February 22, 2016

Lost Actor: What Happened to Peter Carpenter?

Handsome shot of Peter Carpenter from the film BLOOD MANIA (1970)
Peter Carpenter in BLOOD MANIA (1970)
Peter Carpenter was a young-ish actor who starred in two exploitation classics—Blood Mania (1970) and Point of Terror (1971)—before vanishing from the face of the earth—leaving behind very few hard facts in regard to his life and death.

"Whatever happened to Peter Carpenter?" I often wonder.

Well, not that often. But every now and then, I check in with my sources to find out if any new light has been shed on this enigmatic, obscure star of yesteryear.


If Peter Carpenter is famous for anything, it's for very obviously self-financing vanity productions in which he wears tight pants, sometimes sings, and bangs every broad in site. Yet, instead of wanting to punch this guy in the face, I wanna get drunk with him. He was like a stoic, square-jawed 1970's Tommy Wiseau with cuter hair and a somewhat better grasp of the English language.

Cult actor Peter Carpenter making sweet monkey love to Erica Gavin in Russ Meyer's 1968 film VIXEN!
Peter Carpenter and Erica Gavin in VIXEN! (1968)
Before the stellar one-two punch of his self-produced Crown International starring vehicles, he cut his teeth in two sexploitation "classics"—Russ Meyer's well-known, fairly respected Vixen! (1968), and the lesser-known, but not-entirely-skippable Love Me Like I Do (1970). He didn't do much in the way of acting in these films—but, in both, he did show a natural predilection for portraying a horny, muscular man who will stop at nothing to get laid. Peter Carpenter's actual birthdate is the stuff of legend, but he must've been an Aries or a Virgo. I'd stake my life on it. Or, you know, a few bucks.

Peter Carpenter, worn out from having to make love to women ALL the time, alongside Lynn Gordon in LOVE ME LIKE I DO (1970)
Peter Carpenter and Lynn Gordon in LOVE ME LIKE I DO (1970)
So rare is any biographical info about this guy that I nearly crapped my pants to discover a vintage, honest-to-God, local-boy-makes-good spotlight piece, originally run by his hometown paper to coincide with the local premiere of Blood Mania. It would seem that Peter wasn't satisfied with merely showing up to bang a broad in a low-budget movie. His dream was to star in his own series of low-budget movies in which he bangs several. And sings! And acts! And dagnabbit, come hell or high water, he was gonna make this happen!

Peter Carpenter from the BLOOD MANIA (1970) press kit

Friday, January 22, 1971

Oaklander Peter Carpenter got his acting start and his producing inspiration from another Oakland show business promoter Russ Meyer. The similarity ends there.

The handsome young actor whose family, the Pasqua [sic] Corbellis, still live in the East Bay, is very honest and direct about his three and a half years of good luck that propelled him from the slack-making business to actor-writer-producer of four films. His first, Blood Mania, opens in the Bay Area next Wednesday.

Handsome shot of the mysterious Peter Carpenter, star of Crown International's BLOOD MANIA (1970)
Peter Carpenter in BLOOD MANIA (1970)
"A girl friend of mine was being auditioned by Meyer for his film Vixen and he noticed me standing with her in a photo. When he asked if I was an actor, she said yes, although I'd never acted in my life, never studied acting or even though about it. I got a role in this film but she didn't. That's how I got into the business."

Unlike the good old days of Hollywood when studios searched for new faces and then groomed them for stardom, there is neither money, interest, nor many studios anymore. So Carpenter figured he'd made his first and last film unless he set about to make himself into a star.

Crown International's double feature of BLOOD MANIA (1970) and POINT OF TERROR (1971)
CROWN INTERNATIONAL
Double Feature
During Vixen he got an idea for a story in which he would play the lead. He sat on the sidelines during shooting and made friends with the camera crew, telling them of his idea and asking their support. With Chris Marconi, he wrote Blood Mania and formed Jude Productions Company.

