B&W, 1962, 89 mins. 31 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Arch Hall Jr.,
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Color, 1963, 81 mins. 33 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Cash Flagg, Brett O'Hara, Carolyn Brandt, Atlas King, Sharon Walsh, Madison Clarke
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.75:1) (16:9)

B&W/Color, 1964, 69 mins. 57 secs. / 76 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Cash Flagg, Liz Renay, Brick Bardo, Carolyn Brandt, Gary Kent, Herb Robins, Keith O'Brien
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1966, 67 mins. 5 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Carolyn Brandt, Ron Haydock, Titus Moede, George Caldwell, Mike Kannon
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1967 / 1969, 85 mins. 15 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Cash Flagg, Mike Kannon, Bart Carsell, Coleman Francis, Carolyn Brandt
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Color, 1969, 77 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Ray Dennis Steckler, Carolyn Brandt, Dina Bryan, Larry Chandler, Alan Smith, Gary Kent
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1968, 77 mins. 4 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Shula Roan, Ted Roter, Brett Zeller, Gary Kent, Herb Robins, Maria Lease
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Color, 1971, 55 mins. 10 secs. / 70 mins. 10 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Carolyn Brandt, Ron Haydock, Jason Wayne
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Color, 1980, 70 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Pierre Agostino, Carolyn Brandt, Chuck Alford
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Color, 1986, 76 mins. 11 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Pierre Agostino, Kathryn Downey, Ron Jason
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Color, 1972, 50 mins. 34 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Jim Parker, Carolyn Brandt, Rock Heinrich
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Color, 1970, 54 mins. 41 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Carolyn Brandt, Rock Heinrich
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)

Color, 1970, 51 mins. 51 sec.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Carolyn Brandt, Rock Heinrich
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)

Color, 1972, 49 mins.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Victor Alexander
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)

Color, 1976, 81 mins. 54 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Liz Swanson, Frank Margello, Joan Woodman, Harry Moran, Eddie Bach, Anna Leeds
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Color, 1971, 52 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Victor Alexander
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)

Color, 1974, 59 mins. 52 secs.
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring Carolyn Brandt, Kelly Guthrie, Lane McGartner, Lilly Lamarr
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)

Among the familiar names that popped up on the exploitation scene in the '60s and '70s with great regularity, a select few were guaranteed to deliver something wholly unique and far removed from the standards of Hollywood filmmaking: Ted V. Mikels, Al Adamson, Herschell Gordon Wild GuitarLewis, Doris Wishman, Michael and Roberta Findlay, William Grefé, and on and on. One in particular seemed imposable to pigeonhole or predict, the prolific and consistently odd Ray Dennis Steckler. Initially attempting to get his big break in Hollywood, Wild Guitarhe rubbed shoulders with other drive-in movie pioneers and made several films often starring himself out of financial necessity along with his wife, Carolyn Brandt, a compelling and striking presence in all of her roles. Eventually he relocated to Las Vegas where he kept busy on lesser seen projects that still left no doubt about who was behind the camera. Many years ago the biggest titles from his catalog were issued on DVD by Media Blasters, but in 2022 Severin Films upped the ante considerably with an extravagant ten-disc Blu-ray set, The Incredibly Strange Films of Ray Dennis Steckler, which also comes with a new book: The Incredibly Strange Filmmaker Who Stopped Living And Became A Mixed-Up Legend by Zack Carlson with contributions by Charles Devlin.

Largely relegated to the cinematic dustbin of Golden Turkey honorees by the early '80s, Steckler enjoyed a major reappraisal with the arrival of the seminal 1985 book Re/Search No. 10: Incredibly Strange Films where he was profiled along with directors like Wishman, Mikels, Larry Cohen, Russ Meyer, Frank Henenlotter, and David F. Friedman. In 1988 he took center stage with the second episode of the superb Jonathan Ross-hosted U.K. program Incredibly Strange Films, with Steckler himself making frequent screening and convention appearances to help build up a fan base. Steckler's first directorial effort appropriately kicks off the Blu-ray set on the initial disc: 1962's Wild Guitar, part of the holy trinity of starring vehicles for Arch Hall Jr. along with The Sadist and Eegah! Like those it was essentially willed into existence by his father, Arch Hall Sr., who wanted his son to become a teen idol a la Elvis Presley despite the fact that he looked more like Michael J. Pollard Wild Guitarwith a pompadour. Here the younger Hall plays Bud Eagle, who arrives in Hollywood from Wild GuitarNorth Dakota with just his guitar, a few clothes, and 15 cents to his name. A stop at a diner for coffee and a donut earns the sympathy of struggling dancer Vickie (Czar) who lets him tag along to the live variety TV show she's about to do that afternoon. With one act suddenly getting cold feet and dropping out, Bud gets to strut his stuff with his guitar and ends up getting an offer from Fairway Records executive Mike McCauley (Hall Sr.), who has some shifty business tactics as well as a creepy enforcer, Steak (Steckler himself under his regular acting name, "Cash Flagg"). Soon Bud is being manipulated by his new bosses whose criminal tendencies and desire to keep him away from Vickie force the young man to reconsider just how much he wants to be the next big thing.

