Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Creeping Unknowns

UPDATE (2/14/2013): I've put together yet another list of rare and lost regional horrors. See the new batch here!

Many regional horror films are justifiably obscure; they received limited release in theaters or on video, and in some cases were only distributed in a handful of states. There are a handful of films, though, that are beyond obscure -- mysterious movies that seemingly exist only by way of myths, rumors and a handful of rare posters.

Below I've listed what I consider to be the rarest regional horror films ever made. Some may yet turn up on video (one, in fact, already has), while others have probably vanished forever. I've managed to see two of the 14 films, and I have a line on at least a couple of others. Have YOU seen any of them? Do you think you've uncovered an even MORE obscure regional horror? Leave a comment!

The Weird Ones (1962)
Filmed In: Texas
Director: Pat Boyette
Status: Lost
All copies of this oddball sci-fi flick from comic artist, screenwriter and TV personality Pat Boyette were destroyed in a garage fire. Boyette's other horror film, the leprous Dungeon of Harrow (1964), however, is available on almost every public domain DVD set ever released, which I guess makes it the opposite of a lost film.

The image above comes courtesy of the folks at Comicartville.

Demon from Devil's Lake (1964)
Filmed In: Oklahoma
Director: Russ Marker
Status: Lost
This notorious phantom film was set to be the follow-up to Marker's Texas-lensed Nazi time travel epic The Yesterday Machine, but according to Marker the investors ran out of money and Marker himself ran out of patience before the film was completed, making it probably the rarest of these rare films in that it is not only lost, but also incomplete.

However, producer Don Phillips' wife Laurie turned up over at the Classic Horror Film Board claiming that the film was mostly completed, and that Phillips had handed it over to Larry Buchanan, which could explain why frequent Buchanan collaborator James Sullivan wound up remaking it as Night Fright. So the mystery deepens. At any rate, actor/singer Bob "Git It" Kelly gave me copies of the two rockabilly songs he wrote for the film, so at least I have an idea what the movie may have sounded like.

The Devil's Sisters (1966)
Filmed In: Florida
Director: William Grefe
Status: Lost
This true-crime/white slavery pic was based on the real life case of the Gonzales sisters, who murdered several dozen women in Mexico while running a prostitution ring.

You can see some nice advertisements for the film over at The Temple of Schlock.

The Transformation (A Sandwich of Nightmares) (1974)
Filmed In: New York
Director: Lewis Jackson
Status: Lost
Before making the psycho tour-de-force Christmas Evil (1980), Lewis Jackson directed the softcore film The Deviators (1970) and this peculiar experiment about a sex cult, book-ended with behind-the-scenes footage of the production. According to Jackson, he used to own a print of Transformation, but his ex-wife took it. If anybody knows Jackson's ex-wife, ask her to go through her garage and rescue this piece of history!

Again, the fine folks over at The Temple of Schlock have provided some imagery.

Banned (1989)
Filmed In: New York
Director: Roberta Findlay
Status: Unreleased
Unfortunately, Roberta Findlay's final feature as director (which includes an early appearance by Debbie Rochon) was never released in any form. It's about a jazz guitarist that's possessed by the ghost of a dead punk rocker.

Silent Death (1983)
Filmed In: New Jersey
Director: Vaughn Christion
Status: Unknown
Details are sketchy about this masked vigilante film that may or may not have horror overtones, but the Gore Gazette gave it a scathing review after what was probably its only theatrical engagement at the Paramount Theater in Newark, N.J., on a triple bill with Maniac (1980) and An Eye for an Eye (1981).

Director Vaughn Christion and producer Doyle Taylor are still active, and you can see clips of Christion's Web series Wildflower here.

Revenge of Bigfoot (Rufus J. Pickle and the Indian, 1979)
Filmed In: Arkansas
Director: Harry Thomason
Status: Unknown
This one concerns a bigot, an Indian and a sasquatch, but I can't tell you much more beyond that because it appears to have vanished off the face of the Earth -- unless Thomason himself has a copy. Thankfully, several members of the cast have posted their memories over on the Internet Movie Database.

The Naked Witch (The Naked Temptress, 1967)
Filmed In: New Jersey
Director: Andy Milligan
Status: Lost
One of Milligan's earliest period pieces, this lost film is frequently confused with Larry Buchanan's The Naked Witch (1964), which is available on DVD from Something Weird.

The Wednesday Children (1973)
Filmed In: Ohio
Director: Robert D. West
Status: Limited Availability
We covered this pseudo-religious cautionary horror film here. Unless you are a frequent viewer of Wadsworth, Ohio, public access station WCTV, or you live in my house, odds are you'll have a hard time seeing this one.

The Beast From the Beginning of Time (1965)
Filmed In: Kansas
Director: Tom Leahy
Status: Limited Availability
Popular horror host Tom Leahy (a.k.a. The Host) made this film in Wichita along with his cohorts at KARD, but it remained unseen until it debuted on local television in 1980. Since then, the film turned up as an episode of The Basement Sublet of Horror, and that show's host Gunther Dedmund was gracious enough to let us view it. If you really need to see Leahy in action, check out King Kung Fu (1976).

