The Film: 3/5
Vinegar Syndrome has piled another pair of Z-grade exploitation cheapies onto one no-frills DVD, with the only standouts being the improved video quality for each feature.
First up is 1959’s Revenge of the Virgins, a mercifully-short (53 minutes) western birthed into existence by director Peter Perry Jr. from a script written by the one and only Ed Wood (under the pseudonym Pete La Roche). Previously paired up on DVD in a fine transfer from Something Weird Video with David F. Friedman’s The Ramrodder, Revenge focuses on a group of double-crossing gold prospectors who turn against each other violently while getting mowed down by a well-organized tribe of Indian women. Sounds like your average Poverty Row oater, doesn’t it? The big difference here is that these “Amazons of the West” (as they are dubbed by ultra-serious narrator, Kenne Duncan, a TV western vet who also played Dr. Acula in Wood’s Night of the Ghouls and a cop in The Sinister Urge from the same director) are not passive squaws but fierce warriors who do their fighting with their breasts exposed to the world and bouncing joyfully for all to enjoy.
Take away the bountiful bare bosoms and you would have a fine throwaway western suitable for television broadcast on a sleepy Saturday afternoon. There’s no sex and hardly any violence, unless you can’t bear the sight of people acting like they were shot with arrows affixed to their costumes before the cameras rolled. A few familiar faces from striptease loops - including Nona Carver, Pat O’Connell, and Jean Nieto (credited as Ramona Rogers) - portray the mostly silent topless Indians. No doubt director Perry did a fair amount of actress scouting at the local burlesque shows, but he rounded up some impressive eye candy. The ladies are lovely to look at, but their characters are non-existent, but Perry realizes that and so he deploys their ample talents whenever the slim narrative starts to plod. The old maxim that there is no cheaper visual effect than nudity is proven here.
The actual plot is indistinguishable from an episode of Gunsmoke or Bonanza, except the jiggling hooters we get thankfully don’t belong to Dan Blocker. Wood’s dialogue is pulpy and direct and the clothed actors deliver them with the right amount of conviction. Jodean Lawrence made her debut here and would go on to win supporting roles in Airport and Johnny Got His Gun and earn numerous guest spots on and soap operas and prime time TV dramas. Del Monroe would later be featured as Seaman Kowalski in Irwin Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and the television series it inspired as well as the original Walking Tall. Hugo Stanger became a valuable bit player in films like Vice Squad, Joysticks, Psycho III, and Beetlejuice, while Henry Darrow went on to have a long career in television on hit shows like The High Chaparral, Harry O, and playing the title role on the animated The New Adventures of Zorro. The rest of the cast wouldn’t go on to any more parts for the big or small screens, but they all perform their roles in Revenge of the Virgins adequately. Their workmanlike efforts are what low-budget westerns such as this demanded and received.
The bottom half of this bottom-of-the-barrel double bill is Teenage Zombies, a stagy and talkative slice of sci-fi swill from the infamous drive-in swill merchant Jerry Warren – the man responsible for such legendarily lousy schlock as Terror of the Bloodhunters and The Wild World of Batwoman – that was filmed in 1956 but not released theatrically until four years later. Long a public domain video staple, Warren’s third feature as director, doesn’t have many zombies, and what it does have couldn’t be considered teenaged. The plot, to use a generous application of the term, revolves around a gang of youthful squares right out of an Archie comic who decide to go out waterskiing on a beautiful sunny day and stumble across the island lair of mad scientist Dr. Myra (Katherine Victor, Warren’s longtime sultry leading lady of choice) and her dollar store-level assembly of freakish experiments, including hunchbacked second-in-command Ivan (Chuck Niles). Chief among these scientific mistakes is a murderous gorilla, or it could be a crazy man wearing a gorilla suit. Damn if I know for sure.
Jerry Warren couldn’t make a good movie if his life depended on it, which is all the more frustrating considering the man often had exploitable elements in his contributions to film history. Teenage Zombies is one of his better movies because it benefits from a short running time (71 minutes, though it could have been shorter without complaints from anyone) and performances from an undertalented but game for anything cast that muster up a satisfactory amount of golly gee whiz enthusiasm to make the enterprise tolerable. Nothing makes a lick of sense, but the exuberance and sheer goofiness makes you feel better about giving your brain a break in order to enjoy this steaming shit show. That’s all I have to say about the time-passing mess that is Teenage Zombies and the career of Jerry Warren in general.
Vinegar Syndrome has restored both movies in 2K resolution from their original 35mm camera negatives and presented each in their intended 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The results are far from superb due to the condition of the elements used for the high-definition transfers, but this is likely the best these flicks will ever look on home video. Brightness levels are strong, grain is present but not overpowering, and print damage is modest. V.S. supplies the movies with undemanding mono audio tracks that do their best to make sure the campy dialogue is audible and the hastily-assembled library music scores don’t fade too much into the background. Scratches and pops appear from time to time, but they are minor and never detract from otherwise solid mixes. No subtitles have been provided.
There are no extra features.
If you’re looking for a double feature match-up of barely decent exploitation flicks with excellent new transfers sourced from their original camera negatives, you could do worse than this DVD pairing of Revenge of the Virgins and Teenage Zombies. Kudos to Vinegar Syndrome for giving these unloved Z-movies a little extra deserved respect with regard to their visual presentation.