Director: Del Tenney
Dark Sky Films/MPI

Rarely do films originally double-billed together in theaters get paired on DVD, but now one of the best drive-in programs of all time can be recreated in your own living room! Produced and directed by Del Tenney, THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH and THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE were distributed by 20th Century Fox at a time when the major studios found themselves competing with the likes of American International, and the dual ghoul show proved to be a box office smash when unleashed to drive-ins in 1964. Although both films are pure camp, they have established an undeniable following due to heavy TV play throughout the years, and Dark Sky Films have done justice to the fans by releasing them uncut and in pristine quality, with a number of appreciated extras to complete the package. Not only is this disc essential DVD Drive-In viewing, but it's already one of the best releases of the year!

In THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, some careless ecology-ignoring seamen dump barrels of mucky radioactive waste into the sea. The stuff oozes out onto the ocean bottom onto a human skull, transforming it into a man-sized fish creature, of which several more develop. Meanwhile, hunky blonde football hero Hank Green (John Scott) is getting sand tossed in his face as he brawls with a biker on “Party Beach.” His flirty girlfriend Tina (Marilyn Clark) strays from the bikini-clad crowd, only to be viciously massacred by one of the creatures, who soon surface on dry land in search of more human blood. Another pretty young lady named Elaine (Alice Lyon) helps Hank get over his loss, and she also happens to be the daughter of Dr. Gavin (Allen Laurel), a top-notch scientist working with the police to study and try to stomp out these unearthly beings. In the meantime, these creatures invade a girls’ slumber party, attack a trio of very independent traveling ladies, ambush a couple of inebriated bozos staggering out of a bar and carry off with a lot of other females before our brave scientists can concoct a way to stop them.

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH commences with hot-rodding, black leather-clad bikers, shapely chicks in bikinis and their horny guy friends twisting on the beach to the sounds of The Del Aires (“The Zombie Stomp” will stick in your head forever), and that’s all before the first monster attack! The creatures have scaly bodies, large fin-lined heads with gills, rotating ping-pong eyeballs, razor sharp claws, and a half a dozen or so plump rubber hot dogs shoved in their orifices. Do they look silly? You bet they do, but you’ll never forget them! The makers of the film were obviously trying to create something titillating for the drive-in screens of that time, with all the appropriate ingredients included, and in that sense, it succeeds on every level and delivers the goods like only the best/worst B efforts of the 1960s can. It also goes down in history as an early gore film (of which some of the graphic content was removed from various prints over the years) so dark blood is spattered all over the place, most remarkably during the incredible slumber party massacre. Like most of Tenney’s early films, it was shot entirely in Connecticut and New York with local actors, and although most of the cast does a decent job, the standout performance comes from Eulabelle Moore (as Eulabelle), playing an over-concerned African American maid who saves the day when all is said and done.

Taking place in New England in the late 18th century, THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE unweaves the tale of Rufus Sinclair, a domineering and wealthy family matriarch who has just passed away – or so we are lead to believe. During the reading of this elaborate will, family members are informed to follow is last minute instructions, or else he will return to life and bring them down, and knowing their various flaws and phobias, this won’t be too difficult a task. A darkly disguised murderer is soon creeping around the family estate, as well as the crypt where Rufus is supposedly buried, and the Sinclairs are viciously done in one after the other, as they are dragged, burnt, stabbed, drowned, etc.

Filmed entirely in Stamford, Connecticut right before THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, this early gore “who-done-it?” effort is a convincing period piece done on a shoestring budget, and even though it was shot in black and white, it’s reminiscent of some of the AIP and Hammer films done around the same time. With its masked murderer on the loose and inventive killings, it also pre-dates the Italian giallo cycle by a few years, much like the Tenney-produced VIOLENT MIDNIGHT (aka PSYCHOMANIA). Most memorable is when a blonde maid’s head ends up served on a breakfast table platter, and not only does it contain a surprising amount of violence for the time it was shot, there are also glances of brief nudity, courtesy of actress Margot Hartman (wife of Del Tenney). Looking a lot like Clark Gable, Robert Milli nicely hams it up (as does most of the cast) in a villainous role, but the film’s notoriety stems from the feature debut of Roy Schneider a full decade before JAWS, as well as a "damsel in distress" supporting part from Candace Hilligoss, who several years earlier starred in the acclaimed cult item CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

Both presented fully uncut on DVD, HORROR and CURSE look spectacular. Presented anamorphic at a 1.78:1 ratio, the framing looks good and quite true to the films’ 1964 theatrical presentations. Culled from the original vault materials, the black and white image on both titles has excellent detail, no grain in sight, and hardly a blemish to speak of – only slight damage seen briefly during CURSE. The mono audio has crisp and clear dialogue and music on both, and although there is some scratchiness present on the soundtrack of CURSE, it will not deter from the viewing enjoyment. Optional English subtitles are also included.

The fact that Dark Sky got in touch with Del Tenney to get involved with this release is reason enough to rejoice. Tenney, who is still active in film and stage and still happily married to wife Margot, is interviewed for a video featurette. He talks about his background, how he got into filmmaking, and discusses the distribution and other aspects of the horror films in question. There are also full running commentaries with Tenney for both films, nicely moderated by Shade Rupe. Tenney seems like a great-natured guy, and he shares his fond recollections about making the films, including tidbits about the casts, the locations, the budgets (both cost a little over $70,000 combined!), his cameo appearances, the distribution by 20th Century Fox, his business associate Alan V. Iselin, the special effects, etc. Although Tenney’s memory is understandably a bit shaky on some things after 40 some odd years (contrary to what he recalled, The Del-Aires did cut a few records), a lot of fun information is shared and any longtime or even casual fans of the films will want to give these commentaries a listen. One really fascinating account is that there were only a couple of monster suits used for HORROR, and when multiple creatures are seen on the screen, it’s actually a matted optical effect! Other extras include a still and poster gallery, and the original trailers for both films. CURSE’s is most interesting as it hypes a “Fright Release” to theater patrons, and sells the film as being “More terrifying than Frankenstein…More deadly than Dracula!” (George R. Reis)