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02 January, 2011

Junkyardfilm.com's Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month: LEGEND OF BLOOD MOUNTAIN


Year of Release—Film:  1965

Bestoink (pronounced Bes-toy-ink) Dooley, a copy boy for a newspaper for 16 years, hears on TV that Blood Mountain is bleeding again and people are being killed.  Pleading with his editor to let him try his hand at reporting, he finally gets permission to investigate the phenomenon.  Driving up to Blood Mountain, he interviews a few locals and learns that a scientist and his daughter are encamped on the mountain.  Bestoink decides to join the scientist and his daughter and discovers, to his horror, that the substance, once thought to be rust from the iron-rich soil, is, in fact, human blood!  And, judging by the number of locals savagely attacked, the legionary Beast must be awake!  Later that evening, an aging maid tells Bestoink her mother once saw the Beast and it caused her premature death eight years after the sighting.  Despite this grim warning, the daughter leaves to attend a beach party.  Bestoink is pressed into service to drive the daughter's friend back into town.

While driving along in Bestoink's classy sports car, the couple comes across the beach party attendees and stops to warn them that another deadly attack has occurred.  This warning serves to take the hats-n-horns out of the festivities and the party breaks up.  Continuing on their journey, Bestoink is startled to see the Beast in the road!  Swerving, he crashes the car into a tree, knocking himself unconscious.  Menaced by the monster, the girl flees, terrified, into the woods.  Bestoink is discovered by the scientist and his daughter and, roused from his unintended slumber, Bestoink tells them of this terrible turn of events and, dropping the daughter at a nearby ranger's station, Bestoink and the scientist leave to search for the missing woman.  Will Bestoink find her in time to save her life?  Will Bestoink get his story?  Will the bumbling Bestoink finally be the hero he so longs to become?

LEGEND OF BLOOD MOUNTAIN defines zero-budget filmmaking.  So, imagine my surprise when I found out it's filming budget was $750,000!  And, I was rendered speechless when I read it grossed $1,250,000 at 450 'hardtop' theaters opening weekend!  This phenomenon couldn't be due to the acting, which was abysmal, or the directing which was lackluster or the plot that meandered from horror to comedy and back again at a moment’s notice!  That is was filmed using reel ends is obvious by it's ever-shifting color and clarity.  Certainly the 'special effects' weren't the cause of it's large filming budget.  The Beast was a man in a pale gray body suit with hairy leggings, two tails and what looked to be Stay-Puft marshmallows glued to his chest and face.  Maybe it was the cookie budget...used in the scene where the chubby and balding Bestoink sits in bed, eating cookies for four minutes!  Whatever the reason, this movie sucked!

But, enough about the movie!  Let's look at the man behind this craptastic film!  Bestoink Dooley aka George Ellis was a well-known and apparently much-loved Atlanta-area TV horror host of the Friday Night Big Movie Shocker (1950-60's).  Fans remember fondly that he treated the old Universal movies with the respect they deserved...never cutting the movie or interrupting it, saving his hijinks for the beginning and end of the movie and for commercial breaks.  He also was the host of a half-hour TV program for children called Dooley & Co., which showed mostly Three Stooges short films with Morgus the Magnificent doing fake weather reports and news items between the shorts.  His primary target audience seems to have been young children and tweens.  He made many personal appearances at theaters and schools, where children, frightened by this horror host in a bowler hat and with a squirting flower in his lapel, would peek at him from behind the safety of their parents.  He was also a regular on the local live theater circuit and once played opposite Vincent Price's Fagin in the Theater under the Stars production of OLIVER, as the blustering parish beadle, Mr. Bumble.  When Ellis appeared on stage, the audience burst into wild applause!

Prior to LEGEND OF BLOOD MOUNTAIN, Ellis appeared on two TV crime shows.  After LEGEND, Ellis appeared in five movies, Among them SWAMP COUNTRY with Lyle Waggoner and HONEY BRITCHES, a sexploitation flick, all apparently regional films made for the Drive-in theater crowd.  But, the one movie Ellis is most remembered for it MOONRUNNERS.  In it, he plays Jake Rainey, a bootlegger.  James Mitchum, son of actor Robert Mitchum, played Grady Hagg.  It was written and directed by Gy Waldron, who went on to create and script The Dukes Of Hazzard TV show four years later and is believed by some to be the pilot to that TV show.  The part of Jake Rainey was later changed to Boss Hogg.

Despite this busy schedule, Ellis also had a serious side.  His Film Forum in Atlanta had been popular for years and need a larger theater location to exhibit art films.  In 1982, with partner Glenn Sirkis, he began renovation of the Euclid Theater, derelict for many years.  Their goal was to reopen it as a duplex called The Masterpiece Cinema that would show foreign-language films on one screen with the other screen dedicated to English-language films.  Sadly, George didn't live to see his greatest efforts fulfilled, dying suddenly in June 1983.  At his funeral, Glenn Sirkis announced the renovation would go on and the theater would be named the Ellis Theater.  The theater closed without notice in 1988, renovations still incomplete.  In 1989, producer Paul Blane bought it, finished the renovations, renamed it The Variety and today it's a playhouse for mostly musical acts.  It's marquee can be seen on Turner Classic Movies (TMC) station segment titled Classic Movie News.

On E-Gor's Chamber Of TV Horror Hosts, [ http://myweb.wvnet.edu/e-gor/tvhorrorhosts/hostsb.html ] his many now older fans recall George Ellis/ Bestoink Dooley fondly, saying:

"What made George Ellis such a wonderful monster movie host was that he was a lovable old ham with a great sense of humor.”  Richard Moore
Cynthia G. Brundage recalls "...all those thrilling late nights sitting wrapped up in a blanket in front of the old black and white and peeking through my fingers at Boris Karloff and other guys too scary to watch without digit protection!  Thank God for Bestoink Dooley!"

"Now there is a name one wouldn't soon forget.  As a kid growing up in Marietta, Georgia, during the 50's and 60's, we LIVED for Friday nights and The Big Movie Shocker with host, Bestoink Dooley.  I think a big part of my love for old sci-fi and horror movies grew from those repeated viewings.”  Bob Chapelle

So, yes...even though Bestoink Dooley starred in the "worst movie you've never seen,” he still has legions of fans who grew up with him and still remember him as a mighty influence in their lives.  And, when all is said and done, that's all that really matters.

Enjoy!  Or not.

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