From a technical standpoint, Wild Guitar is probably Steckler's most accomplished film with crisp black-and-white cinematography (including second unit work by future Oscar winner Vilmos Zsigmond) and some radically ahead-of-its-time editing including a couple of transitions that would make Baz Luhrmann spontaneously combust. It's no great secret that Hall Jr. isn't even close to Elvis standards, but the gung ho attitude and sheer entertainment value have kept this one in regular rotation on home video over the years including a solid 2002 DVD from Image Entertainment's Something Weird line paired up with The Choppers (another Hall project whose poster can be glimpsed in this film). A gorgeous restoration of the film was undertaken by Nicolas Winding Refn's byNWR.com site where it ran for free as one of its first titles in a "Regional Renegades" spotlight. That same restoration is present here on the Blu-ray, albeit looking even better here thanks to a much higher bit rate and still sporting the NWR logo at the beginning. It's a real beauty from start to finish with DTS-HD MA 2.0 English audio (with optional English subtitles) as good as the modest source will allow. (Those audio and subtitles specs apply to all of the subsequent films in this set as well). The new "Bud Eagle Rocks" (35m55s) features Hall, Jr. at his home in Florida chatting extensively about his memories of his dad and the Fairway era churning out movies and music, the fact that everyone was definitely laughing on purpose making Eegah!, his own musical influences, and of course his experiences with "Cash Flagg" and The Sadist (including its influence on later films and the fact that "we broke a lot of traditional safety rules"). Then that essential 1988 episode The Incredibly Strange Film Show Steckler episode (40m9s) is included and might be the best viewing choice to start with in this whole set if you're new to the director; it's a perfect primer. There's also an undated "Master Of The Grind" (45m39s) interview with Steckler about his early years and a trailer, which is really just the last "Twist Fever" musical number The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombiesso The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombiesyou can skip it.

Disc two is devoted entirely to the famous title in Steckler's filmography, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, which was advertised as "the world's first monster musical" and has since been presented by Joe Bob Briggs and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Shot in wildly saturated Eastmancolor (with the participation of Vilmos Zsigmond and Laszlo Kovacs), it was also presented in "Terrorama" (basically a hypnowheel) and sometimes had live folks in monster costumes crashing the theater. At a strange carnival, fortune teller Estrella (O'Hara) foretells death for both fellow performer Marge (Brandt) and a trio of young customers: Jerry (Flagg), Angela (Walsh), and Harold (the borderline incoherent King). Left to his own devices later that night, Jerry is hypnotized by Estrella into becoming a mindless, amnesiac killer destined to join her army of acid-disfigured zombies on the premises.

As indicated above, this one is also technically a musical with several song-and-dance interludes including the unforgettable "Shook Out of Shape," a staple of weird soundtrack compilations. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up ZombiesThe song performances are filmed with the same "nail it down and shoot" approach seen in countless burlesque movies released by Something Weird, but the juxtaposition with all the dark monster mayhem gives it a truly surreal The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombiesquality that never lets up until the splashy finale on the coast of Long Beach. From the pre-credits scene with Estrella chucking acid in a poor guy's face, it's a disorienting ride with a thick carny atmosphere that seemed to really be in the air around this time a la She Freak. The actual monster content is pretty low and mostly reserved for the climax, with the bulk of the horror content consisting of Steckler stumbling around in a daze knocking off random cast members including Brandt.

Initially released on VHS back in 1986 but fairly tough to find outside of the grungier mom and pop stories, Incredibly Strange Creatures was eventually picked up by Media Blasters in 2004 who issued it as part of a robust line of Steckler DVDs with copious bonus features that have now been ported over for the Blu-ray. The Severin release looks as gorgeous as you'd expect (a long way from the very scratchy DVD taken from a soft print which also ran a minute shorter due to heavy element damage) with nice, inky blacks, blazing colors, and great detail with the original film grain left intact. Carried over here are an appreciative intro and a great audio commentary by Joe Bob Briggs (7m8s), a production-oriented track by Steckler covering the locations and cast, and a video interview with Steckler (13m17s), billed here as "Raymond Steckler," covering the origins of the title (including its problematic connection to Dr. Strangelove) and the production process in Long Beach and Glendale. You also get a brief video interview with Brandt (2m48s), a reel of innocuous deleted scenes (4m21s), the theatrical and VHS trailers, an utterly insane reissue trailer as Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary (complete with a The Thrill Killersdrive-in food snipe at the beginning) and its accompanying radio spot.

