You may have to take my word on this one. Vampires are attacking people all over earth (aka a single dark alleyway), so five astronauts (including John Carradine!) head into space to find the cause of the vampire plague. Trouble with their spaceship lead them to land on a planet similar to earth, except that radiation has tinted the atmosphere various colors. After some quick brain surgery, they bond with a cave-girl (Jennifer Bishop) who tells the story of her tribe (the Tagani), who are battling with another saber-toothed tribe (as well as cave-bat-men and crab people) before she leads the crew to some crude oil. John Carradine distills the crude oil, and the astronauts blast off back to earth, leaving the cave-people to their radiation-filled doom.
A history lesson up front. Al Adamson (Dracula vs Frankenstein) purchased the rights to a filipino film called Tagani in 1965 with the hopes of releasing it in the US. Tagani was an odd caveman picture with monster movie elements like snake-men and bat-people, and Adamson thought it would appeal to the drive-in audiences. Unfortunately, by the mid-60s drive-in audiences were looking for color films, and Tagani was made in black and white. Oh well. Back to the drawing board, right?
Not quite. Adamson instead directed a number of (ultra low budget) framing color scenes featuring American actors, and proceeded to tint all of the Tagani footage (which now was presented as taking place on a different planet) red. Bingo. Color film. Except, once he brought it to producer Sam Sherman the whole thing was made unwatchable by the fact that the red tinting naturally tired the audience’s eyes, sending them to sleep. Oops!
So. Sherman decided to tint the Tagani footage (as well as the footage of the astronauts on the planet) a variety of colors and wrote a few more scenes explaining “spectrum radiation”. Adamson then filmed these scenes in 1970 (four years after filmed the initial color scenes, and five years after the initial purchase of Tagani) with a couple of the original actors, and tossed in a futuristic sex scene for good measure.
It’s enough to make Godfrey Ho (tinted) green with envy, and the film proceeded to gross big numbers across the country thanks to a lurid title and an ad campaign featuring art from comics legend Neal Adams.
And the financial success of Horror Of The Blood Monsters is a triumph, because while the footage from Tagani is interesting, original, and shows reasonable production values, the Adamson footage is awe-inspiringly bad. Footage of the spaceship landing on the alien planet is simply a shot of a model being lowered onto some rocks (with an awkward tilt when it lands). The Mission Control set appears to be three seconds of stock footage from another film with close-up talking heads of new actors awkwardly edited in. The film begins with some shots of vampire attacks that were obviously (and admittedly) included just to have more color footage and some scenes to throw into the trailer.
Carradine hams it up as the irritable Dr. Rynning, but even his wide-eyed silliness can’t mask the serious flaws that have made this film a favorite of the so-bad-it’s-good crowd. It’s almost a shame that Tagani, which looks to be a fun film in its own right, is best known as the center piece of this bizarre (though original) cash grab.
The DVD from Image Entertainment features a full screen print of the film which definitely shows its age, but perfectly serviceable. The tinted scenes can be a little difficult to watch at times (particularly the blue tints meant to represent night), but details are never hard to make out.
We’re treated to a really informative commentary from producer Sam Sherman who relates the quite fascinating history of how the film came to be, and shares a number of interesting stories about the filming (and post production) process. Sherman fully recognizes the film’s flaws, and spends a good portion of the commentary poking fun at them, but he also recognizes that the film has a wide fan-base and doesn’t believe that it accurately represents Adamson’s film-making talent.
We’re also treated to the film’s original theatrical trailer, an original trailer for Tagani (which appears to have eventually gotten its own release), a neat “House Of Terror” live horror show promo, as well as a selection of trailers for Mad Doctor Of Blood Island (1968), Brides Of Blood (1968), Beast Of Blood (1971), Brain Of Blood (1972, also from Adamson), Blood Of The Vampires (1966, called Curse Of The Vampires in the trailer), and The Blood Drinkers (1964).
Certainly inventive, but also unequivocally bad, Horror Of The Blood Monsters is definitely entertaining, from the bizarre monsters of Tagani to the low-budget charm of Adamson’s footage, and the bizarreness of the computer and flashing lights-assisted love-scene. Fans of drive-in fare will eat this up, and the extra features add some much needed perspective, but those looking for coherence best look elsewhere.