“Night of Bloody Horror”: Take the supreme voyage into the realistic realm of sheer terror

By on June 19, 2017

Night of Bloody Horror — now streaming over on Night Flight Plus in our Horror film category — stars veteran actor Gerard McRaney in his first film role as a disturbed young man haunted by a string of gory murders and plagued by migraine headaches with psychedelic blue rectangle shapes.

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This slice of drive-in sleaze’s marketing campaign was one of the best thing about this murky, low-budget curiosity from 1969, promoted to moviegoers that if any of their family members died while watching the film they were insured for one thousand dollars against “death by fright.”

No idea if that $1000 guarantee in compensation was ever paid out by the film company, though, but we’re doubtful.

The film’s tagline (one of many) — “Keep telling yourself, It’s only a picture, only a picture…” — seems like one we’ve seen quite a few times before, and although the movie isn’t really all that scary and/or gory (it might have been in 1969, though, pre-Manson), it’s worth a look.

We think the original commercial trailer — for airing on TV — was pretty smart to not show any actual scenes from the movie. It carried a strongly-worded warning that the producers of the movie recommended that the movie was for mature audiences only, “for those who can take the supreme voyage into the realistic realm of sheer terror, the terror of beautiful women who meet sudden brutal horror at the hands of a blood psycho gone berserk.”

Actor Gerard McRaney was born on August 19, 1947, and so he would have been twenty-one or -two years old when he worked on Night of Bloody Horror, his first film.

He’s almost unrecognizable here, although you’ll probably recognize him from this more recent photo, from when he appeared on HBO’s “Deadwood,” one of our favorite TV shows eveer.

On “Deadwood,” McRaney was cast as George Hearst, who, in real life, was the semi-literate asshole-ish wild west mining titan and father of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.

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Over the years McRaney has appeared on probably hundreds of other TV shows, including “Longmire,” “House of Cards” and many, many more in just the past few years.

Older fans might recognize him from some of the dozens of vintage TV shows he appeared on in the ’70s and ’80s too, including “Simon & Simon” (1981) which aired on CBS for eight seasons, and he also starred in and produced “Major Dad” (1989), playing “Major John D. MacGillis” (it aired for four seasons on CBS).

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In Night of Bloody Horror, McRaney plays a disturbed young man named Wesley Stuart, from a wealthy New Orleans family, who we learn later accidentally shot his brother Johnathan to death when he was a kid.

It turns out their dad also died under violent circumstances, and its also suggested that these may have been cases of accidental fratricide and paternal suicide.

Wesley Stuart has spent the last thirteen years in a mental asylum, and just been released. He now lives with his strange mother, Agatha (Evelyn Hendricks).

We learn early on that Stuart occasionally has mental breakdowns and screaming fits whenever he thinks about the deaths of his brother and father, and he sees weird blue rectangle shapes spiraling in front of his eyes right before he blacks out (love the kitschy late ’60s visual effects!).

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Stuart’s own fiancée, Susan (Lisa Dameron), ends up going to confession after a night of fornication fun, admitting to the priest she’s committed “sins of the flesh.” “Your penance is death!” says the priest before sticking a knitting needle in her eyeball.

Stuart then goes on a year-long drinking binge and he’s still mourning the loss of his dead girlfriend when he ends up getting into a bar fight and getting the holy crap kicked out of him.

He’s lying bleeding in the street when a nurse named Kay Jensen (Gaye Yellen) happens by. She scrapes him up off the street and takes him back to her place and nurses him back to health. Later, they fall in love, of course, and get engaged.

Then, one night he gets those spinning blue rectangle visions again, and blacks out. This time, when he comes to, he discovers that his latest girlfriend’s body lying nearby, with a hatchet sticking out of her chest.

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They’d been at the beach, by the way, and there’s a wonderful little segue from her red blood, seeping into the sand, which then cuts to a close-up on a bowl of tomato soup sitting on a doctor’s table. Nice.

The cops get pretty sick of the dead bodies piling up and try to lock Stuart up again because, hey, the dude’s a menace to society, especially his girlfriends. He’s held by police as their prime suspect.

His mother Agatha, meanwhile, sends for Dr. Bennett Moss, her son’s psychiatrist during his long confinement in the loony bin.

