Blood-A-Rama Triple Frightmare: Help Me… I'm Possessed!/The Night of the Strangler/Carnival of Blood [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - American Genre Film Archive
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (13th January 2022).
The Film

American Genre Film Archive gives us the "Full Drive-in Experience" with a Blood-A-Rama Triple Feature Blu-ray.

Help Me… I'm Possessed!: Deep in the Nevada desert is The Blackwood Sanitarium, a castle where Dr. Arthur Blackwood (Bill Greer, who also scripted) prescribes rest and recuperation for his patients above stairs while experimenting on rooting out evil as a physical essence from subjects in his basement dungeon. When Sheriff Taylor (Jim Dean) starts snooping round to investigate mutilation murders of necking couples in the surrounding desert, Blackwood insists that none of his patients are dangerous; however, Blackwood suspects that the murders are the work of his unbalanced sister Melanie's (Joe Kidd's Lynne Marta) "special friend" who lurks in the caves that connect to the castle through subterranean tunnels.

When his bride Diane (Deedy Peters) arrives from the city, Blackwood actually does very little to assuage her fears about the strange noises she hears and sights she encounters in the castle corridors at night. As the murders continue, Blackwood has a harder time putting off the Sheriff, particularly with nurse Eleanor (Blackie Hunt) about to crack and creepy chauffeur Ernest (comic Tony Reese) not quite so good at disposing of Blackwood's failed experiments. When Diane has enough of her husband's explanations and discovers the dungeon, she is unsure whether he is a madman and murder or if something inhuman really is on the loose.

From director Charles Nizet, the mysterious director of The Ravager – whose other achievements involve Arson suspect, an attempt to launch a Las Vegas film festival, and plans to build a studio in South America before his still-unsolved murder – Help Me… I'm Possessed! is overall a slicker production even if the acting is flat and the castle at times looks incredibly cramped and possibly cardboard. For a seventies film – reportedly shot in 1970 but no released until 1974 – there is no nudity and the gore is rather crude; although the dismemberment of one female corpse is rather amusingly portrayed through creative framing and edits. The concept of a mad doctor trying to physically extract evil from the soul and it externalized essence going on the rampage is interesting – anticipating the British film The Creeping Flesh – but the creature is realized as frenzied POV shots and reverse shots of tendrils that look like red party streamers. Peters and Greer were some sort of entertainment act in the sixties going by "Deedy and Bill" – presumably the other cast members were Vegas entertainers – but Greer went onto the produce the even more horrific sitcom Charles in Charge.

Next up, The Monkees' Micky Dolenz goes grindhouse in Joy N. Houck's odd take on racial intolerance with Night of the Strangler. Southern Belle turned Vassar undergrad Denise (Susan McCullough) rushes home to reveal to her domineering "Southern bigot" lawyer brother Dan (Thunder Run's James Ralston) and more easy-going florist middle brother Vance (Dolenz) that she is pregnant with a black man's child and intends to marry him. The rift between Dan and Vance – created when Dan seduced and proposed to his brother's "Daughters of the Confederacy" girlfriend Carol (Ann Barrett) while he was in Vietnam – is torn asunder when Dan threatens to kill Denise and her lover if she does not have an abortion. Denise flees back to New York but her happiness is cut short when a hippie hitman (The Cheerleaders' Patrick Wright) takes out her fiancι and then arranges her own suicide.

Back in New Orleans, no sooner does Father Jesse (The Five Heartbeats' Chuck Patterson) return to the fold after sewing some wild oats to take over his old parish than he is asked to intervene in the conflict between Dan and Vance before the former's wedding. Jesse learns from Vance that the rumors about Denise are indeed true, and that Vance – who has moved on romantically with schoolteacher Ann (Katie Tilley) – holds Dan responsible for her death. When Carol is killed by a deadly Asian snake hidden in a bouquet sent by Father Jesse, Dan feigns ignorance about any possible motive for the murder to investigating detective De Vivo (Michael Anthony, who looks like a taller Ron Jeremy) and his black partner Jim (Innerspace's Harold Sylvester) but swears vengeance on Vance at the funeral. Dan remains steadfast in his suspicions despite having accrued a number of other recent enemies, including fired longtime servant Willie (Mirrors' Warren Kenner) and the New York hitman who he has not paid in the seventeen months since the deaths of Denise and her lover.

Released under the titles "Is the Father Black Enough?", "Dirty Dan", and "The Ace of Spades" before arriving at its popular handle – despite the fact that there are absolutely no stranglings amidst the various other forms of murder demonstrated herein – Night of the Strangler is only slightly more polished than Houck's earlier but more widely seen Night of Bloody Horror (starring a clean-shaven pre-Simon & Simon Gerald McRaney). Night of the Strangler is an odd duck of a thriller that chokes on its red herrings while boasting a contrived ending reveal that is simultaneously easy to guess yet surprising because the killer's motivations are just as bigoted as those expressed by the primary target. The methods of murder include the aforementioned snake, as well as curare-tipped arrows, sniper rifles carried in guitar cases, and a few razors and knives with nary of drop of blood spilled. While it is nice to finally see this film after being unavailable for so long, it makes one wish for new transfers of Houck's Night of Bloody Horror, The Creature from Black Lake or, better yet, a video transfer of the irresistibly titled Women and Bloody Terror period.

