A quick review by Aaron AuBuchon
Schlock-O-Rama: The Films of Al Adamson
I’d bought this book years ago and somehow managed to never get around to actually reading it. I had a cursory knowledge of Adamson’s work, having seen Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) and Satan’s Sadists (1969), but that was really about it. I decided some months back that thanks to their stellar track record of running exactly parallel to my tastes that in general I would give Severin Films the benefit of the doubt on any release that they chose. The fact that company owner David Gregory has decided to not only make a documentary about Adamson, but that Severin also recently announced a mega box set release of 30 Adamson films AND the documentary, I decided that now was the time to pull this slim volume off the shelf and give it a go.
First off, if you’re looking for a richly detailed, ultra deep dive into Adamson’s work, this may not be the book for you. With a page count just shy of 200, I read this book in two big gulps over a single weekend. The book feels, looks, and reads like a big magazine devoted to Adamson’s work, which I found really charming and enjoyable, personally. The narrative is comprised mostly of quotes from Adamson’s regular co-conspirators, the lion’s share of which come from life-long producer Sam Sherman. These are mingled in with plot synopses of various lengths and stills from the films themselves, which are really a highlight of almost any book about 60’s and 70’s exploitation films.
What did I learn? Adamson, like some of my favorite directors of all time (such as Ray Dennis Steckler and Russ Meyer) just lived and breathed cinema. He naturally gravitated to films because he seemingly had films and filmmaking printed on his DNA. He and his wife, muse, and ubiquitous female lead Regina Carroll were both enamored of cinema until their dying days, which isn’t the only way a filmmaker gets to my heart, but it’s the quickest and most reliable. Al, by all accounts, was a pretty shrewd businessman, a hard worker, and a reliable square. That he also made some of the nastiest and grittiest exploitation pictures of the drive in era makes his story all the more compelling. Catch them home alone and he and Regina were apparently Ozzie and Harriet. Put Al behind the camera and get Regina into a bustier, and you have the formula for the kind of fare that defined the term “drive in movie” in the 1970’s. That juxtaposition of square film lover cranking out crazy wild exploitation pictures just gets into every fiber of my being for some reason. I love that they put all that darkness and weirdness onto the screen, while having no real evidence of it in their personal lives. And the stories of the lengths that Al went to early on to fund their films makes it clear that he was doing it as a labor of love. Why did they make the kinds of films they made? Because it granted them a certain freedom to do it their way, and it seems that doing it his way mattered a lot to Al.
I feel that if I already knew a lot about Adamson, this would be a worthwhile book, as it’s chock full of memories from people who were there with him, slaving away to make films that may not have been perfect, but were often memorable. And I feel that not knowing a lot about him, it was a good, quick intro to his work that made me excited to get the box set and see more of his films and the documentary Blood and Flesh. Go check that out while copies remain: : https://severin-films.com/shop/al-adamson-box/