For those whose tastes run toward the campy end of the horror spectrum, August 1965 would surely rate as a month with much to offer. Two films of rather negligible quality were released, one of which possibly qualifies as the only film in history to feature a killer ape run amok in a nudist colony. And the other…well, let’s just say the NAACP won’t be screening it at their headquarters anytime soon. In other news, an esteemed author responsible for several classic works of horror literature died of heart failure at the age of 48.
Period song to take you back:
“Tired of Waiting for You” by the Kinks
Album/Release Date: Kinda Kinks/August 11, 1965
Film: Curse of the Voodoo aka Voodoo Blood Death
Release Date: August 22, 1965
Distributor: Allied Artists Pictures
Box-office Gross: N/A
The Plot: An English hunter begins experiencing terrifying visions after killing a lion that was held as sacred by a tribe of African voodoo worshippers.
Production & Reception: After helming the schlocky 1964 film Devil Doll – a project he inherited after friend Sidney J. Furie dropped out – director Lindsay Shonteff got behind the camera for Curse of the Voodoo, co-written by future Captain Kronos scribe Brian Clemens. The low-budget, British-produced film, starring Janus Films co-founder and sometime actor Bryant Haliday (who also starred in Devil Doll) and future Hammer regular Dennis Price, the film suffered from rather dismal production values, utilizing an abundance of rather obvious stock footage for its “Africa” bits.
Legacy: Remembered mostly by hardcore buffs of `60s and `70s British horror cinema, Curse of the Voodoo has also been viewed as a rather retrograde piece of racist filmmaking, falling upon the tropes of an earlier cinematic era when Africans were overwhelmingly portrayed as idol-worshipping savages. Nevertheless, the film was released on DVD by Elite Entertainment in 1999 and on VHS by Anchor Bay in 2001.
Film: The Beast That Killed Women
Release Date: August 5, 1965
Box-office Gross: N/A
The Plot: A murderous ape terrorizes a nudist colony.
Production & Reception: Smut-peddler-turned-kiddie-movie-director Barry Mahon helmed (and appeared in) this “nudie cutie” sexploitation film from the 1960s in which several bare-bottomed members of a nudist camp are chased around by a ferocious gorilla run amok. Set and reportedly filmed in Miami Beach, the shoestring project was essentially an excuse to show several non-actors of varying levels of attractiveness running around in the buff, with the “beast” (actually just a man in an unconvincing ape suit) thrown in if for no other reason than to give the movie some semblance of a plot. Due to the still-conservative motion-picture codes of the day, the only “naughty parts” that could be shown on film were backsides and breasts, so the “actors” were often forced to twist their bodies in unnatural positions in order to keep from showing too much. Though very little is known about the film’s theatrical release, it was almost certainly relegated to a run at second-string houses catering to exploitation fare.
Legacy: The Beast That Killed Women likely would have been forgotten completely had it not been unearthed by Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter and subsequently released on VHS in 1993 as part of Something Weird Video’s “Sexy Shocker” series, and later on DVD in 2001 as a double feature with the similar The Monster of Camp Sunshine (1964). The film is also notable for featuring both Sandra Sinclair and Christy Foushee of Blood Feast infamy, as well as Juliet Anderson, a notable Golden Age pornography performer best known as her adult film persona “Aunt Peg”.
Shirley Jackson, Author
Date of Death: August 8, 1965 (age 48)
Cause of Death: Heart failure
Legacy: One of the most important horror/mystery authors of the 20th century, Shirley Jackson penned possibly the most acclaimed haunted house novel ever written with 1959’s The Haunting of Hill House. That book was adapted twice – once in a highly-regarded 1963 version starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom (entitled The Haunting), and the second time in a less-successful 1999 incarnation. Perhaps her second most-famous work was 1948 short story The Lottery, about a small town that engages in a bloody annual ritual. That story, which was first published in The New Yorker to a notoriously controversial reader response, has itself been filmed three different times, including in a feature-length made-for-T.V. film that aired on NBC in 1996.
Married with four children, Jackson reportedly suffered from several psychosomatic illnesses – including agoraphobia -that necessitated the use of numerous prescription medications throughout her life. Her dependence on those medications, along with a heavy smoking habit and the fact that she became overweight in her later adult years, are generally regarded as the cause of Jackson’s early death at the age of 48. Her legacy will continue to live on, however, in her body of extraordinary published work, which includes six novels and nearly 100 celebrated short stories.