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Stuart, released on bond, ends up meeting a reporter named Angelle, and he takes her to a nightclub, but a drunk dude recognizes him and confronts him. Stuart beats the man up, and he’s sent back to jail, but then Dr. Moss arrives to take custody of his former mental patient.

That first night, after he’s sprung from the hoosegow, Stuart has a nightmare about Angelle, and he awakens in a cold sweat. When Dr. Moss tries to find out where his patient has disappeared to, the poor doc also ends up meeting his own violent end via a very sharp meat cleaver.

We’ll let you watch the rest to figure out how the story ends (sorry for all the spoilers!).

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Night of Bloody Horror — which features a little bit of slightly NSFW, semi-explicit lovemaking, axe-wielding mayhem and murder, and a few quarts of crimson-color blood-letting — was promoted as being filmed in “Violent Vision,” whatever that heck that is.

It seems like the producers felt that the psychedelic blue spiraling rectangular shapes, which were used to indicate Wes’ state of mind, were just trippy enough to entertain stoned late ’60s audiences who loved seeing colorful LSD-like effects up on the screen (some were probably even dropping acid themselves).

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This film actually has quite a few swirling and psychedelic lighting effects.

Especially notable is a colorfully solarized psychedelicized scene in which a local New Orleans band with fuzzed-out bass and an overdriven organ called The Bored appear at a club, where someone on the dancefloor is wearing a red plaid outfit that made us feel kinda dizzy.

There’s also some of the kinds of wacky racked-focus camera moves you typically see in these types of low-budget indie horror flicks too.

By the way, actor George Spelvin — who plays the priest in the film — is also the heavy psych band’s lead singer, although he doesn’t seem to have been in the actual band, the Bored, who actually did play around the New Orleans area in the late ’60s (and we have no idea if Spelvin was related to Georgina Spelvin, sorry).

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Houck Jr. was hoping to cash in on the success of cult hit Night of the Living Dead (1968), although the main influence on this film seems to have been Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, released nine years earlier.

In fact, the ending of Night of Bloody Horror presents a nice reversal twist on that story’s ending, if you’ll allow us yet another spoiler.

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The 80-minute film was originally given its theatrical release on August 9, 1969, in the New Orleans area, where the film was shot, which just happened to be the same day that 26-year-old actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of acclaimed movie director Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown), was found murdered along with four other people at Tate and Polanski’s rented home on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, high in the hills above L.A.

It was given a release on Paragon home video too, and has more recently been released on DVD via Cheezy Flicks Entertainment, distributed by MVD, in 2008 (the DVD also features trailers for other low-budget masterpieces, including I Drink Your Blood and Horrors of the Black Museum).

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Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 26, 1942, director Joy N. Houck Jr. was the son of Joy Houck Sr., who ran an independent film company, Howco International, which distributed low-budget mostly horror features in the Gulf states, including his son’s films.

Houck Sr. also produced all of the Lash La Rue movies in the 1940s and early ’50s, and owned or co-owned about two hundred movie theaters from Texas to Georgia.

Houck Jr. got involved in filmmaking — producing, directing and screenwriting — in the 1960s, and this was his first film as a director.

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He also directed 1972’s Night of the Strangler (aka The Ace of Spades/Is the Father Black Enough?/Dirty Dan’s Women, 1972), which featured ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz as the strangler.

Houck Jr. also directed and acted in Creature from Black Lake (1976), with Jack Elam, and the 1977 sci-fi film The Brain Machine. He also produced The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (1985).

He was also an actor, appearing in episodes of TV’s “Hill Street Blues,” and “Highway to Heaven,” as well as a number of films: The Shepherd of the Hills (1963), Bootleggers (1974), The Shadow of Chikara (1977), Tightrope (1984), Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law (1986), The Big Easy (1987), and the 1991 TV movie Doublecrossed.

Houck Jr. died of a heart attack, age 61, at his home in Prescott, Arizona, on October 1, 2003.

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McRaney followed this first film role up with another Houck Jr.-directed flick the same year, Women and Bloody Terror (aka His Wife’s Habit), which was frequently paired with this film and with Night of the Strangler, appearing on drive-in sleaze double- and triple-bills for many years.

Turn out the lights tonight and watch this story of “a young, red-blooded American boy,” Night of Bloody Horror, it’s streaming over on Night Flight Plus, in our Horror film category.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.