With the surfacing of Jerry Warren’s THE VIOLENT AND THE DAMNED on the Kit Parker/VCI DVD set THE JERRY WARREN COLLECTION Volume 3, the only remaining Warren film missing in action is BULLET FOR BILLY THE KID, so Warren fans have a lot to rejoice about. THE VIOLENT AND THE DAMNED should satisfy any Warren aficianado and has the additional virtue of following the usual formula for a Warren foreign acquisition but NOT being a horror film.
Readers of this blog should be familiar with Jerry Warren, but for any visitors or new blog readers, let me summarize. While Warren did make a number of original films, he is best known for odd hybrid films which he created from foreign (usually Mexican) source films, which he cut up and re-assembled along with cheaply shot footage of his own. He tended to eliminate the dialogue sequences (to avoid the problems of dubbing), or when he kept them, he had English narration OVER them by one of the characters who explained what was being said and/or the significance of the scene. Of course, the footage from the original had been re-contextualized so much and then inserted into an all-new “plot,” so that what is being described as happening in the original scene probably IS NOT what was happening. Having seen the Spanish-language originals of some of his films, I can attest to that.
I’m too young to have caught Warren’s 50’s/60’s output in theaters, but the films were staples in TV horror packages and on late-night UHF TV, so I saw them that way initially. I would think that after any TWO of Warren’s patchwork films, the average viewer would figure out his method of film-making. His American-shot scenes do not look at all like the original source film and he tends to use the same actors in film after film. Long before I read anything about how Warren made his films, I’d pretty much figured it out on my own.
THE VIOLENT AND THE DAMNED follows a similar formula to films such as CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD or ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY, but this time Warren did not use a foreign horror or sci-fi film as his source–instead, he used a violent jungle-set prison-break film, made in Brazil in 1954 called MAOS SANGRETAS, with location shooting done in Panama. This source film had the extra advantage of featuring an international star, Mexican actor ARTURO DE CORDOVA, who’d even starred in some American films in the 1940’s, giving Warren a “star” name to include on the poster (making the hiring of John Carradine un-necessary).
As with the 1930 roadshow American version of Abel Gance’s LA FIN DU MONDE (aka End of the World), where the plot and any depth of characterization were thrown out and all that was left was the spectacle, the special effects and the destruction, it’s clear (even without having seen the Brazilian original) that Warren edited out the backstories of the characters involved in the prison break and essentially kept the violence, the atmospheric scenes of abuse in the prison, the exciting escape sequences, and the scenes of the men wandering in the deserted savage areas and eventually falling apart. These scenes are truly exciting and vivid, even ripped from their original context. Warren was savvy enough to know that they’d play well in HIS film too.
So what he did then was to shoot some talky scenes with regulars Bruno VeSota and George Mitchell (and two others who’d been in other Warren films) DISCUSSING the problems at a prison in the Panama canal zone, making reference to actions depicted in the scenes preserved from the original film. There is a long Warren-shot sequence in the first section of the film and then a few others of varying lengths cut in here and there. Those familiar with Warren’s films will know the technique. They DO provide some kind of frame for the action scenes, which was clearly Warren’s intent, and on that level, he achieved what he set out to.
Of course, what is lost is any sense of the original. Clearly, as star of the film, Arturo de Cordova would have been playing a character with some depth and some personal history, but all of that is cut out. However, I don’t think Jerry Warren lost any sleep over that. HE DID NOT CARE ABOUT PRESENTING THE ORIGINAL FILM. He was essentially purchasing stock footage; the only difference from that common practice was that the stock footage consisted of MORE of the completed feature than what he’d shot himself! The effect is not unlike a group of people talking about a subject and then randomly cutting in newsreel footage to exemplify and illustrate it.
