Scream Theater Vol 9 - Scream Theater Vol 9( DVD) [VCI Entertainment - 2020]Hereís the ninth in VCI Entertainmentís Scream Theater series, which brings together two ultra-obscure horror films. This time the focus is on the mad doctor side of the genre, with both films coming from the 1970ís. Featured here is Night of the Bloody Transplant, a decidedly clumsy z-grade heart transplant horror thriller. And The House Of The Living Dead, a South African period set chillier, that focus in on a mad aristocratic doctor who believes he can catch & keep the souls of humans & animals. Both films are presented on the DVD with no extras, and (just) about passable scans.
So first up we have Night Of The Bloody Transplant, and this appeared in the year 1970. It (just about) directed by David W. Hanson, whose one & only other credit was Judy- also from 1970, which was seemingly a very low budget sex killer focused soft-core film. On formal/ proper film making levels Night of the Bloody Transplant is truly terrible; itís very badly scoped, sloppily cut, with awful audio. But as at points brain-melting so-bad-itís-good grind house experience itís a real trip. The plot, or what you can figure out, follows two brothers who live together- one is a doctor whoís developed a new way of doing heart transplants, but his peers donít want him to try it out on humans. And the other brother is a slobby & sleazy womanizer. One night the shady brother has an accident outside a club with his latest female score- itís unclear what has happened to her, but he rushes her home to his bro for open-heart surgeon. She sadly dies, but they whip out her heart, and stick it in the chest of an elderly women patient who has been giving funding to the doctor. Added into the mix we have two policemen that find the womenís dumped body, a feel murders, and lots of trips to night clubs- where all manner of amateur acts play.
Night Of The Bloody Transplant feels like a mix of Andy Milligan like awkward gliding camera & cutting actors head off scoping, with cheap gore and wooden acting ala Herschell Gordon Lewis at his more shabby. The film is literally stitched together- with lots of actors moving slowly padding & overlong shots of nothing. As we move through it's one hour & eleven-minute runtime- we get awkward character interaction, which later has very high in the mix music- so you can barely hear whatís been said. There lots of truly awful & lengthy night act performances- going from a bony & bored looking stripper, onto a wavering & droning psych-meets-soul band, through to a truly painful female folk singing, onto a puzzling performance art piece which finds a sweat African American man dragging a woman around a paint-smeared floor. Thereís real & prolonged footage of open heart surgery, a few occasions of throw the red paint gore, a badly staged fist-fight, and a very awkward up-close warts & all bed scene. As I say by normal/ sane film making levels this is truly bad, but if like me you enjoy z-budget grind house thatís often very awkward & wonky, youíll get a kick from this.
The House Of The Living Dead came out in 1974, and rather unusually/ surprisingly is a south African production- which is fair rare for the horror genre, as I can only think of one maybe two other south African genre films. It was directed by Ray Austin an English actor, director, stunt man & producer- he has sixty directorial credits, many of these were US or UK TV series credits, with one or two feature lengths.
The film's title is somewhat misleading- itís not a gory Ďní gruelling zombie pic, instead itís a period drama set horror film- which is more drama, than it is horror. The film is set in 19th century south Africa, largely taking place on the ex-pat run plantation of the Brattling family- a seemingly curse aristocratic family. The remaining members of the family are bossy & condescending Lady Brattling, and her two sons Sir Michael Brattling & Dr Breckinridge Brattling. Michael is your typical sun beaten & long-haired plantation owner, and Breckinridge is a recluse who never comes out of the attic- he was struck off for his wacky ideas about been able to collect souls from humans & animals. Added into the mix we get Mary Anne Carew- who's just come in from England & is due to marry Michael. Fairly soon animals start dying on the plantation in odd ways, and itís no long before humans start to follow.
The first three-quarters of the film is very much focused on typical period melodrama, that his a few fleeting bloody moments, and the occasional creepy moment- provided by the shadow house, or a strange lumbering gowned figure. The real horror and good stuff only really happens in the last twenty or so minutes- where we get some fairly memorable things like a bloody corpse playing a grand organ, a creepy coloured filtered mad docs lab, a few breakdowns/ screaming matches, and some very hammy acting. On the whole, Iíd say this is the more formal, and lesser of the two films here- I guess if you enjoy slightly euro gothic-tinged period dramas that are a little plodding, or you want to check out south African genre pic this is ok, but I canít see myself watching it again.
As mentioned in my introduction neither film has any extras. Print wise, Night Of The Bloody Transplant is on par with scans Iíve seen of Herschell Gordon Lewis films- i.e. just about passable grind house. The House of the Living Dead is slightly better, though still not much above a DVD print.
Itís great to see VCI Entertainment putting out Ultra obscure like these two. And while Night Of The Bloody Transplant stood out most to me, The House Of The Living Dead is a passable one watch, and the mad doctor themes running through both films is well enough realized. Iíll certainly be keeping my eyes out for upcoming releases in the Scream Theatre series.Roger Batty