Thursday, November 3, 2011

R.I.P.: Richard Gordon

Richard Gordon
31 December 1925 – 1 November 2011

Publicity photo with Bela Lugosi on the set of Vampire Over London.

Richard Gordon was a London-born producer, distributor and financier of (mostly) horror films active for roughly 30 years. He, like his older brother Alex, was a passionate film fan as a kid, and his love of film was reflected in the film articles he wrote, the fan club magazines he edited, and the film society he organized a while still in school. After serving two years in the British Royal Navy, Richard and his brother Alex moved to New York City in 1947. Alex eventually continued on to the West Coast, where he produced numerous trash classics for American International Pictures in the 1950s and even worked with the great filmmaker, Ed Wood Jr.
In NYC in 1949, at the age of 23, Richard set up his production company, Gordon Films Inc; originally he concentrated on the distribution of European films, but he eventually moved into production. The earliest film that we could find that he was involved with is 1948's Brit Noir No Orchids for Miss Blandish, but his first (uncredited) production credit in feature-length films seems to be 1952's Vampire Over London / Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (full film) with Bela Lugosi; his last production credit was for the legendary exploitation trash favorite from 1981, Inseminoid.
During the course of his career, he worked with actors ranging from Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to Boris Karloff, and with directors spanning from Radley Metzger to Terrence Fisher. A favorite at film festivals and conventions, Richard Gordon had been having health issues during the last six months prior to his death at the age of 85. He will be missed.
What follows is a less-than-comprehensive overview of films that we could verify his involvement in, either as producer or as distributor.

No Orchids for Miss Blandish
(1948, dir. St. John Legh Clowes)
Director St. John Legh Clowes died the same year the film came out, and Robert Aldrich remade the film in 1971 as The Grissom Gang. No Orchids for Miss Blandish is the earliest film that we could locate for which Richard Gordon is (often) referred to as an uncredited producer. While his production activities might be disputed, he definitely acted as the US distributor of the film, which he brought to the US through New Orleans instead of NYC due to the laxer customs. Gordon claimed to have hired actors "to stand in line to buy tickets for the New York premiere to help generate excitement (once inside the actors would go right back out and get in line again)". The film was based on the debut novel of the famed crime author James Hadley Chase, and it caused huge controversy in the UK on account of the violence and rape implied in the story. English critic Dilys Powell stated that the film should be "branded with a 'D' certificate for disgusting". Plot: Rich socialite Bandish (Linden Travers) is kidnapped by a gang led by Slim Grissom (Jack La Rue) and his Ma. Bandish's fiancé is killed in the process, but she don't mourn all that long 'cause Slim's a real man and she's a bored woman; soon she goes all Patty Hearst Syndrome and they decide to run away together – the rest of the gang begins to smell something fishy. In the meantime, Daddy Bandish has hired a private dick (Hugh McDermott of Devil Girl from Mars [1954 / trailer]) to find his daughter. Full of bad accents and "brutality, perversion, sex and sadism", the film is considered a minor classic of the bizarre – and, perhaps, one of the earliest films to advocate that odd concept that a way to a woman's heart is to rape her...
Scene from the film – you know she wants it:

(1951, dir. Brian Desmond Hurst)
Aka A Christmas Carol. One of the first films that Richard Gordon's company Gordon Films, Inc. distributed in the US; it became rather a hit and can still be found on many a local broadcasting station come Christmas time. Hurst's film, starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, is considered one of the best and most faithful adaptations of the original source, Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

Mother Riley Meets the Vampire
(1952, dir. John Gilling)
Also known as Vampire Over London and My Son, the Vampire. A horror comedy starring two famous names – Arthur Lucan and Bela Lugosi – though only one is known outside of Great Britain (guess which one). The career of both were already waning when this film, helmed by the later director of The Plague of the Zombies (1966 / trailer), was released. The plot, according to alfiehitchie at imdb: "The mysterious figure known as the Vampire comes to England to complete experiments in his mad bid to gain control of the world. When the radar-controlled robot which he had ordered shipped to him is delivered instead to Mother Riley, the Vampire, through radar control, has the robot transport itself as well as Mother Riley to the proper destination... the old lady goes into a whirl of side-splitting action in a determined effort to frustrate the plans of the sinister Vampire." The film bombed when released and still enjoys general obscurity. Film Threat opinions, "The kindest thing one can say about Mother Riley Meets the Vampire is that it is a historical train wreck."
Full film:

Return to Glennascaul
(1953, dir. Orson Welles)
Aka Orson Welles' Ghost Story, Welles filmed this take on the classic Vanishing Hitchhiker urban legend in Ireland while working on Othello (1952). Gordon was the executive producer of the restored version of this short, which was originally included as an extra on the DVD of the controversial restored version of Othello overseen by Welles' daughter Beatrice Welles-Smith.
First 8 minutes of Orson Welles' Ghost Story:

