You’re right, cop. You’re right, I am a rotten bastard. I admit it. But I tell ya something. Even though I got a lot of hate inside, I got some friends who ain’t got hate inside. They’re filled with nothing but love. Their only crime is growing their hair long, smoking a little grass and getting high, looking at the stars at night, writing poetry in the sand. And what do you do? You bust down their doors, man. Dumb-ass cop. You bust down their doors and you bust down their heads. You put ’em behind bars. And you know something funny? They forgive you.
– Anchor (Russ Tamblyn in Satan Sadists, 1969)

Satan's Sadists (1969)

Satan's Sadists (1969)

Satan's Sadists (1969)

B-movie maestro Al Adamson explored many genres when he was churning out films during the sixties and seventies including horror, blaxploitation and sexploitation. Satan’s Sadists (1969) was his early entry into the biker genre, which became extremely popular during the late sixties. Adamson made Satan’s Sadists in just one week on a shoestring budget and it shows. But if you’re in the mood for some entertaining B-grade biker fun, the movie is worth a look.

Satan’s Sadists stars actor and American movie legend Russ Tamblyn, as the leader of a ruthless motorcycle gang called Satan’s Sadists. Tamblyn leads his drug-taking gang on a deadly rampage through the California desert as they leave a trail of corpses in their wake. When the bikers unexpectedly come in contact with an ex-Marine named Johnny (Gary Kent) who has just returned from Vietnam, their luck starts to change and the members of Satan’s Sadists are soon forced to pay for their brutal crimes.

Most of the performances in the movie are rather forgettable except for Russ Tamblyn’s. He gets to deliver the best lines in the movie and seems to genuinely be having a lot of fun as the nasty gang leader known as “Anchor.” John ‘Bud’ Cardos is also pretty good as a sleazy biker called “Firewater” who sports a faux mini Mohawk and is covered in what looks like shoe-polish in a rather tasteless attempt to portray a native American. Cardos reportedly did all of his own stunts in the film too. The director’s wife Regina Carrol plays Tamblyn’s neglected and abused love interest known as “Freak Out Girl” who has a few memorable moments in the movie as well. Her death scene is particularly touching and equally silly.

In some ways the film seems to be trying to exploit the tragedy of the Manson murders that took place in California the same year that the movie was made. But Satan Sadists really just comes across as an extremely juvenile attempt to characterize rebellious youth culture in the sixties and it’s nowhere near as “cutting-edge” as the movie’s promotional material would suggest. But it is unintentionally hilarious at times!

Filmmaker Al Adamson and cinematographer Gary Graver really enjoy using extreme close-ups and zooms, which bring some element of style to this rather flat looking production. Having driven down some of the same roads that are seen in the film, I was impressed with the way they managed to capture some beautiful shots of California’s barren desert landscape too. The movie also features a memorable soundtrack by composer Harley Hatcher that adds a lot to the overall feel of the film. Satan’s Sadists is not a great movie and some will probably find it unwatchable, but if you like low-budget biker flicks you might find some things to enjoy in the movie besides the laughs it provides.

Satan's Sadists (1969)

Satan's Sadists (1969)

Satan's Sadists (1969)

Satan’s Sadists is currently available on DVD from Troma Entertainment but the DVD has recently gone out of print. You should still be able to rent the movie from places like Netflix and Greencine. The image quality of Troma’s Satan’s Sadists DVD leaves a lot to be desired, but it does include some great extras such as an introduction and commentary from producer Sam Sherman, original trailers, a still gallery, a radio interview with Regina Carol and even a short featurette called Producing Schlock.

If you’d like to see more images from the movie you can find them in my Satan’s Sadists Flickr Gallery.

You can also watch the film’s original trailer at Youtube.

* Originally published at Cinedelica 06.19.2007

10 thoughts on “Satan’s Sadists (1969)

  1. I somehow managed to forget to add the “r” at the end of Graver’s name so thanks for mentioning him Peter!

    Adamson and Graver were both unusual guys with fascinating histories. Someone should really make a biopic about them both. Even the rise of John “Bud” Cardos as an actor/stuntman who later turned director would probably make for a great movie. I’m not particularly a big fan of any of their films but they were definitely three of the most prolific grindhouse filmmakers in America and Graver was a talented cinematographer who worked with a lot of good directors.

    In all honesty, the extras on the Satan’s Sadists DVD are probably more interesting than the actual movie even though Russ Tamblyn is terrific in it.

