrophagus and lots more. For now however, Beware the Banana Tree…lets go to Blood Island!
“It’s not that they were bad…they were good. They were very limited films.” -Eddie Romero, taken from his interview with Pete Tombs on the Image DVD of Brides of Blood.
The legendary Hemisphere films was the home of monstrous shocks, cheap schlocks and drive in chills n’ spills mixed with late night TV re-titlings from an age when UHF was the bible and I was a pupil in the darkest Saturday night Sunday Schoo. Sure, it’s an event, but it took the BLOOD ISLAND VACATION BOX SET from Image Entertainment to pull my lazy wallet out of my pocket and take a trip, no… to set sail with these dreamy cheapies. Sure, I didn’t even realize that Brides of Blood was one of those TV films from my youth, but now I could see it with bum, and boobs…and blood! Beautiful. Included in the set are the three Blood Island films as well as Al Adamson’s classic cheapie, Brain of Blood. While the Adamson film does have a connection to the Hemisphere series as expounded upon by Sam Sherman in his commentary, for my purposes I’ll look at the three films in the Eddie Romero series. An excellent box and worth any exploitation fans money. The Adamson film is merely a cherry on top of these Philipino delights.
BRIDES OF BLOOD
1968 HEMISPHERE FILMS Directed by Gerardo DeLeon & Eddie Romero Starring Kent Taylor, John Ashley, Beverly Hills, Eva Darren
Brides of Blood is the first film in the box set, though Romero was actually revisiting Blood Island after being away for nearly a decade after filming Terror Is A Man. That time away brought Romero back bearing color and life to the island with him instead of an extra pair of shoes.
Opening on our heroes, we meet the dashing Jim (John Ashley)…a Peace Corps worker out to help the natives, the wooden faced Dr. Henderson (ah…you can never EVER dislike Kent Taylor) and his wife, the vavaVOOMVACIOUS Beverly Hills (not her real name, but apt…very apt). They are looking to study the fallout of the Bikini Islands bomb testing and perhaps figure out why the crabs are so damn succulent (oops, I mean HUGE-shades of Guy N. Smith). Disembarking from the ship to the dismay of the native islanders, they realize that obviously something is wrong. Well, if they didn’t get that sense of foreboding from the high count of midgets around, they should have followed the maxims of all great monster films.
They don’t listen to common sense though.
Luckily a chap named Goro, who loves to beat the size challenged natives, invites them to stay at the handsome Esteban Powers’ villa. Women die, trees attack, our heroes watch and don’t once seem to contemplate leaving. Romance blooms for the handsome young man, and nymphomania may destroy the Hendersons… or a tree doesn’t beat them and a monster doesn’t eat them.
Add some dancing and chanting, a few dismemberments via growling Monster, one creature that looks like the Shaw Bros. Character of The Oily Maniac and a bit of guessing game at who the creature is, and you have a lovely bit of gruesome flotsam to mix in your Blood Island Cocktail. Served extra wet and on the occasional bared Beverly Hill.
The Blood Island films are the perfect antidote for feeling cult cinema jaded, especially if you remember the Pre-Cable (or…gasp! Drive-In) glory of being teased by amazing posters and actually feeling rewarded when you stayed up to see them. Feeling much more antiquated than the late 1960s, Brides of Blood is like a hyped up and cut rate version of King Kong. Well, with a monster that lacks even the facial expressions that livened up The Kong. It’s got adventure in the jungle, a few beautiful women, handsome men who aren’t afraid to take action and natives rituals galore. Giant TikiGod structures abound and the pace rivals the decoration. Never boring, Romero and DeLeon maximize every second they have, be it with tease, sleaze or monsters going “GRREEEEZZZZZZZZZE” and decapitating all those poor folks around the Island of Blood.
