In the late 70s and through the 80s, Cameron Mitchell sold his soul to horror. He appeared in Night Train to Terror (which I cover here), The Toolbox Murders (which I cover here), and From a Whisper to a Scream (which I cover here). Most tragic of all, his very last movie was 1995’s Jack-O (and I fail to even mention him in my blog about the movie here).
Anyway, I decided to just get the rest of the horror movies I have in my collection featuring Cameron Mitchell out of the way with one single blog. Turns out he doesn’t actually star in any of them. They’re all very brief cameos! So here goes.
THE SILENT SCREAM (1979)
In Silent Scream, Cameron Mitchell plays a detective and has a total screen time of about five minutes. And it won’t be the last time in this list….
Rebecca Balding, Jodie’s brush with heterosexuality on Soap and star of The Boogens, is the main girl here as well. She’s a college student who rents a room in a big creepy mansion by the beach, owned by Lily Munster and her weirdo son, who definitely seem to have something to hide (particularly in the attic).
We see someone watching tenants through the vents. We see someone breaking through a wall. And before long, college students are being killed in classic slasher style. But amazingly, the body count is low. The intensity is focused on our main girl moving closer and closer to finding out what’s really hidden behind the walls of the mansion.
The final sequence of the film is the best part, with an appearance by scream queen Barbara Steele, the bizarre family secrets at last revealed, and the main girl’s boyfriend running around with his shirt open. It all leads up to the terrifying closet scene.
Cameron Mitchell and the guy from the Doritos commercials come in to save the day but it’s already been saved. So the credits start to role immediately to let us know that Cameron Mitchell was actually in the movie and we weren’t just imagining it.
Screamers is The Island of Dr. Moreau meets The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The movie was originally titled Island of the Fishmen, but the flick was too tame to be a horror movie, so it was re-edited for the U.S. market under the title Screamers and a bunch of gore was added. Yippee! Plus, an entire intro scene was shot that happens to be the only part in which Cameron Mitchell appears!
That opening scene totally makes the movie even though I have no idea what the hell is going on. There’s a boat crew and a woman who are looking for hidden treasure. As they search caves near the shore (where they find some nasty rotten corpses covered in bugs), we keep seeing this slimy monster hand. And eventually, the blood flows and heads roll! It’s goreriffic.
We also see the monsters immediately. They are creature feature cheesetastic. And they are all that matter. I didn’t give a shit about the plot, which was pretty typical. A boat full of men crashes onto the mysterious island after they’re attacked in the water by the monsters. Barbara Bach lives on the island with her mad scientist dad. He’s doing some sort of experiments. The men start to disappear. You know the drill. All that matters is that Screamers is Creature from the Black Lagoon with blood and guts.
WITHOUT WARNING (1980)
In the first five minutes of Without Warning, Cameron Mitchell plays an overbearing, gun happy hunting dad who calls his son a sissy. Then flying pizza pie critters with tentacles attach themselves to him and he plays a corpse in a shed for the remainder of the movie.
This flick is a hot mess. As four kids head into the woods to swim at a lake, they stop at a gas station. There’s a warning in graffiti on the bathroom wall. Jack Palance, who runs the gas station, warns them not to go to the lake. Um…why is this movie called Without Warning? Naturally…the kids go to the lake (with an awesome Star Wars blanket). The movie should have been called They Didn’t Heed Multiple Warnings.
Just for an extra kill, a Cub Scout leader is tossed into the mix…then into the shed with Cameron Mitchell and his son. After some swimming, one couple disappears, the other couple goes looking for them…and then spends a majority of the movie being chased by Martin Landau, who plays an old crazy war vet who thinks everyone is an alien. It’s like everyone forgets there are flying pizza pie critters in the woods!
The plot totally hops all over the place, with the couple finally ending up hiding out in a house they stumble upon. This is actually the best part of the movie. It’s creepy, suspenseful, and we know someone is stalking them thanks to killer POV and creepy shadows. We just hope it’s not Martin Landau.
