Al Adamson’s Version of Rashomon? …. or …. The Life and Times of Joe Corey!
To fully comprehend how messed up the plot is in Al Adamson’s 1973 release, Blood of Ghastly Horror, we need to go back to the beginning to learn the real story of screen character Joe Corey as played by Roy Morton sporting a military style crewcut. In Rashomon like fashion his story will unfold over the course of not one but three movies stitched together by Adamson and schlock producer Sam Sherman for the benefit of the exploitation crowds who frequented drive-ins during the late 1960’s.
***I must caution one and all that there are spoilers ahead.***
First up … 1965’s Psycho A Go Go.
A title like that should conjure up a killer on the loose flick for this drive in special and for me I assumed I was sitting in on a movie that was to depict a crazed killer preying on beautiful Go Go dancers. Yes we have the dancers and yes we have a depraved killer played by Mr. Roy Morton as Joe Corey but my suspicions couldn’t have been further from the truth.
No, what we have is a film abut a heist gone bad. Three men pull a job that nets them a fortune in jewels. One of those men just happens to be our director and when he gets killed during the robbery I couldn’t help but think of Tarantino’s appearance and demise in Reservoir Dogs. One never knows which films Mr. Tarantino gets his ideas from so perhaps it was here? Just throwing that out there.
There’s a foul up with the bag of jewels and they are accidently placed in the back of a pick up truck. The owner who is none the wiser drives off with the goods. So now we have Corey and his partners in crime which includes a violent mastermind behind the scenes, his moll, and the one remaining hood from the heist. Fortunately our gangster’s lady, Tanya Magee, caught sight of the plate number so it won’t be long before the hoods pay a visit to our truck owner, Kirk Duncan.
By the way, Duncan happens to be married to our leading lady Tacey Robbins. A lounge singer who is flanked by a couple of Go Go dancers which somewhat justifies the title for the drive-in crowd.
We also have a cop on the case played by Joey Benson with an eye for the ladies even though he’s married. By coincidence he also happens to be the best buddy of Duncan. Now here’s the set up. Duncan has no idea he’s in possession of the jewels. Little does he realize that his 6 year old daughter has found the “rocks” and hid them in the stuffing of her singing minstrel doll.
Enough of this back ground stuff. The gang wants it’s jewels and Corey is indeed a psycho who wants his cut of the treasure. Along the way he’ll kill two women to get information on the whereabouts of the all American family and in the film’s finale he’ll terrorize mom and daughter until Dad and his cop buddy catch up to him in the snowy hills of California.
A couple of gunshot wounds and off the cliff he falls.
That’s the basic plot points and for an 85 minute drive-in special it wasn’t all that bad and that ultra low budget gives it a nostalgic feel as do some of the locations caught on camera. Note the Jerry Lewis Restaurant clearly seen in the background of the heist.
Now let’s move on to a second look at the story of Joe Corey.
1967’s The Fiend With the Electronic Brain
Take the 85 minutes of Psycho A Go Go and cross breed them with John Carradine in a laboratory that looks as if it was hastily put together in the men’s changeroom at your local gym and voila, we are going to justify the demented behavior of Joe Corey.
All we need to do is write three scenes for John and bring back actors Morton and Benson to change the narrative script for Psycho A Go Go. And guess what …. it kind of works!
Scene #1 Benson as our cop investigating the heist who still has an eye for the ladies including Carradine’s secretary has discovered that a fingerprint is traced to that of a dead man, Joe Corey. So he’s off to see Carrradine, the doctor who signed the death certificate. Old John in fine Shakespeare fashion denies any wrong doing but of course both Benson and we the viewers know he’s concealing something.
