When I was growing up and horror films were still a staple of late-night TV and then VHS tapes, one name I consistently encountered was Al Adamson. I’d been aware of his films from mentions in Famous Monsters and the occasional snide comment in books on the genre but seeing his films was a revelation. Films like Satan’s Sadists, Blood Of Ghastly Horror and, of course, Dracula vs. Frankenstein. While they weren’t exactly good, they were usually entertaining and they helped develop my love of low-budget and indie horror.
Now David Gregory, (Master of Dark Shadows, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau) has given us Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson, a look at the man, his films and his shocking death.
Coming from a showbiz family, Al’s mother was an actress and his father was early indie filmmaker Victor Adamson, making B movies was in his blood. There’s footage of his father’s films and interviews with folk like Al’s brother. Through them we learn how Al got his first chance to direct, finishing one of his father’s films, Half Way To Hell.
From there on it’s an incredible cavalcade of strange films and colourful characters. Folks like Gary Graver who worked with both Al and Orson Welles and Vilmos Zsigmond who went from shooting Psycho A Go-Go and Satan’s Sadists to The Deer Hunter and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
There are also names that will be instantly recognized by fans of low-budget cinema. Sam Sherman, who distributed most of Al’s films via his Independent International Films. Actor/director John ‘Bud’ Cardos, (Kingdom Of The Spiders, The Day Time Ended), Gary Kent (Bonehill Road, The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant) and Fred Olen Ray are among the many interviewees. Al himself appears in some old interviews talking about his films. The late John Bloom and Gary Graver are also featured in archival footage.
There are the usual deals gone bad and on-set hardship stories that go with this kind of filmmaking. But there are so many unique stories Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson stays interesting. Hearing Roger Engel, aka Zandor Vorkov tells how he got his stage name and the decisions that made Dracula Vs Frankenstein the insane gem it is are fascinating. Other stories are more personal. Such as how he met his wife and muse Regina Carrol on the set of Satan’s Sadists.
There’s also plenty of footage from his films. From the better-known ones like Satan’s Sadists and Nurse Sherri. Through obscurities like the Jim Kelly feature Black Samurai, Cinderella 2000. Even the kid’s film Carnival Magic and his last film Beyond This Earth.
Sadly, like another recent documentary I reviewed, Henchman: The Al Leong Story, this doesn’t have a happy ending. The death of Regina from cancer was a deep wound. And of course, his gruesome end, murdered and buried under concrete by his handyman. Overall though the effect of Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson is a celebration of the life and career of a unique filmmaker.
Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson made its world premiere at Fantasia 2019 as part of the Documentaries From The Edge program. It will be making the rounds of the festivals prior to release by Severin Films