Even in the various circles of classic Z-grade monster movie fans, the name of Jerry Warren is bound to bring on gasps and groans. Even if you suffered through the works of Ed Wood and David L. Hewitt, Warren’s films are on a bottom level altogether, because the slapdash producer/director just didn’t care about his craft, if you could call it that. Warren started making films in the mid 1950s, and often bought footage from different countries to incorporate with new, uninspired scenes he statically shot himself (often using a stock company which included the likes of Katherine Victor, Bruno VeSota and even John Carradine). Branding the covers of both packages as a “Positively No Refunds Triple Feature”, VCI gives us a nice, horrible chunk (six black and white films altogether) of some of the "worst" movies ever made with the “Jerry Warren Collection” volumes 1 and 2.
THE JERRY WARREN COLLECTION VOLUME 1: THE WILD WORLD OF BAT WOMAN is the epitome of bad movie making all the way around! Other than the unintentional humor, this film has nothing going for it: bad writing, poor editing, terrible costumes, high school dramatics, stock footage, and nonexistent special effects! The story itself is a bit convoluted to say the least. I'll do my best to condense it. Bat Woman (Katherine Victor, TEENAGE ZOMBIES) is evidently some type of "superhero." Her costume (which she reportedly created herself) consists of a party mask, black feathers in her hair, a black teddy, long black gloves, dark hose, and high heels. Her most distinguishing feature is a bat tattooed above her breasts! Bat Woman has a bevy of "Bat Girls" (a number of strippers were employed, seriously) who assist her in fighting crime when they're not having fun with boys. The bat girls are almost always clad only in bikinis.
Rat Fink (Richard Banks, FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND) has apparently tangled with Batwoman many times in the past. His assistants include Dr. Neon who has to be the most useless "mad scientist" in all of moviedom. Dr. Neon, in turn, has a hunchbacked idiot assistant named "Heathcliff"(I kid you not!). Rat Fink lives in a cave somewhere off the coast and communicates with his thugs via large viewscreen. For no specific reason given in the photoplay, Dr. Neon created some "monsters" that also live in the cave with Rat Fink. He keeps referring to them in the story, and on at least one occasion, we are treated to stock footage of THE MOLE PEOPLE to give them a face. They otherwise have no reference to the "plot" of the film and are one of many examples of idiotic loose threads in the storyline! Rat Fink steals a hearing aid that when combined with "Cobalt 52" will result in a nuclear explosion. The hearing aid inventor contacts Bat Woman to help him recover said item. Along the way there are many perils for Batwoman and the bat girls as they repeatedly have to face off against Dr. Neon's "Happy Pills," which when ingested make you want to go-go dance! Finally, we are treated to a heart pounding climax in Rat Fink's cave where the hearing aid is recovered just in the nick of time!
There is really MUCH more to the story, and you have to see it to believe it! So many things are included that just don't make sense or have anything to do with the larger story; the result will simply amaze you. The direction is nonexistent, with people doing all sorts of "business" in the background that detracts from the foreground action. Technical glitches abound, especially in reference to microphone pickup: at several points in the film, a character will turn in a certain direction and his/her dialogue just fades away! In short, this is one of those films that is a perverse pleasure to watch and chuckle over. Its 66-minute running time can seem like three hours, but with some patience and an open mind, it is definitely a bad movie lover's dream. B movie regulars Steve Brodie (THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION) and Bruno VeSota (ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES) also appear, as does the gorgeous Suzanne Lodge (THE WILD SCENE) as a kidnapped “Bat Girl”.
In MAN BEAST, a young woman named Connie (Asa Maynor, CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) sets up an expedition to find her missing brother, who was searching for a Yeti in the Himalayan Mountains. Teaming up with Steve (Tom Maruzzi), Hud (Lloyd Nelson, THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD), Dr. Erickson (George Wells Lewis) and a weirdo guide name Vargo (George Skaff, FROGS), they run into a club toting abominable snowman, a guy in a fury white ape suit with a smashed-in rubber mask. Running just over an hour, there’s lots of talk and static campfire scenes integrated with stock footage of real adventurers doing their mountain-climbing thing (with California’s Bronson Canyon substituting as the Himalayas in the new footage). As bad as you could expect, with inept performances galore, there’s still something creepy about this threadbare affair, especially if you watch it late at night. Leading man Maruzzi is actually billed twice, once under his real name and again as “Rock Madison”, the marquee name that Warren created for the actor which did nothing for his career (unless you count the top billing he got in CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD).
