If you’re a fan of some of the old almost-forgotten films, then you’re a fan of Film Masters. For a few years now they’ve been digging up a lot of these old “classics” and spending the time and resources to give them the full 4K restoration treatment. It appears that lately they’ve had their sights on some of the early films from The Filmgroup, which of course is the moviemaking machine of Roger Corman. Corman became the king of making quality low-budget films that almost always made at least a little money. In the 1960’s and 1970’s you could watch these wonderful budget horror and science fiction films doubled up at your local drive-in theaters. I certainly have memories of those days, and they were completely made up of Roger Corman or Hammer films. Corman gave their first break to some of the biggest names in the filmmaking industry: Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson and Ron Howard. They all got their first breaks directing films in what has become known as The Roger Corman Film School. Thanks to Film Masters, we have a couple of those golden oldies on Blu-ray looking better than they ever did before. This time our double feature presents The Devil’s Partner and Creature From The Haunted Sea. Let’s take a look at what’s inside, shall we?
The Devil’s Partner (1960)
“A town terrified by an unknown killer, and the killer hunt is on. Is it the village belle or her sweetheart? Is it the beloved doctor or the town drunk? Could it be the accomodating waitress or the stranger? Whoever the stranger is, he’s raising the Devil in town. The Devil’s Partner is busy, too. A blood-marked trail will take you into shocking terror. Half man/half beast, he sold his soul to the Devil.”
Nick Richards (Nelson) arrives in a small town looking for his uncle Pete Jensen. He finds out that Uncle Pete wasn’t very well liked in the town, and no one appears sorry that he’s missing. Nick is led to his old shack where he soon discovers a secret beneath a throw carpet. There’s a six-sided geometric symbol there, and before long Nick is caught up in its power. Just a little goat’s blood, and strange things start happening in town. It starts with Nick lusting after the town belle, Nell Lucas, played by Jean Allison. Her father is the local doctor, Doc Lucas, played by lovable Edgar Buchanan. Then there’s her boyfriend, David, played by Richard Crane. David appears to be the victim of these strange occurrences. First he’s attacked by his friendly family dog and his face is disfigured. But Nell still loves him, so more “permanent” solutions start to haunt the young man. It’s all connected with that strange design and a creature that has made a deal with Satan himself and now can transform himself into animals and other hideous creatures. Will Tom Fuller, the town sherriff, played by Spencer Carlisle, discover the culprit in time to save Dave and Nell?
Ed Nelson plays the role of Nick and Peter. He’s most famous for playing one of the stars of Peyton Place for all 500+ episodes. Doc Lucas is played by Edgar Buchanan, who is best known as Uncle Joe, the checkers-playing mainstay across three of CBS’s “rural comedies”. He played the same role on Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies. He was slow on the uptake but quick with a witty one-liner. Between the three shows he played the character in almost 300 episodes of prime time television. He’s just as lovable here as the country doctor with nary a checkerboard in sight. The cast pretty much all ended up as television character actors and were to be had on the cheap for Corman’s group. But he got solid performances out of the cast, and the characters are pretty memorable here.
The makeup f/x rival those of Jack Pierce, with one transformation greatly reminiscent of Pierce’s The Wolf Man process.
The film was actually shot in 1958 but took some time in finding distribution. Director Charles R. Rondeau was in the middle of a nasty divorce, and Corman often paid his people in points on any profits. Rondeau’s soon-to-be ex-wife wanted part of those potential profits, and it held up the release. Corman’s group failed to properly get a good copyright, and the film ended up in public domain rather quickly. It was released on a double bill with …
The Creature From The Haunted Sea (1960)
“The most improbable event in the 20th century occurred in Havana, Cuba. The revolutionary victors marched in, and the national complexion changed completely. They had been liberated. The survivors of the old regime escaped as best they could, taking with them a few meager effects such as the Cuban Treasury and other art objects. It wasn’t always easy to smuggle the loot out of Cuba, and so secret meetings were being held all over the island. This story of robbery, double cross, and murder begins with just such a meeting.”
Double features at the drive-in were a lot like 45 RPM single records. If you recall one, you likely recall the other. And just like those records, there was an A side (the intended hit song) and a B side, which was often filler or an unreleased track. The Devil’s Partner was the A side film. Creature From The Haunted Sea was decidedly the B side film here.
Roger Corman had his film crew in Puerto Rico, filming Last Woman On Earth and Battle On Blood Island. As often happened with Corman, he found himself with a couple of extra days and a few cans of film left over. So he quickly assembled what was intended as the third part of a trilogy of comedy horror films that also included Bucket Of Blood and The Little Shop Of Horrors. He shot it with the same actors of the other films and $1500 and 5 days. It was Corman’s superpower.
In 1963 Corman added time to the film as part of a television package mandate, but this is the theatrical version of the film. The TV version is also included here on both films.
The “meeting” alluded to in the quote is between Renzo Capeto (Carbone) with the old Cuban guard. He’s a hood and promoter, so trusted by the old guard, and he’s about to lose his casino as most mobsters did after the Castro revolution. So they “trust” him to help move 25% of the treasury gold out of the country along with loyalists led by Col. Tostada (Alverez). What he doesn’t know is that one of these people is an American secret agent known as Secret Agent XK150 (Towne) and his girl Mango (Gonzales). Capeto’s plan was to take advantage of old stories of a sea monster in the waters. He would claim the monster got the ship and gold and keep it for himself. There’s only one problem … OK, two problems counting Secret Agent XK150. There really is a sea monster, and it pretty much picks off his crew. Capeto still plans to sink the boat and return later for the loot, but you know those monsters. They get in the way of such plans.
The creature is one of the weakest monsters to ever grace the silver screen. He had tennis balls for eyes with ping pong balls for pupils. The rest was a wetsuit and a lot of moss.
A highlight of the film has to be its opening animation pieces. These were drawn by famed MAD Magazine artist Sergio Aragones, who became famous making those marginal drawings throughout the magazine for over 50 years. This was just before he started with MAD.
The film is loaded with cliches and a lot of humor.
The two films come with trailers and a couple of Roger Corman features that help round this out to a pretty nifty release. It’s the kind of thing that critics love to pass along. You see, “I never work if I can help it.”