Directors: David Bradley, William J. Hole Jr.
BCI Eclipse

Originally titled MADMEN OF MANDORAS and later padded out with new footage as THEY SAVED HITLER'S BRAIN, this true turkey makes Ed Wood's films like high art in comparison (at least they're enjoyable) and reaches new highs (or lows) in ineptitude. Like Hitler's preserved head, the picture gives the audience a telepathic order: take a nap! At least the saving grace of this “Starlite Drive-In Theater” double feature is the decent thriller THE DEVIL’S HAND, also a drive-in favorite from the early days of Crown International (NOTE: Originally the second feature was to be BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, but that title has since been removed from BCI's release roster).

MADMEN OF MANDORAS’ hastily written script concerns a woman (Audrey Caire) whose father (John Holland, he played Alice’s boss Mr. Amico in the “Brother Ralph” episode of “The Honeymooners”) is kidnapped after discovering an antidote for a deadly poison gas. Along with her heroic husband (Walter Stocker), she is lead to the island of Mandoras where dad is held prisoner. When they arrive there, they are greeted by the hefty Nestor Paiva (THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE) as Police Chief Alaniz, and get into all sorts of espionage nonsense. It is soon discovered that a group of underground Nazis are under the command of Hitler's head (preserved in a jar and sitting on top of a bulky old radio) and are planning to take over the world or something.

Even though Hitler's head (played by Bill Freed) makes funny face movements and snarls, the film is a total bore, and you have to wait for what seems like hours to get to this. What would have been better was to see Moe Howard do his famous impersonation of the crazed Fuhrer. If Moe (with his baggy 1960s eyes and black shoe polish died hair) portrayed the head, you would at least been able to stay awake. After falling asleep through the middle of this bad movie lover's crud, you'll wake up in amazement during the climax to see the wax head burn up to music stolen from THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

Many stories surrounding the history of this film endure, but most of them are confusing. It's often been written that it was started in the late 1950s and then completed by UCLA students in the 1960s. Well let me assure you that with an actor who resembles Three Dog Night's Chuck Negron and another one who looks like he just one first prize in a Ron Jeremy look-alike contest, the newer footage was definitely shot well into the 1970s. Backed with dopey synthesizer music, having longhaired actors driving early 1960s cars can't fool anyone. This added subplot about a male agent and a female agent (one of them dies courtesy of car crash footage stolen from THUNDER ROAD) was added to the version known as THEY SAVED…, which was syndicated to TV in the late 1970s. At any rate, both versions are well presented here; MADMEN on Side A with all the drive-in paraphernalia around it, and THEY SAVED on Side B with a few extra trailers as a bonus.

MADMEN was transferred from the original negative, and it shows. The full frame black and white image is very sharp with nice picture detail and deep black levels. Aside from some background hiss, the mono audio track is fine. THEY SAVED is noticeably inferior, but still passable. It looks slightly softer and sometimes grainier (there's some fine grain present in MADMEN anyway), especially the newer footage with looks to be shot on 16mm. The mono audio is also a bit more scratchy and hissy. The original version runs 74 minutes, while the expanded TV cut runs a whopping 92 minutes.

The second disc gives us 1962’s THE DEVIL'S HAND, a black and white chiller with a sort of "Twilight Zone" feel to it. Suave middle-aged Rick Turner (Robert Alda) has many restless nights with a beautiful blonde who keeps invading his subconscious. Quitting his job, he is lured to a doll shop run by Francis Lamont (Neil Hamilton, Commissioner Gordon on the 1960s "Batman" series), but it’s actually a front for a voodoo practicing cult of devil worshipers. Rick’s fiancé Donna (Mexican-born Ariadna Welter, also in BRAINIAC) has a look-alike doll that gets a pin thrust through it, thus making her an invalid stuck in a hospital bed. But Rick’s attentions soon turn to the woman of his dreams, who shows up as the curvaceous Bianca Milan (Linda Christian), a member of the cult who effortlessly seduces Rick and gets him to join their private sect. Rick forgets about his fiancé and becomes heavily involved with the alluring Bianca, but he soon regrets just how deep he’s involved with all the satanic high jinks.

Running a neat 71 minutes, THE DEVIL’S HAND is an ok little film, and despite a few boring moments, it’s can be spooky and intriguing. Robert Alda is likable and holds the film together well, while Neil Hamilton makes for a hammy yet very menacing heavy. Linda Christian is great eye candy, modeling a number of low cut nightgowns, while her real-life sister Ariadna Welter is given a much less glamorous part. Some effective moments are juxtaposed with unintentional laughs, mainly brought on by depression era stock footage of a car going over a cliff, and later, an obvious insert of a building set ablaze. Jeanne Carmen (MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS) appears as one of the cultists, as does Bruno VeSota, the rotund favorite of many an early Roger Corman flick.

Transferred from a “new fine grain film print,” THE DEVIL’S HAND, previously available on a number of PD video and DVD releases, has never looked better. The full frame transfer is vividly sharp with excellent picture detail, and except for the occasional scratch, speck or splice, the print source is in terrific shape. The mono audio also sounds quite crisp for a cheap film of this vintage.

As with all releases in the “Starlite Drive-In Theater” series, this double disc allows you to relive those nights at the drive-in with cartoons, movie previews and classic concession stand commercials. There’s an old Woody Woodpecker cartoon shown before the second feature, and the trailers on the first film are from other Crown International releases including the “Beach Party” rip-off CATALINA CAPER with Tommy Kirk and THE HOSTAGE which has a silly bit where an elder John Carradine walks into the street and gets hit by a passing vehicle! (George R. Reis)