Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Drink Your Blood Director David E. Durston, 1921-2010

David Durston, 88, director of the New York film I Drink Your Blood (1970), died on May 6 in West Hollywood.

Durston started out as an actor and TV producer, working on "Your Hit Parade" and a number of other programs in the 1950s. Although some of his early TV credits are a bit fuzzy (you can read a dissection of his more questionable credits here), his most well-known film remains a highlight (or low point, depending on you disposition) of 70s exploitation cinema.

I Drink Your Blood was commissioned by Cinemation founder Jerry Gross. Durston delivered a frothing horror hodge-podge that freely mixed elements of Night of the Living Dead with the Manson Family and even Sweeney Todd. In the film, a hippie cult injests rabies-tainted meat pies, which transforms them into foaming-at-the-mouth psychotic killers. They in turn infect a truckload of construction workers, and before you know it there's a whole horde of machete- and axe-wielding hydrophobic "zombies" running amuck.

Gross released the film on a classic double-bill with I Eat Your Skin (actually, a retitling of Del Tenney's black-and-white Florida-made Zombie, 1964), and Blood became one of the first films to receive an X rating because of violence (see below).

He followed up with Stigma (1972), which featured Philip Michael Thomas as a doctor investigating a venereal disease outbreak in a small community, and the adult films Boy-napped (1975) and Manhole (1978) using the pseudonym "Spencer Logan."

UK writer Stephen Thrower, who featured Durston in a lengthy chapter in his book Nightmare USA, has posted a number of great images of Durston and his films at his blog, Seven Doors Hotel.

Although I Drink Your Blood has turned up on a number of grey market labels over the years, Grindhouse Releasing gave us a definitive director's cut a few years back. On June 8, Code Red is set to release Stigma on a special edition DVD, complete with a commentary from Durston.

From BoxOffice, January 18, 1971

Appeals Board Sustains X For 'I Drink Your Blood'

NEW YORK -- The X rating given to "I Drink Your Blood" has been sustained by the Code and Rating Appeals Board.

In an appeal brought by Cinemation Industries Inc., the film's distributor, the Appeals Board heard statements on behalf of "I Drink Your Blood" from Jerry Gross, president of Cinemation Industries and producer of the film, and Michael F. Mayer, an attorney.

Appearing on behalf of the Code and Rating Administration was James Bouras, who said that CARA's decision to rate the film X had been based primarily on the brutality and violence portrayed in the film.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm Not Crazy - Or Maybe You Are

Here's a shot-on-video mystery for you: Check out this classified advertisement from the back pages of the July 1989 issue of Fangoria magazine. Anyone have any idea what this is? Better yet, did anyone actually order the video? Did you indeed laugh until you screamed? Web searches for Segway Productions have so far been fruitless, but there was a Segway Publications that published a 'zine called Independent Video in the early 1990s. Were they related?

If you have any clues as to the origins of this West Islip, N.Y., oddity, please let me know. And if you have any other good examples of homegrown horrors advertised in the back pages of Fangoria (particularly if they are pre-1988), send them my way and I'll post 'em.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creeping Unknowns - Take 2

No sooner had I posted my list of the most obscure, hard-to-see regional horror films, than sharp-eyed reader Yongary pointed out that I'd forgotten at least two apparently lost regional oddities. So here they are:

The Nest of the Cuckoo Bird (1965)
Filmed in Florida
Director: Bert Williams
Status: Unknown
This Miami-based obscurity was written, produced and directed by star Bert Williams, who ran something called the Experimental Camera Workshop. Not sure how far or wide it was ever distributed (by Lionex Films of New York, according to press reports), but local act The Four Bits performed the theme song, which was (according to an article in BoxOffice) was written by a Methodist Church organist. The ad above comes to us courtesy of the fine folks at The Temple of Schlock, where you can read a synopsis and a full cast/credit list.

Valley of Blood (1973)
Filmed in Alabama (?)
Director: Dean Turner
Status: Unknown
Allegedly an early project from prolific British producer John Daly about a monster menacing a cast of country singers. Again, check out the advertisement and additional info at the Temple. I've seen very little documentation on this one outside of the links provided there.

Is that it? Have I missed any others? Can anyone confirm whether Valley of Blood was shot in Alabama?