Plot: Al Adamson built an impressive cinematic legacy, through low budget, often outlandish movies that performed well at drive-ins and would become cult hits as the decades rolled on. In Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson, we are taken inside not only the productions of his numerous pictures, but Adamson’s personal life, including his tragic, horrific death. This feature length documentary from Severin Films’ David Gregory delves deeply into Adamson’s legacy, offering interviews with cast & crew members, personal friends, and enthusiasts for his eclectic cinema. Aliens, true crime, b movies, sleaze, what else could you ask for?
Entertainment Value: As fans of outsider genre cinema know all too well, sometimes the artists behind these b movie curios can have stories as wild as the movies themselves, which is certainly the case for cult legend Al Adamson. The shocking murder of Adamson is fairly well known, but The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson goes more in depth than ever before and covers the rest of Adamson’s life, including his unique and colorful collection of pictures. David Gregory directs the documentary and much like he did with the excellent Richard Stanley piece Lost Soul, he crafts an experience that keeps you hooked in from the start. While perhaps not quite as off the rails as Stanley’s tales during the Dr. Moreau debacle, The Reel Life packs in plenty of wackiness and b movie behind the scenes stories, so those who appreciate Adamson’s work or low rent schlock in general should be entertained here. The doc is feature length, so it fits in a good amount of information, but never drags or feels padded out in the least. The pace is always on point and makes a perfect introduction to Adamson’s catalog, thanks to the frequent clips and behind the scenes anecdotes. So The Reel Life is a good movie on its own, but has great secondary value as a primer for the pictures and a doorway into Adamson’s cinematic art.
The clips of Adamson’s films are often showcased here as I mentioned, but the doc invests most of the duration into Adamson’s life and career. In other words, this is a well researched, incredibly detailed documentary, certainly not one that tries to fill time with a parade of unrelated clips or memorable moments from the movies. Instead, the clips are used to illustrate some of the personal accounts and that works well, giving us an active, visual presence to go along with some of the interviews. A good portion is devoted to Adamson’s death and that makes sense, given how strange and stunning his murder was. There is a tonal shift of course, moving from the world of outlandish b movies into an actual murder, but The Reel Life handles it well. So for true crime fans, there’s a bonus element to this doc that most of this kind don’t have, even if it is just a part of the larger portrait of Adamson’s life. I think The Reel Life is a terrific look inside the life of the man who was behind some of the most off the wall, low rent movies out there, with both Adamson and his work treated with respect. For fans of Adamson or b movies at large, this one is well recommended.
The Disc: Severin Films has given us The Reel Life on Blu-ray and as expected, this new release looks fantastic. The visuals are clean and detailed throughout, with the newer interviews looking the best, of course. So a little variance on video quality, but that is due to the source materials, not this transfer. A host of outtakes start off the extras, with some worthwhile stories to be discovered in the collection, while there is also a Beyond the Earth promo reel, and the film’s trailer. A bonus movie is also included, Adamson’s The Female Bunch, as well as a couple of extras related to that picture.