Sasqua (1975)
Filmed In: Massachusetts
Director: Channon J. Scott
Status: Limited Availability
We first learned about this obscure Bigfoot movie over at the Temple of Schlock, and the folks over at Cult Reviews provided some more detail on their site. Channon Scott (who also had credits on The Black Angels and Dolly Dearest) claims to have a copy of the film, and other copies are allegedly floating around. There's also this clip on YouTube:

Voodoo Heartbeat (1972)
Filmed In: Nevada
Director: Charles Nizet
Status: Limited Availability*
Horror-espionage hybrid about Chinese spies trying to steal a serum that turns people into vampires. Director Nizet made six films before his alleged homicide in Brazil in 2003.

*UPDATE: A careful reader reminded us (see comment below) that dogged researcher and author Stephen Thrower (his "Nightmare Movies" may be one of the most important texts on horror films generated in the past 20 years -- seriously) has located a print of Voodoo Heartbeat in the UK, and a thorough dissection is expected in Volume 2 of "Nightmare Movies."

The Hackers (1987)
Filmed In: Michigan
Director: John Duncan
Status: Available!
Rare shot-on-video slasher film about crazed, murderous handymen. According to The Bleeding Skull, it was never distributed outside the Midwest. The film's production company, Camelot Studios in North Street, Mich., has done us all a favor and added a page dedicated to their lone horror opus here. Although Camelot now offers the film on DVD, I've included it on the list because, until recently, it remained so obscure.

Blood Circus (1985)
Filmed In: Maryland
Directors: John Corso, Joseph Ryan Zwick
Status: Unknown
We previously covered the origins of this aliens vs. wrestlers flick here, as well as providing an update on the life and legend of unrepentant former infomercial huckster Santo Rigatuso, a.k.a. Santo Gold, a.k.a. Bob Harris. Santo claims to have discovered the previously lost masters and 35mm negative for Blood Circus. Until he finds a distributor, you can order a copy of the "Making of Blood Circus" from his Web site.


  1. What, no mention of NEST OF THE CUCKOO BIRDS?

    According to a post on AVManiacs, Stephen Thrower knows somebody who has a 16mm print of VOODOO HEARTBEAT, so it's not lost, just hard to find. Thrower is going to include an in-depth write up of the film in his next volume of "Nightmare USA".

  2. Believe it or not, as soon as I posted that list it suddenly occurred to me that I had, indeed, forgotten NEST OF THE CUCKOO BIRD. I promise to fully correct that soon, as well as update VOODOO HEARTBEAT's status. Thanks!

  3. Another film you missed was VALLEY OF BLOOD ( The Temple of Schlock article has links to more information.

    -Yongary, who really needs to get a Google account (I posted the first comment too).

  4. I have a fair (at best) quality copy of SASQUA on an old VHS tape from a trader going back about 20 or so more years. The film is quite funny in that it sets out to "tear the lid off of racism in the '70's" and yet, when the filmmakers remember that they must make a commercial film, the titular monster appears. It also boasts an unusual (for the time) narrative structure in which arbitrary characters get flashbacks as to how they arrived at the "Love-In Camp"...sort of like the first two or three seasons of "Lost". It's worth watching.

  5. My mother and father were friends of Channon J. Scott. My mother had a 45 of the soundtrack to this movie back in 73 (I think). I was about five and would play it over and over and over again until everyone in the house went insane. It turned me into the anything 'Sasquatch' loving freak that I am today.

    I never saw the movie and am surprised to actually see his name pop up on a Google search. Filmed in the Dracut Ma state forest if I remember correctly. For years my mother would talk about Channon for years.

  6. VOODOO HEARTBEAT was shown here in Los Angeles one afternoon, I think by Dr. Donald A. Reed. Quite a few genre fans were there, including Don Willis.

  7. Homer - fascinating note on the 45 theme song. What kind of music was it?

    Anonymous -- did Reed show the film in the 70s? Where did the showing take place?

  8. I recently posted a look at Grefe's THE DEVIL'S SISTERS over at my blog, complete with photo scans:

    Hopefully it'll turn up someday!

  9. Thank you for mentioning The Hackers, I'm David Duncan, my father wrote and directed the film. I was DP/cameraman and both filmed and edited the Movie. I was in my twenties then and was inspired by films such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Mothers Day. The film, at one point got the attention of New Line Cinema who contacted us after the movie was completed to send them a copy. We were told that the Detroit branch office loved it, but the film was shot down by their New York office because it was shot on video. We decided to try and market it ourselves and sold about 3,000 units through small distributors. Then commercial side of our business got busy and it took us in another direction. Before The Hackers in 1986 we produced a children's scary movie that was called The Black River Monster. Before that in 1985 a gore western called "The Earhunter".
    Over the several years, I would get emails from people who had seen the films asking if we were the ones who produced them, so about a year ago, I got the U-matic masters out and made them available on DVD. The technology was very crude by todays standards, we used a TEAC A3340s for mixing the sound and dialog tracks, the camera's used were JVC BY110s. Today I shudder at my editing pace and how some scenes drag, but we did have some amazing characters that are unforgettable. I look back on it as a fantastic experience from which helped me hone my craft.

  10. David,
    Thank you so much for chiming in. Always glad to hear part of the story behind these films.

    I'm curious: What became of THE BLACK RIVER MONSTER and THE EARHUNTER?

  11. You also forgot about an obsession of mine, THE SMUT PEDDLER...

  12. also quite surprised that you mention the rockabilly record of music from Demon from Devil's Lake, but don't mention the record itself! titles, label, any info please...thanks.

  13. You're right, Howie. Those songs are bonus tracks on Bob's album "Original Recordings from Singer/Songwirter Bob "Git It" Kelly." You can find it on his Web site:

  14. The Devil's Sisters is now available on DVD: