Deafula (1975)

95 mins | Horror | 25 July 1975

Director:

Peter Wechsberg

Writer:

Peter Wechsberg

Producer:

Gary Holstrom

Cinematographer:

J. Wilder Mincey

Production Company:

Signscope
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following voiceover prologue: “This motion picture was produced for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences. Sign language is totally visual, with a unique grammatical structure. Its interpretation into modern English would destroy much of the effect of this form of communication. With this is mind, we will provide as literal a voice track as possible to help you follow the story.”
       End credits include the following: “Note: Italics indicate hearing persons.” Hearing actors include Lee Darrel, Katherine Wilson, Gary Holstrom, Raymond Reichle, M.D., Errol Wechsberg, Von Wechsberg, Toni Below, Sheila Pope, Catherine Adams, Tom Leitner, Barry Taylor, Christine Mc Coy, Garry Hood, and Elizabeth Behrens. Deaf actors in leading roles were Peter Wechsberg, James Randall, Dudley Hemstreet, Cindy Whitney, Norma Tuccinardi, and Dick Tuccinardi. The majority of the crew were “hearing persons.” Gary Holstrom is designated a deaf actor but a “hearing person” producer in the opening credits, and a “hearing person” actor, production manager, and publicity man in the end credits. The actor portraying “Minister Adams” is credited as James Randall in the opening credits and James D. Randall in the end credits. Actress Katherine Wilson is billed as “Mother of Deafula” in the opening credits and “Mother of Steve” in the end credits.
       End credits give “Special Thanks” to the following hearing persons for providing locations: “Genevieve Johnson (Johnson mansion), Mary Alice Snead (Pittock mansion), Carol Ann Borts (First Presbyterian Church), David Blizzard (Mountain cabin), Kristyn A. Bunch (PC&S Cafe), E. K. Strong (Portland Terminal), R. M. Reichle, M.D. (Medical Center), R. Russell (Lake Grove Park), Robert Jackson (KGW-TV), Roger Long (Ape Cave), Tom Moyer, Jr. (Doctor’s office), Max Wechsberg (Apartment), Donald ... More Less

