Friday, June 6, 2014

Oddball Film Report: HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (1970 - as VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET, 1972)

Note: This review was written for the Video Cheese series on www.jabootu.net, but has been publisher here by the very kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.


HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (1970) as VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET (1972 - color)
"A vampire plague is breaking out in the streets of 1970's Hollywood. In a completely different movie, a spaceship of the future gets knocked off course and lands on a prehistoric planet."

   For a while now, I've wanted Ken Begg of www.jabootu.net to review HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS,  an even more troubled than usual Al Adamson epic. Looks like it's up to me, however, as this, the TV version of that film, found it's way onto the Video Cheese list.

   I wanted Ken to handle this particular film because I'm not able to watch a movie and operate a computer at the same time, given the computer belongs to my folks who live next door! Still, I can always take notes and carry them with me. I scribbled (in very tiny lettering) two full sheets of paper making notes for this review. A 70-odd minute movie took me nearly three hours to watch, there were so many things I had to write down!

   The 1960's saw a nice number of space movies in response to the race for the moon. These ranged in quality, but I've always had a soft spot for pulpy drive-in space operas like THE WIZARD OF MARS, which lent it's effects sequences to several similar films, including today's subject. In fact, this film even shares WIZARD's star, Mr. John Carradine! (In THE WIZARD OF MARS, Mr. Carradine plays a mental projection of hundreds of Martians living in suspended animation. Amusingly, much of his speech was re-worked into the climax of THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE, a film which heavily leaned on rocket footage from THE WIZARD OF MARS!)

(As a side note, seeing as THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE is in public domain, I wrote VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF TEENAGE CAVEWOMEN to feature said spaceship footage. This idea was dropped in favor of a toy rocket with a sparkler in it's tail. The result was 100 times more impressive than Adamson's try at a similar effect in this movie!)

   Al Adamson is noted (without over-much fondness) for his drive-in movies that usually started as one kind of film and got constantly re-worked until they finally hit screens as something completely different. As example, a film might begin life as a biker flick, get changed to a psycho-thriller, and then finally reach screens as a monster movie. To call an Adamson film confusing is to sell the man short. It's more like trying to watch a movie on TV and being unaware the channels are switching at random moments and you're seeing bits and pieces of three or four different features. 

   On occasion, though, he would do something comparatively right. His imported Filipino "BLOOD" movies were so popular, he and partner Sam Sherman made a domestic copy titled BRAIN OF BLOOD. Seemingly the same project from start to finish, the film actually does a nice job of capturing the feel of one of those imports.

   Our current subject was not so lucky. These back-stories can get a bit confusing, but as I understand it, here's what happened: Adamson picked up a black and white Filipino caveman movie about warring tribes who lived in a land filled with stock footage dinosaurs from ONE MILLION B.C., as well as numerous other critters. Unfortunately, it was at a time when color movies were in vogue (because they could be constantly re-issued on the drive-in circuit, and television was voracious for color movies to sell people on buying color sets), so Al couldn't find a home for his well-mounted epic.

   His solution was to tint the film various colors (green for outdoor scenes, red for cave scenes, etc), but it still wouldn't sell. Figuring the footage was too good to waste (and not letting his investment go to waste either), he decided to make a new movie and use the Filipino footage for effects sequences. (Yes, but they were still black and white scenes, you say, so he'd still have to make a black and white movie...right?)

   Adamson's new film would be a space opera. The Filipino footage, tinted various colors, would be scenes of the surface of an alien planet*, it's atmosphere responsible for distorting the color spectrum! He dubbed this process SPECTRUM-X and he was off and running! (You can sort of see where this might work, as a similar -though much more involved- process had been used to good effect on THE ANGRY RED PLANET a few years earlier). Enlisting the aid of actors Robert Dix and Vicki Volante, and landing John Carradine as his star, Adamson put together an inept space opera that could make Carradine feel better about having to do films like THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES. Indeed, THE WIZARD OF MARS looked like DESTINATION MOON after this!

(* Actually, wouldn't it be reasonable to do a reverse THE WIZARD OF OZ and have a color film with black and white scenes in the middle? It seems easier for me to buy an atmospheric shift that would remove color from the spectrum entirely, more so than a constantly shifting spectrum that shades everything in a small handful of alternating colors.)

   Adamson still had problems with audiences getting the color shift thing. Other films might have used a single color tint and audiences would have went with it (see, for example, LOST CONTINENT or MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, although said films came from an era when black and white was the norm). Spectrum-X, though, was constantly shifting back and forth between hues of blue, green, pink, and yellow with little rhyme or reason. (Even accepting the premise that the atmosphere causes occasional shifts in the color spectrum, this would have been better implied had the colors occasionally changed during a shot. Instead, the color only changes when the camera angle changes, which is more disorienting than it needs to be!) He brought back Robert Dix and Vicki Volanti to include a scene which better spelled out the concept, but the tinkering still wasn't over.