The Unholy Four
(1954, dir. Terrence Fischer)
Mask of Dust
(1954, dir. Terrence Fischer)
These two second-feature films are presented together in the DVD double feature Hammer Film Noir Vol 7 which, as an extra, also includes an "audio interview with producer Richard Gordon". A Wasted Life was not able to confirm through on-line research that Gordon was actually the producer of either film, but it does seem logical to us that if an audio interview of "producer" Gordon is included, then he must have had something to do with one or the other film. Thus, though we know not in what capacity he had to do with the films, they are nevertheless included here.
The Unholy Four, aka The Stranger Came Home, is a Brit Noir starring Paulette Goddard concerning a man presumed dead who returns after three years to find his three former friends courting his wife; he is sure someone among them is responsible for his attempted murder and subsequent loss of memory, and he finds out who after two murders. Mask of Dust, aka Race for Life, is a racing melodrama about a racecar driver who has lost the touch.
Trailer to The Unholy Four:

John and Julie
(1955, dir. William Fairchild)
Another film that on-line sources claim was distributed by Gordon Films Inc. – the firm Gordon founded in 1949. (Have you learned that date yet?) A kiddy film full of typically eccentric English people – did they ever really exist? – the movie tells of John and Julie, two kids who, in the summer of 1953, just have to see the Queen's coronation in real life; their parents want to simply watch it on TV. "John and Julie borrow horses and bikes, sneak on to trains, buses and autos, and walk to the great city of London, where just maybe John's Uncle, a guard in the Royal Escort, will help them realize their dream." Features an early appearance by Peter Sellers as a policeman.

The Devil's General
(1955, dir. Helmut Käutner)
Based on the 1946 German play of the same name – that is, original name: Des Teufels General – by playwright Carl Zuckmayer, which was inspired by the life of flying ace Ernst Udet. Udet committed suicide on 17 November 1941; supposedly, despite working within the Nazi Party, Udet was openly critical of it and saw no way out. Gordon bought the English-language distribution rights to the film, which stars Curd Jürgens and a young Marianne Koch (A Fistful of Dollars [1964 / trailer]). Plot: Harry Harras (Curt Jürgens) is an aviator ace and war hero that has reached the rank of general under the Nazis. But Harras has long become an alcoholic cynic due to the political situation and some fatefully wrong decisions of the supreme command; he also sees the war as already lost. An act of sabotage leads him to make an important decision... the film made Jürgens an international star.
German trailer:

Million Dollar Manhunt
(1956, dir. Maclean Rogers)
Aka Assignment Redhead. Gordon as uncredited producer. At imdb, Jeremy Perkins summarizes the plot as follows: "Murderous master criminal Dumetrius (Ronald Adam) flies to London from post-war Berlin plying his trade in counterfeit money and false travel documents. To cover his tracks he later kills one passenger and frames another who then hides out with a cabaret cigarette girl. On the case is an American Major (Richard Denning of The Day the World Ended [1956 / trailer] and Twice-Told Tales [1963 / trailer]) working for British intelligence. Unfortunately he in turn falls for a chanteuse (Carole "Miss Chicago 1938" Mathews of Swamp Women [1956 / full film]) who is under Dumetrius' control." has a detailed article about the film here, stating at one point that "Overall, Assignment Redhead could be charitably described as mediocre."

Violent Stranger
(1957, dir. Montgomery Tully)
Aka Man in the Shadow, retitled for its US release so as not to be confused with Jack Arnold's 1957 western Man in the Shadow featuring Orson Welles. Gordon as uncredited co-producer of this forgotten Brit Noir starring Zachary Scott (of Flaxy Martin [1949 / trailer]). The film is supposedly based on a novel entitled One Man's Secret by forgotten author Maisie Sharman, who also supplied the film's screenplay (as "Stratford Davis"). The film features a rare, one-of-a-kind plot: In England, the wife – played by Faith Domergue, of numerous fun films ranging from Cult of the Cobra (1955 / trailer) and This Island Earth (1955 / trailer) to Psycho Sister (1974 / trailer) and Legacy of Blood (1971 / full film) – of a condemned man tries to save him by finding the real killer. Leonard Martin says the film's a "not bad little crime drama." (For a decent film about a secretary in NYC who tries to save the life of a condemned man – her boss – by finding the real killer, watch Robert Siodmak's first Hollywood noir, Phantom Lady [1944 / trailer] – though, in all truth, the novel upon which the film is based, Cornell Woolrich's Phantom Lady, is really much better than Siodmak's film.)

Kill Me Tomorrow
(1957, dir. Terence Fisher)
Gordon as uncredited co-producer. Sean Axmaker says of the film: "A decidedly second-rate thriller [...] with Pat O'Brien as a souse of a veteran newsman who sabotages his career in a fit of pique and then sells his future when his son lands in the hospital with a rare condition that calls for an expensive operation. George Coulouris is a crime boss that O'Brien shakes down for the money and Lois Maxwell (the future Miss Moneypenny) shows up as a love interest for the nearly 60-year-old O'Brien, surely the least convincing part of the undercooked film."

