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July 24, 2011

Movie Review: Night of Bloody Horror (1969)

By Greg Goodsell

Directed by Joy N. Houck, Jr.

Before he became a television favorite, actor Gerald McRaney of "Major Dad" fame paid his dues by appearing in a bunch of cut-rate horror flicks for his good buddy director Joy N. Houck, Jr. Night of Bloody Horror is one of their most well known collaborations, a psycho-gore fest with yucks of both the gross-out and humorous variety.

Buy Night of Bloody Horror on DVD

McRaney plays Wesley Stuart, a conflicted young man still living at home in New Orleans with his overbearing, snaggle-toothed mom. We first see him in bed with his fiancee, a shapely blonde. He gets up and walks away, troubled and distracted for some vague reason. Must be those psychedelic patterns they superimpose over his face in the manner of those anti-LSD classroom films. Wesley's fiancee goes to church to confess her sins of the flesh, whereupon the mysterious, gruff-voiced "priest" gouges her out eye with a knitting needle through the screen! Drowning his sorrows in a gay bar, Wesley is beaten up and tossed out on to the street, where a passing nurse takes him to tend to his injuries. Wesley and the beehived nurse have a whirlwind courtship suggested with a penny-ante collage, but during a romantic beachside rendezvous, he becomes defensive when she asks too many questions about his dysfunctional family. Wandering off, an unseen assailant plants an axe between the nurses' hooters!

Questioned by the police, Wesley's sexuality is called into question. "Are you a fag? Are you a fruit?" one detective taunts him. Wesley's orientation is anyone's guess -- one nightmare sequence has him being seduced by a lovely brunette only to metamorphisize into his smiling, hideous mom! GROSS! A pretty female journalist offers to share Wesley's side of the story with her readers, and tells him to meet her at a nightclub later that evening. Bad move, as it's unsuited for interview purposes -- it's a swinging go-go joint with flashing lights and acid rock from a group called The Bored! Wesley gets into yet another fight as the people in the nightclub frug the night away, undeterred. Released in the custody of his family doctor, Wesley and the doc return to the family manse to meet mother -- secrets are revealed, hands are lopped off, dead bodies fall out the woodwork -- and Wesley passionately makes love to the reporter, who abruptly in mid-clench says "I want some coffee," and walks away to pour a cup.

Night of Bloody Horror is little more than a no-budget version of Psycho (1960) where the mother really is the killer, but there's still plenty of fun to be had. Director Houck overreaches himself repeatedly with shots that call attention to themselves -- dolly shots, collages, trick editing and chintzy opticals abound. None of it conceals the meager resources that were at hand, but it's a fairly fun cheap date if approached with the right attitude.

McRaney and Houck would work together on Women and Bloody Terror (1970) and The Brain Machine (1978) before McRaney headed out to Hollywood to become a staple on American TV. Houck would try his luck as an actor as well. Whatever the case, their early work has crept into the digital age for an audience in search of amiable cheap thrills. All in all, another winner from Cheezy Flicks.

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