Scene #2 John calls back Detective Benson to cleanse his soul by explaining that Corey had suffered a brain injury and was near death. In order to save his life he has inserted what appeared to be a rubber band upon freeze framing the blu ray into the brain of Corey with tragic side effects. He’s now a homicidal maniac and Carradine thought it best to hide his failed experiment by declaring Corey a dead man.
and Scene #3. While John is engaged with his test tubes and whacky experiments who should walk into his lab? None other than Joe Corey looking to even the score for the pain and suffering that John has cursed him with. Carradine tries to defend his experiment but it’s all for nothing when Corey hooks his “creator” up to the electronic steel hard helmet with a pair of phone cords attached to it. Yes John is to suffer death by some sort of electrical device.
…. and now it’s back to the finale of Psycho A Go Go but with a different feel to all those murders that Corey has committed now that we know it’s all Carradine’s fault as we rejoin our psycho in the snowy caps and his impending death.
Onward to the third angle of our leading character, Joe Corey.
1973’s Blood of Ghastly Horror
For this release Al Adamson and producer/friend Samuel Sherman go a step farther by taking the scissors to Psycho A Go Go but keep the Carradine footage and launch us into the end result of the havoc caused in the first two films.
Our third version on the life of Corey begins with some sort of walking corpse creature attacking and killing a couple and whoever he can get his hands on in the opening stanza. Enter Tommy Kirk, the one time teenage sensation of the Disney lot in films like The Shaggy Dog and Old Yeller. Kirk is playing a detective who is reminded of the Corey case and the crazy Carradine who turned him into a Psycho. This allows for some flashback footage of both the original film with Corey and the secondary stuff added to the second release with Carradine. As a matter of fact, the Corey/Carradine/Benson scenes are all utilized as flashbacks in this latest effort from Adamson.
While Kirk is mainly hanging around his office delivering a performance worthy of a Razzie win, in walks the true love of Al Adamson’s life off screen, Miss Regina Carroll. Turns out she’s the daughter of the late Carradine and is now in town after receiving a mysterious phone call connected to father’s past.
You see there’s a madman on the loose who is far nuttier than Carradine ever was and he’s looking to avenge the death of Corey. This is where we meet Kent Taylor playing the father of Corey and he’s in no need of an electronic brain. He’s already psychotic and in a deranged mission he’s planning on killing anyone connected to his son’s death. Splash some more flashback footage of actor Roy Morton as Joe Corey into our story and before we know it poor Regina is captured by Taylor and finds herself strapped to the lab’s table where she’s about to become the latest addition to his army of walking corpses.
I’m serious. We’ve come a long way from our original heist film. Now we’re into zombies and the walking dead. And that atrocious performance from Kirk.
I guess all that’s left is to hang in there till the end to see if Miss Carroll is going to be rescued from the clutches of our evil Doctor in a lab coat playing like he’s Bela Lugosi in a Monogram feature. In case you didn’t hang in there have some faith in good conquering evil.
Lord only knows just how many titles and variations these films went through or the actual years of their releases. Apparently there is another take on the story called The Man With the Synthetic Brain. Countless re-issues from one state to another only adds to the confusion but I’ll be the first to admit I get a big kick out of just how these low budget specials were rolled out to the public back in the day.
We’ve come to far to really ever experience this kind of low budget marketing ever again thanks to the internet and the world being connected as it is. Imagine going to see Psycho A Go Go at the drive in and then going again not too long afterwards and seeing the exact same film plus a couple of extra scenes under a different title with a whole new poster pasted to to the billboard. Hilarious.
Pick any movie made today. Have some fun with it. Add a couple scenes to change your opinion on a key character by employing a well known actor and rerelease it under a new name to an unsuspecting crowd. Then go a step further and splice it up around a whole new plot aimed at the teenage horror market. Like I said, can’t really be done anymore. I guess that’s one of the reasons I love the nostalgia of the drive-in era even if I really missed it by a few years.
Now if you’re looking to check out this variation on what I’ve termed the Rashomon theme from the cult director then you may have to shell out some big dollars to score a copy of Al Adamson : The Masterpiece Collection …. if you can find one.
Truthfully one of the better sets I’ve spent my money on but of course you have to have a taste for these schlocky affairs.