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

STUDIO: Severin | DIRECTOR: David Gregory
RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2010 | PRICE: Blu-ray $24.99
BONUSES: outtakes, bonus film The Female Bunch, more
SPECS: NR | 101 min. | Documentary | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

A tribute to one of cinema’s most prolific exploitation filmmakers and part murder-mystery, Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson surveys the wild world of the man who gave us such non-award-winning films as Dracula Vs. FrankensteinBlazing StewardessesThe Dynamite Brothers and Nurse Sherri . But the film is also a real-life murder-mystery as we get to the bottom of what occurred in the bizarre, grisly death of the 65-year-old filmmaker in 1996.

Directed by David Gregory (director of 2014’s Lost Soul, the chronicle of the ill-fated Marlon Brando-Val Kilmer starrer The Island of Dr. Moreau), Flesh & Blood traces Adamson’s eccentric life and career through fascinating film clips, archival footage and interviews with friends and cohorts. The de facto leading voice is Samuel M.  Sherman, his longtime producer whose droll recollections of working with Adamson and how the world of exploitation filmmaking works are both hilarious and revealing.

We learn that Adamson’s father was silent western star Denver Dixon, and, with show business in his family, Adamson carved out a niche with Sherman at Independent- International company. They cranked out a series of made-on-pennies epics using their resourcefulness, enlisting a coterie of movie veteran pals and past-their-prime stars such as Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine and Russ Tamblyn to bring their creations to life.

Adamson, who worked with first-class cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Szigmond early in their careers, as well as Orson Welles latter career shooter Gary Graver, wasn’t concerned with winning awards with his horror, biker, sexploitation or westerns, but rather showing a profit And along with Sherman, he was not beyond retitling a film and reissuing it without the audiences’ knowledge.

While the first part of Blood & Flesh is a breezy ride through the shlocky hinterlands of Hollywood, things get darker as Adamson gets involved with a documentary about UFOs and aliens called Beyond This Earth. The film’s talkative experts like Sherman and Adamson girlfriend Stevee Ashlock  suddenly get mum, refusing to answer questions about Adamson’s eerie experiences with the film that was never completed, claiming the project and Adamson’s brushes with government officials had a profound impact on him. The creepiness takes another turn as the film gets into the particulars of Adamson’s 1995 murder by a contractor and supposed friend who killed Adamson, then buried him in concrete in his jacuzzi in the filmmaker’s desert compound.

Everything about Blood & Flesh is first-rate: The access director Gregory gets takes us into the inner-world of his subject through those who were close with him, and he supplements it wonderfully with archival material and candid interviews that give us a complete picture of what Al Adamson was like not only through his films but also in-person.

The documentary is available separately on Blu-ray or as part of the deluxe Al Adamson: The Masterpiece Collection, a 14-disc, 31-film Blu-ray set loaded with extras and a 126-page book.

Buy or Rent Flesh & Blood: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.