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|Index||11 reviews in total|
Al Adamson! Truly one of the Princes of schlock filming and a true heir
to Edward D. Wood Jr.s Throne of cheese! Adamsons films have everything
that makes the true crap movie so frightening: Illucid scripts,
continuity errors of epic proportions, acting somewhere between barely
OK to truly awful, former movie greats fallen into rough times, no
budget whatsoever, cameos by the director himself (not in the Hitchcock
manner, more in the Ed "Glenn or Glennda" Wood way)... you name it.
Said that, this is one of his less crappy movies (we are talking about Adamson standards here though), mainly because of a really good director of photography (newly immigrated Vilmos Zsigmound, who later would shoot movies like Maverick and Assassins) and a gorgeous background scenery.
But be not fooled! There is still plenty of badness provided, starting with the mind numbing narration by Death himself, reaction shots that don't match either the scene before or after (most often then not not even the time of day!), gratuitous violence of the disturbing kind etc. etc. etc.
Watch out for appearances of B-movie legend John Carradine, the movies own screenwriter Robert Dix, 50s Western staple Victor Adamson and ubiquitous Scott Brady.
To see Adamson at the peak (or rather bottom ) of his art, be sure not to miss the unbelievable "Dracula vs. Frankenstein", a movie that puts Plan 9 to shame! Highly recommended for fans of Adamson is also David Konow's great biography: Schlock-O-Rama: The Films of Al Adamson
There's one saving grace in this movie: the scenery. It was shot in
some rugged and truly beautiful country in Utah, but Al Adamson is such
an incompetent hack of a director that he doesn't really do anything
with it--it's just kind of "there" in the background, and the few times
where you get a glimpse of some of the spectacular views that SHOULD
have been seen a lot more often, it looks like Al just happened to be
pointing the camera at that particular spot rather than actually having
planned the shot (although "Al Adamson" and "planned the shot" are two
phrases that don't usually belong in the same sentence). Few things in
this film make sense, starting with the title--even if anyone could
figure out exactly what a "bloody grave" actually is, there are a lot
more than five people killed, the only graves shown are at the end of
the picture, and there are only four of them. Having a title that is
not only senseless but untrue should give you an idea of what's to
come, and since this is an Al Adamson movie, it doesn't fail to live
up--or down--to that expectation.
The "action" is laughably inept, as it invariably is with any Adamson film. Scenes seem to be inserted out of nowhere. At one point there's a shot of the survivors of an Indian attack holed up among some big rocks in a dry, desert area awaiting another attack. The next shot shows a half-dozen Indians charging through a lush, green valley, yelling and whooping. The next shot is of the same people in the same group of rocks, but you can't see or hear the Indians. The next shot is the yelling and whooping Indians charging through the valley again. Then back to the shot of the people in the rocks. And that's it. There's no Indian attack, the valley the Indians were charging through is never seen again and, come to think of it, neither are the Indians. As further proof of Adamson's razor-sharp film-making skills, during an attack on a ranch house the number of Indians keeps changing--six attack the house, two of them are killed and one rides away. So where are the other three? Then one Indian fires a burning arrow at a ranch house from a distance of about five feet, and the house proceeds to burn to the ground in about ten seconds. Throughout the movie there's a hilariously pretentious voice-over from "Death" that makes no more sense than anything else. Adamson did manage to get a few professional actors for the picture--John Carradine, Scott Brady, Jim Davis, Paula Raymond--but he also populated it with several of his usual gang of inept "discoveries": Kent Osborne, John Cardos, Vicki Volante. Cardos isn't all that bad, actually, but Osborne and especially Volante are awful. Darlene Lucht (here billed as Tara Ashton) plays one of the prostitutes on a wagon attacked by the Indians, and she's actually not bad at all (and a real beauty, to boot). But the idiotic script (an example: Ben, who's supposed to be the Indian "expert", says that Yaqui Indians are actually Apaches but that the Mexicans call them Yaquis. That is flat-out untrue; Yaquis and Apaches are two entirely different tribes), the badly done "action" scenes, the confused editing, the wildly inappropriate music score (while Joe Lightfoot is chasing the man who raped and murdered his wife, the music that's playing is a pseudo-jazz/rock tune you'd hear in a '60s teen musical with go-go dancers in a cage doing the frug in a "hip" nightclub) all combine to make this even more of an atrocity than the usual Adamson epic. I realize this is an Al Adamson picture, but this one is a stinker by even his almost non-existent standards. Don't waste your time.
