The Fantasia Fest selection, Blood and Flesh: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson, is endlessly fascinating for both fans of B-grade drive-in movies and true crime. The story of legendary schlockmeister Al Adamson and how his own naivete potentially led to his own demise is compelling stuff, mostly because Adamson seemed like a good dude. A little frugal, perhaps, but he gave people like Vilmos Zsigmond, Gary Graver, and Greydon Clark their first footholds in the movie business. With producing partner Sam Sherman, Adamson released cheapies through Independent International Pictures with titles like Satan’s Sadists, Horror of the Blood Monsters, and I Spit On Your Corpse.
Fans of behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes will glean plenty from the first half of Blood and Flesh. You’ll learn some fascinating stuff about those heady days from actor Russ Tamblyn, production manager John “Bud” Cardos (who directed the Shatneriffic classic, Kingdom of the Spiders), and more. Not everyone remembers Adamson as an angel with a heart of gold. That’s as it should be. If too many people love you, you’re doing things wrong.
After the 1992 death of Adamson’s wife, Regina Carroll, Adamson began to make some questionable decisions. He became fascinated with the investigations of UFOs. Adamson, who owned properties all across the States, hired a handyman to fix some things up at his California houses. That decision ended up being Adamson’s fatal mistake.
It’s a pretty quick shift from wacky grindhouse documentary to true crime procedural, interviewing police officers and Adamson’s housekeeper. Director David Gregory, founder of Severin Films, and his production team did their homework, including hiring a private investigator to locate some folks who have never spoken on camera before. There’s even an audio-only interview with Adamson’s incarcerated convicted murderer.
However, Blood and Flesh jumps off the cliff of emotion without a parachute. There’s not much of a transition between the two aspects of the movie. Much like Adamson’s life after the death of his wife, Blood and Flesh spirals into sadness in the last third. We see Adamson move from fun-loving director to UFO enthusiast and, finally, a murder victim. That tonal shift feels abrupt. The score, which is jarringly jaunty at times, feels incongruent with the rest of the film.
I like those old independent drive-in movies quite a bit. Hearing about how Adamson would reshoot certain scenes so Sam Sherman could repackage and re-release earlier movies is hilarious. It was a brazen and sneaky move. Conversely, the details around Adamson’s death are gruesome and terrible. One is left with the feeling that he didn’t deserve to go out like that. No one does. Morbidly enough, that juxtaposition is what makes Blood and Flesh so fascinating and watchable.
Al Adamson deserves to be remembered and celebrated. It’s a shame that Blood and Flesh, like its subject, has a tragic ending.
The Fantasia International Film Festival runs through August 1, 2019, Learn more about Fantasia 2019 at their official website.