Starting in the 1950s, and going on well into the 1980s, Crown International Pictures was a prominent source of exploitation and horror films for the drive-ins, sort of a poor man's American International Pictures. Rhino now holds the rights to the Crown International catalog, and have slowly been releasing them on DVD with mixed results (several of the titles here have been previously released by Rhino as single discs, while most of them are new-to-DVD). Horrible Horrors Collection Volume 2 is an eight-title DVD set spread across two discs, and along with Volume 1, seems to be a home video dumping ground for a good number of their genre pics. This is a budget set (retailing for $24.95 or less) and although the titles featured are officially licensed, we have to deal with full frame transfers, so-so prints (some which are just plain awful), and worst of all, a couple of cut TV prints. Here's a rundown on what Volume 2 has to offer.
BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE (1969) (Director: Al Adamson). I must admit, I adore most of Adamson's "so bad it's good" cinema, but BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE is so bad, it's just plain bad. Shot around 1966-67, the idea of having John Carradine in a Dracula film and not play Dracula is almost as ludicrous as the film itself. Carradine actually plays George, a sarcastic butler with a clichéd Igor-type henchmen named Mango (Ray Young) who abducts young girls (including Adamson regular Vicki Volante) and chains them up in the cellar of the castle to extract their blood. Dracula's castle is located in a desert in California(!) and Mr. and Mrs. Count Dracula (Alex D'Arcy and Paul Raymond) are a snootier but more boring couple than the Howells, as they drink blood from wine glasses and sleep in luxurious coffins next to the torture chamber (they use the name "Townsend," but are not related to rock and roll royalty). Robert Dix plays a psychotic killer who escapes from prison to visit his vampire friends, as he talks about how the full moon affects his behavior. An attractive couple arrive to inherit the castle, but they are of course terrorized by their hosts. A really boring film that makes you wonder if they were aiming for comedy with the sub-Munsters dialog and stereotypical horror characters. A TV version had scenes of Dix turning into a werewolf, via a dime store rubber monster mask, but this is the theatrical version so don't expect such cheap thrills. A pretty good full frame transfer, with decent colors, and passable detail, despite some dark scenes. The mono audio is fine.
NIGHTMARE IN WAX (1969) (Director: Bud Townsend). This cheapie originally played on a double bill with BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE, so it was smart on Rhino's part to put it on the same side of the same disc. Filmed mostly on location in the West Coast's Movieland Wax Museum, this is like a really poor man's HOUSE OF WAX, wallowing in an ultra-schlocky Cameron Mitchell performance. Mitchell plays Vince Renaud, the nutty proprietor of a wax museum who, due to an accident, now has plastic vomit glued to his cheek and sports a black eye patch. Renaud was once the top make-up man at Paragon studios, but was set on fire after an argument with the studio's head (Berry Krueger) over the attentions of a sexy starlet (Anne Helm). Renaud commits vindictive murder, makes wax figures out of people (some which roam around as zombies), smokes a lot of cigarettes, and talks to himself, as well as a murdered go-go dancer. Mitchell's somewhat improvised performance seems like a blueprint for THE TOOLBOX MURDERS made a decade later. Scotty Brady and John "Bud" Cardos also star as the cops always on the case but never being able to figure out anything. NIGHTMARE has a decent open matte transfer, on par with DRACULA. Most of the colors look good, but at times washed out, and there is a good amount of speckling on the print. The mono audio seems to have low dialog at times.
STANLEY (1972) (Director: William Grefe). From Florida's own William Grefe comes this revenge tale that follows the formula of the previous year's WILLARD, giving us one of the director's most entertaining efforts (well, have you seen some of Grefe's other films?). Longtime Soap star Chris Robinson plays Tim, a Seminole Indian and recent Vietnam vet who has had enough of the "white man" and decides to live in a shack along the Everglades with a horde of pet snakes. His favorite of these is a rattlesnake named Stanley that he uses to enact revenge on Alex Rocco and his pack of snake-hunting goons. Stanley also attacks a nauseating couple who create a terrible night club act where a snake's head is bitten off, and later, Tim kidnaps Rocco's lovely daughter (Susan Carroll) prior to the fiery climax. Robinson is pretty good as a guy who sleeps and talks with snakes, becoming increasingly insane and disillusioned, and the actor obviously had no fear of handling the slithering creatures. The disc transfer is hopeless: looks to be the same one that VCI issued on VHS in the 1980s, with tons of video noise and murkiness. Also, it's the cut TV version which the censor obviously had a field day with.
TERRIFIED (1962) (Director: Lew Landers). Here's a real oddity from the early 60s, which shifts the action from a typical soda shop to a creepy old Ghost Town. It's there that a hooded killer buries people alive or tries to run them off the road in his station wagon. Most of the action takes place at night, giving it a genuine creepiness despite its obvious low budget and periods of tedium. The film stars Rod Lauren (THE CRAWLING HAND), Steve Drexel, Tracy Olsen and Denver Pyle ("The Dukes of Hazzard") as the Sheriff. Another black and white film made around the same time and featured on this collection is THE DEVIL'S HAND (1962) (Director: William J. Hole Jr.). A chiller with a sort of "Twilight Zone" feel to it, the film stars Robert Alda as Rick, a middle-aged man ignoring his girlfriend (Ariadna Welter) in favor of a mysterious hot blonde (Linda Christian) who appears in his dreams. He then finds the exact likeness of the woman in miniature doll at a shop he suddenly feels compelled to visit. His obsession leads to a confrontation with a satanic cult. The film also stars Bruno VeSota and Neil Hamilton from the 60s "Batman" series. Both prints have decent contrast, but also their fair share of speckling, looking about as good as the better budget DVD releases from Alpha (in fact, THE DEVIL'S HAND is also available through Alpha, being a public domain favorite).
Also on this set is the previously released slasher flick, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE which stars Nicholas Worth as a crazed photographer who stalks the streets of L.A. looking for beautiful women to strangle. This is the edited TV version, missing all the gore and nudity, so there's not much more to discuss. The set also includes THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER and BLOOD MANIA, and you can find my review for the single release of CRATER LAKE here and BLOOD MANIA here. They too use the same exact transfers as the single releases.
presentation of these Crown International horror "classics" are not
given the fanfare or respect (and no extras or even trailers) that one would hope
for, but at least the price is right, allowing you to add an assortment of campy
titles to your collection in one shot. (George R. Reis)
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