   The picture eventually hit screens as HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS, playing double bill with Adamson's DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN. But this wasn't the straight space opera version, as Adamson wasn't done just yet....

   Needing to expand the film a little more, maybe to play off of the vampire angle of the co-feature, a prolog was added which completely undermined the rest of the film, depicting an outbreak of vampirism across the Earth. Now, I thought this footage to have been added for the TV version of the film, VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET. However, I dug up a still from the 1970 release which depicts this scene. As I understand things, though, the VAMPIRE title wasn't used until the film went to TV. It also played theaters under a half dozen or so alternate titles!

   Man, just talking about Adamson films is confusing!

   Our film begins with the trademark Independent International credits sequence, kicking things off with II's cinder block-like studio logo. These credits play over an image of a traditional, Dracula-type vampire. We soon see why. For our film (in it's current form) begins with an outbreak of vampire transformations. Random people are changing into vampires, the result a plague of sorts, brought to earth millions of years earlier by solar winds or something. This is really hard to follow, despite our being given narration from a vampire who tries to spell it all out. He sounds like someone in a spookshow trying to play a traditional supernatural vampire, not the more science-zombie-like creatures we see before us. In fact, despite the space origin of the plague, I guess the vampires are of a more traditional sort.

   The vampire narrator claims to have followers who live for "hideous torments" as we cut to bad rock music coming from a car speaker! Inside is a young couple necking (no pun intended) when the girl suddenly bears some pretty goofy fangs and attacks her lover. Several normal people will suddenly change into vampires and pack-hunt anyone still human who stumbles across their path. One vampire even wears a cape! (One of these guys is Mr. Adamson himself, I understand.)

   The narration continues. We're told the outbreak, or the vampirism itself, is connected to some atmospheric disturbance which changes the visible color spectrum to single colors like blue, yellow, green, and "blood red." Uh huh. They even tint the footage for a few seconds to give us a taste. Then we go right back to regular photography, so... is the outbreak over? I guess not, as the vampire swarms get larger. 

   We're told earth is doomed unless mankind can find a way to counter-act the plague, the secret of which lies on the planet from where the whole thing started, I guess millions of years ago... Supposedly, a brilliant scientist, Dr. Rynning, has set off on a top-secret mission to the planet in question. This seems problematic, because these street scenes are very clearly 1970 or so Hollywood. At that point, lunar flight was the best that we could do. (I guess it still is, really.)

   Okay, forget everything we've seen up till now, because we'll never reference it again! It's time to move onto our actual story, which is set in the future some years, judging from the control center and uniforms which call to mind THE TIME TRAVELERS... (It also looks to've been filmed closer to 1966 or so.)

   The XB-13 has just been launched, her mission to explore "Spectra, the unknown solar system!" That's a pretty tall order for a single ship! It is established that men are living on other planets, but no word as to how far out they might be. (I mean, are men living on Mars, or do they mean planets in other systems?) Spectra is a new system recently discovered by Dr. Rynning, a rather grumpy scientist played by John Carradine, who's probably letting his bitterness show through a little. This is quite a come down from John Ford movies, after all!

   At ground control, a pair of technicians (played by Robert Dix and Vicki Volante*) keep contact with the XB-13. The master shot of the control room, although not the most expensive set ever constructed, must be lifted from another film (and while I don't recall this exact shot, THE TIME TRAVELERS is a likely candidate -and indeed it is, as I confirmed when I recently re-watched the film. Neat flick, and I highly recommend THE TIME TRAVELERS, as well as the similar WORLD WITHOUT END, if you get a chance to see either). The footage is repeated, and when we can see the faces of our technicians, they're in new footage of the actors sitting before a black sheet. The only prop in the background is another guy dressed as a technician who occasionally pops up behind Robert Dix. The black sheet is too close to the camera, too, as we can see the folds in the fabric, highlighted by the actors' lighting! It's like a grade school production of The Time Tunnel!

(* Dix and Volante were Adamson stock players, although Dix enjoyed a pretty healthy career in real movies too. The son of Richard Dix, Robert seems to've taken over from Mickey Rooney, having been married five times to date! In fact, his most recent wife joined him only last year!)

   Also weird is that Dix and Volante don't seem to've shot their scenes the same day, despite sitting right next to each other. The camera will jump back and forth between them, and the sheet behind them will change slightly with the transition. More amusingly, in one scene we can see what looks like cigarette smoke wafting over Dix, and the only place it could come from is Volante. However, we cut to her and the air is completely clear! Maybe his computer console is overheating!

   At any rate, ground control loses contact with the XB-13 and there's a panic to re-establish contact before the ship is lost in deep space. The ship was "entering sector 49" at it's last position. Okay, I'm not sure just how that works, but I'll let that one slide given what happens in a few minutes...

   We cut aboard the XB-13 and find it to be a typically spacious sound stage affair. I'm actually willing to buy that spacecraft in the future will be spacious and have artificial gravity, but the prop guy undercuts any seriousness we might give this set-up by hanging a grade-school star-chart on the cabin wall!