Five Bloody Graves is one of the few real drive-in westerns. It's
directed by the much maligned Al Adamson, who made many colorful
schlockers in his day. With it's nonstop violence and gory excess, this
is no exception.
In this the west is depicted as a vast wasteland of hate and savagery, populated by half mad characters including death himself. There isn't much plot except for numerous people wandering around the rugged Utah landscape trying to massacre one another. Being that this is narrated by the grim reaper, there's not much mystery as to where most of the characters wind up.
Incidentally, John Carradine, Scott Brady, and Robert Dix were back together a year later in a better drive-in western, Cain's Cuttroats.
As far as the detractors go, many of them were tricked by the deceiving advertising on the video box into thinking that this is a horror picture. Fans of B-westerns will most likely be more forgiving than the average viewer.
I've seen nearly two thousand films and this ranks amongst the worst ten I've ever seen. Its violence is crude and unnecessary; its plot sounds totally straight-forward, yet is somehow confused; its music is plundered from other sources thoughtlessly (almost unrelated to the on-screen action at some points, especially when the music which British viewer's will recognise as the music from ITV's evening news roars into life during one particularly naff action sequence); and the acting is amateurish to the point of school-pantomime level. What do you expect from a picture that's from the Al Adamson school of lousy film directing? Believe me, it takes a real big effort to sit through this junk - I managed it, but I can't say that I'm proud of the achievement.
Al Adamson is a notorious name in cult film circles as a man who made
the movies of Ed Wood look good. His films are known for being
amateurish, slapdash, and hard to enjoy, and having sat through some of
his horror outings it's hard to disagree. However, FIVE BLOODY GRAVES,
a rare entry in the western genre for the director, is a surprisingly
entertaining little film.
Of course, it's still amateurish in nature, with 'anything goes' style performances and a general hurried feel to the production. On the other hand, it's absolutely packed with action and violence; the storyline is pure Cowboys and Indians, with never any more depth to it than that. Rest assured that the expected shoot-outs, knife fights and horse riding scenes come thick and fast in this film.
Adamson has amassed a wealth of has-been actors for his film, headlined by western star Robert Dix. Watch out for future cult director John 'Bud' Cardos as an Indian and John Carradine as a preacher. Unfortunately the version I watched was heavily cut for violence, but even so I found it better than many modern day attempts at the genre. Certainly no classic but it might just be the director's best film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A more suitable title for this exploitation-Western would be DEATH
VALLEY, or VALLEY OF DEATH, as a ragtag group consisting of cowboys,
hookers and a preacher get picked off by Indians who appear from the
rocks whenever the dialog runs its course.
Add to this a jazzy game-show score and Death as the narrator, philosophizing why each character must die, sometimes even giving it away but that's alright, because in this doomed situation: death is the main character.
A campy yet brilliant low budget Western with some terrific actors like Scott Brady (who dies gallantly), Jim Davis as a scumbag backstabber, and John Carradine as a pistol-wielding preacher, but none work too hard except John Bud Cardos in duo-roles as a friendly Indian and a bad one, the latter battling star (and writer) Robert Dix, firmly strident throughout, in the knife-wielding climax that begins on a cliff top and winds up in a river and down a waterfall: THE QUIET MAN be darned.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I agree with the other review of Al Adamson movies (in general). I
LOVED Dracula VS, Frankenstein, it is true classic of bad/yet good
We all know in many cases Al Filmed things that got released a lot later or (more often) even RECUT into other films of his, which I agree puts him on the same level with Ed Wood.
This was just BORING. The monotone voice over of "Death", bad old school documentaries (we all remember those) have better narration.
Indians, whose numbers seem to keep going up when the characters are mentioning how many are dying. "Scalpings" that don't even come close to the head. A flaming arrow that burns a house to the ground in no less than 60 secs of film time.