Houck Jr. owned a number of theaters in the South and, in conjunction with fellow theater owners Ron Ormond (Mesa of Lost Women) and J. Francis White, formed Howco International as a means of producing product for their venues. Perhaps because the film was intended primarily for Southern audiences, the film does not dwell too much on the atmosphere of the New Orleans setting in the manner of Hollywood films. Fans of The Monkeesmay be surprised to hear Dolenz swearing and cuddling up with nude actresses, and he would appear a few years later in the R-rated Linda Lovelace for President and the pot comedy Keep Off My Grass!. The cast also includes Stocker Fontelieu, an actor whose many Louisiana-lensed credits also include Mandingo, Brian De Palma's Obsession, Pretty Baby, Cat People, and Angel Heart.

Last, and debatably least, is Carnival of Blood in which a Coney Island carnival is beset by a series of brutal and gory murders, mainly of extremely awful women. First up is Claire (Linda Kurtz) who spends the night emasculating her husband (The Abductors' William Grannel) before losing her head in the dark ride, followed by a drunk (Eve Packer) who gets gutted before rolling her equally intoxicated sailor date (Glen Kimberly), and then a horrible harridan (Gloria Spivak) who looks and sounds like a drag extra from an Andy Milligan film. Suspects include a fortune teller (Kaly Mills) who ends up comping the victims when she reads bad omens in their palms just before the murders, barker Tom (Earle Edgerton) who is just so nice he gave prizes to the belligerent women just to get rid of them, his disfigured but fiercely loyal assistant Gimpy (a pre-Rocky Burt Young, billed as "John Harris"), and even Dan (Martin Barolsky), the assistant D.A. boyfriend of Tom's neighbor Laura (Judith Resnick) who thinks investigating the murders on his own may further his career.

Predating the slasher genre by a few years – even for those who cite Black Christmas rather than Halloween as the trendsetter – Carnival of Blood has a small body count but it does nevertheless have a killer whose psychosis is rooted in childhood trauma that leads to a hatred of women; however, Carnival of Blood seems to share that hatred as the victims are so utterly unlikable and their behavior dwelt upon for such long stretches that the viewer may be tempted to step into the frame and kill them. Resnick's final girl is presented as the only likable female – her whiny frustration with her boyfriend is annoying but not unjustified – and the killer's identity may not be hard to guess but the traumatic flashback reveals a sinister reason why he repeatedly attempts to assuage Laura's relationship anxieties and mend fences. Huckster director Leonard Kirtman was also involved in the terrible but not uninteresting Curse of the Headless Horseman and may or may not have also been its director under the name John Kirkland.


Given scant release theatrically, Help Me… I'm Possessed! could be found by the curious on VHS by Video Gems under the title "The Possessed", the same title used for Code Red's double feature DVD release with Amando de Ossorio's Demon Witch Child (creating confusion since "The Possessed" was also the export title for that film and used for its All Seasons Entertainment VHS edition). Transferred from the same 35mm print as the Code Red release, AGFA's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer has its share of projection damage including vertical scratches and fading but no obvious missing frames or jumps. Saturated colors do pop and the brighter, evenly-lit scenes can look quite clean.

Night of the Strangler was distributed theatrically by Houck's Howco International and then on VHS by Paragon. The film made its digital debut on DVD from Vinegar Syndrome under the American Genre Film Archive banner. While we were of the opinion at the time that the presentation was rather rough, the same source materials on this Blu-ray's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is the best-looking of the three films. Grain is still heavy in the underexposed shadows of harsh daytime exteriors, night exteriors, and interiors but it looks relatively well-preserved compared to its co-features.

Distributed by Kirtman's own company Kirt Films International, Carnival of Blood was most widely seen on Charles Band's early eighties Cult Video clamshell and Wizard Video small box editions – as well as all of the gore highlights spoiled in the Elvira-hosted compilation Filmgore – and then forgotten about until Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment put out a double feature DVD with John Kirkland's Curse of the Headless Horseman in 2002. We have not seen that 16mm-sourced edition in quite some time, but AGFA's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen comes from a 35mm print with damage that includes missing frames, heavy scratching, and fuzzy credits.


Help Me… I'm Possessed!'s DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track has some surface noise but dialogue is always clear and optional English SDH subtitles are provided.

Night of the Strangler's DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 audio is quite clean and optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Carnival of Blood's DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono audio has damage consistent with the visual scars but dialogue is always intelligible and English SDH subtitles are also included.


The films are separately playable or as part of a "Full Drive-in Experience!" playback mode (271:04) which includes interstitial "Drive-in Snipes" (16:39) ads for drive-in concession food, cartoons, and a rare trailer for The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio – absent from the Vinegar Syndrome limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo and DVD – both double-billed with the execrable A Clockwork Blue (the former release featuring the hardcore insert version) – and possibly including a couple below-the-waist nude shots not in the film – the awful-looking The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (a vehicle for Sidney Noel Rideau who played Louisiana horror host "Morgus the Magnificent"), The Love Thrill Murders, and black and white trailer for Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (presumably a reissue since the original distributor information is optically blocked out).

Carnival of Blood is also accompanied by a partial audio commentary by Bleeding Skull's Annie Choi and AGFA + Bleeding Skull's Joseph A. Ziemba (over the first 36:09 of the film) discussing the peculiarities of the film, some background on Kirtman gleaned from Chris Poggiali – including his attempts to distance himself from his earlier porn films and taking out an ad to plug his previous collaborators with Young and director John G. Avildsen after the success of Rocky, the film as a snapshot of Coney Island in the early seventies, and also reveal that the 16mm print used by Something Weird has since gone missing (as has the material for Curse of the Headless Horseman which AGFA only now has in the form of a U-Matic tape of the film transfer Mike Vraney created as the duplication master).


The first 4,000 copies ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome come with a special limited edition embossed slipcover.


American Genre Film Archive and Bleeding Skull's Blood-A-Rama Triple Feature truly delivers the "Full Drive-in Experience" warts and all!


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