Archive for Angelique Pettyjohn

In Need of a Gory Getaway? Plan Your Escape to BLOOD ISLAND Today!

Posted in Blu-ray, Crazy Shit, Hilarity, Independent Cinema, Movies, My Heroes, Nothing That Should Concern You, Reviews, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2022 by Robert Morgan

Six decades ago, a group of Filipino filmmakers and a few English-speaking actors in need of an easy payday birth one of the wildest and bloodiest franchises in the history of exploitation cinema. I am referring, of course, about the infamous “Blood Island” series – a quartet of insane low-budget horror flicks that delivered to audiences around the world a non-stop parade of slime, sex, and slaughter.

The beginning was a little rough.

1959’s Terror Is A Man, a lo-fi riff on H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, sowed the seeds for the monstrous mayhem to come. But the movie itself is an overly talkative affair about a shipwrecked sailor (Richard Derr) whose lifeboat lands on an island in the middle of who-the-hell-knows where scientist Dr. Charles Girard (Francis Lederer) and his wife/assistant Francis (Greta Thyssen) have transformed a panther into a sort of Man Panther (Flory Carlos), or Panther Man if you will.

Nothing much happens for the first hour of Terror outside of Francis falling in love with the sailor and a surgery scene with less blood than a papercut. For that scene, the producers added a warning bell to cue the audience for mondo disturbing stuff about to happen. That bell sounds like a telephone ringing and when I first heard it, I half-expected Girard to shout, “Will someone answer that damn thing already?” By the time Panther Dude finally breaks free from bondage and goes on a very mild rampage in the movie’s last twenty minutes, you may or may not care one bit. The laughable make-up on the misbegotten mutant does not help either.

Terror was co-directed by Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero, with only de Leon getting screen credit, and produced by Kane W. Lynn. During World War II, Lynn was a pilot in the U.S. Navy stationed in the Philippines. Once the war ended, he decided to settle down there, and it was then that he met Romero and the two men became friends and formed Lynn-Romero Productions. Back in the States, Lynn met up with producer Irwin Pizor, and together with Romero they founded Hemisphere Pictures to ensure American distribution for their Filipino projects.

Out of the partnership between Lynn and Romero came several other movies including The Scavengers (which played on a double bill in the U.S. with Terror Is A Man) and The Raiders of Leyte Gulf, the latter a staple of exploitation trailer compilation DVDs. Few of these did well at the box office, compelling the producers to make a return trip to Blood Island in 1968 for Brides of Blood.

After the sleep-inducing Terror, there was nowhere for the series to go but up. Introducing color and upping the ante in terms of sex and violence made Brides a vastly more entertaining movie. It also one of the Blood Island quartet’s most enduring staples – actor John Ashley. At the time he received the offer to star in Brides, Ashley’s marriage to Deborah Walley had ended and he needed immediate escape. He enjoyed the experience of working in the Philippines so much that he stayed on long after the Blood Island series concluded and produced several exploitation movies in the country that saw release in the U.S. through distributors like Dimension Pictures and Roger Corman’s then newly-formed New World Pictures.

Shot for a meager $75,000, Brides found Ashley playing Peace Corps member Jim Farrell, who escorts Dr. Paul Henderson (Kent Taylor, another B-movie veteran) and his wife Carla (Beverly Powers, credited as “Beverly Hills”) to investigate evidence of atomic radiation at the tropical paradise nicknamed “Blood Island” by the fearful natives. There they encounter Esteban Powers (Mario Montenegro), a 50-year-old man who looks half that age, mutated vegetation with life of its own, and a hideous monstrosity who terrorizes the islanders unless it is offered two naked female sacrifices.

Once again, de Leon and Romero co-directed, but Romero was able to minimize his colleague’s artistic intents behind the camera while amping up Terror Is A Man’s few memorable aspects and frosting the finished cake with plenty of fake blood and a plethora of nude women. When Hemisphere released Brides in the U.S., publicity representative Sam Sherman came up with a marketing gimmick that offered a pair of cheap plastic engagement rings to female moviegoers so that they become Brides of Blood themselves. Sherman’s idea to include fake marriage licenses in the ring set was vetoed because of the potential legal nightmare they could create.

A year after the release of Brides, the series hit its peak big time with Mad Doctor of Blood Island, the most entertainingly lurid and trashy of the quartet. Ashley was brought back to play a different character, pathologist Dr. Bill Foster, while voluptuous film and television actress Angelique Pettyjohn supplied the sex appeal. Foster and Pettyjohn’s character Sheila have come to Blood Island for different reasons: the doc is investigating an outbreak among the natives of a chlorophyll disease, while Sheila is hoping to find her estranged father. Their host Dr. Lorca (Ronald Remy) stays mum about mysterious happenings on the island, which includes people bleeding out green before perishing with faces covered in mossy infections. And once again, there is a rampaging monster in the area and this one both bleeds green and randomly murders islanders.

Mad Doctor opens with a prologue, filmed at an Air Force base in Manila, inviting audiences to take part in the “Oath of Green Blood” by drinking “of the Mystic Emerald fluids herein offered” and becoming ravenous for either sex or murder. Packets of green liquid were handed out to paying patrons during the movie’s American release, another Sam Sherman marketing innovation, though one he later claimed made him sick to his stomach when he tried the stuff himself. Following the oath, we get a cold open with a terrified native woman running naked through the jungle before the chlorophyll beast rips her face to shreds. We are clued into the monster’s presence with a series of wild, repeated zoom-ins. This flick wastes no time whatsoever.

The third and best entry in the Blood Island series boasted its best trailer, narrated with frothing, cackling hysteria by the German-born actor, monologist, concentration camp survivor, and frequent David Letterman guest Brother Theodore (The ‘Burbs).

With de Leon opting out of 1970’s Beast of Blood, Romero returned to bring the series to a close. Picking up immediately after the end of Mad Doctor, Ashley returned as the heroic Dr. Foster, the sole survivor after the previous movie’s green-blooded creature murdered the others and destroyed their boat. Months later, he returns to the island (because some people just never learn) with reporter Myra Russell (Celeste Yarnall) and they find the still-alive Dr. Lorca (played this time by Eddie Garcia), now sporting an eyepatch and continuing his diabolical experiments. He also has the monster from Mad Doctor in his lab, its disembodied head kept alive on machines while its body lays strapped to Lorca’s surgical table.

Though it rarely hits the delirious heights of Mad Doctor, Beast of Blood – which marked Ashley’s debut as producer – has enough sleaze value to justify its existence even as it retreads familiar territory with little inspiration. Severin Films released all four movies on Blu-ray in an attractive box set in late 2018. The set is now out of print and fetching ludicrous prices online, but you can still purchase individual releases of Terror Is A Man, Brides of Blood, and Mac Doctor of Blood Island. If you are in the mood for a cavalcade of carnality and carnage, plan your escape to Blood Island today!