Four cheesy '50s horror films on video -- Reviews of ''Earth vs. the Spider,'' ''I Was a Teenage Frankenstein,'' ''How To Make a Monster,'' and ''Blood of Dracula''

Blood of Dracula

Four cheesy ’50s horror films on video

The most successful maverick independent studio in Hollywood back in the ’50s and ’60s, American International Pictures ground out hundreds of films on impossibly low budgets, using an exploitation formula — sex, horror, and rock & roll — that the major studios looked down their noses at but eventually appropriated whole. In fact, when you get down to it, Terminator 2 and Total Recall are simply AIP flicks on steroids.

This new batch of vintage AIP titles on videocassette, in sensationally sharp prints, should be catnip for anybody who has ever fallen asleep watching late-night horror movies on television. All four movies — Earth vs. the Spider, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, How To Make a Monster, and Blood of Dracula — are filled with tacky rock & roll (usually sung by John Ashley, the studio’s in-house faux Elvis), familiar character actors chewing the scenery (Malcolm Atterbury, Morris Ankrum), unconvincing monsters (the rear-projected tarantula in Earth vs. the Spider), plus hordes of misunderstood teenage characters and tons of truly wacky dialogue (from Teenage Frankenstein: ”Answer me! You have a civil tongue in your head! I know — I sewed it in there!” Screenwriting doesn’t get any more inspired than that).

Of course, none of these films is a true genre classic (translation: Roger Corman didn’t direct any of them), but as period pieces from a far more innocent period, they’re uniformly entertaining junk — especially How to Make a Monster, which has the added historical virtue of taking place on the actual, now demolished AIP lot.
All four: B

Blood of Dracula
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