» » Deathmaster (1972)

Short summary

Quarry is a mysterious, articulate stranger who draws a cult like following of local hippies. Rather than showing them peace and love, he has more sinister plans for them, as he is a vampire.

Quarry wears the same set of prop vampire fangs in this as he did in both Count Yorga movies. They were specially made and fitted by his dentist.

A production still reveals that the picture was filmed in December 1970 under the shooting title "Guru Vampire."

AIP bought and distributed this film from its independent makers purely as a tax loss.

The critic Robert Ebert claims that the Santa Monica beach used at the start of the movie is the exact same location used by Corman's "Attack of the Crab Monsters".

The film is included on the film critic Roger Ebert's "Most Hated" list.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: catterpillar
    Great early 70's clothing, a philosophizing folk song (wow, man is like a river, that's like, so deep), not so subtle drug references, and the undead! What more could you possibly ask for? Deathmaster really is Quarry's movie with his Mansonesque portrayal of Khorda infiltrating and taking over a commune of lost hippies. The movie's effectiveness really lies in the context that people can be so easily controlled and fall victim to cults, rather than the fact that Khorda possesses their minds because he is a vampire. That Quarry is made up to look like Charles Manson is a not-so-subtle hint to the movie's theme, the resemblance being especially relevant at the time the movie was made.Look for character actor and voice-over artist John Fiedler as the owner of a hippie bead shop!

    The movie slows down and becomes a little dull about 2/3 of the way through, and yes, it's terribly dated, but this obscure little gem is an 8/10 for 60's and 70's horror movie freaks like myself. It's certainly a guilty pleasure. I found it at a convention, and watching it brought back a lot fond memories of the Saturday afternoon Chiller Theater flicks like Deathmaster, Lemora, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, as well as a ton of bizarre British horror movies, and even some old giallo that independent stations like Channels 5, 9, and 11 out of NYC used to run constantly in the late 70's through the mid 80's. If you're a fan of such things, you'll want to own this movie.
  • comment
    • Author: Hellblade
    I watched this film many times as a kid in the late 1970's on late night TV. Robert Quarry co-produced this venture after the unexpected and phenomenal success of the two "Count Yorga" features, but it did not hold up to expectation at the box-office. I highly recommend watching this period piece, if you can find it. It is extremely hard to find anywhere.
  • comment
    • Author: Jazu
    Enigmatic vampire, who arrived oddly on the shore of a beach in his casket, whose arrival is introduced by his enforcer/guardian, Barbado(LaSesne Hilton)playing a flute, masquerades as a philosophical leader, whose language regarding life and love casts a spell among the aimless hippie youth in a quiet little town. Only young Pico(Bill Ewing), who resists his power of influence, can stop vampire Count Khorda(Robert Quarry)who plans to sacrifice his girlfriend Rona(Brenda Dickson)in a Satanic ceremony. Pico will have to rely on the only help he can depend on, an aging hippie, Pop(character actor, John Fiedler, who is one of the most recognizable faces in Television history and the voice of Piglet in Winnie the Pooh)to help defeat Khorda who has turned all their friends into vampires.