   The crew is coming out of a stupor after being rocked by an off-screen meteor storm or something. Getting their bearings, we're introduced to our heroes. Dr. Rynning, of course, is the learned older scientist -although he's fairly testy for his breed. The studly young Commander is Steve. The happy-go-lucky comic relief guy is Willy. Bob is the Other Guy, the one who does most of the work. The Girl is Linda.
   Contact with ground control restored and everyone still alive, the XB-13's computer plays back the events prior to the blackout. This means the screen shows actual filmed footage which is, weirdly enough, edited like some really cheap 60's movie.... Anyway, it's no wonder the ship was taken by surprise, given everyone was just lounging around gabbing about food when the ship was suddenly hit by a cosmic flare (or some such). This is that familiar (to fans of 60's drive-in movies) shot of the red lightning bolt hitting the hull of the WIZARD OF MARS rocket-ship. In fact, they use a rather confusingly-edited clump of scenes from WIZARD to indicate they've been thrown off course.

   The XB-13 must find it's location quickly, and the ship launches a satellite to "triangulate" it's position. First, I'm not sure what markers they'll use to fix their position, given they're in completely unexplored space (49 sectors into it, in fact -although I suppose they charted the space they've already flown through, so I guess they could fix a point based on recently charted star fields). More problematic is that they launch "a satellite" to do this. Assuming the ship itself is a part of this process, don't they still need a third body in order to triangulate? I'll admit, I'm not a cartographer by trade, but I thought that's what "triangulate" meant, to use three points to establish a location. Am I wrong?

   During this, we spot Rynning holding his chest and having trouble breathing. Linda also notices this and queries him about it, but the elder scientist denies any problem. Rynning does make contact with ground control and lists a number of faults in the ship as result of the incident with the flare. The fresh air is cut off and they're breathing recirculated air for one thing (isn't that what real astronauts do anyway?), and they've had a gas leak. Also the heating system has been damaged. They'll have to land for repairs, which means, I guess, they'll need exterior gravity and can't make their repairs in space. Not sure that really makes sense, but okay.

   It's going to be tricky setting down, and ground control (back on earth, remember) launches a satellite to aid the XB-13.... This device apparently enhances the range of the XB-13's instruments or something, as it allows them to sight a planet 3-4 days away from their current position. I have no clue what's going on here. Earth launches a satellite and it's suddenly right outside the XB-13, which is 49 sectors into an unexplored solar system, presumably a fair distance from Earth... How did it get where it is so quickly? That kind of speed would leave the Enterprise E in the dust!

   As if that weren't crazy enough (and it is), we get an effects blemish too, when the satellite shows up on the XB-13's viewscreen and the poor matte job allows it to ghost across the rest of the control board! Okay, this isn't the worst effect like this I've ever seen, but it just adds to the goofiness of the whole affair. They're stealing stock footage, and they don't even bother to steal the good stuff!

   Anyway, a planet sighted (and how far away is if it'll take 3-4 days to reach it when the satellite took less than a minute to zip across solar systems? I'm probably giving the film too much credit, but I'll chalk that up to the ship being damaged), the XB-13 will land for repairs there "if the ship holds out that long." (I'd also be curious, if the time frame for the trip is due to the damage done to the ship, how exactly they figured the duration of the trip.)


   On the trip, I notice they don't seem to be all that worse for wear, what with the heat being out and all! Rynning even looks too warm! (And he's seen clutching his chest again.) Again, the crew mostly just lounges while the ship goes about it's way. Given what happened the last time, I think I'd be a little more on my toes if I were them! THIS is the crack crew Rynning chose?

    (One detail I do like is that they're seen smoking cigarettes. Nice to see space ship construction has advanced to the point where open flames can be used even when the ship has experienced a gas leak! I'd assume they did a complete check of the ship before anyone struck a flint, but these guys are chowder-heads, we'll see, so maybe not.)

   A planet is finally sighted (although I'd think they'd have it on instruments all this time, so I'm not sure why they get excited) and the XB-13 moves in. In another bit of movie magic, the (stock footage) planet appears to be Earth, as I can quite clearly make out Florida and Cuba along the coast we're shown! Then, due to footage from THE WIZARD OF MARS, they're suddenly coming in over the red planet! The stock shots continue and we see the scene from THE WIZARD OF MARS where the ship soars down over a nicely alien landscape (one which will in no way match the upcoming location footage at the oft-filmed Vasquez Rocks, which, for what it's worth, will blend nicely with the Filipino locations).

