There I was, 1971, ten years old, bored, and flipping through the newspaper when BAM! It hit me like a ton of bricks! The exact thing my ten-year-old eyes dreamed of seeing: A huge half-page ad with a giant grotesque monstrosity ripping its own head off printed in blood red ink! Dripping red letters screamed BEAST OF BLOOD! I was an avid monster magazine reader then (and now) and even made a slew of my own monster mags. This ad was so very important to me that part of it was used as the entire back cover of “Monster Journal” a one-off handmade on loose leaf paper by a couple of ten year olds (one of them being me, natch). The monster ripping his own head off was the centerfold.
Luckily I somehow still have it. Here’s the front cover, centerfold and back cover:
Having misbehaved, I was punished the whole week this movie played in our neighborhood theater and I never got to see it, cementing it even deeper into my psyche, as it became my own demented folklore in my personal history. That I had to wait at least fifteen years—and for VCRs to be invented—to see it may be hard for young people to grasp in these days of consumer enlightenment, but such was our world back then, and believe me, the rewards were truly that much more rewarding when it took you that long to find something.
Not so strangely enough, this is exactly what these now 54-year-old eyes still dream of seeing. I have been buying a lot of DVD’s of late and was missing one of the “Blood Island” films so I bought a box set that came out called The Blood Island Vacation on Amazon. The so-called “Blood Island trilogy” has quite a convoluted past. Even the box set has four films in it. There are at least three or four other films that also fit into this trilogy.
The Blood Island saga begins in 1959 with Terror is a Man (later retitled Blood Creature, of course). It borrows its basic plot from The Island of Dr. Moreau—an obsessed scientist on a secluded island experiments with changing animals into humans. But the film is anything but a cheap rip-off. Terror is a Man is surprisingly intelligent, stylish and suspenseful, and from the same creators/directors/producers as the “Blood Island” trilogy: Eddie Romero, Gerardo De Leon and Kane Lynn. But let’s deal with the three main films to start with.
Brides of Blood (1968) begins the way all of the “Blood Island” films do, with our hero John Ashley (long time Hollywood B movie favorite starting out in fifties monster and juvenile delinquent films, graduating to sixties beach party films, doing quite a lot of weirdo flicks in the Philippines in the seventies, and then winding up producing TV shows like The A-Team, etc.), some hot chick with a specific reason for going to the island, some natives and the ships captain all sailing out on a steam ship to the dreaded island. This first film co-starred the ample real life stripper/actress Beverly Hills and 1930’s-1950’s B movie star Kent Taylor as her scientist husband (Kent Taylor was apparently the inspiration for the name of Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent).
They arrive on Blood Island and are met with the usual hostile/fearful islanders. Something weird is going on. Why are these people here? Everyone has their own concept of the monster in this film but to me it looks like a big burnt deflated Michelin Man with fangs and ummm… lipstick?
The big gimmick for Brides of Blood was the wedding ring give-away. Theater managers were encouraged to order hundreds of plastic wedding and engagement rings to give to every unmarried female in the audience. Hemisphere Pictures even made a special trailer to advertise the rings. I actually have a set of them that were still in the press book for the film that I bought many moons ago. The marketing and advertising for these films is amazing. Wild trailers, including deranged narration from demented doom comedian Brother Theodore on the Mad Doctor of Blood Island trailer (see below), gorgeous posters done by world-class artists (paperback book cover artist icon Charles Copeland on Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood, comic artist Gray Morrow on Brain of Blood) etc.
You can read a great and funny review of Brides of Blood from BadMovies.org here. The whole film can be watched for free on Hulu here.
Which brings up to the ultimate “Blood Island” film and quite honestly one of the greatest/nastiest/goriest films of the sixties, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1969). As intense as my original obsession with Beast of Blood was, this film is the reason people still talk about this trilogy. The original theatrical version begins with “The Oath of the Green Blood” a prequel where the audience is forced to drink some kinda green crap so they could safely view the unnatural green-blooded ones without fear of contamination! Amazing!
