Eye For Film >> Movies >> Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death Of Al Adamson (2019) Film Review
Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death Of Al Adamson
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
With titles like Psycho a Go-Go, Satan’s Sadists and Dracula Vs Frankenstein to his name, director and producer Al Adamson was a man who knew how to get the attention of a certain kind of horror fan even if his films never really lived up to the promise of his inspired advertising. David Gregory's documentary profiles his career and explores the equally sensational rumours around his grisly death which, as it also proves to be more mundane than the hype has suggested, acquires an additionally tragic quality.
Adamson was born into a sort of Hollywood nobility, his mother the silent film beauty Dolores Booth and his father an actor/stuntman; the logic that he would uphold the family legacy was complicated only by the fact the he had little discernible talent. What he did have - perhaps picked up from time spent around his father's efforts in production - was a genius for salesmanship. During a volatile period in film history he latched onto exactly what audiences were looking for in a supporting feature, and if he couldn't quite deliver it, he could certainly make audiences believe he was going to. In another age, he might have gone into politics. As it was, he produced monster movies with hardly any monsters, naughty movies with hardly any nudity, and horror films that made Ed Wood look like a maestro. He disappointed audiences again and again but he kept them coming back for more.
It goes without saying that a lot of people watching this film, which screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival, will likely be inspired to seek out Adamson's work. It has its moments and works much better in a format where it's easy to skim through the boring bits. Just bear in mind that several of his films were repackaged under multiple titles, sometimes re-cut and with additional footage, sometimes not. Gregory explores the reasons for this and how he managed to get away with it, with archive footage nicely assembled to present the mood of the time. He also incorporates interviews with numerous colleagues and friends of the late director, all of whom retain a degree of admiration for him and provide some fascinating insights into both his methods and his genuine passion for film.
The final third of the documentary deals with the last few months of Adamson's life and the events that followed his mysterious disappearance which - given the nature of his fan base and some of his associates - prompted all kinds of wild conspiracy theories. The case he makes, with contributions from Adamson's brother Kent and the housekeeper whom the director came to think of like a member of his family, is both convincing and poignant. in its own way, it raises as many questions as it answers, but not about Adamson himself. Perhaps he simply spent too much time among badly designed monsters to recognise a real one.
A touching story of commonplace horror wrapped up in the trappings on Tinseltown, this is a thoroughly researched and carefully assembled piece of work that will intrigue fans of the director and newcomers alike. It even has a poster which one imagines Adamson would have wholeheartedly approved of. He may not have been the greatest of directors but he poured his heart into what he did and this is an affecting tribute.Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2019