Hunter S. Thompson liked to say “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” And monstrous times call for monstrous measures. As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the movie industry, forcing major indoor theater chains to close and new movies to be released in miniature through streaming, the classic B-Movie film Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) will be seen on the big screens.
Veteran producer and B-movie showman, Sam Sherman, will take his newly restored reissue of the Independent-International Pictures library of B-Movie drive-in films on a retro roadshow. The camp classics tour will be screened across the nation on drive-in big screens. The road show kicks off on May 26 at the Circle Drive-In Theatre in Dickson city, Pennsylvania with a screening of the Al Adamson cult classic, Dracula vs. Frankenstein.
Sherman, who is currently finishing up his memoir, When Dracula Met Frankenstein, handpicked one of the studio’s most iconic films for the nationwide roadshow. Dracula vs. Frankenstein is a cult monster and its director has been called “the Ed Wood of the ‘60s.” Adamson, who was Sherman’s production partner and friend, was killed in 1995 in a murder so bizarre it is the subject of the newly released documentary, Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson.
Dracula and the Frankenstein monster both lived through times of community crises, being chased from town to town with torches while children strung garlic. This is a time of National Emergency, people are being advised to stay at home. How can the public keep a safe distance from potential germ-laden crowds? Well, drive-in theaters are coming to the rescue.
“Did you know that drive-in movie theaters helped get us through one of our major health crises of the 20th century?” Sherman said. “Back in the 1960s, the administration of the polio vaccine took place nationwide at various drive-ins across the country. Perhaps there is a reason for us to turn back to the drive-in to provide some escape and comfort in these worrisome times.”
To make that a reality, Sherman called in veteran drive-in theatrical distributor Mel Maron, former AMC programmer and current principal at Drive-In-Sanity Films, David Sehring, drive-in promoter and movie reviewer, George Reis, and David Gregory of Severin Films, who handled the restoration efforts on library titles to celebrate the “Great American Drive-In.”
“Take a trip back in time to a Drive-In Movie Theatre where you can see movies the way they were meant to be seen … on the Big Screen … all in the safety and comfort of your car,” the press statement promises.
Sherman is President of Independent-International Pictures, and describes himself as the P.T. Barnum of Drive-In movies. He is a spiritual descendant of William Castle, as played by John Goodman in the 1993 comedy Matinee. He was the guy who put electric tinglers under random seats during a showing of The Tingler. Sherman created classic gimmicks like “The Oath of Green Blood,” which urged audiences at the beginning of the film The Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968) to recite an on-screen pledge and drink a green fluid to keep the monsters in the movie away during the showing of the picture.
Sherman will provide theater owners with gimmicks, gags, throwback nostalgia, and limited edition souvenirs, plus “Special Guest Appearances” and raffles.
“As an exploitation pioneer, I know how to recapture the magic and campy fun that my films brought to drive-ins during their heyday with good old-fashioned ballyhoo and showmanship … something that has been missing for years in the film business,” Sherman said. “I think kids and their folks will get a big kick out of seeing something you rarely see today.”
Later this Fall, George Reis, who produces the semi-annual Super Monsterama Show at The Riverside Drive-In in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, will project Sherman’s Hemisphere Horror films onto their big screen, including the popular Blood Island franchise of the 1960s. More special promotions and participating drive-ins will be announced in the coming months as the drive-in season gets into full swing on the east coast.
Drive-in theaters are a mere shadow of what they were at their heyday in the ‘50s and ‘60s. “The drive-ins made lots of money with my movies, including those owned by Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements,” Sherman said. “My films have become cult classics… all thanks to the Drive-In and a community of fans all over the world.”
There are only about 305 drive-in movie theaters left in the U.S., most are family owned. But the desire for more has led to pop up drive-ins in vacant parking lots. Sherman knows why people want to see movies on the big screen. “It’s Bigger. Better. Safer. Seeing movies at the drive-in is a classic moviegoing experience and great American pastime. It cannot be duplicated indoors or at home on smaller screen TVs or mobile devices.”
The film library includes the popular Tiki-themed Hemisphere Monster Movies (The Blood Island franchise) and the Al Adamson “Cult Classic” collection. The latter includes horror, science fiction, martial arts, motorcycle, urban, and other genre favorites. These include Dynamite Brothers, Satan’s Sadists, and Brain of Blood.
Dracula vs. Frankenstein will screen at The Circle Drive-In on May 26.