Carnival of Blood (1970) + Curse of the Headless Horseman (1972)

Leonard Kirtman (executive producer on DEATH BY INVITATION) directs this pair of sideshow shockers.  CARNIVAL OF BLOOD tells the tale of a killer loose in Coney Island and CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN is about a western show that is the target of a um…headless horseman.  Both feature amusement parks of some sort such as Astroland and Coney Island for CARNIVAL and a wild west show for CURSE.  That is about the only thing they share besides a killer.  The second feature on this Something Weird Video release is odd as hell.  I enjoyed it but I don’t think there is much appeal for CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN.  

Carnival of Blood

CARNIVAL OF BLOOD almost makes the cardinal sin of being boring but it is saved by its setting.  The story is straightforward as a killer stalks his victims at Coney Island and newly promoted DA Dan (Martin Barolsky) decides to investigate on his own and drags his fiancee Laura (Judith Resnick) along for the ride.  Their investigation looks more like a trip to the amusement park than anything else and Dan acts shocked as other victims are stalked and slaughtered.  Laura hates being dragged along and confides in her carnie friend and neighbor Tom (Earle Edgerton).  Tom is the caring and compassionate sort offering advice and helping out his friend whenever he can.  He has even taken a liking to the disfigured and slow-witted hunchback Gimpy who is played by Burt Young (Rocy’s robot fucking pal Paulie) in his first role.  Gimpy is as refreshingly un PC as any character named Gimpy could be.  Burt is having a lot of fun with this role.  It turns out that the killer had a scarring childhood (don’t they all) and has mommy issues coupled with an unhealthy fixation on teddy bears.  He works his way through several victims before Dan bumbles his way into figuring out who the killer is and who his next victim will be.  

The effects are laughable at best.  The first gruesome kill, a decapitation, leaves a mannequin in a ride car gushing blood from her neck!  The acting is typical for regional oddities from this era; it runs the gamut from godawful to not the worst you’ve seen but close.  Burt Young is a hoot as is a drunken sailor who turns up at a midway game.  There is the insane flashback to a character experiencing a flashback.  It is more ham-handed than the dog’s flashback in THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 and less believable.  It is jaw-dropping fun for sure.  The real joy of CARNIVAL OF BLOOD comes in its lack of ability when it comes to conventional story telling.  This is only enhanced by the Coney Island setting which shows all of the grit and grime while showing the Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Thunderbolt in all their 1970 glory.  Check it out, you’ll have some fun.  

Curse of the Headless Horseman

CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN is set at a southern California wild west theme park.  An ominous narrator explains that Mark’s (Marland Proctor) Uncle Callahan has died in a horrible accident of some sort.  The park is left to Mark with the caveat that it is his if he can make it profitable in six months time.  This cryptic narrator then explains that a headless horseman has it in for eight gunfighters and has cursed the park…and that it is beginning again…insert scary boo sounds here.  The narrator goes on to introduce Solomon, the caretaker’s son, and explains that he is a part of the land in some mysterious way.  From this point on Solomon skulks in the background watching events unfold.  As we wait for him to take control of the situation as the badass avatar of the wild west show we are sorely disappointed when he is gutted by a paranoid hippie.  What the fuck all-knowing narrator?  

A clueless hippy manages to find gold while stumbling around stoned and tries buy the attraction from Mark.  Mark declines and the man goes berserk.  Eventually the horseman comes out to help ease our pain and starts offing the hippies that Mark has brought from the city.  Is this the supernatural avenger seeking out simulacra of the eight gunfighters?  No, it’s not.  It’s just a gold crazy Mark riding about offing people for who knows what reason.  You see, Mark has known about the gold since he was a child and has been waiting for his uncle to kick the bucket ever since.  The ensuing foot chase and gun fight may be the most inept foot chase and gun fight of 1972 (that actually says a lot).  What the fuck narrator?!  What is your point in this film other than to spew nonsense and misdirection?  I’m kind of pissed by that because the narrator is not a character from the narrative but a disembodied omniscient exposition device that should not spout junk.  If you want an unreliable narrator go in the story.  Don’t have the voice of god lie about the movie.  Gah.  Oh, if you’ve gotten this far in and still want to see the flick for some reason I should say “spoiler alert” for the second half of this paragraph.  So you have been retroactively warned.  

It is hard to point out anything good for this film.  It’s boring, the headless horseman looks like a costume bought off the shelf lugging a mannequin head around and the acting is abysmal.  This may be the worst film in Kirtman’s portfolio.  The highlights are few.  Ultra Violet galavants around the park speaking broken English while lugging around a Superman lunchbox and a bunch of hippies dance around to La Bamba.  That’s about it.  If you get the disc, enjoy the first film and special features and just skip over this dreck.  

The sound is mono of course and the picture quality is rough but serviceable for both features.  The Something Weird DVD is full of goodies.  Shockorama Horror Trailers: CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN/CARNIVAL OF BLOOD, ASYLUM OF SATAN, HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE, CRYPT OF DARK SECRETS, SHE FREAK, THE DEAD ONE, THREE ON A MEATHOOK, HOUSE OF EXORCISM, and WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS.  Shorts include a sideshow reel Carnival Show, and two horror shorts THE HUNCHBACK OF MASSAPEQUA PARK and HANDS OF JUSTICE.    Also include is a gallery of exploitation art with rare radio spots.

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