Thursday, February 6, 2014

Taking "A Little Off the Top" To A Whole New Meaning...

Six California college students prep for an archeology dig in the desert near their school and completely fail to notice that their professors are Superman (Kirk Alyn), Lugosi’s buddy from Mark of the Vampire (Carroll Borland) or the editor of Famous Monsters magazine (Forrest J. Ackerman), That last one is particularly perplexing as Ackerman even carries his magazine and some monster books around. Nonetheless, the students - despite warnings from Professor Borland and a standard issue town drunk horror movie doom crier - quickly leave the veteran actors back at school and head out to the sandy dunes to start the dig. Unfortunately for them, Borland and the lush were right –  the kids quickly run afoul of a Native American spirit named Black Claw who proceeds to possess one of them and wipe out the rest using Native American weaponry. Who will survive and what will be left of them?

After working on Shock Waves in Florida in 1977, then making his own features The Brain Leeches (never released) and The Alien Dead, Fred Olen Ray made the move to California and teamed with author T.L. Lankford to conceive the story for this movie – which Ray then expanded into a screenplay. Lankford produced, and Ray directed – and they made the movie on property belonging to a very accommodating wealthy family, using their house power for their lighting package, for example. After the movie was completed it had a brief theatrical release in 1983 by 21st Century Film Corporation, who re-edited the film against Ray’s and Lankford’s wishes. The film company moved shots and scenes around, and utilized test footage of a lion man that had been deemed mostly unusable by Ray and Lankford – sticking the lion man in at seemingly random moments in the movie. Much more effective is the possessed guy's new monster mug leering out of the darkness...

Brown eyed handsome man...

Despite the editorial chicanery – the movie is still a fun low budget scarepic from the period. The acting is only fair, and the re-editing does not help the movie’s pace, but there’s a good feeling of creepiness and dread, and the gore scenes (restored to the DVD after numerous cuts over the years) are pretty strong, especially considering the budget. As entertaining as I find the film – and I do quite like it – the whole magilla took on a whole new aspect when I listened to the DVD commentary by Ray and Lankford – a truly informative and entertaining listen with tons of information about every aspect of the movie from pre-production all the way to the steps taken to provide the most complete version of the movie possible by taking pieces snipped out of some source materials from other, sometimes lesser sources, like VHS tapes. I normally don’t even mention DVD/Blu-Ray special features in these reviews – but in this case I think this commentary is absolutely essential if you have any interest in low budget horror movies like this one. All others need not apply.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

At about 46:47 Richard Hench is suspicious of campfires that explode.

Eye Candy ?

The girls are certainly cute - but they are not dressed or showcased here to make the list. Sorry ladies.

Buddha Man Sez:

"Honest Injun, Scalps is a pretty good movie. Add in the
commentary and it's even better!"

Thank you Mr. Man. Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. I've been wanting to see this one for a while... good to know that it will be at least SOMEWHAT worth the wait :)

    Nice review.

    1. Thanks, Kev! Hope you get the chance to see it soon!

  2. I love bad movies but I'm not a fan of low budget horror. But, if I were, this looks like a safe bet.