Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966) w/ Barbara Steele

Barbara Steele was in a lot of horror films. I knew her name long before I’d ever seen her in anything, because I had an old Famous Monsters magazine which featured pictures from Black Sunday (1960). The movie looked scary, and I really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, this was years before home video became a thing, and there was simply no way to see an old movie unless it happened to come on TV late one night. Even after I was able to rent movies on Beta, Black Sunday was not one of the titles available at my local video stores. I finally bought a VHS copy years later, which was put out by Something Weird Video (?!). I guess there was no mainstream distributor for that movie at that time.

Meanwhile, I had read a few horror movie review books, and I knew that Barbara Steele was in a lot of other horror movies. Many of them had been made in Europe, and had similar sounding titles and descriptions. Many of them had been released under several different titles, in fact – perhaps trying to sound like their more successful brothers and sisters. The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) was also known as The Terror of Dr. Hichcock, The Frightening Secret of Dr. Hichcock, Raptus (?!) and The Terrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock.

The Ghost (1963) was retitled to The Spectre, Le Spectre du professeur Hichcock, and Lo spettro de Dr. Hichcock.

Castle of Blood (1964), which was sometimes called Danse Macabre, is a similar title to Nightmare Castle (1965), which was also known as The Night of the Doomed and The Faceless Monster.

One day I bought a cheap VHS tape in a bargain bin, because it had Barbara Steele’s name on it. I had never heard of the movie, but it had Hitchcock in the title. It turned out to be a movie that was better known under another title. It’s been so long now that I’ve forgotten which movie it was (and I lost that tape years ago).

After that experience I would always ask myself, upon coming across an unfamiliar Barbara Steele movie, have I already seen this movie? Do I in fact own this movie? Is this just a retitling of another, more famous, movie? It got to be very confusing, and I passed up more than a few VHS tapes and DVDs over the years.

Recently I came across a very nice Blu-ray edition of Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966), starring Barbara Steele, and I immediately asked myself the questions. I managed to figure out that the movie was also known as The She Beast, and that seemed really familiar to me. I could picture the old VHS box in my mind, and I was convinced that it was very similar to a movie called The Faceless Monster.

There’s also an unrelated movie called She Freak (1967), which might have been adding to my confusion. I wrote about that one not too long ago on another Friday night

VHS box for She FreakVHS box for She Beast starring Barbara SteeleDVD box for The Faceless Monster starring Barbara SteeleAnd then there was the description of the plot…

The She Beast: “The wife falls into a mountain lake and her life force reactivates a hideous old witch…”

This sounds a lot like the description of another Barbara Steel movie called An Angel for Satan (1966): “Steele is a beautiful tourist at a mountain village where she’s possessed by a vengeful spirit formerly housed in a statue found at the bottom of a lake.”

How many mountain-lake-evil-spirit-possession movies can there be?

I was convinced that I had probably seen Revenge of the Blood Beast before – and that I may even own a copy on VHS or DVD – but I was certain that I did not have the Blu-ray. So, I decided to pick it up (since it was on sale).

I was shocked to discover, last Friday night, that I had never seen Revenge of the Blood Beast under any title. Even more shocking, given the fact that this one tends to get more negative reviews than many other Barbara Steele movies, is that fact that I quite enjoyed it.

I had been afraid that it would be a somewhat confusing, mostly boring, lesser example of a Euro-horror film. It was more like a good old fashioned B monster movie. The kind of movie that I used to watch on Not Quite Classic Theatre all those years ago. It actually shares a lot of similar traits with one of my favourites B-movies from that era, Monster on the Campus (1958), which I wrote about just a few weeks ago. Both are about normal people transforming into murderous monsters when exposed to the right waterborne stimulus (in one case, a prehistoric fish, in the other, a dead witch at the bottom of a lake).

Revenge of the Blood Beast has a sense of humour, and moves along quite quickly. It’s never particularly confusing, and I was never bored. It rates lower on the IMDB than many of the other Barbara Steele movies. Black Sunday gets a 7.2, The Ghost rates 6.2, Castle of Blood scores 6.8, etc.  Revenge of the Blood Beast only manages a 4.6. This would normally suggest a sub-par viewing experience, but I couldn’t have been more delighted. Perhaps my expectations had been sufficiently lowered by that 4.6 – and the bad reviews I had read, but I’ll never know for sure. 

Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966) is a fine example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that may not be the best of Barbara Steele’s oeuvre, but it’s an entertaining B-movie monster movie that I’m glad to have (finally!) seen. I will definitely be watching it again on a future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Touch of Death (1988)

I never saw Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) back the day. I’m not even sure if I’d ever heard of it. I was a fan of films like Zombi (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) AKA The Gates of Hell (as I first knew it), which I rented on Beta pretty early on in my video store days. Later I made of point of buying any Fulci movies that I came across on VHS. I also tracked down and watched a few obscure titles online, once that became possible. Still, Touch of Death remained unknown to me – and unseen.

Raro Vdeo Blu-ray of Touch of Death (1988)Recently, I came across a Raro Vdeo Blu-ray of Touch of Death, and I was quite amazed that it was a Fulci film that I did not know. The back of the box claimed that it was from 1972, which made it even more amazing that I’d never heard of it – as that had been a pretty good year for Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) is one of my all time favourites). Needless to say, I immediately bought it.

It turns out that Touch of Death is not from 1972,  but from 1988 – and it was made for the direct-to-home-video market. I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but it was still a Lucio Fulci film that I’d never seen, so I had to watch it sooner or later. So why not on Friday night? After all, what says “home drive-in” more than a direct-to-video piece o’ crap my friends and I might have watched on an old VCR back in 1988?

I know it’s generally believed that Fulci peaked and did his best work between about 1979 and 1982. After that point, it’s often said that Fulci went downhill, and made some downright bad movies – or at least some mediocre ones. I definitely saw a couple that I could take or leave from those years. I fully expected Touch of Death to be a prime example of this side of Fulci.

Much to my surprise, I loved this lost Fulci film. It’s a very dark comedy of sorts, and is at times hilarious. There are a few over-the-top gore gags, which fans of Fulci will appreciate (as those moments  are often not there in his later work). There is also a bit of tasteless sleaze, which is often a welcome addition to a Fulci masterpiece (The New York Ripper (1982) being a primo example).

Don’t get me wrong. Touch of Death is not as extreme, or as good, as Fulci’s best movies. Some might dismiss it as a lesser work. I, on the other hand, found it to be a delightful surprise, and am very glad the I bought it. I would speculate that Fulci had a good time making this film and, as a result, I had a good time watching it.

The movie stars Brett Halsey, who was “one of Hollywood’s busiest and handsomest actors of the mid-to-late ’50s and early ’60s” according to his bio on the IMDb. This might explain why he was the perfect choice to play Lester Parson, a middle aged gigolo who seduces and murders a variety of rich widows in Touch of Death. He guest starred on just about every TV show from my childhood – including The Love Boat (1977-1987) and Fantasy Island (1977-1984), which I was just talking about it my last post

His victims include Zora Kerova, who was in Fulci’s The New York Ripper, as well as Cannibal Ferox (1981) and Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper (1980), and Sacha Darwin, who was in Fulci’s final film as a director, Voices from Beyond (1994).

Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) is a lost gem of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that should be seen by all hardcore fans of Fulci’s work. It may not be his best, but it’s an entertaining late-period film that deserves to be better known. I for one will be happy to see it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.