Hell's Bloody Devils
U.S.A. / 1970
Directed by Al Adamson
Starring
John Gabriel
Kent Taylor
Broderick Crawford
Color / 92 Minutes / Not Rated

Format: DVD / R1 - NTSC
Guilty Pleasures
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
4
    8   10 = Highest Rating  
An Al Adamson patch job in the same manner as Horror of the Blood Monsters, Hell's Bloody Devils consists for the most part of footage shot in 1967 for a spy/action/crime film (that nobody wanted to distribute) heavily padded with biker scenes lensed nearly three years later. In a bid to make this thing marketable, director Adamson and producer Sam Sherman blended together elements of James Bond, Dragnet and the then-popular biker gang genre. The result is an inept, ham-fisted mess sorely lacking in the violence and sleaze promised by the title. Still, there's enough moldy cheese on display to almost make it worthwhile for exploitation fans... not to mention a couple of moldy character actors who are always fun to watch slumming for a check.
    FBI agent Mark Adams (John Gabriel) has spent five years undercover working his way into a trusted position with the Las Vegas mafia. His syndicate boss gives him an important assignment, the purchase of $2 Million in high quality counterfeit bills from a secretive neo-Nazi group. While arranging the deal he's to make an offer for the printing plates used to produce the funny money. The leader of the Nazis, German émigré Count von Delberg (Kent Taylor), is happy to sell any amount of counterfeit currency but refuses to part with the plates. He plans to print up enough bogus greenbacks to finance the birth of a Fourth Reich.
    During his stay at the Count's ranch, Adams makes time with his host's hot blonde daughter (Erin O'Donnell) and learns that von Delberg's much younger girlfriend (Vicki Volante) is in fact an undercover Israeli intelligence operative hunting Nazi war criminals. Meanwhile Adams' FBI superior (Broderick Crawford) assigns two agents, a veteran (Scott Brady) and a plucky female greenhorn (Emily Banks), to watch his back. When Adams makes the buy for the Mob they're to swoop in with a team of G-Men and bust up the counterfeiting ring.
    So where the bloody hell, you may ask, are the Hell's Bloody Devils?
    The titular motorcycle gang is paid by von Delberg to intimidate or rub out anyone the Nazis don't like. Adamson regular Robert Dix who looks like an insurance salesman playing dress-up instead of a rough 'n' tough biker is the gang's leader, Cunk. (At first I thought they were calling him something else...) In a badly edited pre-titles sequence we see the Devils in a brush with the police, then ambush and chain-whip a couple of dorky "commies". Later on they beat up Adams (or rather Gabriel's unconvincing stand-in) and pick up some hitchhiking hippy chicks, dropping acid and making out with the girls. Other than that we occasionally see them cruising down the highway to no apparent purpose or getting their payments from Volante's character, who acts as courier for the Count. (Volante is the link between the original 1967 footage and the biker scenes, her hair styles changing noticeably from sequence to sequence.) Members of a real-life California biker club, The Hessians, appear as background extras in a few scenes but for the most part the entire gang seems to consist of just Cunk and his two lieutenants... For an outfit called "Hell's Bloody Devils" they're not particularly hellish, bloody, or devilish. Just silly. (Where's William Smith when you need him?)
    Naturally the melding of the aborted '67 project and the biker footage doesn't work. Then again, it's easy to see why the original film (tentatively entitled Operation M, then The Fakers) sat on the shelf for three years. Helmed with the competence of a mediocre-to-poor TV production, it's a cheap, rambling procession of boring dialog and lethargic action scenes whose attempts to evoke a James Bond-like vibe fail utterly. Even without the addition of the bikers there are too many characters on hand, most of whom don't do much of anything. As the villainous Nazi mastermind, Kent Taylor (Brain of Blood) sounds like he's from Des Moines instead of Düsseldorf — even though his various henchmen all have (bad) German accents. John Carradine, looking more leathery than usual (if that's possible), shows up in a pointless, painfully unfunny comic relief scene as a pet shop proprietor/secret FBI contact (!). Much more amusing is the performance of Broderick Crawford (Goliath and the Dragon) as the hero's FBI boss; his rapid-fire line delivery and surly attitude would seem to indicate genuine irritation at having signed to do the picture, as if he wants to get his one day of work over with as quickly as possible. And in perhaps the clumsiest, most egregious example of product placement until the infamous iPod plug in 2004's Blade: Trinity, Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame shows up to ask, "Isn't that the best chicken you ever ate?" (In exchange, Adamson was able to feed the cast and crew free KFC dinners during the shoot.)
    The best thing about
Hell's Bloody Devils is the music. It's groovy '60s kitsch all the way, backed by the most frenetic nonstop bongo playing I've heard since the party scenes in Roger Corman's The Wild Angels. I really dug the catchy theme song ("The Fakers", featuring spunky vocals by Debbie Stuart) which plays over the psychedelic, crudely animated 007-wannabe titles sequence.

The fullframe print used for the Media Blasters DVD (released under the "Guilty Pleasures" sub-label) is, like the film itself, a compilation of different elements. Parts of it have obviously seen better days, exhibiting varying degrees of damage, grain, and faded colors, while other sections are positively pristine. This is the best this "lost" Adamson flick is ever going to look on home video, however, so kudos to Media Blasters for making the effort.
    I was quite surprised by the amount of extras included. The laughably sensationalistic trailer is a gas ("...The frightening story of the attempted takeover of the U.S.A. by a mad political group using the meanest motorcycle riders they can find to rape and pillage their way into power!"); although it can be played separately it's also configured as the first chapter of the movie. No less than three featurettes are offered: a 20-minute interview, videotaped in late 2004, with Independent International honcho Sam Sherman and star John Gabriel (in which the gregarious Sherman does 90% of the talking); a segment culled from a 1993 episode of the horrid New York-based gabfest The Joe Franklin Show featuring Al Adamson and his then-girlfriend as guests; and a full-length audio commentary by Sherman. (As always, Sherman is a treasure trove of amusing anecdotes.) A still gallery and trailers for other MB releases complete the package. NOTE: As of this writing DVD Planet was selling the disc for all of ten bucks; it's a little more expensive at Amazon ($14) but still a pretty good deal.
6/18/05
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