Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Apr 22, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson (Blu-ray Review)

Director

David Gregory

Release Date(s)

2019 (April 21, 2020)

Studio(s)

Severin Films
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B+

Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Al Adamson’s legacy as a man who tackled the film business with enthusiasm, leaving behind a body of work that fans appreciate (due more to the circumstances under which they were made), has been firmly established by Severin Films. Their recent Al Adamson: The Masterpiece Collection (a tongue-in-cheek moniker if ever there was one) encapsulates nearly all of it, akin to Shout Factory’s Werner Herzog and Criterion’s Ingmar Berman collections. Sadly, someone who wanted nothing more than to make movies came to a tragic end. All of this and more are explored in David Gregory’s Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson.

It’s not difficult to understand why a director like Al Adamson, whose filmography includes titles like Psycho A-Go-Go, Satan’s Sadists, and Dracula vs. Frankenstein, would be deserving of a documentary. In a world where films like Machete Maidens Unleashed! and Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau exist (the latter also helmed by David Gregory), a filmmaker like Adamson, whose final moments on Earth truly set him apart from other, similar filmmakers, seems like an obvious choice now in retrospect.

After working with his father, silent film star Dennis Dixon, both in front of and behind the camera, he started his career with Independent International Pictures, directing movies that ranged from successful to not-so-successful. In true Roger Corman fashion, he often aped the more popular films of the era, directing over thirty films and consequently working with famed cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond and László Kovács early in their careers. Sadly, the latter years of his life were not kind. Several months after hiring a handyman for repairs, he was found dead and buried under his home. The handyman had been embezzling his money, and after killing him, attempted to flee the state. He was eventually tracked down and sentenced to prison.

Blood & Flesh is both an enlightening and unsettling documentary. Its first hour is devoted to Adamson’s career, speaking to a number of friends and collaborators who knew him best and exploring the many stories of how his films got made. The final half hour takes a very dark turn, going into detail about the circumstances surrounding his death, including actual footage of the police excavating his body. It’s quite sad, even tear-inducing, but the piece as a whole surmises Adamson’s life with both glee and respect. It’s both affecting and effective in all the right ways.

Blood & Flesh comes to Blu-ray with an excellent A/V presentation. It features a variety of footage, including standard definition video, but the majority of the interview segments are presented in HD, aside from a vintage interview with Adamson himself. As such, there’s a visual diversity to be had. The color palette is all over the place, due particularly to the use of footage from Adamson’s films. Though different sources are utilized, nothing ever looks out of place. It all works together quite well.

The audio is included in English 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Which audio option you choose doesn’t matter all that much as they both feature the same aural qualities. The 5.1 track has a little more speaker space to sit in, but it’s not meant to be a surround experience. Commentary from the interviews is clear and discernable at all times, as are the music cues. Sound from the soundtracks of the films that are shown, as well as other pieces of footage, are clear and suitably mix with other elements.

The following extras are also included:

  • Deleted Scenes (HD – 4 in all – 20:10)
  • Beyond This Earth Promo Reel (SD – 3:09)
  • Blood & Flesh Trailer (HD – 2:40)
  • Al Adamson Poster Gallery (HD – 61 in all)

The Blood & Flesh deleted scenes consist of The Cowboy Life of Denver Dixon, Russ Tamblyn’s Melted TV, Screaming Angels Becomes Angel’s Wild Women, and The Prophetic Screenplay Makes Gary Kent Testify. They are mostly extended versions of what’s already present in the main feature, aside from the final Gary Kent segment which was cut out entirely. The Beyond This Earth promo reel is a look at an unfinished UFO documentary directed by Adamson, which would have mixed actor recreations with real footage.

Also included in this release is the Al Adamson film The Female Bunch from 1971. It stars Russ Tamblyn and Lon Chaney, Jr. about a female gang of women who live out in the desert and ride on horseback toward and away from men while having their hands in a variety of illegal activities. According to the opening title card, several 35mm prints were used to reconstruct the film since the original camera negative appears to be lost. The audio is included in English 2.0 mono with subtitles in English, Spanish, and German.

Extras include the following:

  • The Bunch Speaks Out (HD – 15:26)
  • Extended Scenes (SD – 2:02)
  • The Female Bunch Trailers (HD – 2 in all – 3:56)

The Bunch Speaks Out features interviews with Leslie McRay, Russ Tamblyn, Al Adamson, Sharyn Wynters, John “Bud” Carlos, Michael Ferris, and R. Michael Stringer about the making of the film, including the fact it was made partially on the Spahn Ranch and that an incident involving one of the stunt men might have been the inspiration for a scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The extended scenes feature footage from a longer VHS release of the film.

Aside from picking up the excellent and comprehensive Al Adamson: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray boxed set, this stand-alone release of Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson is a must for film fans. It sheds light on a filmmaker whose work hasn’t exactly been overlooked, but certainly hasn’t had much exposure in the 21st century. Learning about his life and his untimely death are well worth your time. Highly recommended.

– Tim Salmons

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