"St. Jude, saint of the impossible was my confirmation name and going into business with only $10 to my name seemed impossible. But all my friends and family had faith in me and put their savings into my film. We shot it inside Jack Warner's old house and in the downstairs apartment where Bette Davis used to stay."

"I'd always admired Alfred Hitchcock pictures, the talent he has for springing the unexpected on his audience. All I knew about filmmaking was from working with Meyer. But instead of just sex and violence, added a good suspense story, good acting and direction. We've done great business everywhere it's played so far. So I guess the formula works as entertainment."

"When I'd finished shooting, I didn't know how to get distribution, but figured I could market my film like I did the slacks. I packed up the color slides and a portable projector and went around knocking on doors."

Peter Carpenter, being sexy and taking names alongside Dyanne Thorne in Crown International's POINT OF TERROR (1971)
With Dyanne Thorne in POINT OF TERROR (1971)
His second feature, just completed, is Point of Terror, with a third due to begin in March, Middle of Midnite. Number Four will not be a suspense shocker, but a romantic Mexico setting based on a legend called Legend of Volcanos.

While he continues to star in his own films, a major studio offer has been made for him to star opposite Michael J. Pollard in Warner Bros' Dirty Billy. Blood Mania costar Maria de Aragon steps into a major role in "Cages" because of Shelley Winters' favorable impression of her performance.

"The industry is in bad shape. The people in Hollywood don't care about films. They're only worried about lining their pockets," he said.

The Mysterious Peter Carpenter, from Crown International's press kit for BLOOD MANIA (1970)

I did some digging, and found information about an East Bay family descended from one Pasquale Corbelli. I couldn't find anything directly identifying who Peter Carpenter was. I did, however, find this guy.

Peter James Ceremello, who bears a family resemblance to actor Peter Carpenter, star of BLOOD MANIA and POINT OF TERROR

He's an in-law to the Corbelli family, and he kinda remotely resembles Peter Carpenter in his youth. Maybe he's his father, or an uncle?

Adding to Carpenter's ego-mystique is this puff-piece bio that Crown International included in the Blood Mania press book.

Peter Carpenter Brings New Magnetism to Screen

Peter Carpenter, toplining Crown International’s Blood Mania which currently is screening at [the Theatre], brings a special brand of magnetism to the screen and has critics hailing him as the next big star.

Reagan Wilson and Peter Carpenter in BLOOD MANIA (1970) from Crown International Pictures
With Reagan Wilson in BLOOD MANIA (1970)
His brooding, dark looks are inherited from his Italian and Spanish ancestors and that, plus his 6-3 height, have made it difficult for him to get supporting roles in movies. Who can blame less vigorous stars for not welcoming that kind of competition? Realizing this, Carpenter decided to become a business man, so he took an idea for a film to Chris Marconi, with himself in mind as the star. A deal was made, the duo formed their own production company. Now Peter won’t have to worry about stellar roles—only about finding good scripts to make.

Maria de Aragon and Peter Carpenter in BLOOD MANIA (1970) from Crown International Pictures
With Maria de Aragon in BLOOD MANIA (1970)
In Blood Mania he plays the role of a young medic haunted by a questionable past, entrapped in a hopeless present by jealously, blackmail, finally murder.

The intensity which bounces back from the screen is reflected in other facets of his life as well: his friends know he becomes an authority on any subject into which he delves, as witness geography, rock music.

Starring with Carpenter in Blood Mania are Maria de Aragon, Vicki Peters, Reagan Wilson, and Eric Allison. Camera work by Bob Maxwell and Gary Graver creates beauty, heightens suspense in this film which has one of the most nerve-shattering endings ever screened.

Peter Carpenter in a shot from BLOOD MANIA (1970)
"Peter Carpenter brings new magnetism to the screen..."
I love the way Crown International touted the ending to Blood Mania. I've seen the movie four times, and I still can't tell you how it ends. I also love that Peter Carpenter couldn't get roles because other actors weren't "vigorous" enough to compete with his Spanish-Italian, six-foot-three sexiness. This guy, I swear.

But back to that San Mateo Times article: Middle of Midnite, Legend of Volcanos, Michael J. Pollard whaaaat?

