Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Robert Quarry, Bill Ewing, Brenda Dickson, John Fiedler, Bobby Pickett
Director: Ray Danton
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Eyes Like Hot Coals...Fangs Like Razors!
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 06/08/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"After great success in the title roles of the AIP films Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), and The Return of Count Yorga (1971), Robert Quarry appeared yet again as a vampire in a non-AIP film, as Khorda, in Deathmaster (1972), which didn't sit well with AIP as they thought it too closely resembled the Count Yorga character, and they eventually secured the rights to the film, giving it a very limited release, subsequently banishing it to late night television limbo...until now...The film, directed by actor, later turned director, Ray Danton, seems to attempt to capitalize on the success of the Yorga films, along with the notoriety stemming from the Manson family crimes of a few years earlier. As the film's credits begin, displaying the title `eathmaste' (obviously the film was originally released in wide screen format, but is presented in full screen format here), we see an odd looking fellow (we later learn his name is Barbado) in the dunes on a beach, as he begins playing a flute (I think the movie is supposed to take place in California). After a few moments of this, a coffin floats towards the beach, and is found by a surfer walking along the beach (leave it be, dude). He pulls it further on shore, opens it (good idea), and gets attacked by Barbado, who snuck up behind him, which I thought was a pretty good trick as the guy's wearing a lot of jingly jangly jewelry around his neck, which tends to make a lot of noise. Barbado dispatches the surfer, hoists the coffin, and lugs it back to his pick-up truck.Cut to what appears to be some sort of hippie festival in its' final days. Here we meet Pico (Bill Ewing), Rona (Brenda Dickson), and Pop, played by popular character actor John Fielder, who, among other roles, does the voice for Piglet on the Winnie the Pooh cartoons). They have a run-in with a just arrived biker, Monk (William Jordan) and his old lady, Esslin (Betty Ann Rees). Pico uses kung fu on Monk (which is the only time he uses it...I was looking forward to a kung fu fight with a vampire), but as the heat show up (a policeman), all four book it for a funky mansion in the hills where a whole group of hippies seem to have taken up residence. It's peace, love, and a whole lot of smokin' of things probably not legal. Around this time Khorda (Quarry) makes his appearance, and proceeds to blow these young bloods' minds, spewing a bunch of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, but coming from Quarry, in his rich, aristocratic tones, it's pretty sweet to the ears, and he quickly enthralls the doped up hippies. He soon departs, despite the young hippies pleas (always leave `em wanting more), but he'll be back, as we get a sense that he was just priming them for the big show. And he does come back, encouraging them to clean the mansion, and clean their souls (whatever that means). Monk, not buying into any of what he calls a `freak show', decides to go off to town for `whiskey and a steak', leaving his old lady Esslin in Khorda's clutches, which he soon reveals his true nature, attacking and turning her into a creature of the night. The weirdness continues, and Pico decides it's time to split. He tells Rona to get her stuff, but they get sidetracked and Pico gets chained up in some caves underneath the house, and Barbado captures Rona after she find the shackled Pico. Pico manages to slip out of his bondage, as the chains were never really fastened or anything (good job Barbado) and finds Khorda's coffin in a cave within the catacombs, along with a bowl of leeches (!?). Pico then manages to escape out to the beach, and makes his way back to Pop to relate his terror-filled tale. Pop doesn't believe Pico's story, but then Pop's dog gets bitten by a vampire and dies (oh bruther) and now, as the Monkees put it, `I'm a believer'. They do some research, infiltrate the mansion, and witness a black ceremony. This sets up the final confrontation and the rather downbeat, yet oddly satisfying, ending more common with movies throughout the 70's.Okay, the only real reason to watch this film is for Robert Quarry. Despite the complete schlockiness of the production, Quarry puts on a great show, creating a suave, charismatic veneer that conceals a terrifying monster. His dialogue comes across smoothly, entrancing the hippies like some kind of Svengali, as they willingly accept his `gift'. The story is very loose, creating gigantic plot holes, and character development is virtually non-existent. The dialog is pretty lame, and most of the other acting beside Quarry is bargain basement stuff, along with the extremely dated wardrobe (I swear the fabric that made up Quarry's robe was from my grandma's old couch). The pacing throughout did slow noticeably at times, making me think the director was padding the film a bit, filling out the 88 minute run time. Quarry's vampire makeup was actually better than I expected, presenting a pretty scary visage when in vampire mode.Retromedia Entertainment presents a better than average quality of full screen print here, and a load of extras including a commentary track (pretty rare for a Retromedia release) by Fred Olin Ray and Robert Quarry, still galleries, trailers for this and some other Robert Quarry films, and television commercials and radio spots featuring Quarry. The special features seem to present more of a homage to Quarry rather than focusing on the film, but given that Quarry more or less made the movie watchable, that's not a bad thing. Fans of Quarry won't be disappointed. I guess if I learned anything from this movie, it's that vampires like to keep a bowl of water full of leeches next to their coffin. Why? Kindred spirits, I guess...Cookieman108"