The Crooked Sky
(1957, dir. Henry Cass)
Gordon as uncredited co-producer; director Cass went on to do the trashy favorite Blood of the Vampire (1958 / full film). BritMovie summary: "Crime melodrama about an American investigator who helps Scotland Yard bust a counterfeiting racket and, at the same time, wins a wife. [...] The Crooked Sky was amongst several thrillers made in England by burly American actor Wayne Morris in the mid-Fifties. [...] Here, Morris is easily upstaged by German master of menace, Anton Diffring."

The Fighting Wildcats
Aka West of Suez; Gordon as uncredited co-producer. Co-director Crabtree went on to make the much more popular horror films Fiend Without a Face (1958; see below) and Horrors of the Black Museum (1959 / trailer); co-director Keefe Brasselle (whose last film appearance was somewhere in Black Gunn [1972 / trailer]) also played the lead in this "drama". The plot, according to Wikipedia: "An adventurer is hired to assassinate the leader of an Arab movement advocating peace, but is unable to complete his mission."

The Counterfeit Plan
(1957, dir. Montgomery Tully)
Two years after Million Dollar Manhunt, another counterfeiting film with Gordon as uncredited producer. Director Tully and lead Zachary Scott (from Violent Stranger) are back again in this movie filmed (depending on your source) either in Massachusetts or England and costarring the forgotten bottle-blonde Peggy Castle of Back from the Dead (1957 / trailer) and I, the Jury (1953 / trailer); Peggy quit show business in 1962, became an alcoholic and died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1973. Scott plays the sociopathic killer and master criminal Max, who escapes execution and then uncovers former compatriot in crime Louie (Mervyn Johns of The Day of the Triffids [1962 / trailer] and The Old Dark House [1963 / trailer]), a retired forger. Max blackmails him into setting up a counterfeiting ring in his county home. Louie's daughter Carol (Castle) shows up for a visit, which signals the beginning of the end for Max. Word of mouth has it as a good film.

The Woman Eater
(1957, dir. Charles Saunders)
Wikipedia does not list its source, but quotes this film as having been described as "one of the very worst British horror films ever." lists Richard Gordon as a producer of this film, which stars George Coulouris (of Citizen Kane [1941 / trailer], The Man without a Body [1957 / trailer] and The Skull [1965 / trailer]) and Vera Day (of Quatermass II: Enemy from Space [1957 / trailer]) – and also happens to be the film debut (and only English-language film) of Marpessa Dawn. In regard to this film, Gordon himself says that he simply bought the perpetual rights for the film when he needed another picture for a double-bill with The Electronic Monster (1958). DVD Drive-In says: "The Woman Eater – A British monster movie with a great poster and trailer, and the movie itself isn't too terrible. A mad scientist steals a man-eating plant from a tribe in the Amazon and sacrifices women to it so it can produce a serum to resurrect the dead. Quite bizarre storyline, and the effects could be better, but this surprisingly fun little curio [...]."

Corridors of Blood
(1958, dir. Robert Day)
In 1958, with this film and Fiend Without a Face and The Haunted Strangler, Gordon finally entered the realm of true horror. (Despite the title The Electronic Monster, also of 1958, is more a crime film than horror.) He's the uncredited producer in this film directed by Robert Day – and starring Boris Karloff and featuring Christopher Lee! Robert Day went on to do Hammer's 1965 version of H. Rider Haggard's classic novel She (first ten minutes). Corridors of Blood, oddly enough, was not released until 1962.'s synopsis: "Karloff is a doctor, in search of a viable anesthetic, who accidentally becomes addicted to drugs, then turns to grave robbers to support his habit." The movie was released in the US as a double feature with Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory (1961 / full film). The Terror Trap says: "In Corridors of Blood, Karloff turns in one of the best performances of his latter-day career; his Thomas Bolton is a tortured but sympathetic man, consumed by empathy for his patients, but doomed to failure by his inability to control the awesome power of the formula he's created."

The Secret Man
(1958, dir Ronald Kinnoch)
Gordon as uncredited producer; obviously enough, the film was released as Operazione Scotland Yard in Italy. The Secret Man is the only directorial credit of Ronald Kinnoch, who produced the original Village of the Damned (1960 / trailer), which he scripted under the pseudonym of George Barclay, as he did the Gordon production Devil Doll (1964; see below). TV Guide's synopsis: "Marshall Thompson is an American physicist living in England who is called on to locate a secret agent working at his research station. Thompson goes undercover to learn the spy's identity and, with the help of Jill (Anne Aubrey), his wife and assistant, digs up some answers. John Loder, [playing] an army major, then comes in to help round up the perpetrator, who will surprise the viewer. Rather tired overall, though."

