1961 EXLPOITATION TRIPLE FEATURE: THE CHOPPERS, HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, AND WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS’ DORMITORY

 The Choppers (1961) Arch Hall, JR

Arch Hall Jr. is practically American cinema’s masochistic patron saint of Juvenile Delinquent exploitation garbage. Guided by daddy Arch Sr. (who penned the script and produced)The Choppers was Junior’s first film in a mercifully brief career (he retired in 1965 to become a musician and aviator—daddy was ex-Air Force).

To most contemporary viewers, Hall, Jr. is possibly best known for his second film, Eegah (1962)after it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000—although to the cult crowd, his crowning achievement is 1963’s The Sadist. Both of these will be covered here, along with Wild Guitar (1962), in upcoming exploitation collections from their respective years.

 

In Leigh Jason’s The Choppers, Hall is cast as Jack “Cruiser Bryan, the greasy-haired rockabilly leader of a gang of car-part thievin’ JDs. After stripping down cars, the Choppers take their loot to junkyard dog Moose (Z-movie veteran Bruno VeSota, familiar from Attack of the Giant Leeches, Wasp Woman and Bucket Of Blood), who gives them ten cents on every buck!

The Choppers (1961) Arch Hall, JR

Working out of their chicken coop truck, the Choppers also siphon gas out of unsuspecting vehicles, with Cruiser taking the role of the lookout guy who taps the steering wheel to the radio music he loves (which, the credits reveal, is Hall’s own song). For most of the film, the Choppers remain one step ahead of bland coppers and insurance suits. Later, we actually get to see Hall strum his guitar and sing “Monkeys in my hat band, I can do a handstand.” The jaw-dropping scene alone makes the entire film worthwhile. With rhyming genius like that, we can totally understand how Cruiser is a chick magnet who attracts a 1959 Playboy centerfold!

The Choppers (1961) Arch Hall, JR

The yawn-inducing plot requires a comeuppance, which seems a tad harsh for the Choppers stealing car parts, but the producers probably realized a minute or so of something resembling excitement was necessary.

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava)

Mario Bava‘s Hercules In The Haunted World stars Christopher Lee with apocalyptic hair. Bava and Lee, together with a bulging pair of male mammary glands in a loincloth (Reg Park), overcome laughably bad dialogue, near-fatal comic relief, echo boxes informing us that “these are gods!”, a prosaic plot, shrill dubbing, a green monster who must have been an ancestor of Sigmund The Sea Monster, and a bulimic budget to produce one of the most psychedelic sword and sandal fantasy flicks of the early 60s.

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava) Christopher Lee

With painted sets and sky, diaphanous tints, swirling ink vapors, and transcendent camerawork, Bava’s cardboard Hades is the quintessence of orgasmic psychedelia masquerading as Greek mythology. For a G-rated movie, there’s plenty of testosterone bandied about, both between Hercules and Theseus (George Ardisson) and Lee and Deianria (Leonora Ruffo).

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava) Christopher Lee

It almost doesn’t matter that Lee’s baritone is tragically dubbed. He’s still in full vampiric mode: seducing, impaling and stabbing (with a pair of wire cutters, no less).

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava)

As for the plot- it’s not really exploitation per se, but it’s as irrelevant as any in the sword-and-sandal genre, and the movie stars that god of drive-in cinema, the much-missed Christopher Lee… so, no apologies given for slight cheating here.

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava)

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory certainly is exploitative horror, but those expecting only to be titillated by hairy boobies might be slightly disappointed because, despite its camp title and opening credits song “(The Ghoul In School),” this is a surprisingly atmospheric chiller directed by Paolo Heusch. Like Bava, Heusch employs what craft he can to overcome an inept script and dialogue. Unlike Bava, he doesn’t really succeed, although credit should be given for the effort. It is an Italian production that was purchased by MGM, dubbed into English, and shown on a double bill with the underrated Robert Day/Boris Karloff feature Corridors of Blood (1958).

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (1961)

Doc Julian (Carl Schell) is the new science professor at an isolated girls dormitory. He has a shady past, having unintentionally killed a patient whom he tried to cure of lycanthropy (werewolfism). Acquitted, he finds employment at the dormitory whose director has an obsession with werewolves.

Meanwhile, Sir Alfred (Maurice Marsak), the administrator, has been playing hanky panky with Mary (Mary McNeeran). Mary offers Alfred sex in exchange for her release from the dorm. Adhering to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) rule that sex equals death in horror, Mary gets stalked and murdered by a werewolf during the full moon. The scene recalls the atmosphere from Universal’s Wolf Man, but is decidedly more gruesome and actually better shot (avoiding all that canned Universal fog). Mary’s slashed body is found, face up, lying in a creek in the woods surrounding the dorm.

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (1961)

With Julian being the new kid in town, he is quickly suspected and…  a muddled plot follows, filled with idle chatter, blackmail, a red herring, pseudo-scientific babble, and a werewolf who looks more like Mr. Hyde than Lon Chaney Jr. Still, we watch this type of thing for the Gothic atmosphere, which this is chock full of; for a pretty girl (Barbara Lass, the first Mrs. Roman Polanski) getting terrorized; and for stylish supernatural mayhem—all of which Werewolf delivers. Alas, it tries to be too many things—a murder mystery (which is no mystery), a bad girls in a reformatory pic, and Euro horror. It veers closest to success in the latter. The title alone’s worth a bucket of cheese popcorn.

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (1961)

 

Advertisements

About Alfred Eaker

Alfred Eaker is fine arts painter, filmmaker, and has a masters degree in theology. He currently lives in Portland, oregon with his wife: Aja Rossman-Gray.
This entry was posted in Film Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s