In the DVD supplements there is an interview that states the budget for a film of this type would have been around 15 thousand dollars, which even in 1968 is paltry. But on Blood Island, money is no object. Blessed by a great bit of imagination on the part of the filmmakers, it is the cast who really save the day. John Ashley is simply what he always is, a strong young hero in the best mold. In his excellent liner notes Jim Arena points out his mispronouncing of his love interests name, but that is nowhere near as funny as Ashley’s classic mangling of the spooky hosts moniker.
Myself, I always love to see Kent Taylor in a movie. While he had a long and illustrious career, I’m sure that many would call his work for Al Adamson a nadir, but I truly believe the horror and cult films were what he was meant to do. Distinct and always assured, Taylor is amazing here as he mocks his nympho wife and reacts to butterflys on strings with the same gallant effort. A true trooper. Beverly Hills (really Beverly Powers) is beauty without the talent in many ways, but she sure does look good and runs around in her nightie before getting stripped by the beast. If I had caught that scene uncensored as a kid I think I would have had a stroke… hell, I did when it happened. Wow.
And is there a monster? Ah yes, and while his poorly rendered face doesn’t move, that is about the only part of his big bulky frame that doesn’t run about mangling and screaming. An outstanding creation for a fevered night at the flicker palace, I love this guy. He isn’t quite perfect, but it’s like Romero said, they were limited.
Overall, Brides of Blood was a blissful revisiting of the cinema of horror I remember staying up for, sneaking out to, and loving with all my heart. And there is more to come.
The DVD from Image Entertainment is nice, and while it appears some print damage may have excised small chunks of footage forever, the film looks quite complete with breasts and bottoms bared and body parts being flung around. I doubt they will look any better than this and there should be no excuse to pass them up due to quality. And the extras! Wow, we get a commentary by Sam Sherman that runs through the first 47:45 of the film-and to anyone that has listened to Sam on the various Adamson discs, you know he is always reliable to give you a ton of fun, history and a real sense of how amazing it is that these movies were not only made, but still being appreciated that cult fans owe him a huge thanks. If you meet him, buy the beer. Trailers, a Beverly Hills Pin Up Gallery, the original promo for the Wedding Ring giveaway (eek, be a BRIDE OF BLOOD!) and more will keep you clicking the remote for quite some time after the show is done.
Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the fridge…let’s get another beer!
MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND
1968 HEMISPHERE FILMS Directed by Gerardo DeLeon & Eddie Romero Starring John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn and Ronald Remy
“When he comes too… just give him some hot soup, and no green vegetables of course.”
-Dr. Lorca speaking in regards to a patient who has been found wandering around after going missing for 5 years…AND HIS FLESH IS GREEN AND SCARRED!
Romero and DeLeon dash across the water for yet another trip to Blood Island hot for refreshment after the success of Brides of Blood. While Brides… is barely connected (if at all) to this film, one of those neat swingy banana trees does make a quick appearance. Mad Doctor of Blood Island takes the excess of the earlier entry and multiplies it by ten and three quarters for maximum entertainment however!! Loaded with excessive mutilation, violence, native dancing and intrigue, the MAD DOCTOR is most assuredly making house calls, and you had better pray he doesn’t inject YOU with the green blood.
As in the previous film, here we have a group of characters visiting Blood Island for their own reasons. Dr. Bill is there to investigate tales of green blooded natives (oh oh), while Julia is off to find her father and Carlos is hoping to take his mother away from the island. Of course, these three travelers may be the only sane folk around, as they quickly…
Meet the titular Mad Doctor.
Make Whoopee with natives.
Witness random acts of violence.
Find out that all those they thought they knew aren’t quite as they may seem.
All happening while our group tries to avoid ending up a splattery mess via the clawed hands of the mysterious chlorophyll monster! Yikes, it’s a busy 89 minute long trip to Blood Island.
Charming for it’s sheer over the top vigor in shoving the viewers face onto the squishy gutpiles left behind by the monstrous experiment gone wrong, Mad Doctor of Blood Island is happy to toss in the soap opera elements as well. Romantic subplots, sexual innuendo and outuendo and even a bit of intrigue all come flying at the viewer with the same speed the monster uses to swing his mighty green hands.