And holy shit, it’s not! WTF? All of a sudden there’s a fricking alien in the house with them! This is a pretty mind-blowing scene and almost makes this ridiculous movie worth the watch.
Unfortunately, its intensity is quickly negated as Jack Palance and Martin Landau come back on the scene…and we learn that it’s the alien that has simply been tossing the pizza pie critters at people the whole time. But I guess the movie is worth it just to see Jack Palance running at the alien screaming, “Alieeeeeeeeen!” Alieeeeeeeeen!”
THE DEMON (1981)
Forget any demons. This is simply a slasher. And the guy is one big psycho—who sometimes seems to be wearing a mask but at other times not. It’s hard to tell because the entire movie is wicked dark.
After a girl is kidnapped from her bed, Cameron is called in as a psychic to help her parents find out where their daughter is. He must suck as a psychic, because he has no clue that he’s going to die halfway through the movie, and not even at the hands of the killer.
Here is yet another mess of a movie that pretty much has no cohesive plot. But if you just relish classic slasher atmosphere, it kind of rules. The killer breathes heavy and grunts during kills. He makes spooky appearances in the background. He makes scary prank calls. And he leads the random final girl (it’s like her name was drawn out of a hat in the last 20 minutes of the movie) on a super long chase through her pitch-black house. And I guess it’s an homage to Psycho when she decides to put on a shower cap and wrap a shower curtain around herself before stabbing him…after which she runs out of the house screaming and the credits begin to role.
But hey. Any movie that has club scenes including Funkytown and Rapper’s Delight gets a couple of extra stars from me. So I guess that means The Demon gets two stars….
BLOODY MOVIE (aka: Terror Night) (1987)
Bloody Movie, also known as Terror Night, has a cool slasher premise but plays out so badly. The horribly cheesy 80s look is its saving grace. Well, that and the fact that it has brief appearances by the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island and Grizzly Adams! Did you ever think you’d see either of them in a slasher?
Anyway, the estate of a presumed dead silent film star has just been sold…so a group of kids decides to sneak in to the mansion! There also happens to be a muscular, shirtless biker (actually, he starts out in just a leather vest, but that’s just as good) and his chick making out nearby, so they also go into the mansion. As the two groups do the usual—have sex, explore the territory, eventually collide with each other—the kids start getting picked off by someone in various costumes—Robin Hood, a lion hunter, Zorro, a knight—that come from movies in which the silent film star appeared.
The kills are gory good, the biker’s bod rox, we see full woman bush, and Cameron Mitchell appears in the film for like 2 minutes near the end. Unfortunately, the movie is sloppy, pointless, goofy (not in a funny way), and not scary at all. But it rules anyway because it comes from the 80s!
MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE (1989)
I don’t even think the 80s can excuse the mess that is Memorial Valley Massacre. But at least it’s a holiday horror movie; a bunch of kids is getting a camp together for the big Memorial Day weekend! In the first few minutes, Cameron Mitchell appears as an investor who wants the woods cleaned up then disappears and never comes back.
With Cameron out of the way, we almost immediately learn that the danger in these woods is a caveman. Yes, a caveman. And he looks like something out of a 1980s caveman comedy. A movie such as the 1981 comedy Caveman.
And most of the movie takes place during the day. There’s a cheesy 80s biker gang—those tight 80s jeans and tank tops on the guys look fine. One chick in Daisy Duke’s does a dance in the rain.
A fat kid steals a 3-wheeler and is knocked off it by one of the caveman’s traps (he’s into traps)…and the caveman battles with the rogue 3-wheeler that is spinning out of control. There’s even a bear attack!
Best of all, the lead kid shows off a tight body!
Soon after that, someone goes missing, a search party heads out, and the caveman starts killing everyone with his traps…and modern conveniences! Finally, things get kind of fun and blood flows as the body count rises during a game of cat and mouse. This brilliant caveman even drives a bulldozer.
A caveman driving a bulldozer. I’ll stop there.
So, if you can’t get enough of Cameron Mitchell in horror movies…you won’t get enough of him in any of the movies I’ve covered. Might I suggest 1969’s Nightmare in Wax.