The Astro-Zombies (1968)

Demented Dr. DeMarco has figured out a way to create Astro-Zombies–that is, wildly gyrating actors wearing skull masks. His methods involve organs being removed–usually from lovely women, of course. The Feds want to stop him. Villains led by statuesque Tura Satana want his formula. Most viewers probably wanted their money back. John Carradine plays DeMarco with all the professionalism he can muster. Satana’s costumes showcase the twin talents that made her a Russ Meyer star. She also throws a nasty karate kick, just as her Mexican cohort brandishes a mean switchblade–never let it be said that Ted V. Mikels let a stereotype go by. Another character jokes about “becoming a lush;” that line is in ill taste since co-star Wendell Corey–who died after filming–was suffering from acute alcoholism. On the funny side: there’s never more than one Astro-zombie on screen at any time; must be the local Woolworth’s only had one skull mask in stock. One Astro-zombie manages to lose his “photo cell” and pursues victims while holding a flashlight up to his head to keep going. Toy tanks and robots appear for no logical reason under the credits. Old VHS tapes titled SPACE VAMPIRES ran a mere 77 minutes. I recently saw a 91-minute DVD that featured some surprising bits of cheesecake early on and gore toward the end.