BLOOD AND FLESH: THE REEL LIFE AND GHASTLY DEATH OF AL ADAMSON / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: DAVID GREGORY / STARRING: AL ADAMSON, STEVEE ASHLOCK, FRED OLEN RAY, SAMUEL SHERMAN / RELEASE DATE: TBC
We’ve become used to seeing documentaries celebrating low- and no-budget filmmakers from the past, some with more merit than others. David Gregory’s look at the shoestring auteur Al Adamson follows the usual formula, but as the subject has more legs than you’d expect due his unfortunate demise.
Adamson’s films may not have been to everyone’s taste; modern audiences would probably struggle to sit through one of them. But through archive footage of the man himself and insightful comments from those who knew and worked with him, it’s hard not to get a little fondness for the threadbare kookiness of them. The first part of the documentary focuses on this aspect of his life, while allowing us to get to know more about his upbringing and passions. The rehashing of his material to release as new movies was a genius move that he must be applauded for - even if the new versions didn’t make them any better. With titles such as Blood of Ghastly Horror and Dracula vs Frankenstein, you just know what kind of Z-grade movie you’re going to get.
It’s the more sombre final act that has the audience mesmerised, however. Stepping away from movies, Al and his wife took in a handyman to help redevelop his house. It’s this man - Fred Fulford - who would cruelly snuff Adamson’s life out. It’s a massive testament to the team behind Blood and Flesh that this element works so perfectly and is genuinely upsetting without being overly lurid. Producer Heather Buckley turned super sleuth and managed to track down many of those who knew Al at this time, and even secured an audio interview with Fulford, who naturally denies any involvement in the murder of his so-called friend. This is despite the fact his remains were found under the concrete of the hot tub he was tasked with working on.
As a document of a cult filmmaker who was never really admired in his own lifetime, it’s perfect. For every laugh that a creaky old clip generates, there’s a heart-warming anecdote from one of the talking heads - even if some of those participating are brutally honest in their opinions. While his work may not even be held in high esteem with the ‘so bad it’s good’ fans, the story of his life and sad death is worthy of anyone’s attention.