Believe it or not, this cloying stretch of celluloid is, in many ways, a most important document. While hardly an intrinsic watershed, it marks a very definite progression in the history of the cult film. It is Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow that, more than any other film, bridges the cultural gap that once yawned between the J.D., hot rod flick of the 50s, and the foam-flecked dreck of the beach-blanket genre that drenched the drive-ins of the 60s

1958 had seen the release of AIP's schlock-teen caper Hot Rod Gang, a film that presented rockabilly legend Gene Vincent in his only speaking role. The flick contained its share of cringe-inducing slapstick moments, but cool cars and the twang of Gene's Blue Caps dominated the proceedings. Someone evidently thought the film successful enough to warrant a sequel, yet determined that, with the delinquent film trend winding down, said sequel should be executed with minimum effort. That's just what director William J. Hole Jr. delivered.

This time around, no Gene Vincent, fewer fast cars and lots more comedy. Really bad comedy. Veteran Lou Rusoff's screenplay is pocked with low-water marks, kiddie comedy that even sycophants of Soupy Sales wouldn't find amusing in the least. It contains the prerequisite pajama party, attended by thirty-something teens who laugh uproariously when a TV western is run backward. Their giggling and tinny hi-fi make dad grumpy. Stop, you're killin' me. The bulk of the plot is driven by the kids' dream of converting an ostensibly haunted house into their new hangout. Time and again, they're frightened off by a series of unexplained supernatural phenomenon.

Character actor Russ Bender, who, the previous year, had scripted Ed Cahn's campy Voodoo Woman, returns from Hot Rod Gang in his patented sympathetic adult portrayal. Quirky Jody Fair, a nominal 'teen' starlet, reprises her Hot Rod role, as does 'TV' Tommy Ivo who, this time around, takes up residence low on the cast list. Ivo, a real-life drag driver, was a youthful veteran of many films. He appeared regularly on the Donna Reed Show and popped up in supporting parts on a number of programs including Leave it to Beaver.

Sadly, in lieu of Vincent's brand of redneck rock, we're subjected to a reverb-reliant, thud-rock clubhouse combo. Paving the way for all those button-down frat bands that blanketed the 60s, these crazy teens pluck quasi-comic instrumentals, like 'Geronimo' and 'Charge', which are repeated without justification throughout the film. Near the movie's conclusion, AIP's 40ish musical director Jimmie Madden steps on screen to a hero's welcome, regaling the twisting teens with his latest "smash," 'Tongue Tied'. A passable singer, Madden provided the 'Dead Man's Curve'-like theme, 'Leadfoot', for the same year's Road Racers.

The film's crowning indignity is heaped upon makeup maven Paul Blaisdell. Exposed in the film's final reel as the human protagonist responsible for all the fearsome hijinks, it is revealed, most prophetically, that he is a down-and-out actor who once specialized in monster roles. None of the studios, AIP in particular, want him. In theory, proving he could terrify a passel of addlewitted kids would propel him once more into the spotlight. Blaisdell recycled his gallery of props from previous films, most notably his She Creature ensemble, which had seen service in at least four flicks. Unmasked at film's end, Blaisdell describes his plight in a pathetically squeaking voice, only to be upstaged by a 'real' spirit who had resided in the haunted hideout all along.

Having contributed the moneymaking menace to their most important films (Invasion of the Saucer Men, She Creature, Day the World Ended, It Conquered the World, etc.), Blaisdell never worked for AIP again. He turned to publishing a series of short-lived magazines celebrating the movie monsters he loved and gave life to. Embittered by the B-film colony's treatment of him and his wife, who had partnered with him in the creation of his most fondly remembered creatures, he retired to seclusion.

The encroaching decade saw the advent of a cleaned-up, fun-loving breed. Dreaming only of summer and surf, they featured prominently in grating fluff like Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo. Clearly, AIP saw sun and sand as their financial salvation. Monsters were out. Annette and Frankie were in. Blaisdell died of cancer in 1983. The capsules below shed light on a pair of his lesser-known efforts:

Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1956)
The Milner brothers, producers of this fun but frayed-at-the-cuffs flick, were responsible for the film that showcased one of Blaisdell's best-known but artistically dubious creations, the walking tree of From Hell It Came (see last edition). The titular Phantom is unmemorable in all regards, however, a murkily viewed aquatic mutant of little palpable fright value.

Acting: B-
Atmosphere: C+
Fun: B

Beast With 1,000,000 Eyes (1956)
The Corman/Blaisdell teaming commenced with this outing when Forry Ackerman responded to Corman's request that he recommend an effects man. Sci fi illustrator Paul Blaisdell was a client of Ackerman's who took on the task of giving life to the million-eyed menace. He produced an 18-inch puppet dubbed Herky (Hercules) who, in the final cut, saw limited screen time. This seedy-looking, leadenly-paced quagmire is made tolerable only by Herky and the sonorous timbre of Paul Birch's acting.

Acting: B-
Atmosphere: D
Fun: C-

"Their motive - greed! Their method - murder!"
Female Fiends

"What happens to women without men?"
Girls in Prison

"To caress me is to tempt death!"
Cat Girl

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