   Now we get the shot that made me actively hate this film the first time I saw it. Now, I'm well-documented in my preference for even chintzy practical effects over computer animation. That's largely because the practical effects, no matter how crude, seem less lazy, and certainly come across as more charming. It was this film where I fully learned just how much contempt a movie can have for it's audience, for we're treated to the most blatantly cheap effect I've ever seen in my cinematic travels (which, take my word for it, is saying something). We've all heard of plastic models hanging from strings shot in somebody's back yard? Well, that's EXACTLY what we get! 
This actually looks a lot better than it does in the film...
   With no suitable landing scene available from THE WIZARD OF MARS, Adamson had to improvise. So what we see is a model rocket (although I'll admit it matches the stock footage ship fairly well) hanging from a string, coming to rest on a rock. It even slumps over when the string is slacked! We'll get a couple of shots that demonstrate this was shot near Bronson Canyon, as a distinctive hillside juts up majestically in the background. This looks like nothing so much as the footage a little kid obsessed with monster movies would take with his 8mm camera in the back yard. In fact, it looks like his first take. The one he would discard because he could do better! Really, words can't describe it!

   As is to be expected, the planet is very similar to earth, save for a peculiar atmospheric effect that casts all light in the same color. "The atmosphere! It's Red!" Still, the instruments indicate planet is "identical to Earth, except for that red haze." Now, the rocket landed in full color, but I guess we're supposed to ignore that. When we cut outside, we see everything bathed in pink. So much for the "blood red" we were told about earlier. As noted, the color of the scene will change every so often without warning. Despite that, this will be the only time any of our astronauts mention the color thing.

   So, as expected for a pulp science fiction movie, our heroes won't need space suits. Given the conditions are so Earth-like out there, Rynning suggests the group take along their "communicators." At first, I thought he meant handi-talkie radios, but he means some kind of small device which allows the removal of a language barrier with potential natives! Okay, even allowing that the planet has similar gravity and everything, what makes Rynning think the planet has human life? He'll be proven right, of course, but really, why would he think that? Also, I thought the first order of business was to repair the ship, not exploration. I'll grant they'd want to check the area before they break out their tools, but they're prepping for extended exploration, not maintenance!

   In a bold effects scene, a construction ladder is lowered into the camera's field of vision to show the rocket's outer hatch being opened. The surrounding terrain in no way matches the 'miniature' set where the rocket landed in full color...

   About to disembark, Rynning gets word from ground control that he can't join the away team. That chest-clutching earlier was due to a very mild heart attack. He can't leave the ship for risk of a full-scale coronary, which visibly depresses the great scientist (nice to see Carradine get a little acting moment, though. It elevates the scene far above the rest of the film). His younger, healthier expedition members disembark into a green-tinted world. (The color will continue to shift constantly, but I didn't feel compelled to note each shift. Hard as this may seem to believe, I do have a life! Also, it's not like the characters in the movie ever notice or react to this, so why bother?)

   Outside, the crew discovers the planet is teaming with stock footage dinosaurs. Naturally, we get a replay of the alligator/dimetrodon vs giant lizard battle from ONE MILLION B.C. which by this time had been seen in countless other films (TWO LOST WORLDS, TEENAGE CAVEMAN, VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS, etc, etc, etc). In a way, it's comforting, since the footage has the feel of being like an old friend who stops by every so often. It also features production value rather higher than the footage Adamson shot, so it helps in that respect too!

   I know some people have a bit of a bug about using lizards as dinosaurs, seeing as they don't resemble traditional dinosaurs. When done right, though, they certainly convey the idea of being prehistoric monsters. Here, the creatures are inhabitants of an alien planet filled with mutations, so they have that going for them in aiding suspension of disbelief. Really, the only time this effect really falls apart is when a character points to a giant iguana and calls it a Tyrannosaurus (as happened in KING DINOSAUR). As generic dinosaurs, I can buy the giant lizard thing. When well-shot and edited, the effect works, and doesn't look quite as cheap as it sounds (see ONE MILLION B.C. and the 1960 THE LOST WORLD for beautiful examples -although the latter film does have Professor Challenger clutching a gecko and calling it a baby tyrannosaurus.....).

   Our heroes don't seem as awed by the sight of living dinosaurs as you'd expect. Rynning (in communication via radio) is told about the creatures, and he's convinced the planet once housed intelligent life. I have no clue what he's basing this assertion on. Maybe if they'd showed a dial picking up electronic signals and had Rynning deduce that there's machinery buried on the planet.... But no, he just seems to know things he shouldn't have any reason to. Still, he needs some sort of proof of this, so he orders samples taken.

   Despite the dinosaurs lurking all about (well, in a valley below, but c'mon), Linda hangs back as the men wander over to another location. I thought they were setting up the obligatory menace Linda must be rescued from, -be that abduction by cave-men, attack by a carnivorous plant, or the sudden appearance of a dinosaur- but she later rejoins the group without incident. Isn't it lazier to forget the clich├ęs than it is to rely on them? Audiences go into films like this expecting to see certain things, after all. If I watch a spy movie, for example, I expect to see some exotic enemy base/headquarters get blown up at the end of the movie. In a movie like this, when a character falls away from the group for no logical reason, I assume they're going to be menaced by something!

