Brace yourselves, hep-cats. Judge Dennis Prince says it's more horrible than you ever could have imagined.
Our review of How To Make A Monster, published June 14th, 2002, is also available.
Here's all the fun of an old-fashioned jaunt to the drive in without having to pack your friends into the trunk nor pack a bit of protection in order to get past second-base with your best gal.
Hey, kids, listen up. There's a really wild double-bill playing at the Star-Lite tonight, full of monsters and vampires and all that sort of stuff. Yeah, that's right. It's two pictures for the price of one. What do you say? Stewie, can you get your dad's Woodie for the night? I'll call Peg, Rog, and the rest of the gang. It'll be a boss night of screams and stuff and, like, maybe we'll see a bit of backseat action before the night's done? Keen, huh?
Well, that's pretty much how the suits at American International Pictures pegged their teen audiences of the late 1950s, serving up a non-stop barrage of way out and weird horror films. It didn't matter what was happening on the screen so much since they figured all they really needed was a good hook to get the youngsters into their cars and pulled up to buy a ticket at the drive-in box office. Usually, these films were churned out based on a title alone (as in The Beast with a Million Eyes) or a catchy one-sheet (as in Invasion of the Saucer Men). The pictures were usually crappy, even by 1950s standards, but the kids piled into the cars and filled up the drive-in parking lots anyway. Later, these films would serve as the stuff pre-teenagers of the late Sixties and Seventies would cut their terror-teeth on in the form of late night Creature Features. The films seemed to have a bit more shock impact on the 10-and-under crowd of carpet crawlers and would become the hokey beginnings of a life-long affinity for genre pictures. Or, sometimes, they'd just be remembered because they genuinely sucked.
In the early 1990s, Cinemax played host to a mini-revival of some of these black-and-white shocker stinkers, those pictures that came from American International Pictures' own ringmaster, Samuel Z. Arkoff. Billed as "It Came from the Arkoff Archives," Cinemax enjoyed mild success with their flashback to kooky creepfests. B-movie fans cheered while everyone else jeered. In 2003, DVDUK Ltd., using the imprint of Direct Video Entertainment, released a Region 2 collection of these Arkoff artifacts to the delight of European fans as well as region-free fans stateside (and, for the record, the disc actually wound up being region free to most current DVD players in the U.S.). Finally, a few of these pictures have been officially released in Region 1 format, hastily dropped to disc by distributor Lionsgate Films. Much like MGM's Midnight Movie DVD double features, here's one of the Arkoff pairings, How to Make a Monster and Blood of Dracula. Gag bags at the ready—this cheese may be difficult for some of you to digest.
First up is 1958's How to Make a Monster which served as a cost-effective way to parlay a couple of AIP's recent monster successes, the Teenage Werewolf and the Teenage Frankenstein. Set on a motion picture studio lot, this one tells the tale of master makeup artist Pete Dumond (Robert H. Harris, Peyton Place) and his sniveling assistant, Rivero (Paul Brinegar, The Vampire). Dumond's monsters are the best in the industry, with Teenage Werewolf and Teenage Frankenstein being his current crowning achievements. The studio's been sold, however, and the new owners say monsters are passé—it's musicals the public wants. Upon completing his current scare picture, Dumond and Rivero are told to pack up and take a hike. Oddly enough, an outbreak of murders suddenly plagues the studio as the new executives are brutally killed by what appear to be real monsters.
This is a reasonably entertaining picture, especially to those who harbor fondness for the two teenage monsters. While Michael Landon didn't return to reprise his role from I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Gary Conway did return to resume his muscle-bound mayhem as the Teenage Frankenstein. Naturally, the local dicks (that is, police investigators) are a rather investigatively impotent bunch that has difficulty seeing the obvious connection between a displaced makeup man and the monstrous mutilations. The highlight of the film comes in the final reel when the image transforms from black and white to glorious color (a tactic also used in I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and the unrelated War of the Colossal Beast). The picture quality of this full-frame transfer is decent although the contrast is a bit soft and, therefore, some of the sequences come off murky. The audio is offered in an unremarkable yet serviceable Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. No extras here.
After you get back from your snack bar run to load up on Smithfield Barbeque sandwiches, Buttercup popcorn, and another Pick insect repellant coil, you're treated to 1957's Blood of Dracula. This is a severely melodramatic tale of a young girl, Nancy Perkins (Sandra Harrison), who's been carted off to an all-girls school upon the remarrying of her father to a snotty gold digger. As if the obnoxious and oppressive student body wasn't enough, the resident chemistry teacher, Miss Branding (Louise Lewis, I Was a Teenage Werewolf) has taken an unusual liking to Nancy. Convinced men are the cause of social distress and the ultimate impetus for wars, Miss Branding renders Nancy helpless under an unusual hypnotic spell that transforms the girl into a bloodthirsty monster. Now, truth be told, the disclaimer must be made that you won't see blood nor will you see Dracula in Blood of Dracula, but you will see some silly makeup and witness the true horrors of a nonsensical script that leaves you in the dark as much as the characters on the screen. As for this transfer, it's on par with the first feature, full-framed and a bit soft around all the cheesy edges. The audio is a similar Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix. Again, no extras, kids.
If you're keen for a do-it-yourself MST3K event, then this is the DVD for you (and Blood of Dracula will definitely excel in this sort of setting). This is fun and harmless fare, outdated and full of unintentional camp. Unfortunately, unlike their former UK releases, this double-bill disc is bereft of the nifty movie poster postcards that were included in the offshore offerings.
It's difficult to pass a harsh judgment on a pairing like this, considering a statute of limitation must certainly exist, even in the case of big screen charlatans and their fast-buck schemes to part horny teenagers with their precious sixty cent admission costs.
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