Best Retromedia DVD yet for campy but fun Quarry shocker
Surfink | Racine, WI | 06/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My experience with Retromedia DVDs has been pretty spotty, and I had never seen Deathmaster before buying this, so I'm glad to say I'm very pleased on both counts. Deathmaster was concocted as an indie production by Quarry and actor/first-time director Ray Danton to cash in on the huge success of AIP's Count Yorga: Vampire and make a subtle comment on the then-recent Manson family murders. AIP chief Sam Arkoff, angered by Quarry's swift and bold move, threatened a lawsuit, eventually buying the picture and giving it a very limited release. After a run on TV in the '70s it disappeared, never available on video. The movie starts with a surfer finding the coffin of Khorda (Quarry) washed ashore, but he's soon dispatched by Khorda's creepy flute-playing henchman Barbado. We're then introduced to the main characters, a bunch of disaffected but 'lovable' guitar-strumming Hollywoodized 'hippies' squatting in a huge old mansion who smoke lots of weed, run from 'the heat,' sing dippy inspirational folk songs, and use lots of hilarious sixties jargon. (The main folksinging hippie is a nearly unrecognizable Bobby 'Boris' Pickett of Monster Mash fame.) Khorda just sort of shows up in their midst, spouting existentialist/cosmic mumbo-jumbo (some of it improvised by Quarry) that the simple-minded flower children instantly 'groove' to even though they have no idea what he's talking about. Only biker dude Monk (whose iron cross repels Khorda) is skeptical, and bolts in search of whiskey and steak, leaving girlfriend Esslin to be seduced/attacked later by the vampiric 'guru.' The other hippies are so inspired by Khorda's rhetoric that they clean up their pad and start digging lame muzak, co-written by Ray Conniff (!!) and Pickett. Despite their copious herbal consumption these hippies apparently don't believe in free love: the guys and gals retire to separate quarters at night! Monk returns, is promptly dispatched by Khorda, and, inexplicably, everyone except 'gung fu' practicing hero Pico (who's hair looks like a really fake wig but is apparently his own) and heroine Rona go into a mystical dance-trance while Barbado plays congas (unconvincingly) and Khorda mingles. Pico and Rona try to escape the house, but are captured by Barbado, though Pico eventually gets away to seek help from balding serape-wearing hippie entrepreneur Pop (John Fiedler, ubiquitous professional milquetoast character actor and voice of piglet in the Walt Disney Winnie the Pooh cartoons). Pop just happens to have one of those old occult books (in paperback!) that explains what's going on (with handy pictures of the amulets the newly-baptized vampire cult are wearing). They mount their assault on Khorda and his minions with mallets and broom-handle stakes, and the movie finishes with one of those typically '70s 'shock/twist' endings and the only moment of actual 'special effects' in the picture. Amazingly, despite being surrounded by some really bad acting and dated dialogue, Quarry acquits himself quite admirably, creating a fairly menacing, believable character (ignoring of course all the psychobabble he's given to mouth). He looks great in an assortment of groovy custom-made robes, is occasionally introduced by sitar licks on the soundtrack, and has the same multi-pointed fangs as in Count Yorga (although everyone else is stuck with obvious dime-store 'goofy teeth'). There is no real nudity and minimal gore, even for 1972 (though the leeches are a nice, if unexplained, touch). The plot has its holes, and the relentless hippie-ness gives the film a goofy, campy aura, but Danton keeps the camera and the story moving so its quite enjoyable, never boring, and worth it for Quarry's magnetic performance and a few effectively creepy sequences. A little-seen treat for all Yorga/Quarry fans or anyone who loves the old AIP drive-in sleaze in general.
Fortunately, Fred Olen Ray/Retromedia have actually done a surprisingly decent job in rescuing this from rights-issues limbo. The print is very clean, with virtually no spotting or other damage, and matted to 1.85:1 (although it looks a little closer 1.75:1 or so to me). The color is not spectacular but quite serviceable, and isn't going to look any better since the transfer is from the original 35mm camera negative. The black level, brightness, contrast, and detail are all fine, and I didn't notice any artifacting or other weirdness that plagues other Retromedia discs I own (King Dinosaur, Faceless Monster). There are four still galleries: publicity, behind-the-scenes, Quarry portraits, Quarry on stage and screen; 30- and 60-second radio spots for Count Yorga; really scratchy TV promos for Count Yorga and Sugar Hill, a Lucky Strike commercial featuring Quarry, and a classic, funny Shasta orange soda commercial featuring Fiedler and Frankenstein's monster. While these extras are nice and generally well done, the real highlight of the set is Quarry's audio commentary (with Fred Olen Ray, who directed Quarry in dozens of low-budet indies in the 1980s and '90s), which is nearly as entertaining as the feature. Quarry is sophisticated and witty, as expected, providing much interesting behind-the-scenes production info and some amusing anecdotes, with little if any dead air. Finally a Retromedia disc worthy of my unqualified highest recommendation. Get it!"