   The men have their backs to Linda, all but begging some dinosaur to grab her, as they look out over the prehistoric valley. Willy notes the only thing missing from the scene are cavemen. Then they see some cavemen. (Isn't that kind of lazy scripting?) It's here we get our first indication of how weird the Filipino movie was. We do indeed see a group of cavemen, and they're at war with the horrible snake-men!

   At first glance, the snake-men don't look like anything so much a guys dressed in leopard skins, wearing make-up that calls to mind a burlesque minstrel skit about the Japs that might have been produced in 1942. They hiss, though, so they have that going for them. Upon a closer look, we see they have snakes growing out of their shoulders! Kill the snake and the otherwise human snake-men  go down. Okay, this isn't spelled out, and I'm sure I'm wasting my time even mentioning this, but I think the idea is that these are a tribe of cavemen who have had their bodies taken over by the parasitic snakes growing out of their shoulders.... Or else, this is just a really weird movie.

   At any rate, the cavemen manage to fight back the snake-men with fire. Back in the American movie, our heroes spot a pretty cavegirl being chased by snake-men who don't remotely match the monsters we saw in the Filipino footage (but I guess we're not to notice this, since they ARE making the same hissing sound). The astronauts jump in and shoot the snake men. The cavegirl runs from her rescuers, but they manage to catch her. Being told about the snake-men, Rynning determines them to be mutations. This convinces him that the planet was once advanced and came to blows in an atomic war which threw the planet into another stone age. The creatures seen by the crew are mutations created by the after-effects of said war. Seeing as he's on an alien planet, I again can't say why he's drawing this conclusion. Isn't it possible they're on a planet that just happens to house some strange, dare I say unearthly, creatures?

   Now we get one of the film's attempts at logic, which falls apart because it's stupid and undermined by something we see elsewhere in the film (and, oh yeah, is completely illogical!). Rynning orders the cavegirl be given a "communicator" to Linda's protest. Rynning nonchalantly tells her they'll be "merely rearranging (the cavegirl's) brainwaves electromagnetically" to allow her to understand and speak English!

   First off, I'm not sure how "rearranging her brainwaves" is going to give her a command of the English language... She'd still need to hear the language in order to know it, right? The thing is, we earlier heard the cavemen speaking English! And we'll later hear them speak a lot more without aid of "communicators." What's more, these "communicators" must be implanted surgically! So the crew performs a quick field surgery and implants the device in the cavegirl's head, being talked through the operation via radio by Rynning!

   Well, the girl, Mylee, offers us a little backstory now that she can speak English like everyone else already does on this alien world. She tries to run away at first because she's afraid that the earthlings are members of the Tubatan tribe, although when we see the Tubatan, there's no way she could make this mistake! The men manage to calm her down and get the full story.

   The set-up is this: there's a peaceful, perfectly human tribe called the Toogani, to which Mylee belongs. Recently, the Toogani have been targeted by the literally bloodthirsty Tubatan, fanged vampire cavemen! (This, I guess, is the slender thread trying to tie the prolog to the rest of the movie. The idea being that these caveman-vampires were the originators a disease currently spreading across earth. If this is the case, it's proof positive that Adamson watched his own movie, but never listened to the dialog! This falls apart hard by the time the movie is over!)

   In the flashback, we are introduced to Leelah, another cavegirl with a knack for fighting vampires. Since she might be confused with Mylee (okay, not really, since they're played by different actresses who don't favor each other in films shot years apart -but my first impression was that it was supposed to be the same character!), we'll note that Mylee wears white, Leelah black. Anyway, the Filipino film had some occasionally good production value, and some pretty nifty fight scenes. Leelah takes out one vampire by shooting it in the head with an arrow! She then beats up another one with her bow!

   Yep, it's pretty clearly established here that the Toogani speak English!

   Anyway, the Toogani are swarmed by Tubatan and Leelah is carried off. We also establish Takee, a traitorous caveman who has thrown in his lot with the Tubatan. Considering the only thing that makes him look different from the Tubatan is his lack of fangs, it took me a fair piece of the movie to figure this angle out! Also confusing is that there's at least two girls who look like Leelah if you're not paying attention (or even if you are, it turns out), and then there's a Tubatan woman dressed the same way except she's got fangs!

   Emerging from flashback, we see Willy and Mylee are falling for each other. He gives her a medal he got "from the War." What war he means is a mystery since they didn't do a very good job of establishing when all this is taking place. Given they establish that men are living on other planets, one would think this were all set millions of years in the future (hundreds at the very least), and yes, this completely ignores the vampire prolog, which doesn't belong here anyway.

   On the other hand, maybe they figured there would be a flurry of scientific advancement in the next few years. Willy seems young, so they might not have meant WW2 or Korea. Nam? Is he a veteran of some future conflict? I guess we don't deserve to know, because we never will....

   Back on Earth, we check back in with Dix and Volante, who it turns out are married. This is obviously newer footage as both actors look a couple of years older. Dix has come home a little later, as Volante is already in bed. They discuss the situation of the XB-13 and her crew in the Spectra system, spelling out the shifting color tint thing. The following lines are tossed around: "dangerous chromatic radiation" "extremely dangerous" "can change from one color to another at any time" "the most dangerous color is red!"