The Thrill KillersWith disc three we get to the first example of Steckler film being reconfigured into a different version down the line, something that would happen a few more times. A violent suburban take on the juvenile delinquent crime films that had been popular at drive-ins and likely inspired by several real-life murders, The Thrill Killers is also notable for its early starring role for Liz Renay, onetime mobster moll, celebrity dater, and star of John Waters' Desperate Living as well as other exploitation films like Day of the Nightmare and yet another Arch Hall Jr. joint, The Nasty Rabbit. The episodic story (which vaguely anticipates 1982's Alone in the Dark more or less) follows the violent parallel paths of serial killer Mad Dog Click (Flagg) and three escaped mental patients -- Keith (O'Brien), Herbie (Robins), and Gary (Kent) -- who terrorize a California community just as actor Joe (Bardo) and wife Liz (Renay) are planning a couple of social occasions. Beheadings and kidnappings ensue.

Once again this film is shot far more skillfully than you'd expect with a handful of really fascinating visual touches scattered throughout, and the usual stable of Steckler players like Brandt and King (in his final bow) just add to the enjoyment. In keeping with demands of the The Thrill Killerstimes, the violence level is higher than what Hollywood was churning out at the time and sits uneasily next to the usual tonal shifts involving romantic banter and swinging party scenes. Apparently inspired by the "monsters are in the theater" The Thrill Killersgimmick of Incredibly Strange Creatures, Steckler went back to this one and added some color inserts (including a lengthy prologue) featuring The Amazing Ormond, "America's Premier Hypnotist," for a 77-minute version entitled The Maniacs Are Loose, both of which are included on the Severin Blu-ray in immaculate condition. (The DVD only had the initial theatrical version.) The Steckler commentary from Media Blasters' 2005 DVD is carried over here and is still a great tour through the ins and outs of the film including pointing out several significant faces buried in the party scenes, while a new track by Christopher Wayne Curry, author of The Incredibly Strange Features of Ray Dennis Steckler, is a very worthwhile audio companion that doesn't overlap much at all. It's chock full of info about the cast, Steckler's '60s career, the film's distribution, and more. Carried over from the DVD are a Steckler video interview (11m5s) and radio spots, but you also get "Confessions of a Thrill Killer" (10m14s) with B-movie horror vet Kent about the "anomaly" Steckler who had lived across the street from him and wasn't much of an actors' director. Also added here are an undated Q&A with Steckler at The York Theatre, San Francisco (29m10s), with dodgy audio but still nice to have, plus a reel of VHS-quality behind-the-scenes footage with Steckler commentary (13m51s), trailers for both versions of the film, and The Maniacs Are Loose TV spots.

Rat Pfink a Boo BooDisc four is a Rat Pfink a Boo Booreal doozy pairing up two of Steckler's notorious non-horror, family-friendly outings starting with 1966's Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, a zero-budget superhero spoof (whose title, some apart from Steckler claim, was intended to be titled Rat Pfink and Boo Boo if it hadn't been for a spelling snafu in the main titles). Women walking out alone at night are falling victim to the ruthless, cackling Chain Gang, who motivate Hollywood rock-and-roll singer Lonnie Lord (Haydock) to take on the alias of crime fighter Rat Pfink along with his trusty sidekick, Titus Twimbly (Moede), now known as Boo Boo. Together they cruise around on a motorcycle fighting baddies and repeatedly saving Lonnie's girlfriend, Cee Bee (Brandt), who's also the target of a marauding gorilla named Kogar. The first act of the film started life as a gritty crime film until the superhero element got grafted in along the way, which explains why the tone is even weirder than usual with a catchy guitar rock score and even musical numbers serving as the psychotronic cherry on top.

A mainstay of bad movie marathons and video labels over the years, Rat Pfink appeared on DVD in 2003 from Media Blasters and blew a lot of minds with its Rat Pfink a Boo Booherky-jerky pacing, infectious soundtrack, and hilarious patchwork soundtrack barely held together with looped Rat Pfink a Boo Boodialogue. The film isn't shot with anything close to the care of the prior titles, but it looks fine here on the Blu-ray and appreciably better than the much muddier DVD. Steckler's original commentary is here of course with his usual excellent recall for bit players and the twisting path of the story's creation, while a new track by Aaron AuBuchon, Webster University Professor of Film Studies, who enthusiastically analyzes the film's unique blend of pastiche and wholly original creative ideas. In "First Lady of Cult" (25m57s), Brandt gives a lengthy account of her showbiz career including her Steckler titles, her theater work, and her personal life, including a look at some of her memorabilia. Then "Mondo Psychotronic" (33m25s) features Mondo Movies label And Psychotronic Video Store owner Bal Croce in London (with some archival guests including Kim Newman) looking back at the golden days of having cult film directors come in to the Scala for screenings and other events, complete with a big stack of Steckler VHS tapes in the foreground. You also get a look at some of his other life detours including his time in a punk band. In " Monster Mags, B-Movies & Rock 'n' Roll" (19m9s), filmmaker Don Glut shows off a crazy dinosaur props and chats about his days with Steckler and the "glum, cynical" Haydock. Also included is a 2m7s batch of original opening footage with our heroes at a parade, a 4m6s selection of VHS-sourced color footage of the title characters Rat Pfink a Boo Boointeracting with a bunch of kids, and the theatrical Rat Pfink a Boo Bootrailer.

