Like many of drive-in king Al Adamson films of the late 60s and early 70s, HELL’S BLOODY DEVILS started as one thing, and ended up as something entirely different. In this case, shooting began in 1967 as OPERATION M, and then subsequently under the title THE FAKERS. But when a straightforward crime thriller couldn’t be sold to a proper distributor, new biker footage was lensed, incorporated into the plot, and the result was HELL’S BLOODY DEVILS, which was released through Adamson’s and producer Sam Sherman’s own newly-formed Independent International in 1970. To make matters even more confusing, the film later had its motorcycle action removed in an incarnation known as SMASHING THE CRIME SYNDICATE, mostly screened overseas. Never given a video release in the U.S. and believed to be a “lost” Al Adamson film, HELL’S BLOODY DEVILS finally makes its home video debut on the digital format.
Suave FBI agent Mark Adams (John Gabriel) poses as a member of the crime syndicate in order to infiltrate the hideout of a local neo-Nazi group. Led by WWII Nazi war criminal Count von Delberg (Kent Taylor), they are in the racquet of printing counterfeit U.S. dollars, and they plan to make a deal with the syndicate to help finance their party. Adams makes the moves on von Delberg’s daughter (Erin O'Donnell) and gets aid from an undercover Israeli agent (Vicki Volante) whose parents were killed by von Delberg during the war. In the meantime, a gang of vicious Swastika-clad bikers receives cash from the Nazi party for various deeds done dirt cheap.
HELL’S BLOOD DEVILS is a film that many Adamson followers have waited a long time to finally see. It doesn’t have the irresistible camp of DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN or the depraved sleaze of SATAN’S SADISTS, but rather follows along the lines of the slipshod patchwork of BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR. The biker footage is very much in the tradition of the previous year’s SATAN’S SADISTS, with Robert Dix, William Bonner and Jerry Mills as the central riders, and support from a real cycle gang called the Hessions. Dix, Bonner (who actually plays two different roles, as he’s also in the earlier footage) and Mills kill a couple of “commies” on the highway, knock down agent Adams (in a scene where Greydon Clark unconvincingly stands in for Gabriel) get stoned and make out with two hitchhikers (Jill Woelfel and sexploitation starlet Bambi Allen), and harass poor Vicki Volante, who is the key link between the old and new footage (with her hair style changing about three times during the course).
It’s obvious that Adamson was trying to make a James Bond-esque adventure, but even with the likable Gabriel in the lead, beautiful women, cars chases and crashes, shootouts and an explosive red felt pen(!), you still wish there was more biker action. But fans of Adamson’s brew of drive-in-catered fare will not be disappointed, and what a cast! Also on hand is top-billed Broderick Crawford (mostly seen behind a desk) as the chauvinist FBI chief; Scott Brady, Greydon Clark and Emily Banks as fellow FBI agents, Playboy Playmate Anne Randall playing a 16-year-old tease (she was 20-something at the time); Keith Andes and Jack Starrett as syndicate criminals; and John Carradine in a comic cameo as a pet store owner (he shares his scene with Alyce and Rhae Andrece, the twins from the classic “I, Mudd” episode of “Star Trek”). Adamson's pals Gary Kent, John “Bud” Cardos and Gary Graver (who partially shot the film along with Frank Ruttencutter and Laszlo Kovacs) can all be spotted as well. Colonel Sanders makes an appearance inside one of his restaurants (KFC put up dough for product placement and also fed the cast and crew). There is an erotic Bond-esque title sequence done by Bob LeBar (of “Blood Island” trilogy fame), and although Nelson Riddle (“Batman”) is credited with doing the music, he is actually only responsible for the title theme, as Don McGinnis composed the score based around it.
The transfer for HELL’S BLOODY DEVILS was put together from varied print sources to make a complete version of what played at drive-ins, and for this, Media Blasters has done a fine job. The image is full screen, and there are problems in the form of lines and scratches (mostly in the first reel), grain, and some faded colors, but on a whole, the picture looks good with decent colors and detail. The different sources and different film stock fluctuate throughout, with the second to last reel looking especially nice. The mono audio is fine, presenting no significant glitches. Basically, this looks as good or better than most of the Adamson titles that Troma released a few years ago.
Extras include a full audio commentary with producer and Independent International president, Sam Sherman. Sherman always provides a treasure trove of drive-in movie information with his commentaries, and here we get a history of the making of the film, and lots of tidbits about the cast, as well as some insight into the late Adamson’s persona. He remarks that someone should take all his commentaries and transcribe them into a book, and I agree that it would make for excellent reading. Sherman is also reunited with star Gabriel for a video interview. Both men share their fond memories of working with Adamson, and Sherman reminds Gabriel that the original executive producer, Rex Carlton, committed suicide quickly after shooting since he owed money to the mafia! Gabriel – who played the professor on the original “Gilligan’s Island” pilot – says he’s often recognized by people today for his lengthy stint on the soap opera, “Ryan’s Hope.” Another amusing supplement is Adamson’s rare TV appearance on “The Joe Franklin Show” from 1993. At the time, Adamson – who appears with his then-companion Stevee Ashlock – was plugging an endeavor called BEYOND THIS EARTH. Unfortunately, the cult icon doesn’t get to say much, as his time is divided between a loudmouth NY comedian and a pretzel-eating contest winner(!), but it’s great to see his appearance again. Franklin holds up the old Super Video boxes for DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN and THE MURDER GANG, and when he asks Al for a recommendation, he replies, “Satan’s Sadists.”
The disc also includes the
original trailer (also shown before the actual feature), a still gallery, and
trailers for RUN ANGEL RUN, SYNDICATE SADISTS, MAN FROM DEEP RIVER and LAS VEGAS
SERIAL KILLER. (George
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