Fiend Without a Face
(1958, dir. Arthur Crabtree)
Gordon as uncredited producer; Marshall Thompson stars in this tale based on Amelia Reynolds Long's short story The Thought-Monster, which was published in Weird Tales in 1930. At, Jeff Shannon says: "Fiend Without a Face contains one of the most indelible images to emerge from sci-fi/horror movies of the atomic age: malevolent human brains, creeping like caterpillars on spinal-cord tails, choking the life out of their helpless victims! If that weren't enough to make any genre enthusiast drool with sick delight, the movie's also got an above-average plot (as B-movies go) and made genre history as an international success, independently produced in England, set in Canada, starring an American, with magnificently grotesque special effects created in Germany!"

The Haunted Strangler
(1958, dir Robert Day)
Aka Grip of the Strangler. Gordon as uncredited producer, with Boris Karloff back on board for another horror film. Synopsis from Wikipedia: "In Victorian London, Edward Styles (an uncredited Michael Atkinson) is accused of being the notorious Haymarket Strangler, the brutal killer of five women. Twenty years after he is tried and executed for these crimes James Rankin (Karloff), a novelist and social reformer, launches an investigation to prove that Styles is innocent. His search for clues leads him first to the sleazy Judas Hole music hall, where the Strangler picked his victims from the resident can-can dancers and loose women, and then to the prison cemetery of Newgate where Styles was buried – in order to exhume his body. When the killings start again, Rankin's theory seems to be vindicated. However his growing obsession with the case signals a most unwelcome revelation as to the true identity of the murderer." Also brought out as a novel with a groovy cover, as seen to the left. The AV Club says "The shocks are mild, but the overall atmosphere of gloom and human depravity frames Karloff's always-entertaining cultured-gentleman-goes-nutzoid routine."

The Electronic Monster
(1958, dir. Montgomery Tully & David Paltenghi)
Aka Escapement – the film was given a less cerebral title for its US release, which was trimmed by 4 minutes. Gordon as uncredited producer. At imdb, Les Adams offers the following synopsis: "In Europe, to inquire about the mysterious death of a famous movie star, insurance investigator Jeff Keenan (Rod Cameron of Psychic Killer [1975 / trailer]), follows a tangled trail to a psychiatric clinic run by Paul Zakon (Peter Illing of The Devil's Daffodil [1961 / German trailer]), fiancée [sic] of Ruth Vance (Mary Murphy of The Wild One [1953 / trailer]). Doctor Maxwell (Meredith Edwards), head doctor of the institute, tells Keenan they employ a new form of electronic hypnosis, which helps patients by giving them fantastic dreams about another world. Keenan discovers that the treatment has proven fatal for some patients. Zakon refuses to close down the clinic, which he is using to control the patient's minds and, consequently, their money." Based on Charles Eric Maine's novel The Man Who Couldn't Sleep, the author of which also supplied the screenplay to the film.

The Atomic Submarine
(1959, dir. Spencer G. Bennet)
Gordon is often given as an uncredited co-producer on this film credited to his producer brother Alex Gordon, which was shot in 8 days with a budget of $135,000. James Cameron made an unofficial and boring remake in 1989 entitled The Abyss (trailer). Synopsis from the Criterion DVD: "When a nuclear-powered submarine, the Tiger Shark, sets out to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances near the Arctic Circle, its fearless crew finds itself besieged by electrical storms, an Unidentified Floating Saucer, and lots of hairy tentacles." A Site Called Fred says: "The film stars Arthur Franz, a familiar face, as the sub first mate, and Brett Halsey as a scientist. George Sanders's brother, Tom Conway, sonambulizes his way through the story, also as a scientist. Special effects are laughable and the 'monster,' when finally seen, is atrocious."

First Man into Space
(1959, dir. Robert Day)
First Man Into Space is the last of the three films director Robert Day made with Gordon, once again the uncredited producer. The oft-unreliable Leonard Maltin, who claims the film sounds better than it is, gives the plot as follows: "Daring pilot (Bill Edwards), brother of hero (Marshall Thompson), disobeys orders and becomes the title character, returning to Earth a dust-encrusted, blood-drinking monster." In general, however, most people seem to find the film better than he does, if only in a nostalgic or goofy way. The basic premise used Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for the creation of the Fantastic Four may well have been "inspired" by the film, which was also unofficially remade 18 years later as The Incredible Melting Man (1977 / trailer). Marla Landi, who plays Tia Francesca, the sightly silhouette of the film, went on to have sizable roles in Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959 / trailer) and The Pirates of Blood River (1962 / trailer).

