THE DEATHMASTER (1972) – In between his pair of movies as the vampire named Count Yorga the one and only Robert Quarry starred as a vampiric Charles Manson wannabe in this film. The Deathmaster starts out with a great bit that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jean Rollin horror flick from France: the huge, hulking Barbado (Le Sesne Hilton) plays eerie flute music, seemingly luring ashore a sea-tossed coffin. Naturally this casket holds our “Deathmaster” – a vampire called Khorda.
Unfortunately it’s all downhill from there unless you’re like me and you really enjoy bad movies. Khorda eschews the usual vampire shtick of being a suave ladies’ man. His approach is to dress like early 1970s hippies do and model his coiffure and facial hair after Charles Manson. The filmmakers even admitted that was indeed the look they were going for.
Khorda feeds on assorted Californians while spending his spare time gathering around him a collection of 1960s losers and retreads plus some biker gang members just for good measure. Our undead heavy becomes their guru, spouting the type of generic, faddish spiritual nonsense that is always a good way to sound deep while not really saying anything at all.
Before you know it Khorda is satisfying his thirst for blood by feeding on the gullible female members of his cult, then on their jealous boyfriends. Soon Quarry has a whole Manson Family-sized coven of bloodsuckers. Bill Ewing plays our unlikely hero Pico, a cult member who rejects Khorda’s flaky teachings once the vampire starts paying too much attention to his (Pico’s) girlfriend Rona (Brenda Dickson).
Pico engages in a kung-fu fight early in the movie, but never again displays any real fighting ability and, in fact, screams like a baby at one point when he’s attacked by Khorda and the other vamps. Barely escaping from the cult with his life Pico seeks the aid of Pop, played by John Fiedler aka Gordy the Ghoul from The Nightstalker and Mr Peterson from The Bob Newhart Show.
Needless to say if the Walter Mitty/ Caspar Milquetoast -ish John Fiedler is your go-to guy for backup you’re in some serious trouble. When the cops prove as useless as they always are in horror movies Pico and Pop (Not a Morning Zoo radio team) sneak into Khorda’s mansion to save Rona by themselves.
Virtually nothing is ever scary in this Golden Turkey. For the most part it’s deadly dull with only the ridiculous hippy clothing and the poor quality of the production keeping viewers entertained. You’ll love how each vampire’s paleness ends at the top of their throat since there obviously wasn’t a big enough budget to make up their exposed necks as well.
There’s a supposedly horrifying surprise that you’ll be able to spot from a mile away followed by a fairly effective horror film ending. Robert Quarry is always giving it his best shot and he even gets to channel Bela Lugosi from White Zombie in a few scenes. Believe it or not the one and only Ray Danton directed this little honey.
All this plus Bobby “Boris” Pickett of Monster Mash fame in a supporting role!
FOR MY LOOK AT BLAXPLOITATION HORROR FILMS: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/26/a-very-blaxploitation-halloween/
FOR MY LIST OF THE TOP ELEVEN BAD MOVIES FOR HALLOWEEN: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/24/the-eleven-most-neglected-bad-movie-classics-for-halloween/
FOR MY LOOK AT MEXICAN HORROR FILMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/31/a-halloween-mexi-monster-bestiary/
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