    Rarely seen Quarry vampire picture that, according to the great actor, was purchased by Sam Arkoff and buried into obscurity. Thankfully, Fred Olen Ray's DVD company Retromedia was able to get the rights and, not only that, but have audio commentary for DEATHMASTER with Quarry, which is quite a rewarding experience for fans of the horror icon. The print is fantastic and the director of the film, Ray Danton, has a very distinctive style where the camera follows the action, but in a very sophisticated way. The film is definitely of it's time, quite dated, but a fascinating curio for Quarry fans who are very familiar with his Yorga character, but not Khorda(..this film was sandwiched between the Yorga films according to Quarry)who is dressed in elaborate robes, jewelry, and long hair carrying the appearance of some guru or oddball prophet..Quarry admits in the audio commentary that his look is fashioned after Charles Manson and that the film itself regarding the hippie youth was modeled after his followers. Not incredibly violent, with Khorda's neck attacks shot in a non-offensive way, and DEATHMASTER still follows the basic vampire principles established in filmdom(..the cross effects them as does a stake through the heart)that we're accustomed to. By and large, this film benefits almost entirely from Quarry's charismatic presence alone, even if what he has to say to the hippie kids is basic mumbo jumbo(..Quarry admits that he ad-libbed much of this dialogue)often used at that point and time while these youth were stoned or spaced out on acid. Quarry even gets to pay homage to Lugosi with the close-up of his sinister eyes multiple times as Khorda uses his power to hypnotize victims. Barbado is about as imposing as his master, a bulky statuesque type of security who towers over everyone he comes in contact with. His face never changes, always distant and cold. Ewing is a very unlikely hero, a kid out of his league against a far superior foe..but the film allows him to become a worthy adversary, because of the very fact that he's not particularly your prototypical knight-in-shining-armour. The beach is a stunning location as is the cool tunnel underneath the hippie commune house where Khorda keeps his resting place( also leads to the beach and has a submarine door!). Only real beef I have(..despite the now silly hippie-speak)is the title..this kind of vampire movie needs a more credible title.
  • comment
    • Author: Awene
    Robert Quarry only did a handful of horror films unfortunately, but each showcases a fine performance of subtlety mixed with genuine menace. The Deathmaster is no exception. The film chronicles the activities of a vampire named Khorda that becomes the guru of a hippie commune in California. Quarry gives the vampiric guru charm and aloofness as he spouts hippie doctrines to eager high listeners, waiting for some kind of direction in their lives. The film itself is nothing monumental, yet I found it to be thoroughly entertaining. It is a period piece in a way, because it shows just how prevalent the hippie culture was and shows us the costume of the day so to speak. Quarry gives a fine performance, as do the bulk of the cast. There are some splendid scenes in the film, most notably the opening one of a man on a beach performing some ritual and playing his flute. Moments later we see a coffin wash up on the shore. A jogger comes across it, opens it, and attempts to flee. Just as he turns, the flute player throttles him and he falls to the sun-dried sand. This is the best scene in the film, but the rest is pretty entertaining overall.
  • comment
    • Author: Onoxyleili
    When I was a kid I'd stay up late and watch creature features. I think that was a major influence on my tastes. This movie terrified me when I was 7 yrs old. Now I'm 30 and I love it!

    I couldn't remember the name or find it. About a yr and a half ago I got this one on DVD. YES!!! Not quite as scary but just some good fun. This is a rare, good treat if your a horror geek. If you like Blackula, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, or Carpenter and Romero, then I definitely recommend this one. Also the DVD has a decent commentary.

    This one's more for nostalgia, but also for collectors too. The 70's are alive and well in Deathmaster!
  • comment
    • Author: Celace
    Back in the '70s, when cable TV first came to Northeastern Pennsylvania, subscribing meant the addition of three channels: WPHL 17, out of Philly, WPIX 11, out of New York, and WORTV 9, also out of New York. For an adolescent horror fan, however, these channels were a dream come true, with Dr. Shock's Horror Theater and Mad Theater on Channel 17, WPIX's Chiller Theater (with the six-fingered hand emerging from a pool of blood), and Channel 9's Fright Night at 1 a.m. on Saturdays. It's this last program where I first saw "Deathmaster," and at the time, I was too young to understand why it would be considered a bad movie. I didn't understand he plethora of exploitation genre it, well, exploited (biker movies, kung fu movies, hippie movies, etc.) I was - thankfully - unaware of the Tate-LaBianca murders. I watched this movie with no prejudicial baggage at all...and it scared the hell out of me. This was largely because of atmosphere. This movie is very emotionally claustrophobic. It's more grim than you'd expect. There's no comic relief, and as the film progresses, things get more and more desperate. There's no happy ending, and the final despair stayed with me a long time after that first viewing. Even now, just listening the very '70s score by Bill Marx (Harpo's son, by the way), I can feel the atmosphere closing in on me...which is a good thing, a sign of the film's effectiveness.