Z Grade Exploitation at it’s finest, right?
While not as entertaining in a classic sense as the previous outing, much of that falls onto the heads of the cast. As Brides of Blood benefited greatly from strong performances, nearly every single word of Mad Doctor is spoken in a tone so flat that the characters never really take hold of the story, instead clearing the way for the true reason we showed up. Well, I can’t fault them for that really.
The films title promises A Mad Doctor, Blood and an Island… not sterling performances. John Ashley returns as the daring hero, but he falls a bit short of daring and at times is simply funny. Seeing him karate chop and blunder about in his fight scenes is quite amusing, though perhaps for the wrong reason. Dr. Lorca (a mad name eh?) is played by Ronald Remy (of the Blood Drinkers/Vampire People)…and let’s just say this, he looks good in the glasses. Luckily, the stunning Angelique Pettyjohn is on hand to provide ample flotation devices for the Blood Island traveler. She looks good in a negligee, and her later venture into porn starlet territory, while very welcome of course, doesn’t seem as inevitable as it does for other actresses in exploitation flicks. Alicia Alonzo does a lot of the heavy lifting as Marla, the sexy native girl who likes to love and leave and do battle with beasts. But it isn’t the actors show now is it? When the monster arrives, he is a vast improvement over the previous Beast of Blood (Island). A ripping and tearing beast with claws and hideously mangled GREEN skin, whenever this mean green machine appears the screen literally throbs with excitement. Well, it really does zoom in and out in Monstervision… This creates an effect. A good effect? That is debatable, but not since watching Bigas Luna’s Anguish have I been so intrigued to see a film on the big screen. The gore levels are HUGE here, standing with some of the most violent splatter films I’ve seen in a few sequences… for the time it was outstanding in it’s ballsy willingness to take monsters to the next level of carnage. If nothing else makes you want to see this film, the splat rating is high enough to make it interesting as a curiosity for any fan of extreme horror.
More great Blood Island Fun!!
The DVD from Image looks very good and the soundtrack is particularly strong. I did notice a few uncorrected Day for Night shots though I have no issue with that, it really just made some images clearer in viewing them. The reds are very red and the greens are very green for all you techs keeping color levels in mind. No major print damage or jumps to be found at all this time around, it’s just plain swell.
The extras on these discs are great as always, and Mad Doctor of Blood Island contains another 50 minutes of commentary by Sam Sherman, billed as part 3 of his talks on Hemisphere Pictures. As always he is fascinating with his stories. While on Brides of Blood we heard that Mr. S had tried to get Hemisphere to be The House of Horror (and Hammer took that idea!), in this one a great bit of Hemisphere vs. Toho is related in regard to the use of Green Slime against Green Blood. Watch the movies but be sure to go back and listen to the comments as well. Sherman is welcome in my home any day.
Trailers, the original Green Blood intro, stills, more Eddie Romero interview and even crazier goodies await.
“Mad people can be quite unpredictable…”
1970 HEMISPHERE PICTURES
Starring John Ashley, Celeste Yarnall, Eddie Garcia, Lisa Belmonte
Directed by Eddie Romero
“Frankly, I had kind of hoped you had retired…”
-Dr. Foster comes face to scarred face with Dr. Lorca
The Blood Island Trilogy comes to a close with a very different kind of picture by unleashing some unexpected twists.. Fast paced and entertaining, it’s an all out war as the natives of the cursed island and the returning Dr. Bill Foster must find the hidden fortress of the Mad Doctor Lorca. Yes, he has survived the finale of Mad Doctor of Blood Island! A direct sequel to the earlier film, a prologue provides ANOTHER climax to Mad Doctor, starting this film off with a bang.
The monster is still alive and he manages to take vengeance on all of the previous survivors- with only the dashing hero floating away unharmed.
