On November 26th, film distributor The Film Detective, in conjunction with Something Weird Video and Shout Factory, will be releasing Arch Hall Sr.’s 1962 “cave man in modern times” schlock classic Eegah! (The Name Written In Blood) to Blu-ray. Limited to only 1,500 copies, the release features a new 4K restoration of the film, as well as a presentation of the 1993 Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode that helped the film develop a new legion of fans (as well as a new legion of detractors). The disc also features interviews from the film’s star, Arch Hall Jr., as well as from MST3K creator and original host, Joel Hodgson!
For those unfamiliar with the film, the story begins late one night in the California desert. While driving down a desert highway on her way to a party, Roxy Miller (Marilyn Manning, originally a receptionist for a chiropractor whose offices were located in a building owned by Arch Hall Sr., and who is actually much closer to her thirties than the teenager she portrays in the film) nearly runs down a giant caveman (Richard Kiel of James Bond and Happy Gilmour fame) who crosses her path. She later recounts the tale to both her boyfriend, Tom (Arch Hall Jr.), as well as her father (Arch Hall Sr., here credited as “William Watters”, but also given production credits under other aliases so as to not have his name appear in the credits too many times). Although many of their associates immediately discount the girl’s story, she remains insistent on what she claims to have witnessed.
The following day, Roxy, Mr. Miller, and Tom return to the site of the encounter. Any doubts to the truth of Roxy’s tale are quickly dismissed when large human footprints are discovered in the desert sand, leading away from the road! Mr. Miller, an author of adventure novels, believes that it is possible that such a man could still exist, living in the mountain range nearby. As one who makes a living writing about adventures, he decides that he will have one of his own and stay behind to search for signs of the Neanderthal’s existence.
However, when the helicopter pilot who was supposed to retrieve Mr. Miller calls to say that he will be unable to do so, Roxy and Tom decide to retrieve the man themselves. Unfortunately, when they arrive, the older gentlemen is nowhere to be found. Not long afterwards, Roxy is captured by the giant and taken to his cavern dwelling, where her father also awaits. Not accustomed to being around women, the giant finds himself attracted to the young woman, and begins making some seriously intrusive “advances” towards her. Fearing that rejection may anger the caveman and provoke him into killing them both, Mr. Miller asks his daughter to suffer the giant’s overly “touchy-feely” affections until they are rescued or are able to make an escape. With Tom now searching the desert for them, they hope that rescue will come quick and with no bloodshed!
Mixing schlock horror with the era’s penchant for teen-geared musical-comedies, Hall Sr. attempts to create a star-making vehicle for his son, Arch Jr. Junior had already made a small name for himself as the singer and guitarist for his own rock n’ roll band called “Arch Hall Jr. and the Archers”, playing gigs in well-known venues such as Hollywood’s legendary Whiskey-a-Go-Go. This was not Hall Sr.’s first attempt to make a star of his son, previously casting him in the 1961 “hot-rodder” film, The Choppers. Hall Jr. would next appear in James Landis’s 1963 film, The Sadist.
Eegah! is considered by many critics (and more than a few viewers) as one of the worst films ever made. While some of this notoriety undoubtedly stems from the film’s memorable riffing at the hands of the Mystery Science Theater crew, that claim may have actually originated back in the late 1970’s when the film was included in the book “The Fifty Worst Films of All-Time”. The film was also notably labeled a bomb by famed film critic Leonard Maltin, but as Maltin has been known to give negative reviews to films just because his colleagues were doing the same, his opinion really should be considered meaningless. (Yes, that is a true story!)
To be fair, Eegah! is far from what many would consider to be a “great” film. Hell, many may not even consider it a “good” film. As with all things, the opinions are purely subjective. Personally, I find the film to be fairly entertaining, if only for its reflection of teen-driven cinema of that era and the questionable acting ability of its cast. While a musical number (in this case, 3 of them!) may rightfully seem out of place in most low-budget shockers, it helps give Eegah! a unique identity and a sense of charm that may have made the film markedly more tedious to endure had these flourishes been excluded.
As previously mentioned, the new blu-ray release of Eegah! features a new 4K restoration of the film, courtesy of Peter Conheim of the Cinema Preservation Alliance. All things considered, the restoration and HD upgrade are quite impressive, especially when compared to the numerous low-quality SD prints found on countless multi-movie collections out in the marketplace today. Sure, there are occasional blemishes to be found, such as a few scratches and inconsistencies in brightness, but these seemingly appear to be inherent to the print (as well as the shooting conditions and the use of natural lighting) and not a result of a shoddy transfer or restoration.
While the addition of the MST3K episode featuring the film may be as much of a draw to some as the film itself (arguably, more so for many), it is worth noting that the episode is presented in its original SD format. While Shout Factory’s own releases of MST3K are also present in SD, I did feel it was worth mentioning just so that potential buyers did not go into the purchase expecting otherwise. Honestly, it’s not a deal-breaker in the slightest.
The addition of interviews are also a nice touch, not just for fans of the film or fans of Mystery Science Theater, and provide that much-welcomed insight into the production of the film, direct from the film’s most notable star. Okay, the film’s second most notable star.
While clearly not a title that will appeal to the widest of audiences, fans of the film, and fans of vintage cheesey cinema in general, are sure to be more than pleased with this release.
The limited edition Blu-ray is scheduled to release with a retail price of $24.99 and will be available through The Film Detective’s website, but can also be pre-ordered (for a couple dollars less) on Amazon. A non-limited DVD of the restored film will also be made available.
Disclaimer: We were sent a screener of the new Eegah! restoration for review purposes, but that did not affect our final verdict on the release. Honestly, I probably would have purchased this one anyway.