    Listening to Robert Quarry's recollections on the DVD release was very disappointing, since this movie - which I've been seeking for years - seems to have been an afterthought by everyone involved with it, a way to make a cheap buck, with no real love or ambition invested in it. Too bad. I have to wonder what it would have been like had it been helm-ed by people who really wanted to make a great movie.

    I don't know that I'd recommend this film to anyone unless. Unless you're the sort of person who, after hearing a brief description of the plot, would be curious, it's probably not going to satisfy you, or come across as being silly. It's only the few of us who were there, eyes glued to the screen on those late Saturday nights, who are going to have a true appreciation for this long-lost gem.
  • comment
    • Author: Djang
    A pipe playing reject from the cast of "I Walked With a Zombie" and an ancient vampire who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jason Isaacs take over some prime oceanside property (isn't that just like a bloodsucker?) and seduce a bunch of young and groovy hippies, forcing them to participate in all-night dance parties. A pretty girl who looks like Jane Asher falls under the spell of the Vampires, and it's up to her inept boyfriend and an old geeky man to save her. When the police fail to believe their story, they attempt to make a rescue on their own. Can they save her in time? Who cares, really?

    A biker-momma and her old man are the first to become food. A young man displays his Kung Fu talents at films beginning, and when attacked by a group of vampires, apparently forgets all of his martial arts training and starts kicking and screaming like a two year old having a tantrum. The Vampire dresses like's all pretty goofy, but it's harmless. I can think of worse ways to waste an hour or so.
  • comment
    • Author: Moralsa
    Deathmaster is a new twist, on the old Vampire film genre. Robert Quarry stars as Khorda, a guru-like character, who happens to also be a Vampire. The film takes place in the early 70s, when hippies were still around, and on the fringes of society. The main setting for the movie is an old abandoned mansion, inhabited by a group of young hippies in southern California.

    It begins with a mysterious, hulking black dude, who plays flute on the beach. He's adorned with lots of bone necklaces, and a colorful flowing robe. A coffin washes-up on the beach, and is intercepted by a young surfer. The black man chokes the surfer to death, then hauls the coffin to the mansion containing the hippies.

    Meanwhile, two of the hippies, Pico and his girlfriend Rona, are hanging-out at the local Nic-Nack shop. It's owned by an eccentric older fellow, who is a kindly father-figure to Pico and the other hippies. A belligerent biker named Monk, arrives with his girl, who's named Esslin. Monk threatens the shop-owner, over the price of a bauble that Esslin is interested in. Pico intervenes, and has a scuffle with Monk. But Monk is no match for Pico, who uses martial arts on him. A cop comes to investigate, so they all flee.

    Pico has no hard feelings towards Monk, and so he invites him and Esslin to the mansion for dinner. The large mansion is teeming with the dope-smoking, philosophizing hippies. Pico offers his guests a sumptuous meal of organic foods. The eerie black guy who killed the surfer, is a part of the group too. They call him Barbado. Barbado is a mute, who 'speaks' through his flute-playing and bongo-drumming.

    Outside the mansion, the coffin that Barbado had brought there opens, and a large bearded man emerges. Beneath a spooky full-moon, he waves his hand, and a sudden storm blows-up. He enters the mansion, announcing himself as Khorda. The hippies think that this weirdly charismatic guy, is 'far-out'.

    Khorda spends the evening regaling the enthralled hippies, with advice about 'life and love'. They are looking for ways to find meaning in their lives, and Khorda seems to have all the answers. Little do they know, Khorda is a Vampire. Soon, Khorda's influence over the hippies, results in horrifying consequences for them all.

    Robert Quarry, is mesmerizing as Khorda. His piercing gaze alone, is enough to send chills up your spine. The supporting cast is mostly lackluster. The notable exception, is Betty Anne Rees, as Esslin. Esslin becomes a Vampire, after being ravished by Khorda. Betty Anne Rees infuses the character of Esslin with a scary, yet irresistibly hypnotic aura, as Khorda's newly converted Vampire mistress.