The Playgirls and the Vampire
(1960, dir. Piero Regnoli)
Gordon, credited as producer, distributed this Italo-trash directed by the man who went on to work on the screenplays of numerous Italo-trash classics and lesser-classics, including Demonia (1990 / trailer), Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981 / trailer) and Nightmare City (1980 / trailer) – and, perhaps more importantly, worked on the script for I Vampiri (1956 / German trailer), "the first sound era Italian horror film." The plot is remarkably similar to another Italian film made the same year, The Vampire and the Ballerina (trailer): Five showgirls who like to wear see-through nighties and two men, caught in a storm, find shelter in a creepy old castle belonging to Count Kernassy (Walter Brandi of Bloody Pit of Horror [1965 / full film]). Phil Hardy at says: "The twist in the story is that Brandi plays a double role: the good Count Kernassy and his vampiric ancestor, which allows him to destroy himself while saving the heroine, Vera (Lyla Rocco). The film abounds with shots of naked beautiful girls, with close-ups of legs, calves, ankles, thighs, breasts and so on. As such it can be seen as a precursor of Jean Rollin's sexy vampire movies." Mondo Digital says "[T]his film isn't great art but definitely delivers the drive-in goods."

Tomb of Torture
(1963, dir. Antonio Boccaci)
Original title: Metempsyco. Gordon also bought the distribution rights to this Italo-trash film as well, which he redubbed and retitled and then released upon the English-speaking world. On-line research raises the possibility that the director named, Antonio Boccaci, credited as "William Grace" in English prints of the film, might actually be Alfonso Brescia, who is perhaps better known by his Anglo pseudonym Al Bradley. (Anyone out there know the truth?) Image Entertainment offers the following synopsis: "Anna (Annie Alberti), who is the reincarnation of a murdered countess, is afflicted with nightmares in which she reenacts the murder. Her doctor father, in an effort to help her, takes her to the scene of the crime. She meets reporter George (Marco Mariani), who has come to investigate the death of two young girls attracted to the castle by the weird tales they had heard. Anna's condition deteriorates and she lapses into unconsciousness, acting as if impelled by a mysterious force she cannot control. Walking in a trance, she discovers a man-monster, horribly disfigured, in the cellar, which resembles a torture chamber. This creature thinks Anna is the dead countess." opinions: "This is simply a quite unremarkable all-around loser." Released in the US on a double bill with another Gordon production, Cave of the Living Dead (see below).

Night of the Vampires
(1964, dir. Ákos Ráthonyi)
Aka Cave of the Living Dead. Gordon redubbed and retitled and then released this German film, originally titled Der Fluch der grünen Augen, directed by the undemanding Hungarian-born director Ákos Ráthonyi. (Wanna see something truly crappy? Here's the first 8 minutes of Ráthonyi's last film Zieh dich aus, Puppe [1968]; it's in German, but it doesn't matter.) Genre-film critic and author Bryan Senn lists Cave of the Living Dead as "a favorite", while Digital Retribution says "It's a curious little film and one that is well worth your time if you're a fan of Eurocult obscurities." The excerpt below would indicate that director Ráthonyi might have possibly transcended his talents with this film. The plot, according to TCM: "Because local police are unable to solve the mysterious murders of seven young women in a small village, Inspector Doren (Adrian Hoven of Succubus [1968 / trailer]) of INTERPOL is assigned to the case. As a result of a talk with an old witch, the inspector begins to suspect that the killings are the work of a vampire. He learns more from some of the villagers, who link the murders to caves under an ancient castle where Professor Adelsberg (Wolfgang Preiss of The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse [1960 / full film], its numerous follow-up films, and The Mad Executioners [1963 / German trailer]) and his secretary, Karin (Karin Field of The Alley Cats [1966 / trailer] and The Mad Butcher [1971 / trailer]), are conducting scientific experiments. After tracking the professor to his underground headquarters, Doren finds the seven living dead and discovers that Adelsberg is the vampire. Karin is to be his next victim."
Three minutes from Der Fluch der grünen Augen:

Devil Doll
(1964, dir. Lindsay Shonteff)
Gordon is the executive producer of the debut feature-length film of unjustly overlooked genre director Lindsay Shonteff, a master of Britsploitation who made such notable films as The Bullet Machine (1970 / trailer), Permissive (1972 / trailer), Big Zapper (1974 / trailer), No 1 of the Secret Service (1977 / trailer), Licensed to Love and Kill (1979 / trailer) and Angels, Devils & Men (2009 / trailer). Shonteff took over at the recommendation of the originally intended director, Sidney J. Furie, who had conflicting commitments. The film, based on a short story from 1951 written by Frederick E. Smith, is one of a long line of nutzoid ventriloquist films that may well have started in 1929 with The Great Gabbo (public domain version), a film Gordon publicly stated as an inspiration for his film. Devil Doll also pays homage to the famous ventriloquist dummy segment of the classic anthology film Dead of Night (1945 / first 10 minutes) by sharing the doll's name of Hugo. Plot: Evil vaudeville ventriloquist "The Great Vorelli" (Bryant Halliday) hypnotizes his victims and then transfers their souls into his dummy Hugo. Before you can say Bride of Chucky (1998 / trailer), he decides to supply Hugo with a mate, preferably with the life essence of the beautiful and wealthy Marianne (Yvonne Romain of Circus of Horrors [1960 / trailer], The Curse of the Werewolf [1962 / trailer] and The Last of Sheila [1973 / trailer]). But her beau Mark (William Sylvester) has caught on to Vorelli and wants to stop him – and the possessed Hugo? Actor Bryant Halliday went on to do three more Gordon productions before co-founding Janus Films.