The film begins with the following voiceover prologue: “This motion picture was produced for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences. Sign language is totally visual, with a unique grammatical structure. Its interpretation into modern English would destroy much of the effect of this form of communication. With this is mind, we will provide as literal a voice track as possible to help you follow the story.”
       End credits include the following: “Note: Italics indicate hearing persons.” Hearing actors include Lee Darrel, Katherine Wilson, Gary Holstrom, Raymond Reichle, M.D., Errol Wechsberg, Von Wechsberg, Toni Below, Sheila Pope, Catherine Adams, Tom Leitner, Barry Taylor, Christine Mc Coy, Garry Hood, and Elizabeth Behrens. Deaf actors in leading roles were Peter Wechsberg, James Randall, Dudley Hemstreet, Cindy Whitney, Norma Tuccinardi, and Dick Tuccinardi. The majority of the crew were “hearing persons.” Gary Holstrom is designated a deaf actor but a “hearing person” producer in the opening credits, and a “hearing person” actor, production manager, and publicity man in the end credits. The actor portraying “Minister Adams” is credited as James Randall in the opening credits and James D. Randall in the end credits. Actress Katherine Wilson is billed as “Mother of Deafula” in the opening credits and “Mother of Steve” in the end credits.
       End credits give “Special Thanks” to the following hearing persons for providing locations: “Genevieve Johnson (Johnson mansion), Mary Alice Snead (Pittock mansion), Carol Ann Borts (First Presbyterian Church), David Blizzard (Mountain cabin), Kristyn A. Bunch (PC&S Cafe), E. K. Strong (Portland Terminal), R. M. Reichle, M.D. (Medical Center), R. Russell (Lake Grove Park), Robert Jackson (KGW-TV), Roger Long (Ape Cave), Tom Moyer, Jr. (Doctor’s office), Max Wechsberg (Apartment), Donald Bowler (Porch), Capt. William Taylor (Portland Police Bureau).” Also thanked are “Cheyenne Creative Graphic, Big Camera Litho Preparation, Oregon Wilbert Vault and Casket, Tri-Met, Multwomah County Department of Public Safety, Alan Gordon Enterprises, MCM, Portland Bureau of Parks, Consolidated Film Industries, U.S. National Bank of Oregon, Bob Lapell, Claude B. Werner, Derrell Briden, Georgia & Tom Anderson, C. E. Fillman, Russell Fletcher, Lary Milner, Chris Dresser, Cissy Litvin, Jo Ellyn Loehr, Georgene Kayfes, Joe Cannon, Renwick Dayton.”
       According to the 3 Mar 1975 Box, the “world debut” for Deafula had been held “recently” in Portland, OR. The 25 Jul 1975 LAT reported that the film was opening that night in Los Angeles, CA,
       The 22 Apr 1997 Village Voice declared that Deafula was the first feature film made in American Sign Language (ASL), and noted that director-writer-actor Peter Wechsberg lost his hearing during Nazi Germany's World War II bombing of London, England.
       When “Butterfield” tracks footprints from the body of “Minister Adams” to the bodies of two young victims, the soundtrack pianist mimics the theme from a popular police procedural television show, Dragnet.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Mar 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Jul 1975
Section CS, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1975
p. 17.
Village Voice
22 Apr 1997.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
Dir of art
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Sd mixer
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial dir
Dial transcription
Admin supprt
Communications devices provided by
Communications devices provided by
SOURCES
SONGS
Street song and church poem by Sandra G. Melo.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 July 1975
Premiere Information:
Premiered in Portland, OR: January 1975
Los Angeles opening: 25 July 1975
Production Date:
Oregon
Copyright Claimant:
Peter S. Wechsberg
Copyright Date:
13 October 1998
Copyright Number:
PA901467
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Steve Adams leaves a man dead and bloody in a bathroom. Later, in a park, he sits next to a young woman lying dead on a picnic table. There, he remembers being a child in his father’s church, listening to a sermon, and receiving a blood transfusion from his father every month due to an illness. Steve also recalls drinking blood from the neck of his pet dog. Awakening form his reverie, Steve gets into his sports car and leaves the woman’s body on the picnic table. Later, two plainclothes police officers investigate the murder scene. One of them, assistant detective Butterfield, is visiting from Scotland Yard in England. When the American detective tells Butterfield that the woman is the twenty-sixth victim with puncture marks in her neck, the Englishman guesses the killer is a vampire. Meanwhile, a motorcyclist with a young woman riding behind him gets off his bike and accosts Steve with a knife. When he pushes Steve into an empty parked car, Steve turns into “Deafula,” a caped vampire. Deafula hypnotizes the biker and gives him instructions to tie his girl friend to the back of the motorcycle and drive off a cliff. Later, when the two policemen visit the crash scene, Butterfield suspects the vampire is involved. However, the American detective says they must leave, because they have a dinner appointment with his boyhood friend, Steve Adams. At that moment, Deafula creeps into the home of a woman and kills her. Later, as the two detectives wait for Steve at a restaurant, Butterfield recounts meeting Dracula and driving a stake through his heart. At that moment, Steve arrives. The American detective introduces him to Butterfield, ... +