One year later, Dr. Foster returns to Blood Island to find that little has changed. The chieftain of the Island isn’t happy to see him because after all the events of the previous film, things haven’t improved around the villa. “The green men” are still running wild and keeping the natives under the green thumb of terror. Foster has to not only contend with finding Lorca, but this time he is joined by Myra, the lovely American reporter who is following him and looking to exhume one monster of a story. Well, John Ashley has to have somebody to get his groove on with… it’s good to be a returning hero in a Philipino Drive-In Film! The benefits package is wonderful obviously…
Myra is quickly captured however, and it’s up to our man to organize a rebellion and stage the Battle of Blood Island!!
Now let’s not forget the monster, because the film almost does for most of the running time. Don “Chlorophyll Man” Ramon is still lurking, but after being decapitated he is quite a bit slower frankly. This version of the monster is the best in the series, with bones sticking through his flesh, a disturbingly mangled face and a predilection for moaning the name “LORRRRCAhhh” while staring at his own detached body. It is just too bad that he has such a short amount of time on screen. But when he is around, it’s magic. Jungle action is the real focus of the film, but it’s hard to forget the return of Dr. Lorca and his Beast of Blood. When the beast goes to work it’s gory, but not nearly as memorable as the previous entry.
Taking the Z grade exploitation model and casting it partially aside, we have a very solid action film mixed with several quirky elements you wouldn’t get in any average film of any average type. This change may have been a result of Beast of Blood being directed solo by Eddie Romero. It falls in line more with his resume of doing action and war films than with his horror and monster pictures at least. Based on a story by Beverly Miller (who also plays the boat’s captain), our hero spends more time battling the forces of the evil henchman Razak than monster mashing. It’s hard to fault the film as a separate entity from the other series installments, as it is fast paced and very entertaining matinee material. But as a finale to the Blood Island Trilogy, it’s a bit weak. Perhaps the expectations were set too high, and on a another excursion I’ll enjoy it for what it is, a great little action film.
The cast does a fine job, though Ashley is still…well, John Ashley. I did a triple take at watching him turn down sex from the lovely and linguistically challenged Liza Belmonte as Laida-the ass kicking knife wielding native girl. She looks fantastic and works very well in her action scenes, far outshining the occasional Ashley patented Karate Chop as she stabs and beats up Razak’s goons. But when she says the word uncomfortable (Un-KOM-fort-ABLE) twice in two sentences, well, it just comes out odd sounding and brings a smile to your face for the wrong reason.
Eddie Garcia takes over as Doctor Lorca, who looks like his face has melted from the finale of Mad Doctor of Blood Island. Garcia is great in the role actually, as he cackles away about how mad he really is. Yes, madder than ever. It couldn’t have been easy talking to that head prop for so long, but he pulls it off. And Celeste Yarnell is beautiful in her little bikini…nuff said!
Overall, a good adventure film that certainly is enjoyable, but never hits the high notes the earlier entries seemed to scream past. If you like action, a little bit of monster gore and you loved Mad Doctor of Blood Island and want to visit your old pal Dr. Lorca then you will have a great time.
“Your original judgment has been thoroughly vindicated…I’m madder than ever!”
Again, Image does a fine job with the film. Though a bit scratchy in sequences the picture is crystal clear, and correctly night tinted in most spots. The sound is again very clear and strong giving you all the pop you could ask for with the fizzy green blood. Extras wise we have another grand slam for the trilogy. Unearthed footage that was replaced by the animated credits is presented raw here, and we get another outstanding commentary from Sam Sherman. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again with a fine point on it. THANK YOU SAM!! This one runs 53:12 minutes with a promise of parts 5 and 6 on Hemisphere pictures leaving me ready to load up the Brain of Blood disc. The degeneration of Hemisphere has really begun to be covered, as well as its relation to Sherman’s own venture rising up. This is fascinating material from someone who was there and loves to share the knowledge with the fans that may never have another opportunity to hear such a great account of both how and why these films got made. Brain of Blood’s commentary finishes the tale, with an unexpected twist, don’t miss it.
Trailers, house of horror promos and more all make a great package even better. While many of the smaller companies gather praise, we should not forget that Image cab still provide some of the most solid exploitation DVD packages on the market.