    All in all, Deathmaster is an intense, yet campy 70s horror flick. It's the kind of B movie classic, shown in the drive-in theaters back then. For fans of 70s B horror films, Deathmaster is a must-see.
  • comment
    • Author: Pemand
    A strange guru-type character named Khorda suddenly appears on the scene and offers to guide a bunch of young hippies looking for some direction in their lives. We as an audience however know something is amiss having witnessed a coffin earlier floating ashore following the flute-playing of a most unusual looking black man who we later see arrive at the castle-like house in which the hippies seem to be squatting now acting as something of a servant/follower to Khorda. It's not exactly too surprising to us the viewing audience when we learn Khorda is actually a vampire preying on these clueless, direction-less kids. Will any of them escape his ghastly influence?

    I really enjoyed this one. While it's basic underlying plot is largely the usual expected vampire story, there's some neat differences here that set this one apart from others. Quarry's Khorda is actually more a character akin to Charles Manson or even Jim Jones as his uses his guru rhetoric, something they mistake for guidance and understanding, to gain influence over his followers. His speeches are actually very nicely done and the one he gives on the nature of mortal religion is in particular very thought-provoking (and almost sure to offend those with strict Christian sensibilities). I also like this one's visual style. The opening of the coffin floating in the water and the black servant dragging the coffin actually rather reminds me of the German expressionist period and the film NOSFERATU (1922) in particular. A lot of the later vampire visuals though remind one more of the 60s Italian Horror films and the British Hammer films. I also like the inventiveness shown at the end when the film takes a number of unexpected twists and turns I never saw coming on first viewing. There's some problems with logic (as is often the case with films of this type) that stretch credibility (Pico attempting to stop Khorda at night instead of during the day, Khorda having a host of weapons that could potentially be used against him just laying around, etc.) but nothing so unforgivable as to take away one's enjoyment while watching this unfold.
  • comment
    • Author: Uttegirazu
    I wasn't sure if I would like The Deathmaster or not, since I really didn't personally care much for the Count Yorga movie. I liked some of Robert Quarry's other work in films though, so I figured I would give this one a shot.

    I must say that I liked it more than I thought was possible. It has a distinct and unmistakable 1970's cheesy "vibe" running rampant throughout the movie. That actually works in favor of the movie, it gives it an authentic flair of the era. The story is nothing too fabulous or original, but it was the visuals that intrigued me. The cinematography work on The Deathmaster was well above average.

    So, it's a pretty good vampire flick of the early 1970's. Definitely worth a look for both Quarry fans, and also for Vampire aficionados.
  • comment
    • Author: Zololmaran
    A hippie vampire! There's really not much more to be said, save for an excellent performance by the underrated Quarry as the lead. This was a Saturday afternoon staple during the 70's on NYC local stations. I recommend it, if you can find it, but don't take it too seriously though.
  • comment
    • Author: Androlhala
    This is a bit different for a vampire film - the idea of vampires and hippies together. The movie does have entertainment value for fans of vampires in film.

    For a budget film it's pretty good. The acting is much better in this film than you'd expect. The story is interesting enough and the costumes and sets are good.

    Robert Quarry make one creepy looking vampire - he's a bit scary in this one. He plays Khorda a mysterious man that ends up with a following of hippies.

    Overall this is a fun vampire film - it may not be the best vampire film made but it's an entertaining one that is enjoyable to watch.

