Al Adamson

Albert Victor Adamson Jr. (July 25, 1929 – June 21, 1995) was an American filmmaker and actor known as a prolific director of B-grade horror and exploitation films throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Al Adamson
Born
Albert Victor Adamson Jr.

(1929-07-25)July 25, 1929
DiedJune 21, 1995(1995-06-21) (aged 65)
OccupationFilm director, producer, screenwriter, actor,
Years active1965–1983
Spouse(s)
Regina Carrol
(m. 1972; died 1992)
FamilyVictor Adamson (father)

The son of silent film stars Denver Dixon and Dolores Booth, Adamson began his career in the film industry at a young age and began directing in the early 1960s, in total helming 33 feature films.[1][2] Many of his films, such as Psycho A-Go-Go, Blood of Ghastly Horror, and Dracula vs. Frankenstein, went on to gain cult status.[3]

After marrying his long-time star Regina Carrol, Adamson retired from filmmaking to pursue a career in real estate. In 1995, Adamson was murdered by a live-in contractor whom he had hired to work on his house, and subsequently buried beneath his floor.[3][4] His death and subsequent trial led to renewed publicity, and was the subject of several true crime television documentaries.[5]

Early life

Albert Victor Adamson Jr. was born in Hollywood, California. His father was silent film star and producer Denver Dixon (real name: Albert Victor Adamson) and his mother actress Dolores Booth. Adamson was involved in the film industry from an early age, appearing in the 1935 film Desert Mesa, directed by his father.

Film career

After assisting his father in making the 1961 western Halfway to Hell, where he served as an uncredited co-director,[6] Adamson decided to work in the motion picture industry himself full-time. His father introduced him to a young aspiring film distributor named Sam Sherman in September 1962, and they worked together on film projects during the 1960s. In 1969, Adamson and Sherman founded Independent-International Pictures (in partnership with Dan Kennis),[2] which became the distributor for the many movies he directed, such as Blood of Ghastly Horror, Satan's Sadists and Dracula vs. Frankenstein.

Adamson and Sherman were early collaborators of cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond and László Kovács, who would later find widespread mainstream success and acclaim as figureheads of the New Hollywood film movement.[7][8] Adamson and Sherman hired Zsigmond, whom they nicknamed "Ziggy", because the young filmmaker owned his own equipment, including an 35mm Arriflex film camera and a Techniscope lens, which he carried around in a van.[9] Zsigmond had an arrangement with his close friend Kovács where the two would recommend each other to directors, both claiming the other was the superior cinematographer. Their collaboration continued until 1971, when Zsigmond was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography for Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller.[7]

Denver Dixon also introduced Sam Sherman to producer Irwin Pizor, and Pizor, in turn, introduced Sherman to Kane W. Lynn and Eddie Romero of Hemisphere Pictures, and working together over the years, they all achieved successful careers in film production and distribution.[6] Al Adamson developed a repertory company as the years rolled on, with a lot of the same actors turning up repeatedly in his films, such as Scott Brady, Kent Taylor, Robert Dix, John Cardos, Gary Kent, John Carradine, and Russ Tamblyn, among others.[1]

When a friend in the business sold Sherman the rights to an unfinished Filipino horror movie, he let Adamson shoot additional footage which was inserted into the film and starred Robert Dix, Vicki Volante, and John Carradine to pad out the running time. The film was retitled Horror of the Blood Monsters, and noted comic book artist Neal Adams designed a lurid poster for it, which helped sell the film to drive-ins. Since the original film was in black-and-white, Adamson had the whole film tinted in various colors and advertised the film as being made in a new process called Spectrum X.[10] Sherman also hired artist Gray Morrow to design a number of their horror film posters, all of which were very graphic and "over the top".[10]

Adamson even created a western-horror hybrid film with his Five Bloody Graves (1969), which starred Robert Dix, John Carradine and Scott Brady, and inserted a number of ultra-violent scenes (savage Indian attacks, rapes, shootings and torture) into what would have just been a mediocre western, and even included narration scenes, with actor Gene Raymond playing "Death".[11] Adamson even filmed some of his movies at the Spahn Ranch in California (the adopted home of the notorious Charles Manson cult) such as The Female Bunch (1969) and Angels' Wild Women (1972).[11]

Later career

In 1975, with the biker film genre fizzling out, Sam Sherman talked Adamson into directing some softcore porn films to cash in on the then-popular stewardess film craze, The Naughty Stewardesses, followed by Blazing Stewardesses the same year. They hired old-time western stars Bob Livingston and Don "Red" Barry to star. Material was written for the Three Stooges, but they had to pass due to poor health.[12] Adamson considered their 1974 film Girls For Rent (a.k.a. I Spit on Your Corpse) a low point in their association, featuring porn actress Georgina Spelvin raping, and then killing, a mentally disabled man in one scene. Jessie's Girls was Adamson's take on the then-successful Raquel Welch film Hannie Caulder.[13] His last major film was the 1978 film Nurse Sherri, a horror film about a nurse who is possessed by the ghost of a woman who died during a surgical procedure, and is driven to avenge the dead woman by killing all of the doctors who were involved in her death.[14]

Adamson largely retired from filmmaking in the early 1980s, with he and his wife focusing on a career in real estate. Adamson continued to write scripts however, including one whose premise involved a man being murdered and buried beneath his own house over a financial dispute. This very scenario would be eerily reflected in his own death years later.

