Anyone familiar with my writing knows I’m a big B movie fan. A big reason I love this stuff is I grew up watching a lot of this stuff on TV, the monsters weren’t scary enough that my parents would had a problem with me watching these flicks, and I definitely miss the fact that these movies used to play late at night on the major networks and network affiliates.
Like today, 3D was Hollywood trying to get audiences back into theaters, (back in the fifties, Hollywood was desperately competing with a new innovation that kept everyone at home, television), and many schlocky movies were done in 3D to try to get anyone to go see something that was third rate at best.
One of my favorite B flicks from back in the day is Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, which, despite its title isn’t exactly a Frankenstein movie (I’ll explain in a minute), and I later found out it was also in 3D, although very few people (myself included) have seen it in 3D.
Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror was a European horror film that was brought over to the United States by notorious exploitation producer Sam Sherman, the same man who gave us Satan’s Sadists, the Citizen Kane of biker films, and Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, the Plan 9 From Outer Space of the ’70s.
Sherman had an early version of Dracula Vs. Frankenstein held up in a lawsuit, and he needed something with Frankenstein in the title to fill in play-dates he had set up at theaters and drive-ins. The closest thing he could find was a Spanish film called La Marca del Hombre Lobo (The Mark of the Wolfman), an old fashioned gothic horror film that was also shot in 70mm.
Only problem, no Frankenstein in the film, but there is a Wolfstein family that carries the werewolf curse. (Funny enough, no one’s ever looked into whether this was the influence for the Castle Wolfenstein video games.) So Sam added in an animated prolog where a werewolf curse transforms Frankenstein into WOLFStein, and we see the star of the film, Paul Naschy, turning into a werewolf.
Fellow B movie maker Fred Olen Ray remembered seeing the film as a kid in Florida, and the audience full of youngsters watching this film at a matinee went nuts when they realized there was no Frankenstein in the film, and they sent soda cups, popcorn and candy boxes sailing at the screen. (He did appreciate the fact that Sam let you know you were ripped off up front.)
Despite all this silliness, the film actually did well in theaters, it’s a pretty good film that looks strong and vibrant on the big screen, but then Sherman found out it was in 3D, and had to get a print of it in the format ASAP.
“We pulled it out of its engagements to go to Spain, brought the 70mm print back and converted it to 35mm 3D,” Sherman says. “But it was a disaster because the people who handled the 3D part had terrible equipment. It was so dim you could hardly see it. We opened it in 3D in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theater with a big premiere. It went to ten other theaters, played for a couple of weeks and died. Nobody wanted it in 3D, it was a success originally.”
Another problem, Sherman discovered, “European 3D movies don’t have objects coming from the screen, they give depth to the screen. The Europeans shot this in Cienmascope format – wide, wide screen – and when you looked at the scenes of the werewolf in the forest, it went deeeep into the forest. It was the opposite of what Americans considered good 3D. So we asked, ‘Should we shoot inserts of hands and the werewolf coming out of the screen?’ But that never happened.”
Still, I’d love to see this in the best possible 3D format someday on a big screen, in fact, I’d love to see the movie in any format in a theater, where it hasn’t played since the early seventies. It would definitely take a lot of work and effort to get it over here, and restored in the best format possible, but like I always like to say, if they could finally untangle the rights to Spider Man, this should be a piece of cake.