  • comment
    • Author: Xmatarryto
    ...that Pico and the gang fall victim to a vampire. I like hippies! I root for hippies to win the day! The first part seems less like a horror film (aside from the opening scenes) and more like a 'hippies- find-their-spiritual-path' me a sentimental old fool if you will, I was rooting for Pico and the gang to find a more satisfying outlook on life. Quarry is masterful, of course, even in Manson drag... and I really liked Bill Ewing as Pico. It's also always a treat to find a movie with John Fiedler. Main criticism: Pico SHOULD have used his Kung Fu against Barbado, he would have come off better. It was almost like the filmmakers forgot that Pico had that particular training in the second half. I love this movie! Music and all.
  • comment
    • Author: Adaly
    What a truly tripy movie. An obscure and mostly overlooked cult classic. Not certain if the original Yorga film was to ever see a sequel, and having been paid peanuts compared to what the film had grossed at the box office, Quarry was determined to make a quick buck by exploiting "The Deathmaster" name (which had been used profusely in the iconic promo posters of the original Count Yorga Vampire film) and the whole concept of him as a chic and charismatic vampire. A true exploitation film through and through, the movie obviously tries to make Quarry appear like Charles Manson. It also ties into the whole "evil cult" aspect of the Charles Manson case and the infamous and brutal murders, which had, at the time, shocked the nation to its very core. In the end it's a descent film, but not nearly as entertaining as the original Count Yorga Vampire movie or the riveting sequel, The Return of Count Yorga. In any case, it's nothing less than a true gem of a film for any hardcore horror fan.
  • comment
    • Author: Malojurus
    Good horror flick. No movie can be overlooked that has wimpy John Fielder as a fearless vampire stalker. Seems a hippie clan up LA's Topanga Canyon is enticed by ethereal stranger (Quarry) into coming to his canyon mansion. Of course, he has dire motives for enticing them. But he's a smooth talker, with what sounds like a profound message about life and eternity. I couldn't help thinking Charles Manson given the general context of hippies following a charismatic leader. But the mansion turns out to be something of a labyrinth of horror, as the care-free kids soon find out.

    I like the way Pico (Ewing) is shown early on as possessing what was then an unusual knowledge of Asian martial arts. That way, we know he's more than his rather slight appearance. He'll need that when he defies the imperious Khorda. Then too, the exotic looking Barbado (Hilton) makes a scary zombie-like enforcer. That opening scene with him at the beach amounts to a real grabber. Also, there're a couple of good twists that break with genre clichés.