    Feeling the situation hasn't been adequately explained, Dix decides to demonstrate, saying he "brought home this chromatic radiation gun to show you what's happening in space."  He then aims the gun at his wife and showers her in a series of colors, including red! I thought that was "extremely dangerous" but I guess we missed the part where Dix took out a life-insurance policy on his wife, and then left a chemical on her toothbrush that caused her short-term memory to fail.....

   They finish the scene with Dix starting to remove his uniform while noting he's looking for relaxation "in any color." In this TV print, we zip back to Spectra. In the theatrical version, HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS, however, we're subjected to a long and boring sex scene between the two (shot in such a way their faces are barely visible...).

   Sex is apparently a lot more complicated in the future, as this involves an electronic device being wired to their heads. Dix flips a switch and a nonsensical array of electronic equipment across the room starts flashing lights and making 'science' noises. One attachment to this machine is a big siren light from a squad car or a fire engine! It's purpose is a mystery. I guess they figured that in the future, for the weird sex types, all this would replace such mundane items as lava lamps, candles, and black lights. In other films, we've been told sex in the future will be enhanced by controls that let you turn off the gravity in any room. I guess the basics are doomed to obscurity....

   Cutting back to the Filipino movie, we find we are still in Mylee's flashback! This has to break some sort of narrative rule, you'd think. We see a young Toogani warrior get ambushed by Tubatan outside the cave where his people are held up. For the village to survive, they will need to enlist the aid of the warrior Rameer, who is currently on an away mission. The tribe elder (dubbed by Paul Frees!) sends young Suki to slip through the Tubatan lines and recall Rameer and his men. Mylee (this time a Filipino actress) decided to also seek out Rameer, in case Suki didn't get through. The runners head off in different directions, drawing the Tubatan away from the cave.

   We discover the Tubatan chasing after Mylee when she slipped out in the night are the same Tubatan Willy and the others saved her from the next day (which is double odd, because they were snake-men when they were shot)! Mylee reports the village desperately needs "fire water" to defeat the Tubatan. Although amusing to think the master plan is to get the Tubatan drunk and thus defeat them, our Earth-men quickly deduce the Fire Water is crude oil located in a near-bye cave. (So, was Mylee seeking Rameer, or the fire-water? Does the script even care? I can answer that! No.) The men pass this new information to Rynning, wondering if this discovery can be used in the currently-broken cooling unit.

   I thought for sure it was the heating unit that was broken earlier in the movie! On the other hand, this better explains why the crew has never changed out of their short sleeves in the three to four days it took them to reach the planet. Still, they could have been clearer about this. This is like my air conditioner going out and saying I'm having a problem with my heater. The two things don't jibe in the least! Just the same, Rynning reports the ship has the right equipment to distill the crude into oil that can be used in the cooling unit, thus allowing them to depart the planet. I thought they had other problems, which have never been attended to (unless this is how Rynning is staying busy while the others are out exploring), but I guess now the cooling unit is the whole deal!

   Mylee leads our heroes toward the cave, which happily seems to be only a few yards away! First, though, Mylee catches sight of Rameer and his men crossing a river to reach the same cave (if this was Rameer's ultimate destination, he's taken the long way around to it). Since the Earth-gang can't in any way meet with the Filipino cavemen, they look on from a distance as Rameer and his men come under attack by hideous lobster-men! Given they have exposed human shoulders and their pincers are obviously gloves, I can't be sure if these are supposed to be actual lobster monsters or men wearing lobster-like armor. Given the sequence of events, I guess they're inhuman monsters, but the sequence came to an end before I decided this was so.... Despite this minor set-back, Rameer's company crosses the river.

   With Rameer on this side of the river and headed for the cave, Mylee runs off to meet him. Before going, she tells the Earth men to wait for her. Since they can't actually interact with the other movie, the men (and Linda) settle down and relax. (These are the most easy-going astronauts in the history of film!)

   As Rameer approaches the cave, Filipino Mylee and Suki suddenly appear (together) from out of nowhere and tell Rameer about the Tubatan. Rameer (also dubbed by Paul Frees, although that's weird since the film was obviously shot in English....) orders his men to procure some Fire Water before returning to the village and mopping up the remaining Tubatan*. Despite this cave being familiar to the Toogani, the warriors are taken by surprise by the native bat-men! These creatures (also showing exposed human flesh) fly about very awkwardly on visible strings! They provide a brief menace, but are fairly easy to eradicate.

(*Yeah, that's another problem with that pointless prolog about the vampires, which implied the plague had spread from a source planet millions of years away. The Tubatan are but a single tribe, their number roughly two dozen. Now, I suppose there are others like them on this planet, but it's pretty obvious that in millions of years the rest of the human -and lobster/snake/bat-man- population of Spectra hasn't been wiped out by vampires. In fact, the Tubatan seem a relatively recent development! The prolog made it seem as if the earth had about a month before it was populated only by vampires! The film would still have problems, but I think the biggest one could be cured if only that ridiculous prolog were dropped!)