Peter Carpenter in a shot from BLOOD MANIA (1970)
The Mysterious Peter Carpenter
(birth and death date unknown)
There is absolutely little-to-no verifiable information available about Peter Carpenter's death. IMDB lists him as having died from a 'massive cerebral hemorrhage' in 'December 1971' in 'Malibu, California.' On the Point of Terror DVD from Scorpion Releasing, there's an added value segment entitled "Remembering Peter Carpenter" in which his friend, acting teacher, and co-star Leslie Simms vaguely recollects that he died of pneumonia sometime in the late 1970's/early 1980's. Also that his real name was "Page" or "Paige," and he artificially curled his hair.

Dyanne Thorne and Peter Carpenter in a shot from POINT OF TERROR (1971)
Peter Carpenter and Dyanne Thorne in POINT OF TERROR (1971)
If Peter Carpenter did have two more self-produced pics in the pipeline, as well as a potential gig in Dirty Billy (1972), then it would make sense that he died in the early, early 1970's, since they never came to fruition. The legendary Dyanne Thorne (his co-star from Point of Terror) has also said in interviews that she believes he died sometime in 1971.

Strangely prophetic, shirtless-selfie-meets-death prop from BLOOD MANIA (1970)
Weirdly prophetic, spooky-shirtless-selfie illustration of Peter Carpenter
from the "thrilling conclusion" of BLOOD MANIA (1970)
I guess we'll never know. No, fuck that. I hate unsolved mysteries. The public will eventually find out.

If you, or anyone you know, has information about Peter Carpenter—the charismatic, gym-happy star of Blood Mania and Point of Terror—leave us a comment! We'd love to hear from you! :)

8 comments:

  1. Thanks, Eerie, for the work. I wonder if the timeliness of this site item coincides with the fact that Peter Carpenter's work is showing up in multi-movie DVDs and discount bins. For me, 'Point of Terror' prompted the question you raise. As you discovered, there isn't much on Carpenter's career, IMDB or otherwise. Given his background, his abrupt, uncertain death raises some intriguing questions. And the fact that they arise now and not then says something itself about our focus as opposed the theirs.

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    1. I've always been fascinated by the combination of obscure and ubiquitous. There are plenty of genre films that've been in circulation since they came out, and now we know everything about them thanks to the internet and DVD supplementals, etc. Then there's random old flicks that died on Beta and VHS and we never heard from them again. THEN there's movies like BLOOD MANIA and POINT OF TERROR, which simply refuse to die. And that begs the question: if these films are still around and being watched, how can we still know practically nothing about the star?

      Thanks for your reply.

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  2. regarding Peter Carpenter and the name Corbelli, I emailed the SF Public Library for the obituary for Pasquale hoping there would be a mention of Peter (or his real name) but there was no mention of a son, only Joesphine and the late Frances. Mike Perkins, librarian at IndyPL

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    1. Thanks for the detective work. He was probably his grandson, or perhaps a great-nephew or something.

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  3. I just caught Point of Terror on one of those Roku channels that shows B movies, and once I finally figured out what it was (it helps that around the middle of the film Dyanne Thorne actually spells out the last name of Carpenter's character at one point) I went straight to the IMDb boards, which then led me here. Great writeup! I'm glad I'm not the only one who puzzles over actors who disappear.

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  4. On my 2006 Region-Free RetroFLICKS (long defunct) NTSC DVD-R of 'Point of Terror' (tagline: "The Outer Limit of Fear"), there's absolutely no info on Peter Carpenter. Strangely enough, they state 1967 as year of release (or making). Also, on IMDb it now says Deember 1971 as date of his death.

    /JÖrg Ausfelt, Sweden

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  5. Here's a poster from Crown International:

    http://www.crownintlpictures.com/posters/pointofterror.jpg

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  6. Love peter carpenter rip gone too soon. Remains a mystery to this day. I think he had great promise. I saw both films as a teen early 70s and am proud to say that I have blood mania and point of terror DVDs.

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