Also known as Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters, Lemon Grove Kids is a particularly offbeat entry here since it's a collection of three short films Steckler and his pals made from 1967 to 1969 as an homage to the Bowery Boys movies he loved as a kid. Completely silly and feeling very much like goofy home movies shot in his neighborhood, these were directed by Steckler and a number of cohorts including Ted Roter. The three stories feature the hijinks of Gopher (Flagg) and, at least in 2/3 of them, his buddy Slug (Kannon) in "The Lemon Grove Kids," "The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Green Grasshopper and the Vampire Lady from Outer Space," and "The Lemon Grove Kids Go Hollywood!," complete with silly slapstick music, a UFO picked up for $25 from a garbage man, a mummy, Rat Pfink and Kogar cameos, and other random nonsense. Brandt pops up in multiple roles here but makes the strongest impression in the second story as the interloping vampire who pushes this closest to horror movie territory. There's barely anything resembling a plot to be found here, but it's fun to Rat Pfink a Boo Boosee the Rat Pfink a Boo Boowhole crew cutting loose and clearly having a blast in front of the camera (including a cute role for Steckler and Brandt's pint-sized daughter, Laura, as "Tickles").

Another one familiar from the Media Blasters DVD days, this one looks quite nice and greatly improved on the Severin disc given it was all shot piecemeal on 16mm in the first place. You get two Steckler audio commentaries, one from the DVD and another one in which he rattles through all of the many, many participants, his Bowery Boys fandom, the origins of the Lemon Grove name, the locales that are still around as of the recording, and more. In "Tickles Talks" (10m25s), Laura Steckler gives a terrific and very warm remembrance of her dad, working on camera at a very young age, and finding fandom where she least expected it. A quick text card is included for when the film would be shown with live monsters (usually the mummy) running into the audience, plus a silent 24m34s batch of raw footage from an unreleased fourth segment, raw silent color parade footage (10m27s), Steckler's very early "Goof on the Loose" (8m23s) shot seen on some of his past releases along with optional director commentary, and the theatrical trailer as Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters.

Though the title sounds like either a smut film or a copy of Body Heat, the weird gumshoe outing Body Fever actually predates either option and originally made the rounds under the title Super Cool. (Apparently it was also slated to be called The Last Original "B" Movie, a title Body Fever that - not surprisingly - failed to stick.) Steckler also stars (under his own name for once) as Charlie Smith, a struggling, boat-loving private eye with a penchant for short-sleeved striped shirts. His latest, much-needed gig comes from Harris Ferguson (Smith), who hires Charlie to track down a slinky cat burglar, Carrie (Brandt), who took off with a cash full of dope. However, as the opening credits have revealed, she herself was ambushed while swiping the stash, and now the bad guys are going around causing all kinds of trouble with forced beatings, extortion, and shooting up helpless dancers with heroin. Charlie drifts through it all encountering a wide variety of lowlifes, gradually piecing together all of the players for the big twist ending.

Along with The Thrill Killers, this grungy but accessible thriller is probably the closest thing to a "real" genre movie in the Steckler canon in terms of narrative and filmmaking approach. His typical eccentric touches are still present (notably the presence of cute little kids and a tendency to wander off on tangents), but the story is never confusing and, despite a tendency towards improvisation, the actors acquit themselves respectably for the most part. Brandt really steals the show here, looking her absolute best and making the most of some of the most luxurious shots in Steckler's filmography; one particular slow fade to black would Body Fevereven make Marleen Dietrich jealous. Steckler does better behind the camera than in front of it, looking a little too clean cut and boyish to pass as a believable private eye but still mustering some dramatic force when it's necessary. Though outdoor scenes tend have the scrappy charm of the usual Steckler productions, some of the darker interior scenes have a colorful, engaging atmospheric texture that carries the film along most effectively. And keep a lookout for a small role (inserted at the end of principal shooting) from Coleman Francis, director of the infamous MST3000 favorites Red Zone Cuba, Beast from Yucca Flats and The Skydivers, as "Coley."

