Director – James Amante [Charles Band], Screenplay – Alan J. Adler, Producer – Lawrence Appelbaum, Photography – Andrew W. Friend, Music – Richard H. Band, Special Photographic Effects – Paul Gentry & John Lambert, Special Effects – Doug White, Makeup Effects – Gillian Hathaway, Steve Neill, Sheri Short, Rick Stratton & Martine Vogel, Production Design – Dale A. Pelton. Production Company – Alchemist Productions, Inc.
Lucinda Dooline (Leonora Sinclair/Anna McCallum), John Sanderford (Cameron Rollins), Robert Ginty (Aaron McCallum), Viola Kate Stimpson (Esther McCallum), Robert Glaudini (Delgatto)
In 1871, the sorcerer Delgatto steals Aaron McCallum’s wife Anna and takes controls of her mind. Aaron goes to confront Delgatto and they fight where Delgatto twists Aaron’s arm so that he instead stabs and kills Anna. Delgatto places a curse on Aaron that he become the animal he is. In 1955, Leonora Sinclair picks up hitchhiker Cameron Rollins while driving to a new home. In a nearby cabin, the aging Esther casts a spell to try and free the tormented Aaron from the curse. Leonora then becomes possessed at the wheel and drives off the road, crashing near the cabin. There Aaron, who has remained alive and unaged since 1871, becomes struck by Leonora’s resemblance to Anna. As she and Cameron try to leave, Esther warns them that they cannot because the gates of Hell have been opened. Now, demonic creatures emerge, while Delgatto returns to now claim Leonora.
The Alchemist was the third (or maybe the fifth) film directed by Charles Band. The numbering differs in that the film was shot in 1981 but did not see release until 1983. Between the time the film was shot and released, Band and his father Albert formed Empire Productions with the intent of producing and distributing genre films and The Alchemist was their first release. In the subsequent years, Charles Band went onto great success with Empire and other companies like Full Moon Productions as producer and occasional director of entire series of low-budget genre films such as Ghoulies, Trancers, Subspecies and Dollman. (See below for a list of Charles Band’s other genre films as director).
Most of the Charles Band’s films are cheaply made, some of them quite amusing. The Alchemist however is dull in all regards. Crucially, it is a film where almost nothing happens. You spend nearly half the show waiting to find where it is going. Band’s direction is slow paced. Robert Ginty is supposedly cursed to be an animal, which suggests some kind of werewolf transformation, although we never see this. About the one-hour point, there are some cheap goblin effects – although these only appear for a single scene and you feel they are shoehorned on just so the film can have some creature effects. (This of course presages the coming of Empire, where the Bands build a whole series of films out around the provision of cheap goblin effects most notably with Ghoulies (1985) and sequels). Naturally, the goblins never do anything. Moreover, though Robert Glaudini is set up as a villain at the start, he only ever makes an appearance again at the very end.
The surprise about The Alchemist is also the number of future personnel essential to Empire and Full Moon hiding out on the credits, including later to be director Ted Nicolaou, writer Alan Adler, and Doug White and Steve Neill who produced numerous effects for other Band productions. The only name of note in front of the camera is that of Robert Ginty who gained some minor B movie attention after appearing as the vigilante Vietnam Vet in The Exterminator (1980) but none of the other actors have ever been heard from again.
Charles Band has produced over 200 films. As director, his other genre films include:- Crash (1977), Parasite (1982), Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983), an episode of The Dungeonmaster/Ragewar: The Challenges of Excalibrate (1984), Trancers/Futurecop (1985), Pulse Pounders (1988), Crash and Burn (1990), Meridian (1990), Trancers II (1991), Doctor Mordrid (1992), Dollman Vs. the Demonic Toys (1993), Prehysteria! (1993), Head of the Family (1996), The Creeps/Deformed Monsters (1997), Hideous (1997), Mystery Monsters (1997), Blood Dolls (1999), Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), Dr Moreau’s House of Pain (2004), Decadent Evil (2005), Doll Graveyard (2005), The Gingerdead Man (2005), Evil Bong (2006), Petrified (2006), Dead Man’s Hand (2007), Decadent Evil II (2007), Dangerous Worry Dolls (2008), Evil Bong II: King Bong (2009), Skull Heads (2009), Evil Bong 3D: The Wrath of Bong (2011), Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt (2011), The Dead Want Women (2012), Devildolls (2012), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012), Ooga Booga (2013), Unlucky Charms (2013), Gingerdead Man vs Evil Bong (2013), Trophy Heads (2014), Evil Bong 420 (2015), King of Cult (2015), Evil Bong: High 5 (2016), Evil Bong 666 (2017), Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017) and Evil Bong 777 (2018).