Director: David L. Hewitt
Image Entertainment

All hail David L. Hewitt! His bad movie directorial credits rival that of Ed Wood’s, but unlike the man Tim Burton made a biofilm about, he goes almost totally unrecognized in the world of Z movie fandom. Hewitt gave us the shoestring sci-fi epics THE WIZARD OF MARS and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME, biker trash of the likes of GIRLS FROM SUNSET STRIP and HELL’S CHOSEN FEW, and THE MIGHTY GORGA, the giant monster film that undoubtedly boasts the most embarrassing special effects ever conceived on celluloid. In other words, if DVD Drive-In had a hall of fame for film directors, Hewitt would be one of the first inducted in, right alongside Al Adamson, Andy Milligan and Lee Frost. His best-known work is probably GALLERY OF HORRORS, which many of you gazed at on “Chiller Theater” type TV programs as RETURN FROM THE PAST, but it’s also known as DR. TERROR’S GALLERY OF HORRORS. Now that it’s finally out on DVD, I know that there are handfuls of DVD Drive-In readers out there smiling with glee!

GALLERY OF HORRORS (onscreen title: “Gallery of Horror”) was an obvious attempt to cash in on the then-popular anthology films like Freddie Francis’ DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS and Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH, but it also seems to be influenced by the Hammer horrors classics and Roger Corman’s lush Poe adaptations (which it borrows ample stock footage from). In a rented tuxedo superimposed next to a film frame of a coastal castle (culled from one of the Corman Poe films), screen legend John Carradine narrates the proceedings with his usual gusto, smirking from the joy that’s he’s pulling in a grand for an easy day’s work. Carradine also appears in the first story, “The Witches Clock.” In it, a young couple (Roger Gentry and Karen Joy) purchase a mansion in Massachusetts (a Hollywood soundstage set, with shots from Corman’s HOUSE OF USHER acting as the exterior) with an antique grandfather clock in its cellar. The wife wants to bring the clock upstairs, which opens up a can of worms. As Tristram Halbin, Carradine pays them a visit, says some sinister claptrap and the clock then goes up in a puff of superimposed flames, which then cuts to Corman's burning chicken coop footage that was used in most of his Poe films.

The next story is titled, “King Vampire” and is set in late 19th century London, with none of the on-screen talent hiding the fact that they’re from California. A vampire is loose, and Scotland Yard is knee-high deep in an investigation to track the bloodsucker down. An angry mob (well, three or four dudes acting against a black backdrop) accuse a thin well-dressed bloke of committing the crimes, but it turns out the real killer is still on the loose. “Monster Raid,” is mostly told in flashback. Thought to be dead after he was subjected to an experimental immortality serum, Dr. Spalding (Ron Doyle) rises from the grave, and his loyal servant takes him on a long carriage ride (using long shots of Jack Nicholson’s double in the driver’s seat from THE RAVEN) to get revenge. Spalding’s laboratory assistant is having an affair with his wife (Rochelle Hudson) and is responsible for his death, and now Spalding is a bitter walking corpse who resembles a barbecued spare rib.

The next tale, “The Spark of Life,” is a real dozy since it features a puffy later-day Lon Chaney Jr. Set in 19th century Scotland (taking place entirely on a set which resembles a grammar school chemistry lab), Dr. Mendell (Chaney) tells two over-aged medical students (Joey Benson and Ron Doyle) how he knew Dr. Frankenstein, and is now experimenting using his notes. The two students make eyes behind Mendell’s back, but then they quickly decide to bring a corpse back to live, just for fun. Mendell ends up aiding them, it's a convicted killer they revive, and as you can imagine, that was a big mistake. The last story is typically repetitious in that again it deals with vampires. “Count Dracula” starts out basically as the classic Stoker story, with Harker (Roger Gentry, yes him again!) appearing at the vampire’s soundstage castle to handle the business of Carfax Abbey. As "Count Alucard", Mitch Evans makes Zandor Varkoff look like Christopher Lee. Anyway, Harker gets distracted when the Burgermeister (Vic McGee in loud Oktoberfest getup) and an angry mob (aided by stock shots from THE HAUNTED PALACE) show up in pursuit of two sexy female vampires. Harker helps in the hunt, and later returns to the castle with a surprise for the Count.

GALLERY OF HORRORS is just that, and it’s a mind-numbing marvel to behold. Cheap cardboard sets of high school pageant caliber, tons of stock footage from all too familiar superior films, cast members having to suffer three or four different roles, insipid animated bloody red screen wipes, a bloated and bewildered Lon Chaney, hiring John Carradine for a Dracula film and not having him play Dracula, "twist" endings which muster up nothing but unintentional laughs, and the laziest widescreen photography you’ll ever witness are just some of the reasons you must add this masterpiece to your collection right away!

Presented by the Wade Williams Collection (who previously issued it on VHS), GALLERY OF HORRORS is presented on DVD in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which is the important thing. The image has nice detail for the most part, though there is a considerable amount of speckling, cue marks and other blemishes in the 35mm print source, but fortunately no heavy lines or missing footage. Colors are stable but tend to look faded in some scenes. The mono audio (which always sounded pretty flat to begin with) is adequate. No extras are included, but hell, it’s out on DVD in widescreen! (George R. Reis)