  2. Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein was originally conceived as a sequal to Satan’s Sadist, but when Sherman and Adamson got to borrow Ken Strickfadden’s original Frankenstein static electric equipment, the project was changed to a horror movie. The footage that had been already shot with Tamblin was incorporated into the film, something that Adamson and Sherman were (in)famous for. I got to meet Adamson at a number of film conventions before his tragic death (he was killed by a handyman he’d hired to renovate his house). He was a very charming and intelligent man with some amazing stories about LA and the low budget film business in the 60’s and early 70’s. I agree that a film about the lives of Adamson, Cardos and Graver is an excellent idea.

  3. Hey Kimberly. Great write-up. I’ve never seen this film. I’ll definitely have to check it out. I always loved these biker movies. This sounds right up the alley of something I would enjoy. I’m also a fan of Russ Tamblyn. Love the shots from the movie. Have a great weekend.

  4. Al Adamson would probably be my candidate for the worst film director ever. I’ve seen quite a few of his flicks, and while very few of them are among the worst films I’ve ever seen, there’s a consistent level of mediocrity and a whole lot of cynical disregard for his audience.

    That said, “Satan’s Sadists” is probably the best film of his that I’ve managed to see. He came up with a single idea and stuck with it, unlike the bizarre scattershot approach of “Dracula vs Frankenstein” (which started out as a semi-sequel to this once, and has Tamblyn appear briefly as a biker)and “Hell’s Bloody Devils”. Also, it looks pretty good, while most of his films are unrelentingly ugly. While it’s nowhere near the neighborhood of a good film, it’s as watchable as grade Z junk ever really gets.

  5. Keith – Russ is great in this so if you’re a fan I highly recommend it!

    Fred – Thanks for sharing your story! I suspect that Adamson was a fascinating guy and had many great stories to tell. His life was really interesting – and tragic. With all the interest in grindhouse films right now, I suspect that a film about the lives of Adamson, Graver and Cordos would be well received and if done right, it could also be fascinating to watch.

    Richard – Al Adamson would probably be my candidate for the worst film director ever.
    I can see your point. As I mentioned above, I’m not a huge fan of his work and I’ve only seen a few of his other films (Angels’ Wild Women is probably my personal favorite) but Satan Sadists does have its moments. I’ve seen Dracula vs. Frankenstein but so far I’ve managed to avoid Hell’s Bloody Devils.

  6. I have a hard time imagining Tamblyn as the leader of a biker gang. A singing dancing gang in New York okay, but a biker gang. Still, I’m he’s great because I’ve always liked in everything I’ve seen him in.

    And to answer Peter’s question, Welles saw things like this. Near the end of Welles career he adopted a hand-held, quick-cut style (on display in F for Fake and the excerpts of The Other Side of the Wind) in rebellion against his more fluid, thought-out set-ups of earlier years. My hunch is that had Welles stayed in good health and continued making films into the eighties he would have swung back the other way. A lot of directors from the forties on developed a choppy style in the late sixties to late seventies in a half-hearted attempt to appear hip and young while ironically, the new younger filmmakers like Coppola, Scorsese, De Palma, Spielberg and Ashby were eschewing the choppy style of the low-budget flicks and reinventing the lush traditional style of old Hollywood cinematography. Look at John Huston. He went with the low-budget choppy look while Coppola and Polanski were going for the formal, sleek look with the Godfather movies and Chinatown. By the end of Huston’s career with Prizzi’s Honor and The Dead he was back to using more formal methods. Welles would have returned to them too had he kept making films. Consider it a late mid-life crisis for directors weened in the forties suddenly walking headfirst into the seventies.

  7. Jonathan – You should see Tamblyn in High School Confidential! made in ’58. Fun stuff!

    As for Peter’s question, I assumed he was joking around since Graver actually worked with Welles so naturally he had to have seen some of the films he made. Although I don’t know all the fine details, they also seemed to have developed a friendship as well as a working relationship that supposedly led to Welles giving Graver his Oscar for Citizen Kane.

  8. I wonder about the circumstances surrounding Tamblyn acting in studio flicks like “The Haunting” in the early 1960s and then winding up in Al Adamson films just a few years later. Also, I seem to recall reading some crazy stuff about Adamason’s death in the 1990s. I guess he was murdered by a contractor working on his house and buried under concrete in the hot tub out back. I’m not sure what the reason for the killing was. Finally, the speech you open the piece with reminds me of Peter Fonda’s big monologue from Roger Corman’s “the Wild Angels” a few years earlier: “We wanna be free! We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by ‘The Man!’ And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time. And that’s what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time. We are gonna have a party.”

  9. Yes that’s true Kimberly, Welles and Graver became great friends. And Welles saw a lot of stuff that Graver did before, which is why Welles wanted him for his new hand-held choppy look.

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