||Believe it or not, this
cloying stretch of celluloid is, in many ways, a most important
document. While hardly an intrinsic watershed, it marks
a very definite progression in the history of the cult film.
It is Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow that, more than any
other film, bridges the cultural gap that once yawned between
the J.D., hot rod flick of the 50s, and the foam-flecked
dreck of the beach-blanket genre that drenched the drive-ins
of the 60s
1958 had seen the release of AIP's
schlock-teen caper Hot Rod Gang, a film that presented
rockabilly legend Gene Vincent in his only speaking role.
The flick contained its share of cringe-inducing slapstick
moments, but cool cars and the twang of Gene's Blue Caps
dominated the proceedings. Someone evidently thought the
film successful enough to warrant a sequel, yet determined
that, with the delinquent film trend winding down, said
sequel should be executed with minimum effort. That's
just what director William J. Hole Jr. delivered.
This time around, no Gene Vincent,
fewer fast cars and lots more comedy. Really bad comedy.
Veteran Lou Rusoff's screenplay is pocked with low-water
marks, kiddie comedy that even sycophants of Soupy Sales
wouldn't find amusing in the least. It contains the prerequisite
pajama party, attended by thirty-something teens who laugh
uproariously when a TV western is run backward. Their
giggling and tinny hi-fi make dad grumpy. Stop, you're
killin' me. The bulk of the plot is driven by the kids'
dream of converting an ostensibly haunted house into their
new hangout. Time and again, they're frightened off by
a series of unexplained supernatural phenomenon.
actor Russ Bender, who, the previous year, had scripted
Ed Cahn's campy Voodoo Woman, returns from Hot
Rod Gang in his patented sympathetic adult portrayal.
Quirky Jody Fair, a nominal 'teen' starlet, reprises her
Hot Rod role, as does 'TV' Tommy Ivo who, this
time around, takes up residence low on the cast list.
Ivo, a real-life drag driver, was a youthful veteran of
many films. He appeared regularly on the Donna Reed
Show and popped up in supporting parts on a number
of programs including Leave it to Beaver.
Sadly, in lieu of Vincent's brand
of redneck rock, we're subjected to a reverb-reliant,
thud-rock clubhouse combo. Paving the way for all those
button-down frat bands that blanketed the 60s, these crazy
teens pluck quasi-comic instrumentals, like 'Geronimo'
and 'Charge', which are repeated without justification
throughout the film. Near the movie's conclusion, AIP's
40ish musical director Jimmie Madden steps on screen to
a hero's welcome, regaling the twisting teens with his
latest "smash," 'Tongue Tied'. A passable singer,
Madden provided the 'Dead Man's Curve'-like theme, 'Leadfoot',
for the same year's Road Racers.
The film's crowning indignity is
heaped upon makeup maven Paul Blaisdell. Exposed in the
film's final reel as the human protagonist responsible
for all the fearsome hijinks, it is revealed, most prophetically,
that he is a down-and-out actor who once specialized in
monster roles. None of the studios, AIP in particular,
want him. In theory, proving he could terrify a passel
of addlewitted kids would propel him once more into the
spotlight. Blaisdell recycled his gallery of props from
previous films, most notably his She Creature ensemble,
which had seen service in at least four flicks. Unmasked
at film's end, Blaisdell describes his plight in a pathetically
squeaking voice, only to be upstaged by a 'real' spirit
who had resided in the haunted hideout all along.
Having contributed the moneymaking
menace to their most important films (Invasion of the
Saucer Men, She Creature, Day the World Ended, It Conquered
the World, etc.), Blaisdell never worked for AIP again.
He turned to publishing a series of short-lived magazines
celebrating the movie monsters he loved and gave life
to. Embittered by the B-film colony's treatment of him
and his wife, who had partnered with him in the creation
of his most fondly remembered creatures, he retired to
The encroaching decade saw the
advent of a cleaned-up, fun-loving breed. Dreaming only
of summer and surf, they featured prominently in grating
fluff like Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo.
Clearly, AIP saw sun and sand as their financial salvation.
Monsters were out. Annette and Frankie were in. Blaisdell
died of cancer in 1983. The capsules below shed light
on a pair of his lesser-known efforts:
Phantom from 10,000
The Milner brothers,
producers of this fun but frayed-at-the-cuffs flick, were
responsible for the film that showcased one of Blaisdell's
best-known but artistically dubious creations, the walking
tree of From Hell It Came (see last edition). The
titular Phantom is unmemorable in all regards, however,
a murkily viewed aquatic mutant of little palpable fright
Beast With 1,000,000
teaming commenced with this outing when Forry Ackerman
responded to Corman's request that he recommend an effects
man. Sci fi illustrator Paul Blaisdell was a client of
Ackerman's who took on the task of giving life to the
million-eyed menace. He produced an 18-inch puppet dubbed
Herky (Hercules) who, in the final cut, saw limited screen
time. This seedy-looking, leadenly-paced quagmire is made
tolerable only by Herky and the sonorous timbre of Paul