Color, 1987, 78 mins. / Directed by Kenneth J. Hall / Starring Bobbie Bresee, Drew Godderis, John Carradine, John Terrence, Pamela Gilbert / Music by Paul Natzke

Format: DVD - Ventura/Retromedia / Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

Al Adamnson, one of the more infamous drive-in directors during the late '60s and early '70s, made a career of assembling patchwork quickies from bits of footage involving fading horror stars mingling with at least two or three different plotlines which clumsily converge at the end. The spirit of Adamson remains alive and well in Evil Spawn, an endearing mess of a film which began with some random dialogue footage by John Carradine for a project entitled Frankenstein's Brain, directed by Fred Olen Ray. Eventually the scenes wound up in Evil Spawn, a tongue-in-cheek monster romp filled with amusing Argento-style lighting, delicious overacting, and of course, nudity and gore. The film later resurfaced in radically reedited form with newly shot footage as The Alien Within and also did the rounds under the name Evil Spawn as well, leaving many trash fanatics scratching their heads.

Short-lived scream queen Bobbie Bresee (best known for the jaw-dropping Mausoleum -- where's that DVD?) stars as Lynn Roman, a fading silver screen star who believes her career might be revived by taking an experimental serum pioneered by a late scientist, Dr. Zeitman (Carradine). Unfortunately these nasty alien microbes infiltrating Lynn's body turn her into a towering, bug-like monster whenever her passions are aroused, causing her to go on a murderous rampage. Despite her newly youthful appearance, Lynn still can't get a job, leading her to increase her fix dosage and wipe out such innocent parties as her youthful assistant, Elaine (Pamela Gilbert), whose extended skinnydipping and subsequent gory demise form the film's highlight. Can this actress gone bad be stopped before Hollywood is wiped out entirely?

A pure work of trash from start to finish, Evil Spawn doesn't even try to pretend it's anything besides a fast paced, senseless romp for the drive-in crowd. Now looking like a far cry from the squealing girls who pass for scream queens these days, Bresee is well cast as an older woman trying to make it in a cutthroat business; had her plight been explored a little more thoroughly, this could have been a fascinating '80s answer to Roger Corman's Wasp Woman. As it is, viewers will just have to make do with the bizarre editing, amusing special effects (which include Bresee barfing white goo into the camera and sporting plastic monster teeth), and the kitschy electronic score, which will make any '80s cable viewer feel right at home.

Previous VHS editions of Evil Spawn have looked like total garbage, so at least the Retromedia disc is a step up to watchable. The variety of film stocks and limited technical resources cripple the ambitious color design, which features some surprisingly vivid bits of expressionistic lighting, but the wider framing allows additional information on the sides, making this at least an acceptable presentation. The disc includes another Nite Owl Theater romp with Fred Olen Ray, complete with naked girls cavorting through the set; the extra materials include longer outtakes of the Carradine footage and some production photographs of the original monster design, which was jettisoned when Ray turned over the reins on the project. Also included for posterity is the bizarre theatrical trailer, which tries to pass this off as a Carradine sci-fi film.

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