It’s common nowadays for people to ridicule Warren, and if you are expecting a film on the level of THE WAGES OF FEAR, then you belong in another universe. This was an exploitation quickie….PRODUCT meant to fill a slot in the lowest rung of the marketplace. And people who were not around during the golden age of drive-ins really do not know what that market was like….and today’s Blu-Ray remastered reissues of “grindhouse” features do not give them any idea, really. This was a market with foreign melodramas with non-matching American-shot skin sequences spliced into them; a market with semi-coherent films such as Roger Corman’s patchwork film THE TERROR; a market with the films of Al Adamson, such as DRACULA vs FRANKENSTEIN and HELL’S BLOODY DEVILS, which are almost avant-garde films with their jarring mixture of footage from different years and different projects, shot in different circumstances; a market where awkwardly dubbed and cut foreign films were common and not a problem for most viewers. This was a market a distributor could tell a film-maker to shoot another ten minutes of footage to turn his werewolf film into a rat-and-werewolf film. Surreal continuity wrapped around chunks of violence or sex or horror was quite common. And the drive-in audience was used to this sort of thing….guys who brought a six-pack or a few joints and were probably loaded before the first film started….couples who were making out and would come up for air if a monster or a murder happened on-screen. The tolerance for oddness was quite high….and in the eyes of the teen male horror-loving market, a market that thrived on cheap thrills, how good it was was often measured by how outre it was (after all, Jerry Warren himself once said that you did not need to make it “good,” you just needed to make it “weird”). At least, that’s how MY friends and I perceived it back then. A relatively non-linear experience such as Russ Meyer’s CHERRY, HARRY, AND RAQUEL worked PERFECTLY if you were on your fourth beer.
I would imagine that if I were in, say, Goodland, Kansas or La Junta, Colorado, in 1963, just getting off a hard day’s work in the produce section at the grocery store….or a dirty and greasy week’s work at the transmission shop, sneaking a six-pack into the drive-in and wanting to wind down, THE VIOLENT AND THE DAMNED would have satisfied me. After all, it has exciting action, there are people TELLING ME what the plot is so I don’t have to worry about figuring it out, the location shooting is exotic and takes one out of his/her everyday life, the Brazilian music here and there has a delicious flavor and also is suitably exotic, it has a gritty feel, and it doesn’t go on too long. It’s also so much UNLIKE a studio-made “B” movie that it provides the kind of “outsider” thrill which indie drive-in and exploitation films have always banked on.
Interestingly, Warren himself DID make a original jungle-set film not long before he released this one, TERROR OF THE BLOODHUNTERS. And while that one featured a fine actor, Robert Clarke, in the lead and also offered interesting, semi-philosophical dialogue, I’d guess that most viewers of the day would have found THE VIOLENT AND THE DAMNED to be the more entertaining film of the two in terms of delivering action and excitement, and I’d guess Jerry Warren himself probably recognized that.
Love him or hate him, Jerry Warren had a method which worked for him. He usually brought it to horror and science fiction source material, but here he brought it to a prison-break action film. He also brought it to a western, but that film, A BULLET FOR BILLY THE KID (which played theatrically here in the US), is presently lost. However, having seen the Mexican original he used for BULLET, I was able to speculate what Warren probably DID with it, what footage he’d have used, and what plot he might have grafted onto the Mexican footage. When BULLET surfaces, as I’m sure it will, we’ll see how accurate my speculation was.
Those who enjoy Warren’s horror films such as CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD will enjoy this too…and will appreciate seeing the Warren “method” brought to another film genre. I still contend that Warren’s FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF is an amazing creation. Had I seen that in 1964 at a rural drive-in as an impressionable teenager, it would have blown me away…and it might have made ME want to become an exploitation film-maker with a bricolage technique….or maybe a poet….
If any of the above seems interesting to you, be sure to score a copy of THE JERRY WARREN COLLECTION, VOLUME 3….ordering details can be found below….
. The rare US release poster (sorry, no larger resolution scan available) for Jerry Warren’s THE VIOLENT AND THE DAMNED
The new third volume of Jerry Warren films, presented by Kit Parker FIlms and released by VCI ENTERTAINMENT, featuring THE VIOLENT AND THE DAMNED and another Warren presentation, TIME TO KILL, a Swedish crime film starring John Ireland
You can order it here, and it’s highly recommended! https://www.vcientertainment.com/JERRY-WARREN-COLLECTION-3
Dutch release of the original source film
Brazilian release of the original source film