This film has enough blood, gore and nudity for any seasoned gorehound out there. A nubile young islander gets torn apart and green slimed before the credits even roll. Whenever the monster is on screen the zoom lens is abused to the point of nausea. As I said before the classic trailer is narrated by cult icon Brother Theodore and is a total mindblower. This one co stars Angelique Pettyjohn just before her porn career took off. Some of her “big” moments can be seen in Body Talk or Titillation (both 1982). Her most memorable performance though, is in the rough, no-budget, bondage-themed porno Stalag 69, an Ilsa She Wolf of the SS rip-off that leaves little to the imagination. She then did a turnaround, appearing in genre films The Lost Empire (1983), Repo Man (1984) and Biohazard (1985) in a leading role with aging alcoholic star Aldo Ray. She died of cancer in 1992 just short of her 50th birthday.
So now we come full circle to where we began with the third film in this endless trilogy, Beast of Blood. This direct sequel starts exactly where the last one ends. Once again on a boat, but cruising away from our beloved “Blood Island.” Our hero Bill Foster (John Ashley) soon realizes that the beast who was once Don Ramon Lopez before Dr. Lorca over experimented on him with his chlorophyll treatments, has snuck on board and has chopped through most of the crew with a huge axe. After the boat burns during the struggle with the monster, they wind up back on the island where everyone fears Foster now, as he’s been touched by “the Evil One.”
Foster returns home from the island, only to be possessed by the thoughts of the monster being alive there. So now we’re on a freighter with some islanders, the captain and naturally the prerequisite hot chick, heading back to Blood Island for some curiosity/snoopy/science/reporter nonsense. Here again we have our classic tried-and-true “Blood Island trilogy” formula as in the other episodes, with a tiny twist. Kind of smart actually.
The third installment gives us the lovely Celeste Yarnall in the hot chick role. Yarnall was discovered by Ozzie and Ricky nelson who put her in an episode of Ozzie and Harriet in 1962. She was then hand picked by Jerry Lewis to be one of the students in The Nutty Professor. She was in just about every great 60’s TV show (Bonanza, Hogan’s Heroes, It takes a Thief, Land of the Giants, Love, American Style, The F.B.I., Mannix, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Wild, Wild West, Bewitched), and is widely known by Trekkies from her major role in an episode of Star Trek (as was Angelique Pettyjohn, oddly.) Yarnall was also in a number of better films like Live a Little, Love a Little opposite Elvis, The Velvet Vampire and Eve opposite Christopher Lee. Here she plays “Myra Russell” a nosy reporter bugging John Ashley and following him onto the ship to see what he’s up to. This film is really good. A bit slower paced, but totally insane when the monster is on screen.
While the trilogy officially ends here, there’s more! If you get through these three films (they were once repackaged as the Blood-O-Rama Shock Festival with some other related films) you can check out The Beast of the Yellow Night, The Twilight People, The Blood Drinkers, the previously mentioned Terror is a Man, Curse of the Vampires, Blood Demon and the most famous one, Brain of Blood which stars Kent Taylor from Brides of Blood and even uses the same music as some of the “Blood Island” films.
It’s amazing to think that these kind of films were so popular with moviegoers that there were so many super low budget demented trilogies besides these. The Ilsa films (Ilsa She Wolf of the SS, Ilsa Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, Ilsa Tigress of Siberia, plus Wanda the Wicked Warden), The Ginger films (Ginger, The Abductors, Girls Are For Loving plus related others), the “Flesh” trilogy (Touch of Her Flesh, Curse of Her Flesh, Kiss of Her Flesh), the “Olga” films (Olga’s House of Shame, Olga’s Dance Hall Girls, White Slaves of Chinatown, Mme Olga’s Massage Parlor and Olga’s Girls), Herschell Gordon Lewis’ “Blood trilogy” (Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red), and of course Warhol/Morrissey’s Flesh, Trash and Heat.
These legendary and very sick films made money or the endless follow-ups wouldn’t have happened. It’s wild to think you could once go to Times Square and see a really rough nasty adult film and then two weeks later be surprised to find your favorite villain is starring in yet another new movie! Thank the dark lord for Something Weird Video or most of these films would be lost forever. They have literally thousands of these lost films in their catalog (and for direct download). Dig in to the disgusting flipside of Hollywood glamour!