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.
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.
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.
Five Bloody Graves is a western from the notorious director Al Adamson. Al was a maker of z-grade exploitation movies such as Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969) and Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970). Because of this I am rather fond of the man. Anyone who knocked out copious numbers of low budget psychotronic movies from the golden era of the b-movie sure can't be all that bad in my book. And from my admittedly limited exposure to his movies, I have to say that what I have seen has been entertaining enough. Five Bloody Graves is possibly the best of the bunch so far I reckon. It takes the form of a revenge western, with a lone cowboy seeking retribution against an Apache who killed his wife. Enter a stranded stagecoach of cannon fodder...I mean upright citizens, plus a duo of good-for-nothing gun runners and we have the bare bones of a story.
This one is unusual from the start in that it includes voice-over narration from Death himself. Some people hate voice-overs but I don't mind them as they allow us to just cut to the chase and get on with it, not relying on a host of tedious exposition scenes and in this example that is effectively what they achieve even if the device was most probably included for budgetary, rather than artistic, reasons. It would only be fair to say that despite a release year of 1970, this sure as hell is not a revisionist example of the western genre. It has a decidedly old-school presentation of the Indians as mindless killers, who aren't so much characters as they are dangerous obstacles for the white folks to deal with. This type of presentation was really out-of-date by the 60's, never mind the 70's! But I think it's partly on account of this completely unprogressive approach that makes this one kind of enjoyable as it gives it an even more exploitative approach which is always kind of fun even when you know it is wrong.
From an acting perspective we have the king of the low budget trash-fest himself, John Carradine, on hand in another role as a cranky old git. While the soundtrack was pleasingly inappropriate at times with a score made up of library music which bizarrely included the theme to the 'News at Ten', one of the most famous bits of TV music in the UK and so utterly strange sound-tracking a gun-fight in a low budget western! This musical insanity is only equalled by the later slasher movie Delirium (1979) which featured the theme music from 'Mastermind'! Anyway, the story plays out pretty much as you think it will with little in the way of surprises, although I have to award an extra point for a particularly evil character being sentenced to 'death by ant'. On the whole, this much maligned film really wasn't all that bad at all. I have been watching a fair few run-of-the-mill spaghetti westerns recently and I have to say that this one entertained me more than most of those on account of it being stranger. Good work Al...
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.
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 cinema.
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.
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!!!!
This is a terrible film and anyone seeing it might be inclined to think it's one of the worst films that any director could make. Well, that could be true, but not if it's Al Adamson--the jerk that directed this dull film. No, FIVE BLOODY GRAVES is practically a Merchant-Ivory production compared to such Adamson "classics" as FRANKENSTEIN VS. DRACUL A, HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS and BRAIN OF BLOOD.
The film begins with some totally pointless and stupid narration by the Hollywood actor Gene Raymond. This is pretty sad, as in the 1930s, he was a top Hollywood star and the husband of Jeanette MacDonald--here, he plays "Death" with all the subtlety of Grim from "The Adventures of Billy and Mandy" thanks to a dumb script.
As far as the rest of the film goes, it's mostly the "bad Indians" killing the innocent (or semi-innocent) Whites. While this plot isn't too unusual, it was unusual for 1970, as by then Westerns had mostly begun to show Indians with a bit more depth--but not here. Yep, they're mostly just blood-crazy savages. In this mix are some incompetent actors and amazingly unattractive actresses (considering they are SUPPOSED to be alluring) and subplots involving rape that seem to have been added only to "spice up the film".
The music is odd, as it really doesn't sound very appropriate for the film. I suspect it was lifted from another film but only recognized one small section that was lifted from the old "Star Trek" television show.
While none of this is good at all, the worst thing about the film is how gosh-darn dull the whole thing is. There just isn't much to keep your attention (other than a little bit of nudity). Not nearly as silly or stupid as Adamson's horror films--this one is just bad.
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.
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.