Even the appearance of Jim Davis (Who had the only 1/2 way interesting character, as a bad guy) couldn't save this film from it's "Illogical Boredom." It is never made clear why death is even interested in what's going on worth these guys or who he actually wants to win (One scene he says it's the hero, the next someone else.) The tag line for this film says, "Lust-Mad Men and Lawless Women in a Vicious and Sensuous Orgy of Slaughter!" I can say never saw these in this movie. Are they sure they were talking about THIS movie? I say for your money avoid this film and see Al's Dracula Vs. Frankenstein again. It has a lot of the same cast (Jim Davis and John Carradine), is is much BETTER and campier.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ben Thompson is a messenger of Death. We are constantly reminded of this through the CRAP FEST that is Five Bloody Graves, by DEATH himself no less! Crappy narration aside, there are plenty of things to keep the watcher engaged, or more accurately, perplexed. Beautiful scenery is destroyed by bad acting. Promising character development and story lines are killed by senseless violence, most notably a rape scene. This is probably an accurate portrayal of what occurred in the Old West, but this seems like lazy film-making. I wish the Indians had won. One redeeming feature of the film is John Carradine in his role as a sleazy preacher. While this is easily one of the crappiest westerns I have ever seen, I truly don't believe it deserves a rating as low as 1.8. That's not to say it doesn't deserve a low rating. Maybe a 3 or 4 perhaps? Death demands it!!!!
The days of classic Western films are long behind us, but the genre
lives on. They've been parodied, blended with other genres, and
elements of them have been used in different stories. 'Star Wars' is a
great example of a series of films influenced by Westerns. Then there's
the Spaghetti Western, which is said to be what killed off the genre.
This is one of the lesser known examples of this and after watching it
it's not hard to see why. Not that it's awful, but it's hardly one to
Pros: Cast does all right. Dynamic score. Some really beautiful scenery. Neat opening titles sequence. Narration by Death is an interesting touch. Enough action to keep the pace from dragging too much.
Cons: Not much of a plot. Much of the score doesn't match the action on screen. Cheap costumes that look straight out of a high school play. Unexciting direction. Too many characters to keep track of. Nothing you haven't seen before.
Final thoughts: I remember seeing the VHS artwork for this and being intrigued by it. It makes it look like a Horror film, which it is not at all. It also isn't that good of a movie and you wonder exactly who it was made for. It doesn't succeed as either a Western or a cult film, but you could find worse I guess.
My rating: 2/5
Five Bloody Graves (1970)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
Drive-in flick about lone gunman Ben Thompson (Robert Dix) who loses his wife and sets out on his own. He ends up battling evil Apaches and eventually comes across a wide range of characters and tries to protect them from the Indians who are looking for scalps. If you want a quality Western then it would be best to skip this thing and check out some John Ford films. This movie here is pretty bad on one hand but when you compare it to other films by director Adamson then you might realize that the man certainly did much worse. I think this film here is a tad bit better than some of the director's other work simply because he pretty much throws everything into this movie. We got the crazy gunfighter, countless crazed Indians, traveling prostitutes, a preacher (played by John Carradine) and countless other characters. None of the actors give what you would call a good performance but at the same time they all fit their roles nicely and are at least entertaining to watch. I thought Dix was mildly interesting in the role of the gunfighter and Scott Brady adds some fun as a rival. John "Bud" Carlos plays the main Indian and while he doesn't look the part he at least makes the role fun. Carradine was obviously picking up a paycheck but he's always fun to watch and especially if you're a fan of his work. No matter what trash a filmmaker would give him to read he'd at least give it his all and that's certainly true here. Adamson really doesn't know how to say no as we get just about everything you'd expect to see in a film like this. We get several knife fights that end in deaths. We get countless gunfights that end in deaths. We have a couple horse chases, a few naughty women, a voice-over from Death himself and of course we got the before mentioned Carradine so what else would you want? As with most Adamson films the major downfall is the horrid pacing, which grows old very quickly and at 90-minutes the thing is simply too long to really be enjoyed.
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