   Although no Fire Water has been visibly collected, Rameer returns to the village. The bat-men cleared out, I guess, Mylee shows the Earth men the cave (seems her priorities might lay with her countrymen on the verge of extinction, but I guess you can't properly time the moments you should extend a helping hand). Handily, the cave is within walking distance to the ship, and Bob is sent back to retrieve some containers to hold the oil. Although he must avoid some stock footage dinosaurs, he quickly returns with a pair of jerry cans! Seems rather prosaic, doesn't it? Oh well, it doesn't look like they paid the prop guy enough for him to care. This will be even more apparent in a few minutes!

   With Steve and Linda on the oil situation, Bob and Willy take Mylee back to her people in time for the climax. The firearm-equipped astronauts are going to offer any help they can, and you have to imagine that's a lot in a world using torches and stone axes. The guys have been carrying rifles and sidearms all this time, and could conceivably wipe out the Tubatan in a few seconds if they tried. I really didn't notice this earlier, as I'd expect such weapons to be included in any serious exploration party. At the time this kind of film was being made, space exploration was still largely a military operation. Preparing for every situation, most of us might take for granted that they'd have guns on board any space ship large enough to light upon another planet. It'd be like carrying a cigarette lighter with you everywhere even if you don't smoke, it's just common sense.

   Given the Army surplus nature of the props, I'd guess these to be .45 clip pistols and M-1 carbine rifles. Carbines would be a logical choice, for they are compact and reliable. I say I guess, because when watching the film I just took it for granted. Only now, in writing this review, did it occur to me that some people might find firearms on a spaceship strange (considering we live in a world where pilots on commercial airliners don't even keep a pistol in their cockpits anymore). I honestly didn't inspect the weapons to check what kind they were. At any rate, these weapons would be like atom bombs to a society this primitive, so Bob and Willy could save a lot of needless bloodshed if they would just pick up the pace a little!

   On their way back to the ship with the jerry cans full of oil (okay, they're obviously still empty, lighter to tote around that way...), Steve and Linda happen across a half-buried "container of some sort" that excites Dr. Rynning. This artifact is quite obviously an undisguised ammo box, the sort of thing any kid might have bought from his local Army surplus store and used to house his baseball cards! In fact, I'd be amazed if the prop guy didn't just borrow the device from his own kid's bedroom! Talk about chutzpa! And think about the fact that Steve has been using the very type of ammunition the box was made to hold! THIS is an alien artifact? Moreover, an alien artifact Steve notes is made of the extremely exotic metal known as... steel!

   In carrying this unimaginable object back to Dr. Rynning, Steve and Linda are almost trampled by a stock footage dinosaur/monitor lizard. After this incident, the two get weirdly introspective and come to terms with the likelihood they'll never be leaving this prehistoric planet. Where did this notion come from? There hasn't been any indication the ship wouldn't be able to be repaired. Well, they suddenly required refined oil to make the cooling unit work properly, but that detail came out of nowhere. Was there a script at all? Or did these people just shoot some generic space opera scenes that would be patched together at a later date?

   Anyway, Steve and Linda return to the ship. In taking the bizarre, unearthly metal container from Steve, Rynning accidentally flashes the information printed on the side of the box! That's right! Not only did they blatantly use a dime-a-dozen surplus ammo box for a movie prop, they didn't even bother to paint over the lettering stenciled onto the side of the box before it left the factory!!! At least the ammo box that mysteriously turns up as a spinning gizmo in FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND was painted pink in a vain attempt to hide it's origins!

   The scene gets better too. Thanks to his chem-lab set-up of beakers, Rynning states the oil will be refined in "a few hours." Wow! That's a good set-up, considering it looks like something borrowed from a local high school!

   At the Tubatan camp, there's unease about Rameer's forthcoming assault. Takee and the Tubatan leader (both voiced by Paul Frees*) have a falling out in the face of the coming slaughter. Rameer must be Spectra's Rambo, because he has the enemy sweating. For reasons I can't remember fully, because there was so much else going on (for one thing, I was dumbfounded by that ammo box), Takee slays the Tubatan leader. Just in time, Rameer and his men arrive and the big fight scene is underway!

(*Frees seems to've voiced all the important male characters, as he had done in the past in dubbing Japanese monster movies and the like. Weird, really, that such a professional would get this job, given Adamson clearly didn't care about anything else in the picture having an iota of polish. And why is the dialog dubbed, anyway? The actors are clearly speaking English! And they're not saying anything to contradict the newer footage, as if Adamson even cared!)

   Takee tries to make off with Leelah (who I'm guessing in the earlier version of the film was identified as being Rameer's woman), but Rameer rescues her and the two men engage in a good old-fashioned fight scene! Bob and Willy and Mylee arrive on the scene (although peripherally for obvious reasons) and help out by shooting a couple of Tubatan that try to attack them. Ultimately, the Toogani win the day, without ever bringing the Fire Water into play! This item is glossed over entirely, in fact.