For years it was thought that the footage that largely comprises Warren’s CURSE OF THE STONE HAND was taken from a Mexican film, or even a Swedish one, but it’s actually from two much earlier films made in Chile: Carlos Schlieper’s “La casa está vacía” (The House is Empty), (1945) and Carlos Hugo Christensen’s “Dama de la muerte” (The Lady of Death) (1946) which is loosely based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson. The resulting dubbed hodgepodge is split into two stories. The first concerns a newly-married young man (Carlos Cores) who joins a gambling club which turns out to be some sort of suicide club. The second involves a rather wicked boy who grows up and acquires hypnotic powers, and there’s a “Dorian Gray” inspired ending. It is in this second yarn that the stateside thesps are inserted: Katherine Victor and John Carradine (billed as “The Old Drunk”, even though he never seems too intoxicated) are seen briefly and have one scene together as they mostly sit around and chatter (Victor is unconvincing passed off as an actress from the Chilean footage, who in the previous scene was shown in a long shot!). The amount of footage that Warren actually shot (including some wraparound bits involving the titular “stone hand”) is about 10 percent compared with the rest of the foreign stuff, which is well shot and atmospheric (even though the footage was about 20 years old when the American bastardization was released, the period setting must have disguised the fact, at least to some extent).
All three black and white features are on one disc, which works fine since none of the three run over 75 minutes. BAT WOMAN and MAN BEAST have been on DVD before from Rhino, so STONE HAND is the rarest of the bunch. All prints are culled from the Kit Parker Films library and a are likely from 16mm. Given that, the transfers are pretty good, if a bit soft on occasion. THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN sports that exact title (it was changed to SHE WAS A HIPPIE VAMPIRE for legal reasons, and some prints carry that title) and is in a fitting 1.78:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, as is MAN BEAST. STONE HAND is presented full frame, which was the right way to go, given that most of the footage was shot in the 1940s during the academy ratio days. All three features have adequate mono English soundtracks, as well as optional English subtitles. Extras include seven minutes of extra scenes from MAN BEAST (which helps account for the longer 67-minute running time that’s often listed) of just more talk and hiking through the snow. Taken from a foreign print source, all the dialog is in Spanish with no subtitle option. An excerpt from Tom Weaver’s 1991 interview with Katherine Victor is here read by a male narrator asking the questions and female performer reading Victor’s responses (the original recording has been lost). The interview segment (which focuses on BAT WOMAN) gives us a good impression on how Warren treated his actors, where the films were shot, and working with the likes of John Carradine and Bruno VeSota. There’s a page of trivia on BAT WOMAN mentioning Warren’s dispute with General Film Labs (owned by 20th Century-Fox) which hurt the film’s general release, as well as two different trailers for BAT WOMAN (one as SHE WAS A HIPPY VAMPIRE) and trailers for MAN BEAST and STONE HAND.
THE JERRY WARREN COLLECTION VOLUME 2: The Aztec Mummy series are campy yet fun entries in the Mexican horror genre. CURSE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY (1957), ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1958) and even WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964) were all dubbed into English and released to American TV by American International Television (AIP-TV). The first of these films, 1957’s THE AZTEC MUMMY was never dubbed into English, but Jerry Warren bought up footage for it for his ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY. The footage (not much dubbing, but a lot of narration over scenes) is incorporated into a new plot involving hypnosis and regression to a past life (thus showcasing the Aztec flashback footage from the original film) as well as a plot to steal the mummy. There’s not much mummy footage here (the scenes from the original film seem listless within the context), and Warren’s stuff heavily pads the short running time (which seems a lot longer than it is). Actors such as Bruno VeSota, George Mitchell, Steve Conte, Fred Hoffman, Chuck Niles and Richard Webb sit around and exchange tedious dialog (somehow, Katherine Victor was spared from all this). A scene supposedly taking place in a soda shop (with some very middle-aged looking kids dancing around) looks like it was shot in someone’s living room!
CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD is largely taken from a Mexican horror movie called “La marca del muerto” which was shot in 1961. In the previous century, a mad scientist’s murderous blood experiments leads to execution at the hangman’s noose. Decades later, his descendant Malthus (Fernando Casanova, who co-starred in several “El Santo” movies) finds his diary, removes his corpse from the family crypt and revives him with a blood transfusion. Of course the descendant (also played by Casanova) needs the blood of young women to retain his looks, or else he transforms into a silver-haired prune (much in the style of the Italian made ATOM AGE VAMPIRE). What we get from the original Mexican version is quite atmospheric and well made, with creepy gothic sets and a wacky laboratory. The original director (Fernando Cortés, here billed as “Frédéric Corte”) is credited on the American prints, as Warren’s contributions to the patchwork feature are minimal, but oh so painful to sit through! Warren’s idea of a period scene is Bruno VeSota (as a big-bellied policeman) being massaged by Chuck Niles (in a ruffled pirate shirt) in front of a set made up of a bookshelf and a sloppily hung drape. When the film jumps to the modern day of the 1960s, Rock Madison plays a cop in front of a set containing a large world map and a couple of schoolteacher’s desks, with Katherine Victor coming in to report her missing maid (the camera just sits stationary though most of this agony). Victor then conducts a séance around a tiny wooden table where the participants sit in folding chairs. Some of the footage from the Mexican film is dubbed (though I’m sure the dialog varies from the original variant) though much of it just has endless narration playing over it instead of spoken dialog.
HOUSE OF THE BLACK DEATH was originally directed by and still credited on-screen to Harold Daniels (TERROR IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE), though 1940s Universal horror director Reginald Le Borg (THE MUMMY’S GHOST) also participated and is credited as second unit director. The producer of the film was not happy with the results and somehow thought it was a good idea to bring in Jerry Warren to direct new footage and edit the thing, so you can imagine the results. This mishmash is known primarily for its appearances by Lon Chaney (as bad warlock Belial Desard) and John Carradine (as his brother, Andre Desard, a good warlock). Carradine spends most of his screen time in a bathrobe (though he does save the day during the climax, set upon a cheap soundstage which is always depicted as nighttime) and a limping Chaney sports devil horns on his forehead when his hoody is not covering his head. Don’t expect me to relay the confusing plot, but it involves the two rival warlocks, a coven and their ceremonies (a number of buxom ladies dance around in scantily clad outfits) and Tom Drake (who starred with Chaney in Bert I. Gordon’s THE CYCLOPS) is another Desard family member afflicted with lycanthrope (we see a guy in a dime store rubber gorilla mask with his tongue sticking out of it for five seconds). The cast includes Andrea King (THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS), Dolores Faith (THE PHANTOM PLANET), Katherine Victor (seen in dull coven scenes no doubt directed by Warren) and the luscious Sabrina (aka Norma Ann Sykes) as one of the coven dancers. Chaney and Carradine have no scenes together, and it’s likely their scenes were shot at different times (and by different directors). Also known as BLOOD OF THE MAN DEVIL, it’s a stinker under any title but a must for Chaney and Carradine completists.
All three black and white titles on Volume 2 are presented 1.78:1 and anamorphic, and are about as equal in quality to what can be found on Volume 2. Aside from some occasional picture softness, black levels that could be deeper and some print wear, the transfers are more than acceptable and the framing always looks accurate, even if 16mm television prints were utilized. Mono English is adequate on all three titles (if anything, BLACK DEATH has the most inferior sounding audio of the three) and optional English subtitles are included. Trailers for MAYAN MUMMY (basically a scene from the movie) and WALKING DEAD are included. Tom Weaver’s 1991 interview with Geraldine Brian Murphy (who passed away in 2003) is recreated as an extra. Murphy acted in Warren films (she was one of the actors who played the yeti in MAN BEAST!), was part of the crew on some of his films, and was married to him for a few years. She tells a number of anecdotes about working on MAN BEAST, where she had a numerous duties (Murphy later became a prominent cinematographer and even directed the low budget 1972 horror film BLOOD SABBATH with Tony Geary).
If you have a penchant for really bad movies from the drive-in era (or if you are addicted to self-inflicting torture), these two collections are extensive samplings of what Jerry Warren’s non-talents had to offer, and since a number of these films played on late night and Saturday afternoon monster movie programs back in the day, there’s definite fan interest in these films, even if we are ashamed to admit it. If there’s another volume of these in the cards (or even another “Positively No Refunds Triple Feature”) from VCI, we hope it will contain Warren’s THE FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF, a bastardization of the Mexican comedy “La casa del terror” with Lon Chaney reprising his werewolf character. (George R. Reis with Jason R. Casey on THE WILD WORLD OF BAT WOMAN)
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