Del Tenney came this close to having an interesting career as a schlock autuer; as it is, these two movies, made one after the other in Stanford, Connecticut and released as a double feature, stand as his major legacy. It could certainly be worse - an unreleased, earlier (and fairly dismal) movie of his, entitled Voodoo Blood Bath but re-named I Eat Your Skin (for a double bill with I Drink Your Blood) has slipped into the public domain and is cropping up on low-budget discs everywhere. The movies presented here, however, give a better view of the man's abilities and possibilities.
Curse of the Living Corpse is a sturdy gothic thriller, complete with reading-of-the-will and family-full-of-scoundrels (one of whom is a very young Roy Scheider, obviously destined for great things, and a sadly wasted Candace Carnival of Souls Hilligoss ). A domineering patriarch threatens to return from the grave and wreak vengeance if his last wishes aren't met; they aren't, and he does. Well-made and 90% competently acted, Curse is also well-known as a proto-slasher movie, with dollops of gore and a surprising bit of skin. There is a fuller review at The Bad Movie Report.
Horror of Party Beach is a remarkably different creature - in all meanings of that tortured pun. A rather bald-faced attempt to cash in on the popularity of the AIP Beach Party movies, Horror cuts to the chase with radioactive waste illegally dumped off the titular beach resurrecting the corpses of shipwreck victims as irritable, fish-headed zombies. The black paint and chocolate syrup also run freely in this black-and-white opus, but the tenor is rather light and a little stupid, making it a more easily mockable and entertaining exercise.
Horror of Party Beach has appeared on video before, but in a trimmed TV form, cutting out the paint-and-chocolate gore. This appears to be the first official release of Curse, and both are happily uncut.
The film elements for both movies are in remarkably good shape (then, this has also been true of most copies seen on the "grey market"). Some juju left over from I Eat your Skin must be at work here, for these are not the sort of movies that are traditionally well-cared for. Past the occasional rough splice or damage, these movies are in beautiful shape, in a surprising anamorphic presentation.
The initial title menu for the disc may make moving through the extras a bit problematic for the true film student. Just as it was in the theaters, the higher ballyhoo factor of Horror of Party Beach insures top billing, but Curse was filmed first, and accordingly, that audio track with Del Tenney and Dark Sky Films' Sean Group was recorded first.
The audio commentary for Curse is fairly informative about the filmmaking process; Horror is less so, as Group seems more interested in making fun of the bargain basement creature costumes, and Tenney seems a bit tired of being asked about trivia forty years after the fact. As well, perhaps he should, as he asserts that the Warren fumetti magazine of Horror was done for the Internet (in 1964), and that at the time of filming, he was a big fan of Ed Wood, Jr.
The distribution of the other extras seem a bit odd on a single-sided disc, too: a 10 minute video interview with Tenney recapping his career is accessible only through Horror's menus, while Curse allows access to a photo gallery (mostly of publicity materials, and they are all honeys) and two trailers, one for each movie.
It's an almost perfect package, illuminating an - admittedly minor - bit of film history. Del Tenney may never get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but he has given me more than one evening's worth of entertainment. As such, it's nice to have these flicks in such fine form in my digital collection.
Dr. Freex, 4/26/2006