B: Blood of Ghastly Horror (1973)

I think we all know there is a movie called Blood of Ghastly Horror. We saw the video cases, the ad mats in genre magazines. And somehow I had passed it up all these years. Let me emphasize that: I used to run a movie review site called The Bad Movie Report and I had spent my entire life not watching something called Blood of Ghastly Horror.

Well, I’ve taken care of that. Go me.

Ahem.

Blood of Ghastly Horror opens with the murder spree of a disfigured green-faced guy who goes around crushing people, racking up five kills in a few minutes, and two of them are cops. (Budget-minded viewers will note that the cops all drive the same car, and they all park in the same alley for the entire movie) Homicide detective Cross (Tommy Kirk!) is on the job, especially after he is delivered a box containing the head of one of the dead cops. A note enclosed with the head leads him to opening an old case file about a killer named Corey (Roy Morton), and so begins our first flashback to another movie entirely.

ACTING!

Let’s see if we can manage better detective work than Cross in untangling this Gordian Knot of a movie. This flashback is excerpted from Adamson’s first movie, Echo of Terror, which is actually a pretty decent low-budget suspense flick about a failed jewel heist. An unwitting everyman (Kirk Duncan) gets involved when a doctor’s bag (did I mention the robbers are dressed as surgeons in full gear? Walking around an office building?) containing the jewels is hurriedly dropped in the back of his pickup truck when the heist goes sour. His daughter finds the bag and hides the jewels in her doll, which would charitably be called a Golliwog by our British readers. Thus supplied with a MacGuffin, she leaves for a tour with her nightclub star mother, supplying us with the basis for the rest of that movie.

In order to make this movie more commercial, Director Al Adamson and Producer Sam Sherman added go-go dancing and more murder for a version called Psycho A-Go-Go. Corey was already a sadist in Echo, but here blossoms into full-bore psychopathy. Now, one of the jewel robbers (played by Adamson himself) got killed in the heist (by Corey), and the cops find his fingerprints all over Adamson’s apartment – but Corey was declared dead two years before! The investigation leads to Dr. Howard Vanard (John Carradine!), who signed the death certificate. Vanard will eventually confess that Corey was one of the first casualties of Vietnam, so brain-damaged he was doomed to life as a vegetable – until Vanard installed a device in his brain that would take over from the damaged parts. The result: Corey was functional again, but was also a psycho.

My father wore this helmet to work for years.

We are, incidentally, into yet another movie, The Fiend with the Synthetic Brain, an effort to turn Psycho A-Go-Go into a science fiction movie, as the go-go dancing fad was over by the time that version was finished. It also means that Vanard engages in a flashback-within-a-flashback, which I believe is illegal by international law.

Meanwhile, back in Blood of Ghastly Horror Vanard’s estranged daughter Nancy (Regina Carroll!) shows up because she’s been receiving bizarre psychic messages to come to the city. This because Corey’s father Dr. Elton Corey (Kent Taylor!) who spent many years in Jamaica studying voodoo, is the one using the green-faced zombie (Richard Smedley) to kill everyone involved in his son’s decline and eventual death. Dr. Corey will then take us through the remainder of Psycho A-Go-Go (with a brief sidetrip to The Fiend with the Synthetic Brain for Corey the Younger to kill Carradine). Then damn near everybody dies and Tommy Kirk arrives too late, as usual. The end.

The major reason to watch/survive a movie like Blood of Ghastly Horror (besides the fact that it’s named Blood of Ghastly Horror) is to pick out the various sources, which is how I’ve survived a number of Godfrey Ho ninja stitch jobs. This is made infinitely easier here due to the fact that Psycho A-Go-Go was shot by the recently-immigrated Vilmos Zsigmond and looks gorgeous, especially those final chase scenes in mountainous wilderness. You can’t really say those sequences stand out like a sore thumb, it’s more like they stick out like a healthy thumb on a diseased hand.

I’d say that Blood of Ghastly Horror‘s value – if it truly has any – is educational as concerns the actual movie business. Unable to find distribution for a low-budget crime film with no bankable stars, it was turned into a more violent, sexy film, then a science fiction movie, then a bare-bones horror flick. It’s a fascinating process to watch, but ugly.

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