I was a whole 13 years old when I got dropped off in front of the Embassy Theater in Orange ,NJ for the weekly “kiddee matinee” on Saturday. If I remember correctly, the movies that day were two AIP beach party movies. But as I stood in front of that theater, I saw something that was a lot more interesting than Annette Funicello.
The regular features running that week were two films that I never had heard of before, The Bloody Pit of Horror & Terror Creatures from the Grave. “ My Vengeance Needs Blood” the one sheet screamed. Now this looked really good, but how was I going to get away with seeing them when I was getting picked up a 5pm and this double feature started at 6pm?
Even at 13, my mind was already warped. I called home and said that so and so’s Mom was picking us up and we were going over his house to hang out and I would call when it was time to go home. It worked. When the Beach Party stuff was over, I just sat in the back of the darkened theater. A couple of winos were passed out back there, so no one really paid any attention.
At 6pm Bloody Pit of Horror came on. The late Mickey Hargitay had been in Italy filming Primitive Love with his wife, Jayne Mansfield. In between , he found time to do this exercise in sadism. Mickey is the owner of a castle that he has rented out for a photo shoot. A horde of buxom models and their photographers show up. The castle previously was home to a sadistic torturer known as the Crimson Executioner.
When the models enter the torture chamber for some cheesecake shots, Mickey loses it and becomes The Crimson Executioner. He dons some red tights and a mask, then busies himself by cutting, burning, and stretching the rest of the cast. As cheezy as this film may look today, this was the greatest stuff my 13 year old eyes had ever seen. Mickey was out of his fucking mind, shamelessly chewing up the scenery and mugging for the camera. He laughed like a crazy man as he did his thing.
Using various devices, he had strapped a woman on this thing that had knives slice into her as it turned. Another lucky victim had boiling oil or tar splashed on her. There is also a scene with a big spider web and a giant spider. Mickey is eventually pushed into his own iron maiden. As he dies, he yells something about ruining his perfect body.
Terror Creatures from the Grave was in black & white and starred horror queen, at the time, Barbra Steele. Where Bloody Pit of Horror was completely over the top, Terror Creatures was more atmospheric and spooky. An occultist is murdered by his wife ( Steele) and friends. He returns as a ghost and, though some really spooky recording, vows dire revenge on his murderers.
His ghosts summons some dead, medieval plague victims to help him get revenge. These “victims” were put to death for actually spreading the plague. A showcase of severed arms comes to life in a creepy scene. Victims are picked off one by one. In my first on screen disembowelment, a wheelchair bound victim runs himself into a sword rather then face the plague spreaders. A rotting, sore covered arm pulls the wheelchair away as his intestines fall out.
You never see the plague spreaders, just their arms. Plague spores are tossed into victim’s faces where it works like acid. All involved in the murder of the occultist are killed. The plague spreaders are closing in on the hero & heroine, when it starts to rain. The pure water forces the creatures back to their graves.
Both films were directed by Massimo Pupillo under English pseudonyms. For Bloody Pit he was “Max Hunter” . For Terror Creatures, he was Ralph Zucker. Both films were released by Pacemaker ,who also gave us Fiendish Ghouls & Horrors of Spider Island. For whatever reason, Pupillo was unsatisfied with the way Terror Creatures turned out and gave the films producer, Ralph Zucker, directorial credit. When Zucker passed away in 1982, a lot of people thought it was Pupillo who died. Puppilo direct a spaghetti western, Django Kills Softly in 1967. Though he is still with us, he hasn’t done any films since 1981.
Both films fell into the public domain. Sinister Cinema had released them as one of their drive in double features . Something Weird Video found a mint print of Bloody Pit of Horror and released it on Image. Terror Creatures from the Grave was kicked around on a bunch of PD tapes & DVDs. The print offered by Alpha is horrible and has a listed running time of 60 something minutes, but it runs way longer than that. If I remember correctly the Sinister Cinema print was widescreen, I just order that DVD from them to put in the archives.
Oh, I did wind up getting caught in the lie. I stayed to see Bloody Pit of Horror a second time. By the time I called home, it was after 10pm and I was in deep shit. I got grounded from the movies for two weeks. I would have to say it was worth it.
42nd Street Pete