05 June 2011

PSYCHO A GO-GO/1965/AL ADAMSON

PSYCHO A GO-GO 


1965/Director: Al Adamson/Writers: Mark Eden, Chris Martino

Cast: Roy Morton, Tacey Robbins, Nadine Arlyn, John Armond, Joey Benson, Johnnie Decker, Kirk Duncan

Al Adamson is one of those filmmakers who divide the masses. In this case he divides not the masses of main stream movie goers from the purveyors of b-movies and fringe indie-films, but divides the very schlock movie crowd itself. Even lovers of “bad cinema” find Adamson’s work to be intolerable. Now before I continue I should make clear, as I have done before, that I put this film into my bad movies to avoid category. I am speaking here of course to the bulk of mankind. There are of course those of the cognoscenti who spend a lot of time searching for these oddities in the back of small video/DVD stores or online in eclectic BT sites. I have to admit that I fall into this category of masochistic film viewers who wants to not avoid the works of people like Al Adamson but wants to see as many as I can. That being said, if you do not fall into this category you are well advised to steer clear of Psycho A Go-Go, and most certainly clear of this double feature’s second feature, Manos: The Hands of Fate.

There is actually a long and convoluted history surrounding Psycho A Go-Go and I am not sure I have all my facts straight and if I make a scholarly blunders I defer to the authorities in on this filmmaker to set the record straight. The film was originally released in 1965 by Admason and life long friend and partner Sam Sherman as Echo of Terror (with “cinematography” by Vilmos Zsigmond who would later go on to shoot The Deer Hunter) but it totally bombed and was quickly reedited with shots of plump go-go dancers in a club dancing and was re-released as Psycho A Go-Go. The film has an interesting movie score really that is the subject of some armchair research by sites that focus on soundtracks such as the people over at Monster Movie Music (http://monstermoviemusic.blogspot.com/). But the scenes with singer and star Tacey Robbins sound more like a poor man’s Patsy Cline than a typical 60’s go-go style singer but the scenes are interesting and she is not a bad singer. Well the added clips of a go-go bar did not help the film much and it vanished in obscurity until Sherman and Adamson brought it back form the dead in the form of 1971’s The Fiend with the Electronic Brain and footage now was put in featuring Tommy Kirk and John Carradine. Extra footage also was added to explain that the original bad guy in Psycho A G-Go (Roy Morton) was actually some sort of Vietnam War zombie controlled by evil scientist Carradine. The movie was still to be re-re-released as Blood of Ghastly Horror (cool title) and this time some added footage of Adamson’s wife Regina Carroll playing Carradine’s daughter. Now is was this the final version of the film? I don’t really know. It was also released under the title The Man With The Synthetic Brain but I do not know if this included extra footage of, lets say, Adamson’s dog in the background, or if it was just a ploy distributors and film makers often used in the 60’s and 70’s to get people to pay for the same film twice. In any case, the money continued to bomb and Adamson must be given his due credit for really trying to sell this film over and over despite the public refusal to want to see it.



I have not seen Blood of Ghastly Horror though I have it somewhere on my 500 gig hard drive (which desperately needs backing up) and will check it out eventually. So, I cannot compare the two films. I have read Ghastly Horror is a real mess and only Adamson devotees can endure it from start to finish in a single setting. How can anyone pass up seeing something with a reputation like that? However, I will be honest, Psycho A Go-Go is not a totally horrible film in that utterly outside Hollywood-film maverick sort of way. Of course some things are outside Hollywood for various reasons. Sometimes the filmmakers follow their own vision and passion refusing to be stifled by big studio politics. Other times they could never really belong inside Hollywood due to their basic lack of filmmaking skill. Which category Adamson fell in seems to be a topic for debate online.


The story starts off in an almost Tarantinoesque fashion with a group of rough looking jewel thieves on their way to make the perfect score that always hits a snag. Among the group is bad guy Joe Corey (Roy Morton) who we can assume is the psycho of the film’s title. We are introduced as well to boss man Vito (Lyle Felice) who sports a creepy John Water’s style mustache and a goatee. Obviously the condescending mastermind of the operation he is one too happy later when he finds things have gone awry after the female they tied up managed to set off the alarm causing the gang to panic. In the confusion Roy kills one of the gang, Travis, who was wounded by a cop and had who just tossed the case of jewels over the roof and into the back of a pickup truck owned by David Clark (Kirk Duncan)  who I gather is a cop. I am not sure really. Or he has a cop friend. Well, it does not matter really. Vito’s girlfriend Vicky was in charge of the getaway car and sees David drive off with the case of jewels and gets his license plate number. The crooks decide to pay the oblivious David a visit later and beat the truth out of him, but unbeknownst to all David daughter Linda had earlier found the jewels (now her “treasure”) and hid them all inside her little negro doll. Well, that’s what it was. I have no clue why this white 60’s suburbanites would buy their daughter a little negro girl doll for her birthday but the little girl seemed to loved it Was this some fad in 1965? Anyway, Linda leaves with her go-go bar singing mom Nancy leave for a vacation at Lake Tahoe and dad is left home to be kicked around by Vito and his gang and has no idea what the hell is going on. 
Psycho Joe and punch drunk gang member Curtis intercept Linda and Nancy at the Lake Tahoe bus station and take them off to some cabin in the woods to terrorize them into telling them where the gems are. Back at the Clark house a love triangle has managed to surface between Vito, Vicky and handsome gang member Nick. The cops show up for some reason I can’t recall, but it had something to do with David not returning a call to his police buddy, and Nick and Vito are shot.

At Lake Tahoe friction develops between the ruthless Joe and the conscientious Curtis. No problem. Joe kills Curtis and then high tails it after Nancy and Linda who have now escaped into the snow covered wilderness around Lake Tahoe. It the final scene Joe finds the jewels, finally, in the little black baby doll and as he realizes the irony of it all he is shot dead. A note should be made about Roy Morton’s performance as Joe. He vanished from films after this and yet he could have gone on to be a great heavy. I have not seen Blood of Ghastly Horror and wonder if there are added scenes of his performance in that film.

I have read Adamson hated making the films he made and if this is true I wonder why he made so many. He was supposed to be a kind man and easy going to work with on the set. I do not think he meant this film (or his others) to be taken too seriously. I am almost certain all of this is done tongue in cheek and considering the almost zero budgets he was given to work with by producer Sherman (who admits he is more to blame for Adamson’s films than Al himself) it is a wonder anything was produced at all. Really one of Adamson’s more watchable products. But then again, when you are talking about films like Satan Sadists and Horror of the Blood Monsters the competition is slim.

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