This one hit DVD from Shriek Show as well with Steckler contributing another feature-length audio commentary in which he covers all of the significant production stories, including the reasons for Francis' presence in the film (a nice little tidbit) and the problems posed by the ambitious intercutting of so many subplots and characters. He also appears for a very quick 3m29s video interview in which he gives an overview of the creation of the film and returns off-camera as the interviewer for a video chat with a sparkly-eyed Brandt, entitled "Super Cool" (10m6s). The Severin disc features another greatly upgraded transfer and ports over those extras while adding a new commentary by Dark Eyes of London's David Dent, who takes a stroll through the evolution of the film's story that never really got to the traditional scripted stage (no shocker there) and pointing out the other genre connections of most of the participants. Also included is another Q&A with Steckler in San Francisco at The York Theatre (25m53s), this time conducted in a projection booth and with much better audio as he enthusiastically shows off the book that made his reputation and talks about his career. Finally you get a partially silent 20m4s collection of Body Feverwork print footage from Bloody Jack, an unfinished film begun after Body Fever and again featuring lots of footage of kids, Steckler in a cowboy hat, and another Laura cameo.

Sharing space on that same disc (albeit with no extras of its own) is Sinthia: The Devil's Doll, one of Steckler's darkest and most visually baroque films (as well as the debut of one of his directorial pseudonyms, "Sven Christian"). A mainstay of Something Weird Video including its 2003 DVD release as a co-feature with Satanis: The Devil's Mass, it stars Sula Roan (a.ka. The Curious Female's Bunny Allister) as Sinthia, who was so enraged watching her parents having sex that she sliced them up with a knife and set the bedroom on fire. Now she's in therapy with a sweaty doctor trying to unlock the daddy complex that drove her to homicide, which leads to a cavalcade of colorful hallucinations involving sex, slashing, and Lucifer himself, along with lots of familiar Steckler faces. This really feels like Steckler's stab at a horror art film with its ultra-saturated color scheme and borderline plotless structure, probably influenced by watching a few Kenneth Anger films. The Severin disc looks much better than anything we've had before with reds and blues so intense they might leave residue on your retinas.

Blood ShackOn we move to the next disc Blood Shackwith Blood Shack (cue the B-52's jokes), which marked Steckler's move from L.A. to Las Vegas where he would make the bulk of his remaining films. Again using a pseudonym ("Wolfgang Schmidt" in this case), he prepared two different versions of this film for some reason: one as Blood Shack running a bit under an hour, and The Chooper, a longer 70-minute one with a different music score and colorful drawn main titles. Here Brandt plays an actress named Carolyn Brandt (really!), who relocates to the desert where warnings abound about the Chooper, a mythical blade-wielding fiend based in Indian legend who hacks up any strangers in the area. No matter the explanation, someone is most definitely running around hacking up locals, and Carolyn's ownership of the titular shack (more of a residential barn really) seems to be putting her next in line. Also, there's a lot of rodeo footage to get this up to a feature-length running time.

Despite the fact that it barely hangs together as a rational horror narrative (including its Scooby-Doo-style ending), Blood Shack is strangely beguiling to sit through in either version if you get into its funky rhythms and sometimes striking striking photography. It also has at least one really creative shock moment involving the Blood ShackChooper on a rooftop, and Brandt carries the majority of the film well. If you're a fan of off-kilter offerings Blood Shacklike Scream or Ghostkeeper, this should do the trick... plus it's the only proto-slasher film featuring "Peanuts the Pony." Barely given any sort of theatrical release, this one hit VHS in the early '80s in its shorter form and then went to DVD from Media Blasters in 2004 (under its Shriek Show emblem) complete with a an intro by Joe Bob Briggs (6m9s) noting the film's combination of Steckler idols Ed Wood Jr. and Michelangelo Antonioni, plus video interviews with Steckler (14m3s) and Brandt (10m41s) about the film's title, its strong heroine role, and the creation of both versions. Both interviews and the intro are on the Severin Blu-ray, which presents both versions with Blood Shack being the default main one (with excellent video quality) and The Chooper in the extras, looking a bit lesser. A Steckler commentary lays out the film's making including his need to make a film for chump change, the big shift in his life going to Vegas, his relationship with Brandt at the time, and more. Briggs and AuBuchon also contribute tracks (yes, we now live in a world where Blood Shack has three audio commentaries) going more into the film's status within Steckler's output, the different versions, and its tattered release history, just for starters. A reel of outtakes (12m41s) is also included featuring more credit drawings, desert footage, and cute kids.

The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row SlasherAt this point The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row SlasherSteckler's career starts to get a lot spottier and stranger, including a lengthy detour into hardcore adult films (more on that below). He made a return to his roots in 1979 with a film that would become a head-scratching VHS perennial, The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher, which delivers pretty much what the title promises with little muss or fuss for such things as plot twists or character development. A photographer named Jonathan Click (Agostini) is our titular strangler, who takes out ads for models only to end up throttling them to death on the floor. He ends up becoming fixated with a bookshop clerk (Brandt) who turns out to be none other than the Skid Row Slasher who slices up winos with a switchblade when she gets off work. The two of them round up and kill someone, rinse, repeat, all against a backdrop of XXX theaters and back room kink dungeons until our two psychos eventually cross paths.