Voodoo Blood Death
(1965, dir. Lindsay Shonteff)
Aka Curse of the Voodoo and Curse of Simba; Lindsay Shonteff's second and last Gordon production. Plot as given on the DVD back cover: "Big game hunter Mike Stacey (Bryant Haliday) leads a safari in the African jungle. After shooting and killing a lion, a tribe of lion worshipers place a curse on Stacey, vowing to kill him by witchcraft. The curse follows Mike back to London where it begins to take a terrible toll. After speaking with an 'expert,' Mike is told that only the death of the witchdoctor (Danny Daniels, who appears in Hammer's Prehistoric Women [1967 / trailer]) can lift the curse. So he returns to the jungle in a desperate attempt to save his own life." In his book Drums of Terror – Voodoo in the Cinema, Bryan Senn states that the film is an "earnest but rather sluggish tale of 'black magic' (with London-area woodlands standing in for the Dark Continent)." Later, he adds that while the film is difficult to dislike due to its earnestness, at the same time, it "is just as difficult to like [...] for its slow pace and cranky characters possess little appeal." Voodoo Blood Death ended up, as both the poster left and trailer below reveal, as the supporting film of a double-bill with Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965).
Double-Feature Trailer:

Island of Terror
(1966, dir. Terence Fisher)

"John, I've just found one of my horses dead. At least, I think it's my horse. It's all soft and flabby."

Morton (Shay Gorman)

Nine years after Kill Me Tomorrow (1957), Terence Fisher directs his second Gordon production, a cheesy film which we here at A Wasted Life find fun in a trashy way. Nevertheless, despite its director and Peter Cushing in a lead role, we would be hard placed to call this small-community-endangered-by-a-monster film truly a good film. As Bad Movies Org says about it, "Having your skeleton sucked out is not a pleasant way to die": On a lonely Irish island with no phones or regular connections to mainland, scientists trying make a cure for cancer end up creating mobile rugs – called "silicates" – that literally digest human (and animal) bones, leaving little more than a bunch skin-enclosed jelly behind. Of course, the creatures escapes and start eating the local folks. A team from London – including Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing), Dr. David West (Edward Judd of The Day the Earth Caught Fire [1961 / trailer] and First Men in the Moon [1964 / trailer]) and his curvaceous plaything Toni Merrill (Carole Gray of Curse of the Fly [1965 / trailer] and Devils of Darkness [1965 / first 10 minutes]) – arrive, get stuck on the island, and desperately try to both survive and find a way to destroy all monsters...

Exorcism at Midnight
(1966, dir. Stanley Goulder)
Aka Naked Evil. Gordon as uncredited executive producer of yet another voodoo film, this time around based on Jon Manchip White's play The Obi. Going by what is said on imdb, Naked Evil and Exorcism at Midnight could well qualify as two different films: "The U.S. version, Exorcism at Midnight, [...] removed [...] a sub-plot about two bar-owners' rivalry, and replaced it with 15 minutes of color footage shot in New York, written by Sam M. Sherman (director of Raiders of the Living Dead [1986 / trailer]) and directed by Sherman and Steve Jacobson. The remaining British material was tinted in sepia and red, and portrayed as the recollections of a psychiatric patient in a U.S. hospital." In Drums of Terror (which states that Robert Saxon of Hampton International did tinting of the film for its original US release and Sherman only added the framing story in the mid-70s), author Senn gives the original English version continual high praise, describing it as "unique, engrossing and suspenseful." At the time Senn wrote his book, both versions were in "distribution limbo"; since then, they have been released together on a double DVD by Image Entertainment.
The plot of Naked Evil, as rewritten from that supplied at BritMovie.Co.Uk: A turf war between two West Indian gangs in a Midlands town sees one gang turning to black magic. Enemies are dispatched using an "Obi" – a bottle containing a demon that kills its recipient when opened. Inspector Hollis (Richard Coleman) is put on the case and, confronted with rumors of witchcraft and the desecration of a local graveyard, consults the principal of a school populated by West Indian science students, Jim Benson (Basil Digham of Gorgo [1961 / trailer]). Benson himself has received an Obi, too, and calls upon Father Goodman (Olaf Pooley of The Gamma People [1956 / trailer]) to perform an exorcism, but is nevertheless found dead the following morning. Suspicion falls on the janitor Amizan (Brylo Forde), who is actually a witch doctor practicing black magic in the basement.
LinkBadly acted snippet from the framing story of Exorcism at Midnight (featuring Laurence Tierney [Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987 / trailer)] and Catherine Erhardt [Cinderella 2000 (1977 / trailer)]):

The Projected Man
(1966, Ian Curteis)
Gordon as uncredited executive producer, and screenwriter John Croydon as uncredited co-director – The Projected Man is also Ian Curteis's only directorial credit for a feature-length film. It was released in the US on a double bill with Island of Terror and now enjoys mild cult popularity as a "bad" film. The basic premise is a riff of a better-known (and better) movie entitled The Fly [1958 / trailer & 1986 / trailer]. Kevin McCorry at imdb gives the plot as follows: "A scientist experimenting with matter transmission from place to place by means of a laser beam suddenly decides to use himself as a test specimen. But the process goes awry, and one side of his body becomes hideously deformed and instantly lethal to anyone it touches."