   Willy let's Bob know that, now that the battle is over, he's going to say goodbye to Mylee. As he starts to walk off, though, Willy gets dizzy for a second or two. Fine once it passes, he overlooks the feeling. (Sure, I suppose I might do this too, but Willy is a trained astronaut and soldier. Seems he'd take a sudden attack on his senses a little more seriously.)

   Back in the Filipino movie, Rameer and Takee are still in their big fight scene, which is pretty good stuff. The Filipinos had a real knack of combat scenes, and they tended to be more realistic the smaller scale they were. Here, two guys roll around and look like they're actually hurting each other. Rameer finishes the sequence when he gets Takee face-down on the ground. Stepping on Takee's hands so his opponent can't get any leverage, Rameer grabs his enemy's chin and pulls upward with all his might. Takee's neck snapped, the war is over.

   Willy and Mylee say their goodbyes, but Mylee wants Willy to stay with her. He can't, however, and offers to take her home to her people before leaving. He gets dizzy again, but it passes. Meanwhile, one last Tubatan shows up and spears Bob. Willy manages to shoot the native, but gets weaker until he faints. Rynning, having discovered the truth about the planet, orders Bob and Willy to "return immediately" but gets no answer from them. Steve heads out to find them, and Mylee leads him to Willy.

   Back aboard the rocket, Rynning insists on leaving ASAP. (Meanwhile, I notice his desk has a stack of huge books resting on it. Wouldn't such records be on microfilm so as to reduce weight? On the other hand, maybe conventional fuel is only used to operate the cooling unit!!??) After their brief stay on the planet, everybody's white blood cell count is down. This is due to a "deadly virus" in the air, and Rynning predicts the natives won't survive much longer. The Toogani are doomed, but the crew of the XB-13 (save the late Bob, and with his seat open, why not bring back Mylee?) will be fine because the "virus can't live in earth's atmosphere."

   That's right, as if it hadn't been undercut enough, this completely negates the vampire plague prolog!

   As Mylee mournfully looks on, the XB-13 prepares to leave. The ladder is pulled back up and we see the full-color back yard rocket model again! Moreover, this is the exact same view ground control has on it's main viewscreen! What's more, seconds later the screen shows a completely different stock shot rocket taking off. But wait, it gets better. We cut to the scene a third time a see yet another stock footage rocket! And, although we saw the ship taking off when it was the previous shot, now it's seen starting up and lifting off all over again!

   Anyway, our heroes are on their way back to Earth, where the deadly virus that has nothing to do with vampires will never survive. The Spectra planet is doomed, however (man, the planet has suffered through atomic war, rise of mutation, a complete collapse of civilization, dinosaurs, and now a deadly virus that will kill everyone off*! The planet can't get a break!), and Rynning remarks that we may destroy Earth the same way someday. (Of course, it's established that we have colonies on other planets so we'll stand a better chance of surviving as a race than do the Spectrans.)

(*They don't bother to say if this eventual extinction is within a few years or a few generations. Ignoring the "millions of years" line from the completely pointless and crippled prolog, let's then say this planet has only been in such shape for 20 to 100 years. That would play more into Rynning's conclusion.)

   So Mylee's people are saved from the Tubatan just to be wiped out by a virus? And poor Mylee! This has been a really rough day for her! Her countrymen have been hunted and eaten by Tubatan, she was operated on, fell in love with a man who had to leave her (again, why not take Mylee with? Not to make light of Bob's death, but they have an extra seat now, and the ship was quite roomy to begin with. Not to mention fast! Rynning could evacuate all of the Toogani within a month since it only takes four days to reach Spectra, presumably four minutes if the ship is in proper working order!), and now the pretty young girl is doomed to die from dizzy spells.

   I'm an optimist, though, so even though this is where the movie ends, I'm thinking Willy will arrange a return to the planet to save Mylee and her people. Rynning is such a smartypants, I'm sure he'll be able to develop a vaccine before the XB-13 returns to Earth.

   As for that vampire thing in the beginning, maybe that was just an old movie Dix and Volante were watching before they left for work, and Dix was showing off for his wife by doing his vampire voice-over gag. Believe me, that's the most logical explanation there will ever be!

   Anyway, that was VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET/HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS. Here's an excellent example of why Ed Wood remains a favored 'bad' director. While he had no talent, Ed obviously cared about what he was doing (maybe not much, but he did care). Adamson just didn't care. He was a business man, and his only concern was the bottom line. Fantastic as it seems, though, he must have known what he was doing. II made a mint off of films like this. Terrible as they were, they were drive-in standards!


   The film has also been issued on VHS and DVD multiple times....



2 comments:

  1. Wow, how did I miss ever seeing this one when, in their last few years, the local TV stations started showing all sorts of cheap crap in place of former masterpieces by Toho, Universal, and Hammer? Great review of the film.

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