Horror of Party Beach and(Dark Sky Films, 3.28.2006)
Curse of the Living Corpse
This double feature should have been called "The Man Who Could Have Been Corman." In 1964 Del Tenney unleashed his dual directorial efforts on the drive-ins of America thanks to a distribution deal with Fox. In these films, he nailed three genres that AIP specialized in: beach party, creature attack, and Poe horror. And these double bill films proved to be a summer success.
Horror of Party Beach is one I remember from seeing on TV. It's a simple story of boy and girl at the beach. At the same time, radioactive goop is dumped offshore and meets bones. This leads to the creation of aquatic monsters that look like the Mardis Gras version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon with his mouth stuffed full of Nathan's hot dogs. And then that monster meets the girl and the terror begins.
Since the film is in black-and-white, it feels more horror than beach party. It's hard to figure out how much tan the kids have when they're all grey. Of course, the lack of hues helped since the film was shot in Stamford, Connecticut. In order to keep the kids warm on the sand, the Del-Aires (New Jersey's answer to the Beach Boys) jam throughout the carnage. The horror angle plays well, the actors look scared, and the guys in the rubber suits come off as creepy, while they pursue victims in the dark.
When this film played the theaters, patrons had to sign a "Fright Release" to "release the theatre of all responsibility for death by fright." They should hand out the same release at Benchwarmers (except that would be death by shame). While a majority of Party Beach's cast were one timers, you'll notice a familiar face in The Curse of the Living Corpse. It's Oscar-nominated actor Roy Scheider in his first cinematic role. It's easy to see how he would develop into the actor who would star in the last great drive-in feature, Jaws.
Curse is a Poe influenced haunted thriller about the Sinclair family being threatened from beyond the grave by their dead patriarch when they don't follow his dying wishes. The guy had the Poe fear of being buried alive. He has elaborate plans on how they need to watch his casket to make sure he isn't just sleeping. Of course, no one in the family cares about hanging out with a stiff. And that's when his body rises from the coffin to straighten out his worthless kids.
This film has a great take on the Psycho shower scene with an actress being strangled in a tub. The editor does an amazing job of splicing just at the right time so the audience can see the sides of her breasts before there's a nipple on the screen. This near nudity probably lured teenagers back for a second screening with the thought that they'd see the nipple if they paid closer attention. The mystery of the killing spree doesn't require the same attention to detail.
The biggest mystery is that of Del Tenney. These two films made a fortune for Fox, yet after this success, Tenney only directed Zombies (that same year). Zombies didn't see the light of day until six years later when it was bought and renamed I Eat Your Skin so it could be double featured with I Drink Your Blood. Did this experience kill his desire to become the next Corman? Unfortunately in the bonus video interview, Tenney doesn't explain why he didn't hook up with AIP. Judging from the first few minutes of his commentary tracks, he doesn't want to say too much.
Tenney did return to directing in 2003 with Descendant starring Jeremy London (Mallrats) and William Katt (The Greatest American Hero). Where were the critics heralding his return after 39 years? They cared about Terrence Malick's 20 years between features. Where's the welcome back to Del? At least with these great transfers people can remember the summer of '64 when Tenney played both ends of a double header. -- Joe Corey