    Anyway, pitting hippies against a vampire is an imaginative premise that plays out in pretty effective fashion. So ignore establishment critic Roger Ebert who hated the movie (IMDB), probably because the title smacked of lowly drive-in fare. And kudos to leading-man actor Ray Danton who shows talent in his first directorial outing. Meanwhile, as an LA resident, I guess I won't be going up Topanga Canyon any time soon.
  • comment
    • Author: Jube
    ***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** Ah, the 70's. A time of turmoil and contradiction. America was at war, both in and out of country. The Flower Children had become assimilated by the very society they protested against. Nowhere was this confusion of cultures more evident than in the movies. The 70's are primarily regarded as the "Grand Era of Exploitation," a title well-deserved if only for the quantity of films unleashed on the masses at this time. Both big and low budget productions utilized the conflicts of the generations and their concurrent heroes to milk profits from the movie-going public. Whenever ideas seemed to be drying up, society itself gave us new myths for our brave new world. In the 70's, one such myth was personified by Charles Manson. The crimes of Manson and his followers are well known, as is his manipulation of the media during and after his trial. He is a certified nut job, and, as anyone in the biz can tell you, that means he's box office gold. Don't believe me? Just look at the number of films made since 1969 involving a messianic character leading a counter-culture rabble. Also, think about how many of these flicks portray these types as anti-heroes done in by their own greed. Sizing up the prevailing conditions, and knowing a quick buck when they see it, Ray Danton and the gang at AIP hopped on the band wagon in '72 with "The Deathmaster." Made a year after "Count Yorga, Vampire," then rushed to release after that one started making unreal profits, this is the quaint little tale of hippies led astray by an ageless guru with a really bad wig. Of course, their hairpieces are nothing to sneeze at either. The film opens innocuously enough with vampire Khorda's coffin washing up on the shore. A curious surfer starts snooping around and runs into cliche numero uno, Barbado, the hulking, mute, ethnic and, therefore, unbelievably strong, servant. After dispatching the wimp ( and man did he look pale to be a surfer in SoCal), Barbado lugs the boss' box up to the local commune. In the next hilarious sequence, we are introduced to our hero 'Pico' (?!) and his girlfriend Rona. They rub biker dude Monk and his sleazy girlfriend Esslyn (where did they get these names?!) the wrong way. The ensuing fight makes Tom & Jerry look like "Crouching Tiger." As all good young folk do, they call a truce and hit the bricks when the cops show up ('cause cops hate bikers and hippies equally). Monk compliments 'Pico" on his fighting skills(?), whereupon 'Pico' informs him he is a master of "Gung Fu." Gung fu. Uh-huh. Joining the hippies for a groove-in, Monk and Esslyn are introduced to the commune as "new friends." A blackout during the daily chanting sessions gives Khorda the opportunity to make his entrance. he does so rather quietly, and introduces himself as a seeker and bearer of enlightenment. At this point, Monk has seen enough, and announces he is splitting the scene, getting away from these freaks and going into town for some whiskey and steak. His trip is cut short by Khorda's abrupt ambush, which the chanting flower children fail to see or hear (must be some serious chanting going on there). After a few more yarns about finding his center (or some such drivel), Khorda excuses himself, but has the sense to ask Esslyn to join him. The hippie gals and guys separate for the night and go to their respective gender sides of the house. Wait a minute! Hippies with morals? Egad! While the art school rejects are showering (?!), Khorda offers the aroused Esslyn (she really digs him, man) a brief history lesson. The lesson ends with her becoming a snack for the guru. Her screams are heard by the guys and gals, but since barbado locked the bathroom doors, they can't get out to help. The doors mysteriously unlock after a brief silence, and Khorda appears with the now-vampirized Esslyn. She puts the moves on 'Pico,' who rejects her toothsome advances and flees the scene. This is where it gets weird. 'Pico' gets Pops (a rightfully embarrassed John Fiedler) to accompany him on a "Save Rona" trek. They, of course, get sidetracked in a battle with Barbado (what about that Gung Fu crap, dude? It should've been easy to dispatch a lumbering ox like that) and assorted vamp-slayings (see ya, Esslyn). Pops disappears for a time, but winds up on the wrong end of 'Pico's' stake attempt. Khorda has the befuddled hippie watch as he initiates his girl to the cult. He snaps out of his reverie long enough to stake the Deathmaster, turning him to dust. However, the same fate befalls the now dead Rona. The film ends with our "hero" sobbing over his lost lady like a man who bet the farm on the Jets. Like so many of the exploitation films of the 70's, "The Deathmaster" suffers from the director and crews' desire to combine all of the great elements of cinema in a weak story with rotten actors. The result is a mish-mash of plot devices but no real coherent story. Lots of unanswered questions left hanging. The only real reason to see this film (outside of a desire to snicker at the inanities of a bygone era) is Robert Quarry. As in "Count Yorga, Vampire" and other films, he rises above all of the contrivances and the hideously untalented supporting cast. His turn as Khorda successfully combines Manson's charisma and the vampire mythos, which, when you think about it, is probably what the crew was aiming for.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Robert Quarry Robert Quarry - Khorda
    Bill Ewing Bill Ewing - Pico
    Brenda Dickson Brenda Dickson - Rona Ashby
    John Fiedler John Fiedler - Pop
    Bobby Pickett Bobby Pickett - Kirkwood (as Bob Pickett)
    William Jordan William Jordan - Monk Reynolds
    Betty Anne Rees Betty Anne Rees - Esslin
    LaSesne Hilton LaSesne Hilton - Barbado (as Le Sesne Hilton)
    John Lasell John Lasell - Sgt. Kelly
    Michael Cronin Michael Cronin - Mike
    Charles Hornsby Charles Hornsby - Charles
    Kitty Vallacher Kitty Vallacher - Bridey
    Tari Tabakin Tari Tabakin - Mavis
    Freda T. Vanterpool Freda T. Vanterpool - Dancer
    Olympia Silvers Olympia Silvers - Olympia (as Olympia Sylvers)
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