Fusing together Hollywood and Las Vegas locations into some kind of freaky cinematic netherworld, this one was shot completely silent with a dubbed-in soundtrack cobbled together The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasherafter the fact. The budget couldn't have been much more than your average car rental from L.A. to Vegas, but that's hardly the point when you get amazing coverage of the moviegoing world at the cusp of the porno chic era complete with The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasherlots of coverage of advertising for Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones, and so on. Once again Steckler uses his Wolfgang Schmidt name, but there's zero doubt who's behind the camera for a single second. This one followed the usual trajectory as most of the titles above with a Media Blasters DVD whose extras are carried over for the Severin Blu-ray, here featuring a impressive transfer that likely looks about as vibrant and pristine as this film possibly could. Briggs contributes another hilarious intro (4m40s) complete with nostalgia for live sex shows and kung fu triple features at Times Square, separate Steckler and Briggs audio commentaries, and video interviews with Steckler (9m7s) and Brandt (9m19s). Between them you could pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about this fairly short feature including the key Hollywood locations, the method of handing out five bucks to people to be extras, the acting bug in Brandt's youth, the perpetuated misspelling of the leading man's last name, and more. Also included is a dupey trailer an apparently unrealized VHS revamp, Hollywood Strangler in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Serial KillerBut wait! This disc is a double feature since that film actually a sequel The Las Vegas Serial Killerseven years later: The Las Vegas Serial Killer, which dispenses with the original's parallel killers angle and instead focuses on one of the psychos, Jonathan Klick (Agostino), whose fate at the end of the other film should have precluded any further adventures. Well, he's back anyway and out on parole, free to attack any woman who pulls his psychotic trigger. Klick - whose name is also listed as "Johnathan Click" for some reason - decides to follow the example of Norman Bates in Psycho II by living a respectable, reformed life doing food service work, but the lure of strangling women proves too much for him. Though no longer prowling Hollywood, he finds Vegas just as conducive to murder; meanwhile, in an oblique homage to the first film, two lowlifes named Jack and Clarence occasionally cross paths with our protagonist and spend much time driving around, ogling the various women they encounter.

Though filmed in the mid-1980s, The Las Vegas Serial Killer feels like an exploitation film from ten years earlier, going far enough to reloop all of the actors again Doris Wishman style. This is still pure Steckler, though, especially given the hazy views of sun-soaked Vegas afternoon locales. The promotional art depicting a busty model in the grip of a black-gloved assailant promises some hefty cheap thrills, but on that front the film only delivers with a small The Las Vegas Serial Killerhandful of middling strangulation attacks. Watch it as a continuation of the peculiar Stecklerian aesthetic, though, and the film delivers plenty all the way to the bizarre finale. The Las Vegas Serial KillerThe Las Vegas Serial Killer got a serviceable full frame transfer on DVD (evidently shot with the home viewing market in mind) but the Severin again looks significantly better, and the standalone Media Blasters DVD extras are all here (well, sort of -- a couple are scattered later in the set). Steckler pops up for a commentary and video interview (9m7s) in which he goes through the basics of mounting a low budget indie thriller, usually sticking to technical details while pointing out some of the more interesting locations. Incredibly, there's also a bounty of new supplements here as well starting with a commentary with actor Ron Jason moderated by Severin's David Gregory and Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin, covering his memories of the cast, the state of Vegas at the time when a lot more land was available, the long gone locations, and lots of anecdotes about the bit actors and rodeo culture. Jason returns on camera for a new video interview (8m4s) in which he touches on this film before telling the story about the simultaneous shooting of the unfinished Las Vegas Thrill Killer, in which he played the knife-wielding slasher. "Savage and Steckler" (8m57s) features actress Glenda Savage (who moved back to Vegas) chatting about the city's history and decline in safety levels, as well as the casting of her and her boyfriend for a pool party scene where she plays one of the victims. She also talks about rubbing shoulders with Marilyn Chambers, a story unto itself. Finally the disc closes with a 3m32s VHS-sourced promo for Las Vegas Thrill Killer (with optional Jason commentary), once again showing off Steckler's affinity for parades and burlesque dancing.

