2019 | unrated (R equivalent) | Documentary | directed by David Gregory | 1 hr 40 mins |
Producer/Director David Gregory grabbed the cultural zeitgeist and came into the public consciousness of cinephiles with his last film, the must-see Lost Soul: The Doomed Voyage of Richard Stanley’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, a nexus of disastrous movie production docs like Hearts of Darkness with the cultural appetite for dissecting bad movies with Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer and Richard Stanley’s on-set jungle-set battles and antics taking center stage. Lost Soul is mandatory for anyone with any interest in movie production documentaries. Gregory returns with Blood & Flesh a far more niche but equally insane recounting of the career of B-movie schlockmeister Al Adamson, his bizarre mysterious death and alien conspiracy theories.
Gregory starts out at the end with Adamson’s bizarre disappearance and horror movie scenario murder – the irony of a horror director suffering such a fate catnip for local news media at the time. However, the title is a bit of a bait and switch, where it first seems like Blood & Flesh is going to follow the true-crime documentary trend, Gregory instead dives deep into Adamson’s movie-making career and doesn’t let up for 90% of the film. Complete with Adamson’s final interview and interviews of several of his company of producers, make-up artists and actors (all of which wear many hats on the sets), Gregory pieces together Adamson’s filmography from behind the scenes battles to the shameless self promotion to the constant re-shoots to chase the latest genre trend. Adamson has no delusion that he’s making art, he’s not Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau. He knows he makes trash, everyone around him knows it’s trash and he works for 30 years and never gets any better as a producer or director. He never learns a thing and doesn’t want to.
Adamson’s films are about getting the most on screen for the least amount of money and tricking people into seeing them if they liked something else. When the Go-Go Girl trend gets big he re-titles his serial killer movie Psycho A-Go-Go and slaps in a few shots of go-go dancers. When the film needs a big name he goes to an aging John Carradine (father to David and Keith) to come in for a day and shoot some wrap-around expositional footage as a scientist. Carradine becomes one of Adamson’s company and hilariously keeps showing up in his movies. When The Wild Bunch goes big he makes an all-female version, titled The Female Bunch so there is absolutely no confusion. When Easy Rider goes big and biker movies take off he releases Satan’s Sadists about Nazi bikers. He goes from sci-fi movies (The Horror of the Blood Monster) to soft-core porn (The Naughty Stewardesses) to copywrite-free monster movies (Dracula vs. Frankenstein) to buying foreign films, shooting new scenes, retinting the color and rereleasing them in the states for pennies. When another trend pops up, he just rereleases his existing movies with a sound-alike new title. Wen I Spit on Your Grave comes out his soft core film, Girls for Rent, gets retitled I Spit on Your Corpse. Many may have actually seen one of Adamson’s films – his final film, the kid-friendly Carnival Magic, was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 – The Gauntlet recently.
Adamson’s sheer shamelessness is hilarious. His desperate entrepreneurial nature is kind of inspiring in a backyard movie maker sort of way. The clips of the movies and behind the scenes anecdotes are great. It reveals a lot more about the legitimate business of movie-making than the studios would prefer to think. They demand stars, hooks and follow trends as Adamson had to do. By the time Gregory gets around to the murder and bizarre alien abduction conspiracies, it’s almost an afterthought, just another in a wild life where anything could happen. Not particularly insightful, but Blood & Flesh is a fun movie. Another trip into movie-making lore for Gregory.