Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Bloodthirsty Roses – review


Directed by: Michio Yamamoto

Release Date: 1974

Contains spoilers

The third TOHO vampire movie, ‘Chi o suu bara’, is also known as ‘Evil of Dracula’, indeed it actually has Stoker credited in the writing credits. Unlike The Bloodthirsty Eyes, however, this doesn’t even mention Dracula. It does involve a European vampire, but there is nothing to indicate he was Dracula.

vampires in a girl's schoolLike the other films in the series it owes a huge debt to Hammer, in fact with this one being set in a girl’s school we can probably narrow the influence directly to Lust for a Vampire - which itself is not a Dracula movie.

The film begins with a teacher, Shiraki (Toshio Kurosawa), arriving at a train station. He has arrived to take up a new position as psychology professor. He discovers there are no buses running from the train station that day but is picked up by Professor Yoshii (Katsuhiko Sasaki). As they drive they pass a crashed car. It crashed two days earlier and the passenger was the Principle’s wife (Mika Katsuragi), who died as a result of the accident.

Looking at Yoshii for a second, he is reminiscent of the character Giles Barton played by Ralph Bates in the earlier Hammer film. Unfortunately the character is not particularly well drawn, which is a shame.

Shiraki meets the Principle (Mori Kishida), who seems rather buoyant given his recent loss. He tells Shirkai that he has been chosen to replace him as he is unwell, insists he stays the night in his home and also mentions that his wife’s corpse is in the cellar – a local custom, he explains, has the corpse kept for 1 week in case it revives. That night Shiraki wakes (why he was sleeping in his clothes is unknown) and hears singing.

the principle's wife attacksHe investigates and enters a room where a young girl stands; she has punctures in the breast and is bleeding. That is a peculiarity of the vampires in this. No neck biting here, they always go for the breast – well if you were an evil vampire in a girl’s school would you do differently? Suddenly the Principle’s wife rushes him and he is struck. He awakes in his own room and assumes it was a dream.

He goes downstairs and the cellar door is ajar. He descends into the cellar and opens the coffin but the Principle’s wife appears dead. The Principle enters and berates him for disturbing the dead but behind him her hands move momentarily from within the casket. He then meets three students, Yukiko (Oota Mio), Kyoko (Aramaki Keiko) and Kumi (Moriko Mochizuki) – who are somewhat forward. He also meets the school doctor (Kunie Tanaka) who tells him that a student, Keiko, recently disappeared and one or two vanish yearly.

Mori Kishida as the principleShiraki checks the missing girl’s room and sees her ID, it is the girl he saw the night before. He ends up discussing this with Kumi. Kyoko goes to find Kumi, as she wanders the corridor she finds a white rose and is then attacked by the principle in vampire mode.

white rose turned redThe next day, in class, Shiraki is showing the girls inkblots and one seems to turn to blood, causing the pale Kyoko to scream. The film has some nice moments like this, like later when a white rose turns red during an attack.

the old coffinIt ends up with Shirkai and the Doctor banding together to uncover the mystery. The film, so far, is fairly standard fare but the back-story leads to very original lore that raises the film, for me, above the others in the series. The Doctor takes Shiraki to a graveyard and shows him an old broken coffin that was said to house vampires.

the foriegnerIt seems that a European man washed up on shore in the 1600s. Because he was a Christian he was tortured until he turned against his God. He walked into the wilderness to escape his tormentors and survived by sucking his own blood from his veins. When back in civilisation his first victim was a 15 year old girl and he was so distraught at killing her that he held her until she revived. The villagers discovered this, killed and buried them. Obviously they are in the coffin no longer.

stealing a faceWhat has this to do with the school? Well the principle and his wife are the vampires. To stay hidden they select a new principle and wife, fake deaths and then steal their new faces – literally. This is genius, in a scene that shows more for showing less, we see the Principle’s wife literally take a face and press it to her, incorporating it into herself. Shiraki is to lose his face too.

vampires do not show in photosThe only other lore we really get is the fact that the vampires do not go out during the day – this is mentioned in passing - and the fact that they cannot be captured on camera, seen when an attack is photographed, though how any picture turned out as it was so dark and no flash was used is beyond me.

a victim's suicideLike the others in the series, the photography can be a little dark in places and the base story is a little too reliant on Hammer films and other European offerings. Perhaps some of the characters are not developed enough – specifically Yoshii as I mentioned. However, this twist in lore is brilliant, making this a must see. Like the others I have heard that the dubbing on the dubbed version is awful, the UK release is subtitled. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


OllieMugwump said...

I got the TOHO DVD release of 'The Bloodthisty Trilogy' on ebay, the picture quality's much better.

The trilogy's theme seems to be the 'taint of westernism' surplanting Japanese tradition, hence the vampires have a western link, or origin.

On 'Lust for a Vampire' references; notice how Mori Kishida and Toshio Kurasawa have the same haircuts as Ralph Bates and Michael Johnson?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Olliemugwump (great name btw).

Thanks for the heads up re the TOHO releases.

The idea of the taint of Westernism is interesting, I guess it could be either that or an embracing of Western ideas - though the idea that the vampire itself is of Western origins, and is itself a taint, would rule that out - either way they are intiguing films.

I can honestly say I didn't notice the haircuts, I must do a compare and contrast, but trusting your word - good eyes.