Steve Adams leaves a man dead and bloody in a bathroom. Later, in a park, he sits next to a young woman lying dead on a picnic table. There, he remembers being a child in his father’s church, listening to a sermon, and receiving a blood transfusion from his father every month due to an illness. Steve also recalls drinking blood from the neck of his pet dog. Awakening form his reverie, Steve gets into his sports car and leaves the woman’s body on the picnic table. Later, two plainclothes police officers investigate the murder scene. One of them, assistant detective Butterfield, is visiting from Scotland Yard in England. When the American detective tells Butterfield that the woman is the twenty-sixth victim with puncture marks in her neck, the Englishman guesses the killer is a vampire. Meanwhile, a motorcyclist with a young woman riding behind him gets off his bike and accosts Steve with a knife. When he pushes Steve into an empty parked car, Steve turns into “Deafula,” a caped vampire. Deafula hypnotizes the biker and gives him instructions to tie his girl friend to the back of the motorcycle and drive off a cliff. Later, when the two policemen visit the crash scene, Butterfield suspects the vampire is involved. However, the American detective says they must leave, because they have a dinner appointment with his boyhood friend, Steve Adams. At that moment, Deafula creeps into the home of a woman and kills her. Later, as the two detectives wait for Steve at a restaurant, Butterfield recounts meeting Dracula and driving a stake through his heart. At that moment, Steve arrives. The American detective introduces him to Butterfield, shares a few childhood memories, and asks Steve if he has any ideas about the serial murders. Steve suggests people should stay home after sundown, but the detective reminds him that many of the victims were killed in their homes. Though Steve orders a meal, he eats peanuts without shelling them—“an old habit,” he says. After Steve leaves, Butterfield remarks on Steve’s strange habit. Later, Steve transforms into Deafula and chases an African American man through an alley before killing him. Two homeless men see the murder, but Steve hypnotizes them into stabbing his victim’s body with knives. As soon as the two detectives arrive, Butterfield sees teeth marks on the neck along with stab wounds. A television newscaster announces that police have found the twenty-ninth victim of the city’s serial killer. Meanwhile, Deafula appears in a woman’s bedroom, hypnotizes her, and drinks her blood. Later, Steve’s father tells him he can no longer give his son monthly transfusions due to heart problems. Now that Steve is almost thirty years old and graduated from a seminary, it is time for him to learn the truth. He shows Steve a letter from Amy, his late mother’s old friend. The father recounts going to Dr. Moon to find out why his wife, Maria, died during Steve’s birth. Moon took them to see Dr. Reichle, who examined baby Steve and said he had a rare blood disease without a cure, other than being kept alive with monthly blood transfusions. Now, in the present, Steve and his father ride in Steve’s sports car, and Mr. Adams asks if his son has considered marriage and children. Suddenly, Steve is sickened by his desire for fresh blood. He parks in a remote, wooded spot and runs from the car. Mr. Adams tries to give chase, but has a heart attack and falls down. Nearby, Steve kills a young couple by a lake. Now sated, he returns to his father and finds him on the ground. Mr. Adams gives Steve the old letter from Amy, tells his son where to find her, then dies. When the two detectives arrive later and interview Steve, Butterfield is curious about the two new vampire victims discovered only 200 yards away. He wonders why Steve brought his father to this remote place, but the other detective gets angry at Butterfield for casting suspicion on Steve. Butterfield leaves them and follows footprints between Mr. Adams and the two young victims. He also finds vomit containing peanuts and peanut shells. Elsewhere, Steve goes to Amy’s mansion and is greeted by a hunchback servant, Zork, whose hands are tin cans. When Steve informs Amy that his father is dead, she recounts his mother giving birth to him. She shows Steve a glass box with a ring inside and says it belongs to him. Amy says she knows when Steve kills by looking in the box, because the ring disappears whenever he transforms into Deafula. The ring reappears when he becomes Steve again. Amy says that when Maria was pregnant, they stayed together at a cabin while Steve’s father was away. One night, Maria began to convulse, and Amy ran for a doctor. When she returned, Maria was dead and her baby, Steve, was lying beside her on the floor. Amy took the ring off Maria’s finger, but saw evil in it, and when Steve’s father arrived, she kept it away from him. Later, Amy studied witchcraft. Back to the present, Amy tells Steve to look over his shoulder at Zork. When he does, Zork hypnotizes him by swaying a locket from a chain in his teeth. Steve has a vision of his mother in the woods with Dracula, who sucks her blood. After Steve awakens, Amy informs him that Dracula is his second father, and directs him to Dracula’s grave. At another mansion, Steve descends into a cellar cave and finds a coffin. Opening it, he tries to drive a wooden stake into Dracula’s heart, but a force pushes him back. Dracula rises from the coffin, and Steve asks the whereabouts of his mother, Maria Adams. Dracula points to an old crone in a black cowl, but when Steve refuses to believe him, the vampire transforms her into a young woman. Dracula yells at Maria for losing his “eternity ring,” and Steve takes advantage of the distraction by pushing him back into the coffin, driving a stake into his heart, and locking the lid. His mother turns to ashes. When Steve returns to his father’s home, he decides to take over his ministry. As he delivers a sermon to his father’s congregation and warns of the devil coming into the church, a little girl cuts her finger and sucks the blood. Afterward, as people leave the church, Butterfield and the detective meet Steve at the front door. Butterfield wants to arrest Steve as a vampire, and shows the detective a sample of the peanut-shell-filled vomit he found between the body of Steve’s father and the bodies of the two young lovers. Butterfield also admits that he asked his granddaughter to sit in the church where Steve could see her, prick her finger, and suck it. When Steve cringed, Butterfield knew he was guilty. Steve asks the detectives to leave him alone in the church for a moment. Wearing the eternity ring on his finger, Steve touches it to a large cross and visualizes Amy’s death and Zork regaining his hands. Steve picks up a small crucifix but it burns his hand. Asking God to forgive and cleanse him, Steve dies calmly. When the officers enter the chapel, the detective places the crucifix in Steve’s hand. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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