Blu-ray Review: Horror High plus Stanley



During the ’60s and early ’70s, the Drive-Ins across America mainly showed independent and low budget films. Major Hollywood Studios didn’t release that many prints of the blockbuster films as they focused on the most prestigious cinemas in a region. They didn’t want to devalue their classy flick at an outdoor screen where they had special deals for the carload. By the time a title trickled down to a drive-in, the months in the major markets had 35mm print had been scratched and ripped apart. Drive-In owners were more than happy to seek new title from an indie distributor. Most of the people in the cars showed up on a summer night looking for an excuse to get frisky in their car or the back of the van. Vinegar Syndrome has put together a double feature on a Blu-ray that must have played a Star-Lite Theater near you (or your parents) in the early ’70s. Horror High plus Stanley will give you a dose of snakes and snakes that go to school.

Horror High (1973 – 83 Minutes) is about Vernon Potts (Battle For the Planet of the Apes‘ Pat Cardi), a high school science nerd who has serious issues with people. He’s better known around the hallways as Creeper. He gets in trouble with his English teacher and his P.E. teacher because he wants to focus on his experiments on Mr Mumps, his guinea pig. He thinks to come with a formula that will transform the weak pet into a macho pig. The insane janitor gets upset when his cat is killed by what Vernon thinks was a changed Mr. Mumps. During a savage rampage, the old janitor goes nuts and forces Vernon to drink his formula in the biology lab. This leads to unexpected consequences. He turns into a Mr. Hyde and gets revenge around the school. He gets revenge on his English professor when he uses the paper slicer improperly. The only person who might tie him in with the mayhem is Lieutenant Bozeman (Battle For the Planet of the Apes & Sheba Baby’s Austin Stoker). Vernon’s not-quite-girlfriend is played by Rosie Holotik. She was the covergirl on the Playboy from April, 1972 and starred in Don’t Look In the Basement. In this movie, you don’t want to look in the biology lab. This appears to be director Larry N. Stouffer’s only drive-in hit.

Stanley (1972 – 107 minutes) is a reptile overload from Florida filmmaker William Grefe. Last year the director received a career retrospective boxset with He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection. You would know Grefe from The Wild Rebels that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Stanley was not part of the boxset. The film was distributed by the legendary Crown International and cashed in on the Animals Attack movies that were generating box office heat. Tim Ochopee (General Hospital‘s Chris Robinson) lives down in the Everglades and hunts snakes for a living. He’s an ex-military vet and a Seminole Indian. He’s getting in tune with nature to get over his trauma from his time in Vietnam. He makes his living collecting snakes for venom milking to make anti-toxins. Richard Thomkins (The Friends of Eddie Coyle‘s Alex Rocco) wants Tim to work for him collecting the snakes so they can be turned into belts, shoes and purses. Tim is not eager to be part of slaughtering his reptile pals. He is a friend to the snakes since Stanley in the title is his pet rattlesnake who also has a snake girlfriend. Thomkins won’t take no for an answer and sends his goons into the swamp to catch snakes and persuade Tim to change his mind. When one of the goons kills a favorite snake, Tim goes on a rampage in hopes of turning Thomkins into a belt. This is a prime slice of Swamploitation. Chris Robinson deserves an award for his fearless performance handling all the rattlers and other snakes. He looks like a snake tamer who lucked into a low budget acting role. He’s so calm holding them and tossing them on his enemies. The snakes do get treated extremely bad. This was before movies cared about charges of animal cruelty. Alex Rocco was playing Moe Greene in The Godfather at the same time, so he was at the most prestigious cinema in your town and the drive-in on the outskirts. In a strange coincidence Rocco appeared in Return to Horror High which wasn’t a sequel to Horror High.

Horror High and Stanley make a fine double feature since they have that drive-in charm and the theme of what happens when you bully the wrong person. Horror High doesn’t hold back on the gore effects including a body in a barrel of acid gross out. Stanley fills the screen with snakes. You might want to drag the TV set into the backyard and see the action under the stars.

The video for both films are 1.85:1 anamorphic. Both transfers look better than I’ve seen them before. You’ll get to see quite a bit of blood and snakes during this double feature. The audio on both films is DTS-HD MA mono. The levels vary a bit since they were both low budget affairs so there weren’t probably too many retakes because the boom microphone wasn’t in an optimal space. Both movies are subtitled.

Commentary track with lead actor Pat Cardi has him give the details of the low budget production.

Cheerleaders on Tap (18:37) is a brand new interview with Pat Cardi. He talks about being a child actor in the ’60s. He quit school and kept going to theaters. He was approached by the Stouffer because he made Let’s Kill Uncle for William Castle.

Looking Back (14:03) is an archival interview with Pat Cardi from a previous home video release. He hung out at the Pasadena Playhouse as a child. This led to getting to be in a low budget film. He was skipping school in the third grade. He was an in demand child actor by 10.

Still Amazed (6:47) is an interview with screenwriter J.D. Feigelson. He based the script off Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde except in high school. He used a fake name on the script for fear that the film might effect his serious screenwriting career. He wasn’t involved with the production, but most of the script is on the screen. He has a great collection of Jack-O-Lanterns behind him.

Gossip (8:16) is an interview with actress Michelle Falerne. She’s the student who finds the skull in the acid barrel. She also appeared in Scum of the Earth. She says Rosie Holotik’s husband was a producer. She never read the full script.

I Would Do It Again (10:05) an interview with actor John Niland. He was part of the local people that auditioned for roles. He says the film was also known as The Twisted Brain. He invested in the film. He got the role of the P.E. Coach. He did get paid as an actor.

Two television spots (1:47) shows the terrorizing in the school. This was originally rated PG.

Original theatrical trailer (2:21) talks about a student that turns into a beast and attacks his teachers.

Stanley

Commentary track with screenwriter Gary Crutcher is fun since he talked about how he was working for Robert Wise (Sound of Music). How did he end up in the swamp with snakes? He also played Dr. Everett.

Dark Side of Eden (44:44) an extensive making-of documentary featuring interviews with its cast and crew. Grefe dreamt the story of Stanley after seeing how much Willard made at the box office. He took the film project to Crown International. He got $125,000 budget and a deadline to have it ready to roll the weekend the drive-in theaters open up in six months. Chris Robinson had an experience with reptiles as he was part of a gator show as a kid. He’d never worked with snakes before. He also has the jacket from the movie.

Stanley: Revisited (3:17) director William Grefé drop by the old studio and a few locations from Stanley. The swamp has dried up a bit over the decades.

Stanley Goes Hollywood (24:30) is the Q&A after a screening at the New Beverly Cinema. This is Tarantino’s theater. They get into how the film came about. Grefe was able to get Robinson since he was living in Miami at the time, so it wasn’t a big trip from Los Angeles for the gig. Grefe talks about how they never saw any money from the distributor.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Horor High plus Stanley. Directed by Larry N. Stouffer and Willam Grefe. Screenplays by Jack Fowler and Gary Crutcher. Starring Pat Cardi, Austin Stoker, Rosie Holotik, Chris Robinson & Alex Rocco. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 2 Blu-ray discs. Rating: Unrated. Release Date: July 26, 2022.

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