Most monster movies fans know John Stanley from when he hosted the "Creature Features" movie show on West Coast TV, or as author of the Creature Features Movie Guide, which is still in print in a new edition. Fewer know that he made his own feature film in the 1970s, NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD, which was intended as a tribute to the fandom of the time, a time when Famous Monsters and The Monster Times could still be found prominently on news racks and in candy stores.
NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD takes place during a horror convention, years before horror conventions were as common as reality TV shows. Looking like a cross between Mike Raven and Howard Vernon, Jerry Walter plays Malakai, a legendary horror actor known for his vampiric film roles. Malakai is to appear at a fan convention organized by adult enthusiasts Professor Seabrook (Dan Caldwell), black Sherlock Holmes admirer Scotty (John Cochran) and fashiod designer Cindy (Barrie Longfellow, later of TV's "It's A Living"). While setting things up at the old-time movie palace where it's all going to happen, it is soon discovered that Malakai is a genuine bloodsucker out to extract blood from fans and enemies alike. He has two sinister lackeys who happen to be the real Burke and Hare (one of which is played by Hy Pyke, the bus driver in LEMORA), and they have no qualms about offing victims for fresh blood. In comes a Jewish Van Helsing-type known as "The Avenger" (Irving Israel) who has hunted Malakai for decades and knows of his centuries-old evil history.
NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD is somewhat interesting for horror fans, as there are references galore, including a movie house filled with vintage one-sheet posters and a comic book store garbed with the pull-out centerfolds from The Monster Times (remember those?). But it just all falls flat with a series of routine gore murders and not enough excitement abound. If not for the gore, the sex-less vulgarity-less, tongue-in-cheek cheapie seems aimed at children, or at least young fans of the time. There are a few good ideas tossed in, and the acting is not bad, if somewhat hammy, but it's just not totally satisfying in the end.
One of the highlights is seeing the actual set of Sacramento's "Creature Features" show when Bob Wilkins was the host (Wilkins has a brief cameo, but the wiseacre horror host is played Morgan Upton). Ironically, director Stanley would take over "Creature Features" in 1979 and hold the job until the mid 80s. THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD star Kerwin Matthews (in his last screen role to date) appears briefly as a swashbuckler in "film-within-a-film" segment, and future star Kathleen Quinlan appears long enough to scream at a decapitated head. Completed in 1975 and not released until 1978, NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD is worth a look for those who enjoy no-budget 70s shockers and remember when monster madness was represented by kids in plastic fangs and rubber "Planet of the Apes" masks.
Image Entertainment has a done a fine job in releasing this title on DVD. Amazingly, it was shot in Techniscope, so its full 2.35:1 aspect ratio is on display here with anamorphic enhancement. The film was shot rather crudely with a lot of low lighting, so expect a rather dark picture in spots. The image is very sharp, and despite some missing frames and minor damage during reels changes, the presentation is more than acceptable. The mono audio track is fine without any noticeable problems.
There are also a number of supplements included, some which are recommended for collectors of "horror host" memorabilia. First up is a full commentary with director/co-producer/co-writer Stanley and co-producer/co-writer Kenn Davis. The commentary is better than the film itself, as both gentleman have a great deal of fun sharing the ups and downs of making a low budget film in San Francisco over a period of years. Both Stanley and Davis are loaded with info, and remember just about every detail--probably enough for two commentaries. They also tell some interesting facts, including that Suzanne Somers originally auditioned for the role of Cindy.
Right after seeing the opening
for an early 80s edition of "Creatures Features" where Stanley introduced
Kerwin Matthews in THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF, we get his interview with Leonard
Maltin, promoting his TV Movies annual guide. Other "Creatures Features"
clips include a spoof on THE BAD SEED, a Tae Kwon Do demonstration by some local
martial artists, and an interview with author Richard P. Jewell who had a book
out on RKO Studios at the time. Rounding out the extras is brief still gallery.
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