(1970, dir. Antony Balch)

Aka Secrets of Sex. The Independent informs us that Secrets of Sex is "a set of erotic and horror sketches [that] was hugely successful in Britain but had to be cut in the US where, shortened and retitled Tales of the Bizarre, it supported Gordon's Tower of Evil." Director Balch was a British film distributor – he's responsible for the sound version of Benjamin Christensen's classic silent documentary Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922 / full silent film) with commentary by William S. Burroughs. Balch's only two directorial jobs were this film and the 1973 Gordon produced horror black comedy Horror Hospital (see below). The vignettes are held together by the narration of a mummy (the "British Vincent Price", Valentine Dyall, of The Horror of It All [1964 / song] and the great film The City of the Dead [1960 / full film]), whose original fate is revealed in the first segment. For a review of Secrets of Sex, go here to Psychotic Cinema.
A scene (with added Russian voiceover) that in parts oddly reminds us of something we saw in An American Werewolf in London [1981 / trailer]:

Horror on Snape Island
(1972, dir. Jim O'Connolly)
Aka Tower of Evil and Beyond The Fog, produced by Richard Gordon. Jim O'Connolly, the credited associate producer of The Electronic Monster, also directed The Valley of Gwangi (1969 / trailer) and Berserk (1967 / trailer). When originally released in Great Britain, Horror on Snape Island was on a double bill with Hammer's Demons of the Mind (1972 / trailer); in the US, its initial release was as a double feature with Tales of the Bizarre. To simply lift what A Wasted Life already wrote about this film in our eulogy to Jill Haworth, one of the stars of the film: "Leonard Martin, that famed film pundit for Middle America with a Tea-Party brain, gives this film a bomb rating in his Movie Guide, but less-mundanely minded individuals have begun to reassess the film as being much better than its less-than-stellar reputation implies, citing it as an interesting and moody mixture of Gothic and slasher elements. A group of archaeologists go to an island in search of an ancient treasure and start dying nasty deaths…"

Sex and the Other Woman
(1972, dir. Stanley A. Long)
Another enjoyable non-classic directed by the British sexploitation master Stanley A. Long, the producer of such long-forgotten vintage British trash like Primitive London (1967 / French trailer), I Am a Groupie (1970 / trailer), Screamtime (1983 / trailer) and The True Story of Eskimo Nell (1975 / trailer). The back cover of the DVD says: "Four stories center on adultery committed by four weak-willed husbands and their temptation as personified by four sexy women. Though dated and sexist in its portrayal of women as conniving sexual creatures intent on luring hapless men to their doom, it still manages to be erotic and funny, though not always intentionally.[....]." According to some on-line VOD websites, the film was distributed by Gordon Films Inc.

Horror Hospital
(1973, dir. Antony Balch)

Aka Computer Killers. Richard Gordon produced this infamous, dryly humorous and very bloody horror comedy. The plot, according to Jeremy Perkins at imdb: "Jason (Robin Askwith of Four Dimensions of Greta [1972 / trailer], The Flesh and Blood Show [1972 / trailer] and Queen Kong [1976 / trailer]), a member of a 1960's pop group, decides he needs a break at a country retreat. On the train he meets Judy (Vanessa Shaw), niece of Aunt Harris (Ellen Pollock) who owns the place with her husband Dr Storm (Michael Gough) and who are using the guests for surgical mind-control experiments. So while Jason and Judy are pretty quickly making out, they are just as quickly working out how to get away." To simply lift what A Wasted Life already wrote about this film in our eulogy to Michael Gough, "According to the website British Horror Films: 'Horror Hospital is a wonder. A film unknown by the world at large, and pretty much unknown by fans of general horror films, yet rightly lauded by British horror film fans as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – horror films ever made on these islands.'"
Music video from Stonasaurus utilizing Horror Hospital:

The Cat and the Canary
(1978, dir. Radley Metzger)
Richard Gordon produced the penultimate non-X-rated film of director Radley Metzger, a director possibly better known to some people as director Henry Paris, who made some of the best porno films of the Golden Age, including the classic The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976 / full film). The original version of The Cat and the Canary (full movie), made in 1927 by the mostly forgotten early master Paul Leni, is one of our all-time favorite films, which might explain why we were so disappointed by this oddly anti-gay and misogynistic film with an excellent cast (go here for A Wasted Life's less than positive review of the film). Our opinion is not shared by Mondo Digital, which calls the film "virtuoso adaptation of the classic 1922 play" and describes the plot as follows: "In 1933, twenty years after the death of rich old Cyrus West, his relatives have gathered on a dark and stormy night for the reading of his will. With the aid of reliable Mrs. Crosby (Wendy Hiller), Cyrus himself (Wilfrid Hyde-White) appears to his heirs via celluloid and at long last reveals the distribution of his wealth. [...] Trapped in the house overnight by the storm, the guests are informed by a mysterious visitor that a madman has recently escaped from a nearby asylum. Nicknamed 'The Cat,' this lunatic uses claw-like appendages to attack his victims... and he may very well be hiding in the house."