Now with the next two discs we hit Steckler's adult output, which was often a ragged staple of public domain labels since the Mad Love Life of a Hot VampireVHS days culled from rough-Mad Love Life of a Hot Vampirelooking prints and, by the looks of it, shot in 16mm. His output in this realm was actually quite prolific, and the ones chosen for this set were obviously picked because they involved some sort of horror or Nazi elements to give them some exploitation appeal. Should you feel like venturing beyond these, he mostly specialized in stitched-together films with someone walking around peering in windows at what are obviously unrelated loops; some sample titles elsewhere include Weekend Cowgirls, Sex Rink, Teenage Massage Parlor, Peeping Tom, and Debbie Does Las Vegas. Steckler never acknowledged this phase of his career (not hard to guess why given how little flair he showed for shooting sex scenes), but the weirder entries have some merit for how they show his style adapting elsewhere. The four films on the "Pornos Vol. 1" disc kick off with the infamous The Mad Love Life of a Hot Vampire. A truly daffy bargain-basement production playing more like a particularly perverted kid's backyard movie than an actual feature, this one clocks in at 50 minutes and features the usual charming hand-drawn credits. Carolyn Brandt (who appears in a lot of the XXX films but keeps her clothes on) plays a narrator in a wild getup who takes us into the world of her husband, Count Dracula (a scenery-chewing Jim Parker), who keeps a ring of vampire hookers on call to perform for him, please his hunchbacked assistant (Heinrich), and go on the prowl for fresh Vegas blood. In between hirsute sex scenes, a tubby Professor Van Helsing sits around wondering where Dracula might be. It's a complete mess of a film, but as an example of the odd trend of merging horror and smut that proliferated in the '70s, it's definitely a curio you won't easily forget-- especially when you see fanged vampire women gnashing on bloody Nazi Brothelmale Nazi Brothelmembers, something that surely had raincoat-wearing patrons stampeding out of the theater.

Opening with a tasteless montage of Hitler and Holocaust photos, Nazi Brothel features most of the same cast and is another "Sven Christian" number with a writing credit to "The Little Ole Lady from Pasadena," obviously intended to cash in on the Nazisploitation fad at the time with a little Hogan's Heroes comedy. This one was clearly shot at the exact same time as the third film on the disc, Love Life of Hitler's Nazis, since they not only have the same cast and plot but repurpose some of the same sex scene footage. Both of these are also completely unforgettable due to the hammy antics of Rock Heinrich, who also played the giddy hunchback in Mad Love Life and Love Life of Hitler's Nazishad a big role in Blood Shack as Jason Wayne. He's an unhinged wonder in both of these, making faces at the camera, getting baby Love Life of Hitler's Nazispowder dumped all over his butt, and yelping Nazi slogans while flogging himself on a toilet, even distracting one of his co-stars who quips, "How can I get an erection with this maniac next to me?" Brandt shows up in both as a spy who manages to pop into a jumpsuit just in time to deck a bunch of Nazis, and there are some slapstick chase scenes thrown in when you aren't watching the actors struggling to look aroused. Almost everyone speaks in bad German accents, and sometimes you get anti-Nazi slogans thrown on the screen for good measure. Tinto Brass, eat your heart out.

Film number four on this disc returns to the bloodsucker theme with Count Al-Cum, better known to Something Weird fans as The Horny Vampire when it was part of Frank Henenlotter's Sexy Shockers from the Vault series. In the first of two appearances in this set, Victor Alexander, a.k.a. Jerry Delony (seen Count Al-Cumin everything from Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks to Slacker) Count Al-Cumstars as the titular Count, nephew of Count Dracula, who's apparently talking to a film crew following him around. Or something. He's become smitten with a mortal woman and, in his pursuit of her, ends up running into random sexual encounters all over Las Vegas before he ends up getting a big surprise. It's a terrible, amateurish film probably cranked out in a couple of days at most, but Alexander gives it his scenery-chewing all and makes it all more or less watchable. All four films are taken from prints and look fine for what they are; film damage is evident throughout but the colors look fine. Also on this disc are "The Ray Dennis Steckler Tour: Los Angeles" (19m56s), starting off at the familiar Lemon Grove Ave. and guiding you through some key locales from Steckler's L.A. period, and "The Ray Dennis Steckler Tour: Las Vegas" (22m4s), both hosted by Joe Rubin and filled with info about what happened to some of the buildings and signs that have been now been turned into something completely different.

Dr. Cock LuvOn we move to Dr. Cock Luvthe "Pornos Vol. 2" disc which begins with more Third Reich nonsense: Dr. Cock Luv, also known as Nazi Sex Experiments and a familiar title from both Something Weird and After Hours Cinema on DVD. Victor Alexander returns as a mad Nazi doctor who spends his time barking at his idiot assistant, Fritz. They're working in a bunker where several women are being held captive and used for experiments in the human libido. Cue the various straight and lesbian sex scenes, probing of naked women on operating tables, and yelling about the Allied forces closing in and putting a stop to all this madness. Again this one is taken from a print and looks better than it has before, relatively speaking, given that it looks like it was edited with masking tape.