Personal life

Al Adamson's wife, the actress Regina Carrol, performed in many of his films.[15] She met him in 1969 when he was casting Satan's Sadists, in which she starred, and they were married in 1972.[16] Adamson said Regina was a waitress in a cafe at which he was having lunch, and hearing he was a movie director, she spilled a cup of coffee in his lap to get his attention.[1] She died in 1992 from cancer at age 49.[16] Adamson had spent several years trying desperately to save her from the disease, to no avail. He himself was murdered three years after his wife died.[2]

Murder

Al Adamson was reported missing in 1995.[15] Five weeks later, after law enforcement officials discovered his remains beneath the concrete and tile-covered floor where his hot tub once sat at his home in Indio, California, his live-in contractor Fred Fulford was arrested at the Coral Reef Hotel in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Adamson had hired Fulford to repair his house, which he intended to flip. He had given Fulford a credit card to use to purchase supplies, which Fulford quickly overspent and abused. Adamson had several confrontations with Fulford, the last of which ended violently in his death. Fulford subsequently buried his body in his hot tub and covered in concrete and tile. Adamson's housekeeper quickly became suspicious over his disappearance and the cover-up of the hot tub, which led investigators to Fulford and the uncovering.

Fulford was charged with and convicted of murder, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.[4][17][18] Regular Adamson actor and stuntman Gary Kent testified in the trial as the last person to speak to the director prior to the murder.[19] The case of Al Adamson's murder is documented in the Investigation Discovery television series' Forensic Detectives (ep. "Buried Secrets"), The New Detectives (season 07, episode 11), and A Stranger In My Home (season 02, episode 06, "Death's Final Cut").

Filmography

References

  1. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 91
  2. Sherman, Sam (2001). Blood of Ghastly Horror (DVD liner notes). Troma Entertainment. #9026.
  3. "Horror Film Director Found Slain, Buried Under Floor". Los Angeles Times. 1995-08-08. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  4. "Charge in Director's Death". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1995-08-13. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  5. McPadden, Mike. "Murder of Horror Director Al Adamson". The Line Up.
  6. Ray, Fred Olen (1991). The New Poverty Row. McFarland and Co. Inc. ISBN 0-89950-628-3. Page 105
  7. Kenny, Glenn. ""Al and I called him 'Ziggy'": Producer Sam Sherman Remembers The Early Days Of Vilmos Zsigmond | Balder and Dash | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  8. AntBit (2019-07-23). "Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson (2019) at Fantasia 2019". Projected Figures. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  9. "Understanding the Cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond". Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  10. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 93
  11. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 96
  12. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 99
  13. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 100
  14. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 102
  15. Glionna, John M. (2011-03-16). "Horror Film Director Found Slain, Buried Under Floor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  16. Staff writers (1992-11-12). "Regina Carrol Is Dead; Horror Film Star, 49". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  17. "4-year-old murder case to go to trial next week". The Desert Sun. ProQuest Archiver. 1999-10-02. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  18. "Murdered B-movie director subject of book". Asbury Park Press. ProQuest Archiver. 1999-02-07. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  19. Gary Kent (2011-03-03). The Murder of Al Adamson (YouTube). Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  20. Ray, Fred Olen (1991). The New Poverty Row. McFarland and Co. Inc. ISBN 0-89950-628-3. Page 66
  21. Weldon, Michael (1983). The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-34345-X. Page 72
  22. O'Neill, James (1994). Terror on Tape. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7612-1. Page 39
  23. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 103
  24. Weldon, Michael (1983). The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-34345-X. Page 73
  25. Weldon, Michael (1983). The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-34345-X. Page 235
  26. Weldon, Michael (1983). The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-34345-X. Page 241
  27. Weldon, Michael (1983). The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-34345-X. Page 85
  28. O'Neill, James (1994). Terror on Tape. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7612-1. Page 49
  29. McCarty, John (1995). The Sleaze Merchants. St. Martin's Griffin Press. ISBN 0-312-11893-7. Page 98

Further reading

  • Quinlan's Film Directors (Sterling, 1999) ISBN 0-7134-7753-9
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