Brutes & Savages
(1978, dir. Arthur Davis)
The final credits include a truly quotable addendum: "All scenes whether actual or simulated represents actual truth." A mondo documentary produced by William Shelton, the producer of the influential 1959 masterpiece The Manster [trailer / full film], and (according to a variety of on-line VOD websites) distributed by Gordon Films Inc. – the firm Gordon founded in 1949. The review of Brutes and Savages here at Repulsive Cinema basically shares the opinion of most who have seen the film: it is a low grade; repulsive and forgettable mondo. According to Mondo Digital it's "too addle-brained and sloppy to even be considered harmfully racist," but as the trailer below reveals, the film does at least have a groovy soundtrack – from no one less than Riz Ortolani! The currently available re-mastered DVD version is 15 minutes longer than the original US release, which was trimmed to avoid censorship problems. More can be read about Brutes & Savages's director, sleazemeister Arthur Davis, over at Temple of Schlock. Davis was also the producer of the next film on this list....

Budo: The Art of Killing
(1979, dir. Masayoshi Nemoto)
Narrated by Harry J. Quini, "the founder and president of Media Q Inc, and widely known in the industry as one of the original English news broadcasters in Japan," who also narrated the similarly themed documentary Fighting Black Kings (trailer) in 1976. According to a variety of on-line VOD websites, Budo was distributed by Gordon Films, Inc. – the firm Gordon founded in 1949. DVD Verdict watched it for you and wrote an in-depth review of this docu-drama, from whence the following is taken: "Like a bizarre melding of an infomercial, a documentary and a cultist propaganda film, Budo mixes up the rituals, practices, religions, and training of Japanese students of martial arts, placing them in a historical context of samurai culture. For all those seeking out Budo for its much-hyped and legendary feats of martial arts mayhem…well, you are so out of luck that it makes me want to laugh at you."
Full film:

(1980, dir. Matthew Chapman)
Yet another film claimed, by a few on-line VOD sites, to have been distributed by Gordon Films, Inc. Helen Mirren plays a hooker working out of a London nightclub. At imdb, jhailey describes the plot as follows: "Beaty (Mirren) is a prostitute working out of a high-class London cabaret where Emory (John Shea) is a technician. They begin an affair encumbered by her job, his lack of money, and their pasts: Beaty has a ten-year-old son who lives with her ex, and she has a dangerous former boyfriend; Emory has a wife who died in questionable circumstances and a shady friend who shows up with a scheme for making lots of money. Beaty and Emory want to sort things out, but the odds are against them. Life is no cabaret." Director Mathew Chapman also does a lot of screenwriting; among his numerous credits is the dull thriller Color of Night (1994 / trailer), a film famous primarily for revealing Bruce Willis to be a circumcised grower, not shower.
8 dull minutes of bad hair, bad makeup, bad music & the boredom of working:

(1981, dir. Norman J. Warren)
Aka Horror Planet. Richard Gordon's last production credit, the film is an eternally popular Alien (1979 / trailer) "inspired" sci-fi horror. Cult movie director Warren, who has moved into doing music videos and educational films and DVD extras, also helmed Evil Heritage (1977 / short clip), Terror (1978 / French trailer), Alien Prey (1978 / trailer) and Bloody New Year (1987 / trailer). The plot, according to Jerry Renshaw at Amazon: "It's trouble in space, as a crew of astronauts brings a little something extra back on their bargain spaceship. One explorer goes mental and hijacks the tram inside a space mining facility, then another gets her foot caught and amputates it with a hedge trimmer. A third (Judy Geeson, looking like a poor man's Angie Dickinson) is impregnated by a big slimy-looking alien, and then the trouble really starts. She has the rest of her crewmates on the run as the gestating little monsters inside her command her to KILL KILL KILL, eventually smashing up the cheapo control room aboard the ship and generally causing trouble. [...] The movie's cheesy look is [...] about on a par with an episode of the original Star Trek. However, there's a rather high gore quotient, wonderfully hambone performances (Geeson has a shriek that rivals any '50s scream queen), and a fairly repulsive (and inexpensive) alien. Fans of B movie sci-fi should find that Inseminoid will deliver some fairly familiar goods in a pleasingly trashy package." Leonard Martin gives this film a bomb rating in his Movie Guide, so it must be good.

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