Al Adamson, king of the schlockmeisters. Famous for making some of the cruddiest drive-in films including the infamous Dracula Vs. Frankenstein (1971, starring a pathetic looking Lon Chaney Jr. in his last screen role) and Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972), Al produced, directed and wrote some of the world’s best bad movies that were actually pretty profitable in their time.
In 1969, to capitalize on the biker and counterculture movies of the era, Adamson made his first movie for Independent International titled “Satan’s Sadists” (aka Nightmare Bloodbath). Shot in eight days in a desert on a shoestring budget, a masterpiece it ain’t, but it is a pretty fun watch and is pretty bloody compared to other films in the biker subgenre.
In the first five minutes, before the credits even role, a biker gang robs a couple, force acid on the girlfriend and rape her, then throw the couple in their car off of a cliff. Now thats how you start an expoliation film! The biker gang then terrorize a roadside diner, where after they rape a policeman’s wife then shoot her, the policeman and the diner’s owner in the head exectuion style. A vietnam vet who was traveling with the policeman escapes with the diner’s waitress after murdering two of the bikers, and rest of the film is the gang trying to find the elusive pair in the desert.
There isn’t much to say about the plot because there really isn’t one, but that’s not really what’s important in this film. Basically, the film company was just trying to scare the crap out of teenagers, feeding off their fears that a biker gang could create a little Altamont in their own town. The film is remeniscent of the classic drive-in biker film Born Losers (1967), the first of the series of Billy Jack movies, but is more bloody and brutal, and also more neandrethal in scope.
Sadists is notable in cinematic history for more than just being the jump-off for the king of schlock’s long foree into bad movie making; it also ruined a career! Russ Tamblyn, who played the leader of the Jets in the 1961 theatrical adaptation of West Side Story, plays Anchor, the leader of the bike gang. After this film, Tamblyn was spun into the unending vortex of low budget film and TV roles, although he breiefly revitalized his career by playing Dr. Lawrence Jacoby on the David Lynch series Twin Peaks.
Adamson went on to make a slew of classic drive-in fare for Independent International including two other biker movies Swastika Savages (1970) and Angels Wild Women (1972). In 1974 he teamed up with Italian expolitation maestro Joe D’Amato for Girls For Rent (1974, later retitled I Spit on Your Corpse) starring Devil in Miss Jones (1973) star Georgina Spelvin. He also made two films for the amazingly profitable (yet utterly stupid) stewardess subgenre, Naughty Stewardesses and Blazing Stewardesses (both 1975).
Adamson quit the film business in the early eightees as the drive-in films fell into obscurity as the video tape market began flourishing. In 1995, Adamson’s corpse was discovered under the concrete and tile floor of his new bathroom, murder by his own contractor who had stolen Adamson’s indentity and escaped to Florida. It’s kind of sad that his own death had a better plot than his movies did, but so it goes.
The 2001 re-release by Troma of Satan’s Sadists is a good but somewhat flawed “special edition.” The plusses are that it includes a great short of Sam Sherman (co owner of International Independent films) talking about Adamson’s exploitation films, trailers and TV spots for Satan’s Sadists, and four trailers for other Adamson movies. The minuses are that its cut (which Sherman admits to in the commentary), it’s not letterboxed, and the print can look pretty dark at times making it hard for the viewer to see what the hell is going on at moments. I wish someone else with a bit of cinematic integrity (i.e. not Troma) could have put out a better transfer of this, but hey at least its out there.
Satan’s Sadists is not for everyone of course. But if you’re into biker films like Hell’s Angels On Wheels (1967) and The Hard Ride (1971) or just trashy drive-in films in general you’ll certainly get a kick out of it.