Previously out on DVD from Vinegar Syndrome as a Peekarama Triple Feature, Red Heat is a Las Vegas travelogue put together to tie together a bunch of random X-rated loops. It's all narrated by Steckler's female directorial alter ego, "Cindy Lou Sutters," offering some background about the performers in the vignettes, such as a Red Heatbutch married woman named Nancy who decides to explore her sexuality by doing porn. There's also a guy who decides to get Red Heatsome on the side once too often to the consternation of his frizzy-haired girlfriend, Red, who stabs him in the shower and justifies the film's title by strutting around the Strip and posing for a nudie photographer. She also likes to lie around fondling her switchblade while a guy on a motorcycle rides around presumably looking for her, intercut with lots of other anonymous people trysting while "Sutters" and her cameraman, "Herb," bark directions in the background. (One has to wonder whether the POV-shot scene with Herb and one lass is Steckler himself.) It's all hastily shot, but the Vegas footage is pretty incredible with loads of vintage billboards for acts like Tom Jones, Helen Reddy and Joan Rivers. Seedy and compulsively entertaining, it's a genre-mashing experiment like no other; try watching this on a mind-melting double feature with the previous year's Diamonds Are Forever. Vinegar Syndrome's shockingly good transfer ported over to Blu-ray here manages to breathe some life into this one, which used to look like a real eyesore from a handful of cheapo labels in very abused condition. Here it looks great with actual vivid color throughout and only a smattering of scratches here and there.

Finally this triple features ends with The Sexorcist's Devil from 1974 (a.k.a. Undressed to Kill, the actual title on this print, and also known as The Sexorcist's Deviljust The The Sexorcist's DevilSexorcist). This one checks off all the sex-horror boxes as a female narrator Janice (Brandt, of course) explains how she was dragged out into the desert by occult specialist Professor Ernest Von Kleinschmidt to seek out a sex-crazed devil cult, while her roommate, a prostitute named Diane, services some guy by the pool. From there it's a descent into dark sexual practices with lots of robes, mystical amulets, and possession as the cast gets whittled down one by one. Barely coherent but fun in an ooga-booga sort of way, this one's useless as porn but quite amusing as a cheapjack horror film. Also on the disc (and carried over from the old Las Vegas Serial Killer DVD) are "Lost Film Production Digest Versions" (64m2s) of two VHS titles, Face of Evil (a weird collage of new and preexisting footage including the wholesale finale from Red Heat) and Slashed..., another brain-melting slasher confection cobbled together from earlier films; both are taken from rough video sources but are nice to have for posterity. In "Titans of Tease" (15m11s), burlesque dancer and Red Heat star Lovey Goldmine chats about her very colorful career starting off singing with Scatman Crothers and dating Tony Bennett to enjoying the golden age of showbiz in Vegas. She also talks about getting paid in furniture for her role in the film, which isn't something you don't hear too often!

Our tenth and final disc isn't really devoted to feature films as such, instead designed to mimic the homemade discs Steckler put together for his Mascot Movies store in Las Vegas. The charming retro DVD-R-style menu hammers that home right away as you get a barrage of his later work, all presented in glorious lo-fi SD. Summer Fun (61m26s) is pretty much a throwback to the Lemon Grove Kids days (and a dedication to silent films) with little Daisy Steckler and some buddies, including several in bikinis, having a very random Nevada summer adventure involving a construction tycoon, volleyball, singing, swimming, and other stuff that'll make you start checking your phone. Reading, Pennsylvania (60m5s, 72m12s, 31m58s, 93m41s) is actually more interesting despite the butt-punishing running time (watch this one in installments!) as Steckler sets out with a video camera to chronicle a trip to his hometown for a school reunion. You get to ride along as he dines with locals, checks out various businesses, and chats with a wide array of personalities including a surprise encounter with Ultra Violent's Art Ettinger. 2008's One More Time (65m58s), made just before Steckler's death, is a real oddity, a camcorder-shot sequel of sorts to Incredibly Strange Creatures with ol' Cash Flagg somehow alive again as Jerry, doomed to become a mixed-up zombie again in his old age after going to see a therapist. In between copious clips from the original film, he also has to contend with the avenging offspring of a prior victim before things get even weirder and more meta. Also, you get to see lots of people wearing T-shirts for the original film and plenty of pizza-making footage. It all wraps up at the Mascot Movies store itself with a lengthy rumination on aging, which seems appropriate and kind of touching. On the extras side you get a video intro by American Grindouse's Elijah Drenner (5m27s), an extended Steckler interview from that documentary (56m21s) in front of his tape collection, Natasha Diakova's screen test for One More Time (1m29s), a Las Vegas High School filmmaking lecture by Steckler (55m55s), Johnny Legend's last Steckler interview (7m19s), a new audio interview with Katherine Steckler (21m36s) about her late husband, Joaquin Montalvan's "Mascot Video" (7m57s) salute to the store and its history by Jason and Savage who tour what's left of it, and a Summer Fun trailer.

Reviewed on September 13, 2022.